DINANT IS AS DIVINE AS WHAT THE CELTS THOUGHT WHEN THEY CALLED THE SITE DIVO-NANTO:
Dinant is a small town in the French-speaking Wallonian province of Namur. This picturesque town along the River Meuse has long been recognized for its idyllic setting. Since the Celts first occupied the site, they called it “Divo-Nanto” which can be translated as Sacred Valley, Divine Valley or Celestial Gorge. These blissful descriptions still apply to Dinant today – located in the beautiful Meuse Valley, Dinant is watched over by its magnificent Citadel, perched high above the town, and its equally impressive Collegiate Church of Our Lady with its towering onion-domed spire add medieval charm to this riverside town.
Dinant is about 90 kilometres southeast of Brussels and being about midway between Brussels and Orval where we were headed, we made a lunch stop here. I must admit that most of us knew very little of Dinant but as we approached the town centre we became alert when our coach squeezed past the Rocher Bayard extracting a few alarming screeches from the ladies. It was a tight fit for a coach, but luckily our very experienced bus driver had driven through this gap before and he was a little amused by the applause he received for making it past the rock. The Rocher Bayard is said to have been split from the main rocky cliff by the giant hoof of Bayard, a legendary giant horse carrying the four sons of Aymon as they took flight from Charlemagne, as told in the 12th century epic poem “Les Quatre fils Aymon”.
Dinant town centre is quite small, and Rue Grande is the main road going into town. We didn’t have to drive very far before some of the town’s main sights came into view.
All Saxed Up
Sax musicians and jazz and blues music enthusiasts will know of Adolphe Sax, the man who invented the saxophone in 1846. Sax was born in Dinant and we were lucky to have stopped here at this time to see the town all decked up for the bicentenary celebrations of Adolphe Sax’s birthday.
The Pont Charles de Gaulle was decorated with colourful saxophones – these were creations and contributions by artists from all over the world to mark Sax’s 200th birthday anniversary.
Tony liked this blue sax which was a design and contribution from Spain.
In the courtyard of the Hotel de Ville stands a large glass saxophone. This feature is actually a water clock which is counting down the days to Adolphe Sax’s 200th birthday anniversary – the saxophone receives a drop of water every eight seconds until November 6th.
At the House of Mr Sax visitors can discover the world of this talented musician. Located in a building on the site where Adolphe Sax was born Antoine-Joseph on 6 November 1814, the centre, which is not a museum in the typical sense, takes visitors through the invention of the saxophone in an original and fun setting.
For a bird’s eye view of Dinant and its surrounds, take the cable car to the fortified Citadel. Originally built in the 11th century to protect the Meuse Valley below, the Prince-Bishops of Liege rebuilt and enlarged it in 1530, the French destroyed it in 1703 and it was later rebuilt in 1821. Yes, Dinant has been invaded many times in the past and there’s a lot of history here. The Citadel is now home to Dinant’s Arms Museum.
Adding to the spectacular setting of Dinant is the Notre-Dame de Dinant, the Collegiate Church of Our Lady. Located at the foot of a cliff facing the Meuse River, this 13th century church features remarkable religious objects and stained glass windows, including the large Ladon glass roof, one of the largest in Europe. Every Sunday in July and August, a free organ concert is held at 4:30 pm.
On the other side of the river is the Maison Leffe, an informative and interactive museum dedicated to the history of one of the most recognizable Belgian Trappist beers. The Leffe Trappist beer dates back to 1240, and a self-guided tour of the place allows visitors to learn about the beer-making process, what life as a Trappist Monk is like, and the craftsmanship behind every bottle of Leffe. At the end of the tour you can enjoy some beer tasting.
Eating in Dinant
With blue skies and the beautiful river views, and given that we were short of time, we thought that a sandwich lunch at the riverfront was the best bet. Tony ordered a “trois fromage” sandwich which was very nice. Along the riverfront there are several cafes and restaurants where you can grab a quick bite.
If you are staying in Dinant, there are many restaurants to dine at, mostly serving French or Belgian cuisine. At Chez Bouboule, on Rue Adolphe Sax, you can enjoy 35 different sorts of mussels. Also on Rue Sax is the Brasserie Cafe Leffe. This popular brasserie is opposite the citadel and offers good food and Meuse River views. Other recommended eateries include La Couronne in the centre of town and Le Cafe des Arts.
Dinant deserves more than a lunch-time stop and the above attractions are only those that are within walking distances in the town centre. The town is a popular summer and winter holiday destination and there are many castles to explore in the region as well as a network of 2,000 signposted walking trails. And of course being alongside the river all kinds of boating activities are possible, from kayaking to going on a river cruise or driving your own electric boat.
Where to Stay
There are many holiday home rentals in the region, but if you prefer to be close to town the Ibis Dinant is just a 5-minute drive away. The Ibis is situated by the River Meuse and offers views of the river.
Dinant, is located 90 mn by train from Brussels and the Dinant Station is on the Intercity network.
Just over an hour’s drive from Brussels, Dinant is easily reachable by road on either the North-South Link (E411) or the East-West Link (R.N.97).
The RaVel 2, a network of former canals that have been transformed into flat, smoothly paved routes for walkers and cyclists, follows the Meuse between Namur and Dinant.
Map of Dinant: