Namur

Why Dinant is an ideal vacation base

Travel blogger Victor Tribunsky describes what makes the picturesque town of Dinant the perfect location for a vacation in Belgium.

There are so many interesting places to visit in Belgium that it would be impossible for one person (i.e. me!) to visit them all. I need a bit of help! Dinant has always been on my “must visit” list. So when I came across this excellent account of a travel blogger’s experiences in Dinant, I just had to share it. Apart from introducing Dinant, he gives six reasons why this town in Wallonia makes a great base for a vacation in Belgium.

The travel blogger is Victor Tribunsky, of Victor Travel Blog, and he kindly gave me permission to publish his account along with his beautiful photos here in full. So over to you, Victor …

Collegiate Church of Notre Dame de Dinant, Wallonia, Belgium.
Collegiate Church of Notre Dame de Dinant

We collect cities. Small cities. Small cities of Europe. It started several years ago when my wife and I were in a position to travel a little bit more than we could before. Simultaneously, this travel blog was born.

Meuse River, Dinant, Belgium.
Meuse River, Dinant, Belgium


Some time ago, we went from Germany to France with a short two-day stop in Bruges, Belgium. When we came out to the old city of Bruges for the first time, I felt something special, something like déjà vu. I had already been here. Maybe it was in my previous life, but, to be sure, it was. I think Bruges didn’t change a lot during the last few hundred years, therefore if you lived there in medieval times (in your previous life), most likely you’’d find your house even today.

I asked my wife, “Would you like to live here?”
“Yes. And you?”
“I think, yes.”

From that moment, we played this game every time when we stayed in the next small European city. “Would you like to live here?” I am stressing the meaning: “to live,” but not just “to stay for a while.” Sometimes, an answer was negative, for example:

  • in Tivoli and Pompeii, Italy;
  • in Dubrovnik and Split, Croatia;
  • in Cordoba and Figueres, Spain;
  • in Gordes and Annecy, France.

For us, those places were good just for visiting, but not for living. However, sometimes an answer was affirmative, and our collection of cities for perfect living started to grow. Now, besides Bruges, it includes:

  • Zell am See, Austria;
  • Budva, Montenegro;
  • Füssen, Bavaria, Germany;
  • Orvieto and Bergamo, Italy;
  • and some others.

Recently, the collection was supplemented with one more item: the city of Dinant, Belgium. This historical artefact is the most unusual in our exposition. Why? Because it has no outstanding attractions. It has no medieval streets. It has no sea. What it has is a modest, but brutal church, a citadel, and an abbey where monks have brewed the famous Leffe already 800 years. And yes, Antoine-Joseph Sax, the inventor of the saxophone, was born there. That’s all. However, we found one more thing there: déjà vu.

City Government Office, Dinant, Wallonia, Belgium.
City Government Office, Dinant


The promenade of Dinant, Belgium.
The promenade of Dinant, Belgium.

Dinant has chosen such an unlucky location that, for its whole life, it has been forced to pay a high price for that choice. It seated itself between the two most aggressive countries of Europe: France and Germany. Their armies were so “polite” that they regularly paid visits to each other and constantly moved forth and back through Dinant. Moreover, other armies as well, hadn’t turned down the chance to visit Dinant. Even Spaniards, Russian, and Americans have been here. Probably, the Citadel of Dinant could be entered into the Guinness Book as the most often besieged fortress of Europe. Unfortunately, we can only see its walls; the castle was demolished. Today this citadel is a museum.

Nevertheless, the tiny town survived and is trying to be a resort town with its own river promenade. For most tourists this is a one-day-visit place. They come, visit a church, the citadel, and the home of Sax, take pictures of the Meuse River and numerous saxophones on the Charles de Gaulle Bridge, and leave. But some (including prisoners of the local jail) come here to live in the peaceful atmosphere and breathe fresh air for a while. We have found at least one hotel, but preferred to book an apartment. As it turns out, this apartment was located in front of a prison (which looks rather like a small castle), and I have a strong feeling that it was the calmest place in the city, even in the evenings.

The prison of Dinant, Belgium.
The prison of Dinant, Belgium.
City Government Square, Dinant, Wallonia, Belgium.
City Government Square, Dinant, Wallonia, Belgium.
You may think this is a church. No. This is the Palace of Justice of Dinant, Belgium.
You may think this is a church. No. This is the Palace of Justice of Dinant.

There was one more reason why Irina chose Dinant as our residence for a 10-day stay in Belgium. No, it wasn’t because of the biggest nuclear power station of Belgium, Tihange, which is located 30 km away. Dinant sits in the center of the virtual circle of places we intended to visit with our rented car:

Château de Vêves. A picturesque well-preserved medieval castle of the family of Beaufort is one of the most remarkable examples of 15th century military architecture. During the castle’’s restoration work, between 1969 and 1979, great attention was paid to the castle’’s interior decoration. You are able to cross time barriers and imagine what it would have been like during the different periods from the Middle Ages to the present time.

