Situated in the south of Belgium, on the banks of the Meuse River, is the charming town of Dinant. This picturesque city has been a focal point of many battles throughout the centuries and is known for being the birthplace of Adolphe Sax, inventor of the Saxophone. With a famous Citadelle that towers over the city, Dinant is a must-see destination for visitors to Belgium.
Things to do in Dinant
The Dinant Citadel
The Dinant Citadel is a must-see attraction in the city of Dinant. This impressive fortress sits atop a hill overlooking the town and the Meuse River. The Citadel has been used in many wars over the centuries, and 1914 was the scene of fierce fighting during World War 1.
Visitors can brave the 408 steps to climb to the top of the Citadel or take the cable car for a more straightforward ascent. From the top, there are stunning views over Dinant and the surrounding area. The Citadel also features a number of tunnels that can be explored.
An exhibition on Dinant’s role it played during World War 1 and especially in 1914 is displayed in a series of infographics and displays. The Citadel’s role during August 1914 is especially interesting and the exhibition is well done and informative.
The history of the Citadel from its inception as a castle in 1040 through to the Middle Ages and present-day is laid out in several of the chambers around the Citadel.
The views from the Dinant Citadel are truly spectacular as it sits high above the River Meuse and the town itself. You’ll find a small restaurant to grab a snack and a playground for the kids.
Admission to the Dinant Citadel is €11 and includes the use of the cable car to and from the Citadel.
Dinant Citadel Opening Hours:
April to October: Open every day
November to March: Close on Fridays.
January: Open only on weekends and during school holidays.
10 am – 6 pm – High Season
10 am – 4.30 pm – Low Season
The Maison Leffe is a must-see for beer lovers visiting Dinant. One of the most popular beers within Belgium and exportation around the world, Maison Leffe is a museum dedicated to the history of the Leffe beer.
Once a monastery where monks brewed Leffe during the 13th century, nowadays it’s a 3-star hotel, Hotel la Merveilleuse. Maison Leffe offers an in-depth look at the brewing process of Leffe beer.
Visitors can also sample different types of Leffe beer at the museum. The Maison Leffe is an excellent way to learn about one of Belgium’s most famous beers. The museum offers visitors a chance to learn about the brewing process of Leffe beer, as well as the history of the beer and the monastery where it was first brewed.
Entrance fee: €10
Location: Charreau des Capucines 23, 5500 Dinant (Located within La Merveilleuse)
Website: Maison Leffe
Couque de Dinant
The Couque de Dinant is an incredibly hard cookie or cake that has been made in the Dinant for centuries. It’s so hard that it comes with a warning, do not use your teeth or you may end up breaking them. The cookies are baked with honey and wheat flour before being pressed into a mold.
The easiest way to eat the couque de Dinant is to break it off in your hands, and then let it soften in your mouth. You can also dip it in coffee or tea to help it soften.
With various shapes and designs, some as big as your head, the Coques de Dinant are a unique gift to purchase from Dinant. You may want to schedule an appointment with the dentist after.
Collégiale Notre-Dame de Dinant
The remarkable church of Notre Dame de Dinant dates from the 13th century before its final iteration in the 1820s. The large bulbous dome is visible throughout the town and the church is located directly beside the access point to the Dinant Citadel.
Inside the church, there is a rather impressive stained-glass window, and that’s about it.
River Meuse Cruises
If visiting Dinant during the warmer months, I would highly recommend hopping abroad and cruising down the river Meuse. The river cruise boats are affordable and offer breathtaking scenery and some places that are only visible from a boat such as Chateau Freÿr.
River Meuse cruises depart from Avenue Winston Churchill. Cruise lengths depend on each vessel and you can even organize a private skipper for some of the boats.
Saxophone lovers will be thrilled to learn that Dinant is the home to the inventor of the sax, Adolph Sax. Throughout the town, you will find hommage to the creator with large sax proudly displayed in various locations throughout the place. His former home has been turned into a free museum that only Sax fans will appreciate.
The impressive Charles de Gaulle Saxophone Bridge connects the town’s two sides of the Dinant train station and the Notre Dame de Dinant church with enormous and decorative saxophones lining the bridge alongside flags from around the world.
How to get to Dinant
Dinant is located in the south of Belgium, close to the French border and deep in the heart of the Ardennes forest and the Walloon province. It’s well connected to larger cities like Namur, which is the capital of the Walloon region, and from there can be connected to Brussels.
You most definitely do not need a car to get around this region, but it does help to explore the smaller off-beaten-path towns and villages that make up this region of Belgium. Belgium is a small country and distances are often short in comparison to neighboring countries like Germany or France.
We traveled down from our home in Antwerp to Dinant for the afternoon and it took an hour and 30 minutes in each direction.
Getting to Dinant by Train
Dinant train station is around a 5-minute walk from the Charles de Gaulle Saxophone Bridge.
Brussels to Dinant
The train journey from Brussels to Dinant takes approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes. There are numerous trains throughout the day and the train journey costs around €16 one way.
Luxembourg to Dinant
Hourly trains depart from Luxembourg Station to Dinant, with a change of train usually in Libramont. The train journey takes approximately 2 hours and 15 minutes. And a one-way ticket is around €22.
Getting to Dinant by Car
Dinant is well connected by the large motorway that passes nearby the town. The A4 which connects Luxembourg and Brussels is a 5-minute drive from Dinant. The countryside surrounding Dinant is stunning and Walloon at its most beautiful. I recommend getting off the motorway and taking the smaller regional roads to Dinant.
Parking is available in the town of Dinant, however, do make sure you have coins with you as at the time of our visit in November 2022 the parking machines only accepted coins. There is a number of parking locations throughout the town, and there is a paid Interparking lot a short distance from the Collegiate Church of Our Lady.
Dinant Free Parking
We found a free parking lot in Dinant a 7-minute walk from the Dinant Citadel & Cablecar. With 140 places to park throughout your stay, you can find free parking in Dinant at Place D’Armes. The walk from the parking lot takes you through the main street of Dinant.
Dinant has an incredible history and just behind this sign of the Place D’Armes Parking Lot is a nondescript wall. A small plaque indicated that this wall was where over 100 townspeople were killed by a firing squad in 1914. A startling reminder that even a simple wall has seen the horrors of war.
Dinant is a lovely day trip for those exploring the area of the south of Belgium. With breweries such as Chimay and Leffe in the area, you can easily spend the day exploring this area by river cruise or on a day trip from Brussels. A day is more than enough to explore all the sights that Dinant has to offer.