Visit Dinant – Best Things to do in Dinant Belgium
Dinant is a small town located in the Namur province of Belgium. Geographically it belongs to the French-speaking region of Wallonia. Dinant makes for an excellent weekend trip away from the hustle-bustle of big cities and skyscrapers. You can also plan a day trip from Brussels to Dinant and experience this European countryside in a day. In this handy travel guide, you will find all the awesome things to do in Dinant Belgium. We have also included travel tips – hotels, restaurants, and commute information in this post as well to plan your Dinant Belgium travel itinerary.
Dinant is well-known and linked to the birthplace of Adolphe Sax, the founder of the Saxophone, the historical Battle of Dinant, and the iconic citadel Dinant. Dinant is located very close to the French and the Luxembourg border, so definitely keep this hidden gem in mind, if you are doing road trips in western Europe.
With the Meuse River flowing through the town, you will be mesmerized by the picturesque scenes at Dinant and it literally transports you to a different world. Citadel Dinant will capture your hearts (and minds) with amazing views of the Meuse valley.
Things to do in Dinant Belgium – Visit Dinant
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Brussels to Dinant Train or day tour
There are many ways to travel from the capital city of Brussels to Dinant. It takes 1.50 hours to drive from Brussels to Dinant. You can rent a car in Brussels.
Brussels to Dinant Train
You can catch a train from almost all the train-stations in Brussels to Dinant. It will take you about 2 hours to reach Dinant by train.
The earliest train to Dinant starts just before 06:00 am from Brussels. You can take a train back to Brussels city as late as 09:40 pm. Tickets cost about 14 Euros one-way (second class train ticket). The second class trains are clean and spacious.
These trains are operated by SNCB, which is Belgium’s national train carrier (National Railway Company of Belgium). You can book and reserve the seats online or at the train stations. However, there are no seat numbers or “set” train schedules printed on the ticket. This means if you book a ticket for April 02 – you can take the train at any time for that date. And can also grab any empty seat you find in the right passenger class.
It will take you 4-6 minutes to reach the Charles de Gaulle Bridge and the Notre Dame Cathedral (walking).
If you prefer taking a guided trip, then we do recommend a day tour from Brussels to explore both Dinant and Luxembourg in a day. Book your day tour here
Where to stay in Dinant? Hotel La Merveilleuse
Citadel Dinant – Explore La Citadelle de Dinant
La Citadelle de Dinant is one of the most popular attractions in Dinant.
The citadel of Dinant stands tall on a cliff, overlooking the entire town and the Meuse river valley. The citadel was built as a defensive fortress to protect the town of Dinant in the 11th century.
A castle was originally built here by the prince-bishop of Liege, to protect and defend Dinant (this fortress dated back to 1040). The current fortress was shaped by the Dutch invasions of the 19th century (around 1818-1821).
The history of the Dinant Citadel speaks volumes of the strategic importance of this little town. Since the establishment of the first castle in 1040, there has been continuous battle and devastation on Dinant, sometimes by Namur, French, or the Dutch. The French occupied the town until the end of the 17th century and made several modifications to the fortress.
The Dutch were the major contributors to the Dinant citadel for its existence that we see today. They built (or re-built) the fortress between 1818 and 1821. The construction of the fortress contours like a horseshoe. There are covered galleries where canons can be placed and troops can be on stand-by. These spots were strategic in aiming at the intruders from the bridge over the Meuse river.
The citadel Dinant also had some flaws in the design, like if the army was attacked from the plateau – they were vulnerable and there was only one way out from the fortress, making it a death trap (in case of emergencies or sudden attacks). After the Dutch left, the Dinant citadel fell into the hands of the Belgium army, who gave up the fort to private owners.
Today, it is open to the public. There is a cable car located near the Notre dame Dinant church to take you to the fortress to greet you with some mesmerizing views of the Belgium countryside.
Or if you prefer, you can walk 408 steps to reach the top. And probably take a cable car on your way down. The fortress currently houses a museum dedicated to the World War I events, including the massacres in the Battle of Dinant of 1914. The museum speaks volumes of the stories and lives of the soldiers from World War I. You will also find dungeons, kitchens, and equipment used by soldiers from 1914.
