Brussels may be Belgium’s most popular city, but 90 kilometers (56 miles) from the capital lies this hidden gem, home to the saxophone and Europe’s hardest biscuits. Located at Wallonia, the French-speaking region of Belgium, the city of Dinant sits at the point where the Meuse and Lesse rivers meet. Towering stone cliffs and a massive rock split into two greet the city’s visitors, providing an imposing presence that warrants further exploration.
Dinant was originally a Celtic settlement before eventually falling into the hands of the Romans. During the medieval period, the city experienced major progress thanks to its copperware industry known as Dinanderie. Although Dinant’s name translates to “Sacred Valley” or “Divine Valley” (Divo-Nanto) in Celtic, it has seen much destruction during the first and second world wars. Today, the city’s historical buildings still stand as a reminder of all it had to endure since the days of its first inhabitants.
Beneath Dinant’s romantic facade lies a rich history that emanates from every corner. It is a city that begs to be explored left and right, above and below. If you want to skip the crowds of Brussels, head to this city blanketed with medieval ambiance and experience the unseen Belgium of centuries ago. Read more to find out the best things to do in Dinant, Belgium.
1. Marvel at the medieval glory of the Collégiale Notre Dame de Dinant
This magnificent 13th-century Gothic cathedral with a pear-shaped bell tower is one of the city’s most distinctive landmarks. The collegiate church, sitting at the location of a collapsed 10th-century Romanesque church, went through constant reconstruction until the 1820s. It houses stunning stained glass windows, an unfinished 19th-century painting, a 1400s baptismal font, and a 1731 Dinanderie lectern.
Collégiale Notre Dame de Dinant
Address: Place Reine Astrid, Dinant, Belgium
Opening hours: Open daily from 10 am to 5 pm
Entrance fee: None
2. Stroll around the River Meuse
Another one of Dinant’s iconic landmarks is this majestic river that flows into the North Sea. Visitors can take in the scenery by walking along the river or crossing the saxophone-lined Charles de Gaulle bridge. Cruises are available if you want to take a sightseeing tour right on the water.
If you’re going to visit Dinant on mid-August, then you’re in for a treat. The Meuse is also the site of the annual Régate de Baignoires (Bathtub Regatta), where participants race in bathtubs instead of boats.
Cruises on the Meuse
Address: Rue A. Daoust 64, Dinant, Belgium
Price: From 8.84 USD (7.50 EUR) for adults. Various discounts are available
Contact: [email protected]
Website: Croisières Mosanes
3. Climb up the Citadelle de Dinant
This 1815 fortress sits atop a stone cliff, overlooking the city as a silent testament to its tumultuous history. It takes around 400 steps to get there, but the views alone make it worth the climb or cable car ride. Inside, visitors can view various exhibits that provide a glimpse of what the fortress was like in its prime.
Citadelle de Dinant
Address: 3-5 Place Reine Astrid, Dinant, Belgium
Opening hours: Open daily from 10 am to 6 pm
Prices: From 10.02 USD (8.50 EUR) for adults, 7.07 USD (6 EUR) for children
Website: Citadelle de Dinant
4. Discover an underground wonderland at the Grotte La Merveilleuse
If you think that Dinant is beautiful above ground, wait until you see what lies beneath it. Discovered in 1904, this limestone cave is a subterranean wonderland of stalactites, stalagmites, and waterfalls. It has a constant temperature of 12 degrees Celsius, and tours usually last for around an hour.
Grotte La Merveilleuse
Address: Rue de Philippeville 142, Dinant, Belgium
Opening hours: 11 am to 4 pm (Tuesday to Friday), 11 am to 3 pm (weekends and holidays)
Price: 10.60 USD (9 EUR). Discounts are available
Website: Wallonie Belgique Tourisme
5. Explore remnants of the Renaissance at the Château de Freÿr
Reminiscent of France’s Versailles, this Renaissance castle is considered as one of Wallonia’s major heritage sites. Located on the Meuse River’s left bank between Dinant and Waulsort, the palace contains labyrinthine gardens, magnificent interiors, furniture dating back to the Dukes of Beaufort-Spontin, and traces of the royals that walked through its halls.
