Dates: September 2016, October 2017
Route: Drove from Amsterdam.
During our extended stay in Amsterdam in Sep of 2016, we would spend every weekend hiring a car and exploring neighboring Belgium or France. It is on one such weekend that we discovered the charming and picturesque town of Dinant. Given my love of Belgian beer, this began as a quest to go visit Maison Leffe, the shrine dedicated to the beer of the same name. Our research of the area revealed a beautiful region of rolling hills dotted with farms, castles, and small villages. We also discovered that we could actually stay in a castle, so we booked a weekend at the amazingly restored and modernized Château D'Hassonville which was a 30 minute drive from Dinant.
Located in the French-speaking region of Belgium, Dinant is located on the Meuse river and made up of colorful buildings, a towering Gothic cathedral, and a fortress that overlooks it all. The first thing you notice when entering the city over the Charles De Gaulle bridge is the large, multi-colored saxophones that are dedicated to the various members of the EU. These are a tribute to Adolphe Sax, the inventor of the saxophone who was born in Dinant. There is even a museum, Maison de Monsieur Sax, dedicated to the man with a large bronze sculpture of Sax sitting on a bench waiting for a selfie photo. The Collégiale Notre Dame de Dinant is a 13th century Gothic catherdral which is well worth the visit. Being Gothic, it is dark and foreboding with soaring spires and a unique pear-shaped, black bell tower. The best pictures of Dinant are taken directly across the river from this church as the mountain provides an excellent backdrop which the river reflects all of it.
The Citadelle de Dinant is a fortress on top of the towering mountain behind the cathedral and can be reached by walking up the ~400 steps or taking a cable car. There is an arms museum on top and walking along the old walls provides great aerial views of Dinant and the landscape around it. We finished off a morning of climbing up and exploring the citadel and then going to the nice café across from the Sax museum for a lunch of Belgian waffles and local beer. The main town itself is quite small and very walkable.
The other memorable part of our visit was our stay at the Château D'Hassonville. If you have ever wondered what it is like to stay in a medieval castle and imagine what life was like back then, this is about as close as you can get. Though the rooms have modern furnishings and amenities, the rest of the chateau is decorated and furnished the reflect the period. The grounds are also beautiful and one can get a small picnic together and spend a lazy afternoon by the lake. There is also a well stocked bar that works on the honor system for payment. This is also a good base from which to explore the other cities in the region.
(Click on gallery images below for details)