Hiking up to the Citadel is a MUST for some incredible views of the town of Dinant and the river Meuse.
They are open from 10:00 am to 5:30 pm. Guided tours of one hour are available as well.
Location: 3-5 Place Reine Astrid, Dinant
Price: Citadel + Meuse Boat cruise is 14 euros for adults. 8.50 euros Citadel only.
Walk over the Charles de Gaulle Bridge/ Pont Charles de Gaulle
As soon as you arrive in Dinant, you will be warmly welcomed by a bridge over the Meuse River leading to the city centre and the Dinant Notre Dame. That bridge is called the Pont Charles de Gaulle and yes, the name sounds familiar to the airport in Paris, France. It is named after Charles de Gaulle, who was the champion of the Free French movement.
Access to the bridge is completely FREE and you will get amazing views to the Meuse and the river banks.
We love how the bridge is adorned with colorful saxophones all over. Such a visual treat!
Location: Rue de la Station 4, 5500 Dinant
World War I History learnings
Dinant was one of the battlefields of World War I in which the French and the Germans fought for the town of Dinant. This resulted in severe destruction of the town of Dinant and it took years for it to re-build.
Charles de Gaulle, who later became the Prime Minister of France was wounded at the battle of Dinant (in World War I). The atrocities meted out to the town are often described in history books as the rape of Dinant.
Collégiale Notre Dame de Dinant – Collegiate church of Our Lady
The stunning church that you see on either side of Pont Charles de Gaulle is the Collégiale Notre Dame de Dinant. Also known as the Collegiate church of Our Lady, the church was built on the ruins of a 10th-century cathedral.
The current church was opened in the 13th century and was built in the Gothic style. The interiors of the church are stunning with stained glass and mosaic windows.
The landmark 16th-century pear-shaped bell tower is an iconic symbol of Dinant. Right above the Collegiate Church of Notre Dame de Dinant is the Dinant Citadel.
The church is open to visitors from 10:00 am to 05:00 pm
Location: Collegiate Church of Notre Dame de Dinant – Place Reine Astrid, Dinant
Memorial Aux Victimes du Memorial Park
Memorial Aux Victimes du Memorial Park is a memorial park, dedicated to the fallen heroes and martyrs of World War I. The war memorial is full of names of departed souls inscribed on an elongated metal piece facing the river Meuse.
It is for a reason that the town is called the town of Martyrs.
Location: Avenue des Combattants 16-20, Dinant 5500
Take the Meuse River Cruise – Top Things to do in Dinant
The picturesque Meuse river made me skip a heartbeat as we drove towards the little town of Dinant. Due to the higher elevation, you can see the river flowing through the town as you drive closer to Dinant.
When you are in town for a day, hop on to a river cruise to make the most of your trip. You will see the entire town in an hour’s cruise and also relax and enjoy those stunning views (that rhymed!).
Dinant’s landscape – the rock formations, medieval structures, and the funky saxophones everywhere will melt your heart (and you might want to stay here forever, I wish – I could).
Location: Rue A Daust 64, Dinant
Price: 7.50 euros per adult
Spot the Rocher Bayard – the legendary rock
While on a cruise, you will see a huge rock formation or a boulder. This rock formation is 40 metres high and has a legendary story linked to it. It is believed that the rock was created by the Ardennes horse – Bayard who split the rock while fleeing the sons of Aymon from the terror of Emperor Charles.
You can even see this while on a stroll from Anseremme to Dinant or while driving to the city. Being a natural creation, you can view this formation 24x 7, all year round, and for free.
Location: Rue Defoin, 5500 Dinant
Explore the underground world at Grotte la merveilleuse
Grotte la Merveilleuse is such a unique attraction in Dinant. Located very close to the train station in Dinant, the Grotte la Merveilleuse is essentially an underground cave with unique natural formations – waterfalls, drapes, and columns.
You will enter the cave using a staircase made up of 120 steps. It is dark inside and has uneven ground, so wear comfortable shoes.
Entry to the cave is with a guided tour only. Tours are open from 11:00 am to 04:00 pm from Tuesday to Friday and from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm on weekends and holidays.