Chateau de Veves, Belgium.
Chateau de Veves

Abbaye d’Orval. Founded in 1132, the Notre-Dame of Orval is one of the most remarkable Cistercian abbeys in Belgium. This historical location is home to stunning art collections and a Trappist beer, famous in the Ardennes region. Have you ever tasted Orval beer?

Abbaye d'Orval, Belgium.
Abbaye d’Orval

Château de Bouillon. The owner of the castle, Godfrey of Bouillon, was one of the leaders of the First Crusade. When crusaders took Jerusalem in 1099, Godfrey became the first ruler of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, but refused to be a king, saying that he couldn’t wear the gold crown of a king “where Jesus Christ had worn a crown of thorns.”

Chateau de Bouillon, Belgium.
Chateau de Bouillon

Villers-la-Ville, the ruins of a Cistercian abbey, will show you more than 800 years of history.

Villers-la-Ville, Belgium.
Villers-la-Ville

Gaasbeek Castle. It began its history from a medieval fortress of 1240. A beautiful castle in neo-romantic style was built on the ruins of the destroyed fortress at the beginning of the 16th century, and was gifted to the Belgium State in 1921 by its last owner, Marchioness Arconati Visconti. Today, this is a museum, and its interior is as stunning as the exterior. You won’t be disappointed.

Gaasbeek Castle, Belgium.
Gaasbeek Castle

Château de Walzin. During its 900-year history, it was a fortress, a castle, just a two-storey country house, then a castle again. It was plundered and burned down by the French army, the Austrian army, and the French army once more, and restored, each time becoming increasingly better.

Chateau de Walzin, Belgium
Château de Walzin

Thanks Victor!

Many thanks for this introduction to Dinant and a mouth-watering glimpse of what’s to see in the surroundings. As he points out, thanks to being in the centre of these six glorious castles, Dinant is indeed a great place for a vacation in Belgium.

Don’t forget to head on over to Victor Travel Blog for some more inspiring posts.

Categories: Namur

30 replies »

  1. What a beautiful setting! The layout of the town is truly impressive–the church with the citadel in the background and the way the town stretches along the river surrounded by hills. I hope I have the chance to see more of Belgium at some point in the future!

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    • Thanks for this tip Julia. Can you recommend a walk through this nature reserve, for me to check out and possibly write about please?

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  2. What an intriguing first photo, the church with its back to the citadel on the hill, its face to the river. This seems like a great central place from which to plan a trip to Belgium. I really like the saxophone sculpture, it looks like it’s made of green ice. Denzil, thank you for featuring Victor’s post – I think I remember you highlighting some of the other cities he mentions.

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    • Yes Sharon I have been to a few of the castles he mentions. Dinant is most famous for being the birthplace of Adolphe Sax (ophone). He’s well worth a separate post as a Famous Belgian!

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  3. I always liked visiting Dinant, but had no idea about the treasures around the city. I’ll have to go back with Mark and go on a castle tour. As far as the question, “Could you live here?” my husband and I play this “game” all the time, as we are digital nomad’s, always curious about finding a place we might settle somewhere. But, each time we ask ourselves this question, the answer is “no”. We have not found the “perfect place” yet, as the climate of our future home is very important to us and Belgium (and many other countries we have visited) doesn’t fit that bill. Even though I grew up here. 🙂

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    • I know how you feel Liesbet, about looking for the “perfect place.” Our rental period is coming to an end and we are finding it difficult to get the balance between a variety of factors in choosing a new house/apartment/location/price etc etc. Unfortunately, perfect doesn’t exist!

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  4. I’ve already met Victor and he writes a great article, Denzil. I’ve not had opportunity to visit him for a while so thanks for sharing this. It certainly looks appealing 🙂 🙂

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  5. HI. I’m from Dinant. It’s quite strange to imagine that city as the European best destination. Of course the city deserves to be visited…. Many nice places … But I think tourism doesn’t focus on the REAL things ( beautiful ones!) to see in DINANT. For example, there isn’t any focus on the gastronomy.. Everyone knows about Couques de Dinant ..But does someone know about flamiche ( a kind of salty cheesy tarte) ? Everyone knows about the bridge, the church, the citadel in the city center… But does someone have a walk alongside the river Lesse and enjoy that mervellous valley between water and trees ? Im’ not sure about it … Being from Dinant I’m quite sad to see many tourists enjoying only 10% of Dinant City … But for sure, I’ll be voting for my city … But I hope tourism in Dinant will improve in the future.

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    • Thanks for your insightful comments from a Dinant resident Alex. I would like to make another post about Dinant focusing on some of the lesser known delights about this town. Maybe we can communicate by email on this topic.

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  6. Thanks for this post Denzil, I loved Victor’s style and way of looking at places and their circumstances, but it also raised a smile as “I could live here…” was something we always waited for my late Dad to say whenever he visited somewhere new. It’s fascinating how some places feel instantly familiar or spark something in us while others simply don’t touch us at all.

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