OK, even though Dinant is one of the most beautiful small towns in Belgium, admittedly it isn’t quite that small to fit in a pocket.
But it is compact enough that “you can easily see pretty much everything that the town has to offer in 3 – 4 hours”, notes the Belgium-based Full Suitcase travel blog.
It also makes for a particularly convenient daytrip from Brussels. There is a direct train from Brussels-Luxembourg train station to Dinant that runs every hour and takes 1 hour 25 minutes, traveling through the verdant Belgium countryside.
There are also organised tours to Dinant run from the Belgian capital that offer a fun way to see this lovely town at the same time as meeting new people.
Dinant isn’t as well-known as other popular Belgian cities in the Flanders region, such as Bruges and Ghent, but it has as much as them to offer to make a daytrip worth it.
You can’t miss seeing—or visiting—the dramatic citadel that sits atop the hill overlooking the town. It can be reached by a 408-step stone staircase. Or you take the cable car.
The views afforded back down to Dinant and which take in the Meuse River are particularly recommended by previous visitors.
The citadel offers guided tours, and contains various interesting exhibitions, such as rooms where the fortress’ soldiers slept, the kitchen where they cooked for 400 people, as well as various old-fashioned guns and canons.
There is also a small World War I museum that contains a replica trench, and a sloping (literally) room that is a reconstruction of a bunker hit by a bomb. It makes for a particularly strange sensation to walk through, notes Full Suitcase, which advises “gripping the walls” and shuffling sideways to avoid falling into the water!
After visiting the citadel, you can go for a 45-mintue boat cruise along the river (combined tickets are available that cover both the citadel and taking a boat cruise).
Close to the cable car entrance is the 13th-century Gothic-style Collegiate Church of Our Lady. Its most striking feature is the separate 16th-century pear-shaped bell tower.
Do you know where the inventor of the saxophone came from? No, well it happens to be Dinant—hence you can visit the home of Adolphe Sax, which is easy to find, located on the town’s main street.
The saxophone theme continues on the Pont Charles de Gaulle bridge spanning the Meuse River, which is decorated with colourful giant saxophones.
The bridge itself is so named as it’s the exact spot where the future ‘Liberator’ and President of France Charles De Gaulle received his “baptism by fire” in 1914, when he was wounded leading a charge to take the same bridge during the nine-day Battle of Dinant.
Dinant is also birthplace of famed Leffe abbey beer, first brewed back in 1240. Although the original abbey no longer exists–brewing now takes place in Leuven–there is a museum that extolls the story of one of Belgium’s best-known exports through an engaging multimedia exhibition.
Very close to the town centre is the Grotte la Merveilleuse, a collection of caves with dramatic stalactites and stalagmites.
Regarding where to grab a nice lunch: there are two restaurants at the top of the hill in the vicinity of the citadel. There are also plenty of restaurants in the town centre and alongside the river.
And if a drink takes your fancy, just across the river from the main town and citadel is none other than the original Leffe brewery.
But according to Full Suitcase, “a visit to Dinant wouldn’t be complete without tasting the Couque de Dinant” (Cake of Dinant). More of a sweet biscuit, this local speciality is “extremely hard” and comes in all shapes and sizes that can be found in any bakery around the town.
“It’s so hard that it lasts a very long time,” Full Suitcase notes. “Let’s just say you get value for your money.”
Much like a daytrip to Dinant: you get a lot of value for such a short time spent in this little gem of Wallonia.