Location: Re de Philippeville 142 Dinant, Belgium
Free: 9 euros
Saxophone Museum/Home of Adolphe Sax/Maison de Monsieur Sax
Dinant is home to saxophones. It is the birthplace of Adolphe Sax, the inventor of Saxophone. Adolphe’s father was Sax and like father like son, he continued with the family tradition and invented the saxophone in the 1840s.
Today the family home is turned into a museum called the ‘Maison de Monsieur Sax.’ This small museum is worth a visit. Entry to the museum is completely free and will probably take you 15-20 minutes to explore everything inside.
There is a HUGE statue of Adolphe at the entrance. The museum is filled with musical instruments used by the Sax family. That’s why you will find saxophones everywhere in town.
The museum is open daily from 09:00 am to 7:00 pm
Location: 37 Rue Adolphe Sax, Dinant
Castle of Freÿr – Renaissance Fortress
On the left bank of the Meuse river between Dinant and Waulsort, there is a palace that contains labyrinthine gardens and remnants of royal existence.
The royal palace is a reminder of the French’s Versailles, and this Renaissance fortress is one of Wallonia’s treasured heritage sites. The royal palace is stunning with beautiful interiors and furniture dating to the times of the Dukes of Beaufort-Spontin.
Just like the Citadel Dinant, the Chateau of Freÿr is of historical importance. The Treaty of Feyr (Coffee treaty) was signed here. The Coffee Treaty was signed as a foundation leading to the Treaty of Borders.
Location: 12 Feyr, Hastiere
Free: 8 Euros
A tough cookie or Couque de Dinant (aka Cookie of Dinant)
Our local guide told us about this unique (and a famous) baked product of Dinant – Couque biscuit. This biscuit is made of wheat flour and honey.
It is a very rock solid biscuit. Almost brick-like hard to eat. The biscuit is broken into fragments so that it is easy to consume. You can bite it to pieces or let it melt into your mouth by sucking. You can also try soaking in coffee and eating it. It is kind of like rusk, but hard.
Try them at the Couques Jacob (Boulangerie et Fabrique de couque Jacobs). If eating hard biscuit is not your thing, then head there to window shop and look at this HUGE (and tough) cookie!
Location: Boulangerie et Fabrique de couque Jacobs – Rue Grande 147, 5500 Dinant
Free: 16 euros for 300-350 gms
Dinant Town Hall
The Townhall of Dinant is a beautiful government administration building. The exterior of the office looks like a quaint romantic house with pretty flowers on the windows. The lawn of the Dinant town hall has 2 important structures – one is the World War I memorial and the second one is a stunning glass saxophone.
The saxophone lights up in the evening and is gorgeous to look at.
Location: Rue Grande 112, 5500
Take an evening stroll by the Meuse River
The Meuse River that flows through the town of Dinant is so stunning that we HIGHLY recommend taking an evening stroll along the banks of the river. In the evening, the river is still – as there are no cruises or boat rides taking place. There are fewer people around too.
Spend some moments here, admiring the beauty of the Meuse and this gem of a place – Dinant.
Outdoors in Dinant
Dinant has TONS of outdoor options for you to explore. Hiking trails, rock climbing, kayaking, etc. Mountain Network organizes outdoor activities for all ages.
Location: Ferme de Pont-a-Lesse
Price: 9.50 – 10 Euros
Maison Leffe Beer Museum
Maison Leffe was once a monastery and now it is a beer museum and an upscale bar and restaurant. Head there late evening for a drink. They are closed on Mondays, but rest of the week they are open 11:00 am to 06:00 pm
Location: Charreau des Capucines 23, 5500 Dinant
Price: 7 euros per adult for the museum
Tourism Office Dinant – Information Centre
Located very close to the Charles de Gaulle bridge is the Dinant tourist office. They are open all days of the week and should you have any questions or need assistance they are ready to help.
Location: Avenue Colonel Cadoux 8, 5500 Dinant
Bathtub Regatta Festival
The Bathtub Regatta is a unique festival that occurs every year in Dinant, on the 15th of August. In this event, you will see bathtubs (yea actual bathtubs) floating on the Meuse River.
