Tucked neatly along the Meuse river in the Walloon region of Namur is the picturesque town of Dinant, Belgium, an easy 2 hour drive from the Tri-border area and a 25 minute drive from Florenne Air Base where the NATO AWACS often flies.
From the 7th century, Dinant is mentioned in literature and has held a position of great importance in the region. It’s prime location along the Meuse has contributed to it’s rich history ruled by dukes and bishops, emperors and their armies.
Evidence of this is seen in the Citadel sitting on the cliff towering above the city. First built in the 11th century to control the Meuse valley and the crossing point there, it was in use through the second world war. Today you can tour it and see the impressive weapon collection, the crooked room that was bombed in the war, and the jail in addition to an absolutely amazing view of the town and valley below. The 45 minute tours are in French and Dutch, but plaques along the way have translations in English, so you will understand what you are seeing and learn a bit of the fortress’ history. The Citadel is very child friendly. Kids will enjoy the playground outside and the crooked room at the end of the tour. My kids liked looking at the “bad guys” in the jail as well. If you are hungry, the Citadel does have a restaurant, but you’ll find better food in town. There is a parking lot near the Citadel on the top of the hill, you can take advantage of the stairway that leads all the way from the top to the town below just behind the church, or you can take the gondola ride up and down as you need to. The gondola is included in the price of admission.
Place Reine Astrid, 5 – 5500 DINANT
Tel. : 082/22 36 70
The focal point of the town is the Collegiate Church of Notre-Dame rebuilt in the 1927 on the original foundation. The onion dome and tiered belfry provide perfect for photo-ops and inside, you’ll find one of the largest stained glass windows in Europe.
From the church, the town itself stretches out to each side along the waterfront. The road runs right along the water and there is a nice pedestrian path as well. Most of the buildings are lively restaurants or patisseries selling the honey flavored “couques,” Europe’s hardest cookie. Along the Rue A. Sax, named after the inventor of the saxophone who was born there, you’ll find the Maison Solbrun, a patisserie with a waterfront view that serves ice cream, Leonidas chocolates, and a large assortments of their own cookies that will go wonderfully with a cup of coffee or their creamy hot chocolate. That is one stop that the kids won’t complain about.
*bakery, ice cream shop, chocolate shop, and tea room
Rue Adolphe Sax 10
Tel: 0032 082 22 33 51
Though there are many restaurants to choose from, for something special, go to Cafe Leffe, a cafe named after the local beer that it serves. If you enjoy escargot, this is the place to go, but there is a lot more to their menu including pasta and chicken dishes. Your kids will be happy too. There is a child’s menu for kids under 12. Most of the restaurants do have children’s menus, so it won’t be hard to find a place to eat and though Dinant is French speaking, some menus have English translations and most staff speak English as well.
Rue Sax 2
Web: http://sites.resto.com/cafeleffedinant/ (menu online with prices)
Open: every day
Credit cards: Visa, MC, AmEx
*The best meal ever our first trip and an average one our second. Their English skills vary as well depending on who’s there at the moment. I’ve found that the best meals are usually the specials – the thing that is then freshest and what the chef is probably the most excited about. So, while the rest of my dining party was a little disappointed with our second visit, I had the special – a lobster ravioli that was absolutely delicious. They also have a children’s menu.
9,av Churchill-140 rue Grande
34 Rue Sax
Known best for the mussels (moules provencale) which are delicious, they have a children’s menu as well. A “boulette natur” is a big meatball served with french fries. My girls liked it. You can also get it with tomato sauce. You’ll see it also as “een gehaktballetje natuur” – the Dutch version. I had “Les Carbonnades de boeuf a la Leffe” – meat in a tomato veggie sauce. Delicious. The Salade Folle is absolutely HUGE and packed with meat and cheese and nuts – lots of goodies. You could easily split the salad.
The waterfront serves as the tourist information center with little kiosks set up ever few meters with boat information and brochures. Most of the parking in town is along the waterfront as well, but you can only pay for up to 3 hours, so if you stay longer, you will have to go back and get a new ticket.
