We were thinking for some time that Dinant is a must see place in Belgium, but from one reason or another this trip was postponed, until yesterday when we finally been there.
The impression I had when I read about this place on internet, was that 3-4hours will be more than enough…and wasn’t the case! It took us the whole day to explore the city and still we have left few things to be discovered for the next time we go there.
If you want to visit this place but have no car then you can take a train from Brussels to Dinant (every hour and the journey will take you about 90 minutes). For a standard ticket you’ll have to pay 25 euros (return ticket), but you always should check the deals on NMBS web page. If you travel in more, then a rented car is a way better option for you.
The name Dinant comes from the Celtic Divo – Nanto meaning “Sacred Valley” or “Divine Valley». This city is positioned in a steep sided valley between the rock face and the Meuse river, Due to the specific landscape structure of this place, Dinant grew into a long thin town along the river shore.
Since ancient times, the wealth of the city was mainly due to its fertile land on the plateau, brassware production, black marble and bluestone production and the navigable river that facilitated delivery of the raw materials but also the distribution of the resulting products.
Even thought the city was prosperous and very wealthy, today it looks like it’s becoming less populated. And here I think about the numerous houses I’ve seen for rent and even abandoned houses.
What I liked about this place?
When you’re driving to Dinant, at the entrance into this special place you’ll be amazed by one big rock that was split in two. The story tells that Rock of Bayard (40m high monolith) have been split by giant hoof of Bayard, the giant horse carrying the four sons of Aymon on their legendary flight from Charlemagne through the Ardennes. In reality this passage was created in the 17th century. It is said that the king of the Belgians, Albert I, climbed this rock in June 1933.
Park your car (if you drive one) and walk around the city. It has plenty of interesting old houses and ancient churches (two of which are along the river banks). The biggest one and it’s called Church of Our Lady. In this cathedral, on your left hand side you’ll find Saint Perpete’s bust and his tomb/grave. It is said that if you have wish then praying to this saint they will become true. If you’re there on 4th of November then you’ll assist to the celebration of Dinant (St. Dinant is the patron of the city and died on 4th of November 617).
The Citadel can be reached by car, on foot (rock-hewn stairs (408 steps)) or by cable car. If you decide to take a cable car then you’ll have to pay 8 euros per person. When you’re there DO TAKE a GUIDED TOUR! You’ll visit the prison, the place where soldiers where sleeping and fighting, you’ll see some of the torture tools that were used, a guillotine and the kitchen. In the last part of your guided tour, will cover the period of the First World War – military weapons, guns, catacombs and a surprise room. Not telling what that room is about, but let you discover it instead! 🙂
If you’re lucky and the weather is good, then the view over the city is stunning! It’s worth paying 8 euros and visit this place, you’ll learn a lot about the history, culture and the lifestyle of locals from early as 6th-7th centuries to the present days. Also on that hill is a French cemetery.
On the bridge are exposed saxophones designed by different countries. If you’re wondering why, then the answer is simple. Dinant is the place where Adolphe Sax, inventor of the saxophone, was born. His house is located in the street of the same name. If you’re a jazz lover, then this is one of the places to go 🙂
What to eat?
There are two famous specialties here: the delicious Flamiche dinantaise is the local version of quiche made with a cheese called “boulette de Romedenne” and the second one is the Europe’s hardest biscuit – couque. This biscuit has a honey-sweetened flavor and is impressed with a carved wooden mould before baking.
I will recommend to walk along the river bank, starting from the cathedral. There you’ll find nice restaurants with local food at reasonable prices.
For those who are traveling on budget, then I will recommend to walk on the main street (from the cathedral towards the Rock of Bayard) to the small restaurant just across the discount shoes store. There you can eat a lunch for less than 10 euros per person.
For more information about Dinant, please go here.
I hope this short review about Dinant will make you want to go there.
One tip here! When you travel to Dinant, make some time for a very pitoresque place called Spotin. You won’t regret it 😉
Travel safe and wise!