Each year, a different theme is announced and participants are allowed to decorate, paint, and design their bathtubs. The International Bathtub Regatta attracts over 25,000 spectators every year. This event is FREE to attend and participate. Participants compete in the 1 kilometre Regate de Baignoires down the Meuse River.
This event began in 1982 and since then it has been wowing all visitors to Dinant.
Dinant Jazz Festival
Dinant also celebrates Jazz music every year at the Leffe Abbey in July.
The city centre in Dinant consists of a small marketplace housed in historic spaces. Take a stroll at the marketplace and shop (or window shop) for goods and souvenirs.
Visit Dinant Belgium – Travel tips
General Travel Tips (Things to do in Dinant Belgium)
As mentioned earlier in the article, the nearest airport to Dinant is located in Brussels Belgium. You can also arrive in Dinant via roadways from Luxembourg or France.
Dinant is located in Belgium and entry to the country is visa-free for European Union passport holders. Citizens of the United States and Canada can travel visas and travel authorization free till 2022. Starting from 2022, they are required to apply for a travel authorization prior to traveling to any Eurozone (Schengen country). ETIAS is an online authorization process, which only takes minutes to apply.
If you require a Schengen visa to visit any Eurozone countries, the same applies to Dinant and Belgium in general. Schengen visa is not a visa on arrival and it has to be applied and approved ahead of time.
Travel insurance and a set travel itinerary is key to a successful Schengen visa application. Learn more about the Schengen visa application here.
Where to stay – Hotels Dinant
Dinant has mid-budget level hotels in and around the city center. Here are our top 3 recommendations for hotels in Dinant –
Hotel La Merveilleuse – Hotel La Merveilleuse is a 3-star hotel located only a few minutes away from the Dinant railway station.
- Great river valley views. Some rooms also offer views of the Dinant Citadel.
- There is a swimming pool, spa and a beer museum on site
- Free WiFi and free breakfast are offered as well.
- Book your stay here – Hotel La Merveilleuse
Auberge Grill Le Freyr – Auberge Grill Le Freyr is another 3-star hotel, which is family managed.
- It is located close to the railway station (6-minute walk). The castle of Freyr is about 12 kilometers away.
- Less than a 5-minute drive will take you to the Citadel of Dinant
- Book your stay here
Hotel iBis Dinant – A 3-star hotel located on the banks of the Meuse river
- Perfect location, close to the railway’s station and the city center
- The hotel is pet friendly and offers free wifi and breakfast
- Book your stay here
We recommend using Booking.com to find accommodation. It is our favorite hotel website for quickly comparing the prices of multiple hotel booking sites at once.
Dinant is one of those beautiful hidden gems that are hard to miss. We highly recommend visiting it, while exploring other destinations in Western Europe. When planning for day trips outside of Brussels, ensure Dinant is part of your Belgium Travel Itinerary.
- Sightseeing Itinerary to Brussels
- One day Itinerary to Bruges
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you click one of them, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Wow, Dinant looks amazing. I’ve never heard of it before but it looks and sounds remarkable! The Meuse River appears so beautiful in your photographs and this sounds like a great trip to take from Brussels!
Dinant looks so fun! I love the look of that fortress and Notre Dame de Dinant has such a cool dome! It looks kind of Eastern European. I love it!!
It’s also really cool that they are so proud of Adolphe Sax! If you did not know he was born there, all those saxophones might be a little confusing!!
Hi in general do people in Dinant speak English? Thanks.
Yes, they do! Restaurant and hotel staff, tour guides, and in most stores – people spoke/understood English.
Do people speak Dutch also? How is it right now due to the Corona virus, do we have to wear masks?
Flemish/Dutch is generally spoken in Belgium, but in the Namur/southern Belgium people speak French. We were able to communicate with the locals in (broken) English without any issues.
Many attractions have opened up in Dinant (since July 1), including Sax’s House, here is their official site http://sax.dinant.be/en/sax-and-the-city/mr-sax-s-house
And they have asked the public to maintain general hygiene, including wearing masks. It is mandatory to wear masks in public transportation in Belgium, including places where physical distancing cannot be maintained (since May).
Take care, safe travels!