Aside from being an example of classic Renaissance architecture, the summer palace also served as a setting for major historical events. This was where the Coffee Treaty or Treaty of Freÿr between France and Spain was signed in 1675, and eventually the Treaty of the Borders between France and the Prince-Bishopric of Liège in 1772.
Château de Freÿr
Address: 12 Freyr, Hastière, Belgium
Opening hours: Open daily from 11 am to 5 pm
Entrance fee: 9.41 USD (8 EUR). Discounts are available
Website: Château de Freÿr
6. Experience a musical journey at the Maison de Monsieur Sax
Jazz is more commonly associated with the big cities of America, so for most people it’s quite surprising to discover that the musical genre’s iconic instrument originated in Belgium. Born in 1814, Adolphe Sax was the son of a Belgian-French musical instrument-maker. Sax, inheriting his father’s skill, invented the saxophone and its varieties in the 1840s.
Sax’s former house was eventually converted into a place dedicated to his life and achievements. The house is connected to the Anamorphoses Trail, which consists of seven totem poles signifying the different members of the saxophone family. The Collégiale Notre Dame de Dinant and La Maison de la Pataphonie can also be directly accessed through the trail.
Maison de Monsieur Sax
Address: 37 Rue Adolphe Sax, Dinant, Belgium
Opening hours: Open daily from 9 am to 7 pm
Entrance fee: None
Contact: +32 82213939, [email protected]
Website: The House of Monsieur Sax
7. Have a bite of the famous couques de Dinant
Couque de Dinant is a special pastry that has survived for centuries with its unquestionable strength. This golden-brown biscuit made from flour and honey is arguably Dinant’s most popular product, and it’s known to be beautifully decorated as well as brick-hard. The biscuits are molded using a variety of cutters and wooden templates, with decorations ranging from animals to historical events. Baking them is an art form passed down from generation to generation, and Maison Collard is a household name when it comes to these legendary pastries.
If you’re worried about breaking your teeth trying to bite down the hardest biscuits in Europe, check out the sweeter and softer couque de Rins.
Couques de Dinant V Collard
Address: 72 Rue Grande, Dinant, Belgium
Opening hours: 10:30 am to 11:30 am, 2:30 pm to 3:30 pm (bakery visits)
Contact: [email protected]
Website: Maison Collard
8. Cross the Pont Charles de Gaulle
Lined with Dinant’s ubiquitous symbol, the saxophone, this bridge has become one of Dinant’s most distinct features. Completed in 1953, the bridge was named after Charles de Gaulle, a war hero and political figure most commonly associated with the Free French Movement. The bridge provides access to the main square at the foot of the Citadel and Notre Dame.
Pont Charles de Gaulle
Address: Rue de la Station 4, Dinant, Belgium
Opening hours: All day
Entrance fee: None
9. Explore the great outdoors
Photo is only for illustrative purposes
Southern Belgium has terrain perfect for outdoor exploration. In Dinant, there are a variety of hiking trails which both beginners and seasoned hikers can traverse. Mountain Network is a group that organizes outdoor activities for all ages. They offer a variety of services including archery, kayaking, rock climbing, and GPS activities. After the excursion, guests can chill out with local Trappist beer in hand at the Bar du Moulin.
Address: Ferme de Pont-à-Lesse, Dinant, Belgium
Price: 11.17 USD (9.5 EUR)
Contact: +32 82227816, [email protected]
Website: Mountain Network
10. Traverse the Furfooz Park and Nature Reserve
The Lesse Valley is truly a sight to behold, and this nature reserve makes sure that you see all the best it has to offer. The park contains a 4-kilometer (2.48-mile) trail that passes through river banks, caves, and an evergreen forest. It also has a replica of ancient Roman baths, providing visitors with a window to Wallonia’s archaeological heritage.
Furfooz Park and Nature Reserve
Address: Rue du Camp Romain, Dinant, Belgium
Opening hours: Open daily from 10 am to 5 pm. Closing times vary depending on the season
Entrance fee: 4.70 USD (4 EUR). Discounts are available
Contact: +32 82223477, [email protected]
Website: Parc de Furfooz- in French)
Discover the hidden gem of Belgium
Dinant is not just a pretty city in a little European country. It’s a city with personality, an amalgam of historic sites and natural wonders. With its iconic landmarks and lesser-known havens, Dinant truly shines as a city with one-of-a-kind charm.
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