Exploring the quaint and charming small towns is unequivocally one of the top things to do in Belgium. Bruges and Ghent or even the city of Antwerp may be the top choice when one is looking for the day trip options from the Belgian capital city Brussels but the city of Dinant nestled the high rocky cliffs straddling the River Meuse has a charm of its own. The historic city surrounded by nature offers some unique points of interest.
Where is Dinant, Belgium
Dinant is a beautiful city located in Wallonia, the French-speaking region of Belgium in the province of Namur. The well-connected rail network from Belgian capital Brussels to Dinant with a journey time of 90 minutes makes visiting Dinant an easy day trip from Brussels.
As the train started to approach the Dinant city we were greeted with an awe-inspiring vista. You know that you have arrived at the Dinant station when you are greeted with a postcard-perfect view of the countryside cottages set along the banks of emerald Meuse River. And the imposing bulb-shaped church spire towers high in the sky with a backdrop of rocky cliffs and citadel overlooking the charming town of Dinant and the River Meuse.
Still wondering what to do in Dinant Belgium? No worries we have got you covered for all the top Dinant attractions.
Dinant Cathedral or The Collegiate Church of Our Lady
The magnificent 13th-century Collegiate Church of Our Lady or the Notre Dame de Dinant with a pear-shaped spire is one of the major and distinctive landmarks of the city. The Gothic church set on the shores of the River Meuse with a mountainous backdrop is a sight to behold. The church was built on the location of a 10th-century Romanesque church which collapsed in 1228 but the striking feature of the church the pear-shaped bell tower was added only in the 16th-century.
The church which is open through the year has an impressive interior featuring a remarkable portal and a stained-glass window which is one of the largest in Europe, life-size statues of saints and stone columns.
Charles de Gaulle Bridge
To reach the cathedral one has to cross the river through a spectacular bridge ‘Charles de Gaulle’. The bridge itself a wonderful city landmark is bedecked with colorful saxophone on both sides commemorating the fact that Dinant is the hometown of Adolphe Sax, the famous Belgian musician who invented saxophone. Each of the Saxophone adorning the bridge and few more placed near the Adolphe Sax Museum all representing each of the countries of European Union.
Interestingly the bridge is named after ‘Charles de Gaulle’ which is nothing to do with the saxophone but honors Charles de Gaulle the former president of France who was shot in the knee during the Battle of Dinant fought by French and German forces in WWI. There is a statue of Charles de Gaulle next to the bridge.
La Maison de Monsieur Sax
For the music lovers or the Sax fans, there is an interactive museum where you can explore the life and work of Adolphe Sax and play around with different saxophones. The museum is set up in the family home where Sax was born in 1814. You will also find a lifesize bronze statue of Adolphe Sax at the entrance of the museum. Apart from the invention of the saxophone Adolphe Sax was also an instrument builder and is said to have set up a factory for instrument building. All of this and more you can learn in the Sax Museum which is open all around the year with free entrance.
Dinant Caves or Grotte La Merveilleuse
The spectacular Dinant Caves located around a km away from city center are one of the top things to see in Belgium. There are buses running from the city center to the caves which are not very frequent. We had only one day and we didn’t want to miss the next tour scheduled hence we chose to walk all the way to the caves with the road winding through lush forests and quaint houses.
The guided tour that lasts for an hour is offered in both English, as well as in Dutch. The tour walks you through the dim lit yet intriguing caves backed by the phenomena of its existence by the guide. It is believed that the location of caves was once an ocean, which explains the formations of the limestone rocks inside the caves. The caves though not very large have an abundance of white stalactites and stalagmites. The temperature inside the caves remains a constant 12 deg throughout the year hence it is recommended to dress accordingly.
The caves were discovered during a railway line construction and were handed over to geologists for further investigation. We walked through narrow paths and stairs and at a point space widened into a magnificent chamber where as per the guide musical concerts are hosted. There is a small stream at the third and lowest level of the cave, which originally formed the cave and is often flooded in winter and is believed that the stream joins the river in downtown after meandering through a course of 7 days. During the Second World War, the cave had served as a refuge to hundreds of civilians.
La Citadelle Dinant
The current citadel was built in the 1800s on the location of original fortifications from the 11th-century and is part of the Meuse Citadels which are a group of forts situated along the Meuse river. The fortified Citadel perched on the rocky cliff is one of the top places to visit in Dinant for the breathtaking vista it offers of the pear-shaped church spire and the Dinant City rooftops set along the River Meuse.
The citadel can either be accessed by climbing the 408 steps or by riding the cable car.The cable car which is said to be one of the shortest and steepest in the world. The lower station for the cable car is located next to the Dinant cathedral. The ascend offers some wonderful views of the city and the river.
The Citadel houses the Dinant’s Arms and history Museum and rooms recreated as prisoners’ cells and torture room.
The museum has various multimedia shows and audios which portray the violent battle between French and German soldiers in Battle of Dinant (1914). The Citadel also has a playground for children, a gift shop, and a cafe. Check the open times and ticket prices before you plan a visit.
Cruise or a Leisurely Stroll
The picturesque city of Dinant set along the banks of the River Meuse provides with miles of beautiful riverside promenade. A leisurely stroll along the promenade offers with breathtaking vistas of the city and the lush landscapes. Or if you have less time on hand there is an alternative option. Hop onto one of the cruises and explore the city attractions and historical places of Meuse. The boat tour on the River Meuse is accompanied by commentary in Dutch, English and French languages.
They also have an option for self-drive electric boats for groups. One needs to check with the information office for the availability of the boats.
Couques de Dinant – the Local Special Biscuits
Couques de Dinant is a hard biscuit made up of honey-flour or honey-flour-sugar. The biscuits on display were of unique shapes and various sizes, some of them very huge. The biscuits had interesting carvings on them that include animals, fruits, and Dinant City landscapes. The lady at the shop instructed us not to bite into the cookie instead break off pieces and chew. True to her words, the biscuits were really hard not only to bite even to break.
If you are driving into the city of Dinant Bayard rock is another iconic city landmark you can visit. The Bayard Rock is a 100ft. high needle-like rock standing between the road and the river Meuse. The road passing through the rock is said to be paved by the French troops during their Dinant invasion.
Belgian Beer lovers especially the Leffe Beer wouldn’t want to miss a visit to the Maison Leffe. The Maison Leffe is housed in former Notre Dame de Leffe Abbey. The interactive museum dedicated to the history of the monastery and the tradition of Leffe Beers also offers a tasting session at the end of the museum tour.
Dinant also hosts various adventure activities like canoeing, rope bridges, nature walks, cross-country cycling and other adventures. More information here. If you are planning a visit in August then make sure not to miss the unusual boat racing on Meuse River called ‘International Regatta of Bathtubs‘ where the boats are themed around bathtubs and are a great occasion which includes visitors showcasing homemade crafts and other local creations.
Castle of Freyr
We could not visit this castle as we had only a day in Dinant. The castle sits in a lush landscaped garden on the banks of the bank of the Meuse River. The Castle of Freyr is the former summer house of the Dukes of Beaufort-Spontin and an important heritage site. The Renaissance style castle building has a sumptuous interior decorated with rich wall paintings and frescoes on the ceiling. Also not to miss is the grandeur Rococo chapel.
The walled terrace gardens decorated with ponds and sculptures along with the ornate castle interior is said to be reminiscent of the stunning palace of Versailles in France. Regular buses ply from Dinant Gare to Castle of Freyr which takes around 10 minutes.
Have you been to Dinant, what other places do you recommend in Dinant? Share with us in comments.
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