Route de Philippeville, 142
Tel : 0032-082/22.22.10
Fax : 0032-082/22.60.16
Quai De La Meuse 1
5500 Anseremme Dinant
There are a lot of caves in the area and Dinant is no exception. Wind your way through the town to the Place Lion, and you’ll find the way to the old tower on the hill and the caves. Look closely and you might see mountain goats on the hill as well.
Route de Philippeville, 142
Tel : 0032-082/22.22.10
Fax : 0032-082/22.60.16
Boat tours are easy to find along the river. There are large tour boats with trips up to 3 hours, or you can rent a small motorboat and drive it yourself. If you do rent a boat, take it south about 10 minutes and you’ll run into the Kasteel Freyr sitting along the river’s edge. Boats can be seasonal and won’t run in the colder weather.
For gamers, there is a casino on the south side of town right next to the Ibis hotel, convenient if you are looking for a weekend stay. If you have time, go see some of the castles in the outlying areas or visit a farm to taste some of the cheeses and preserves made on site.
In the summer months, this region will appeal to the adventurous with quad biking, mountain biking, and hang-gliding. Unfortunately, a lot of Dinant activities are seasonal, but in the winter, there are still things to do.
A simple town, Dinant is beautiful, relaxing, and has just enough interest to make it well worth the drive for a quick day trip or a leisurely weekend whether it’s a romantic weekend or a family trip.
Rempart d’albeau 16
5500 Dinant, Belgium
Tel : (+32)82/211500 Fax : (+32)82/211579
*Nice place with clean room and good service. Friendly staff speak English well. The breakfast buffet is large, but average.
SYNDICAT D’INITIATIVE DE DINANT
Avenue Cadoux, 8
informations touristiques : Tél : 082/22.28.70
Just 45 minutes to the east of Dinant lies the smallest town in Belgium. Most of the town’s roads are blocked to traffic, so it’s a nice place to relax and walk. The Durbuy Christmas market runs every weekend from 29 Nov to 04 Jan.
*Absolutely beautiful town. The “Monschau” of Belgium, quaint, old, untouched. With river rafting nearby, a forest, and a myriad of outdoor activities, the town itself offers beauty, narrow streets, tiny shops, lots of eateries, mini golf, and a sculpted tree garden.
La Vieille Demeure
Rue Comte d’Ursel 15
*Ice cream. Crepes and waffles made fresh as you order. Delicious soup. Good coffee too.
Het Kasteel van Freyr (10 minutes from Dinant)
20 generations have lived here since the 14th century when it was built. Sitting right on the river surrounded by landscape gardens, it prides itself on being one of the most “French-looking” castles and gardens of Belgium. Self-guided tour of fully furnished castle. The gardens, of course, are nicer in the summer months.
Freÿr, 12 – 5540 WAULSORT (Hastière)
Tel. : 082/22.22.00
De Kasteelhoeve van Falaën (13 minutes from Dinant)
A monastery occupies part of this castle now and produces several beers which you can taste there on site. Now through November, there is an art exhibit entitled, “Wine and the vine.” Reservations for private tastings are possible.
Rue du Château-ferme, 13
Tel. : 082/64.42.00
Tel./Fax : 082/69.96.26
Ruins van de Burcht van Montaigle
Rue du Marteau 10
*Beautiful old ruins on a hilltop. Stop in on a Wednesday if you can. It’s really nice and fun for the kids to run around.
Het kasteel van Vêves (12 minutes from Dinant)
This castle is known as a remarkable example of 15th century military architecture. The outside alone is beautiful. Self-guided tours are also available for 6E adults and 3.50 Children.
Tel. : 082/66.63.95 – 082/66.66.78
Fax : 082/66.60.36
Rue de jardins 37a
Beautiful gardens in a charming area, but better seen in the summer. In winter months, it’s green, but not worth the admission price.
Just 30 minutes from Dinant, is this lovely town along the Meuse just inside the French border. A huge citadel covers the hill above the town. Tours are available only in July and August.