There are many other cities and towns to visit that can be done as day trips in Belgium! I decided to take a day trip to the Wallonia region to Dinant and Namur.
Bruxelles-Midi (Brussels) to Dinant (Belgium)
Travel Time: 1h 47min
My first stop was Dinant, a city formally known for its specialized metalwork during the Middle Ages but eventually was devastated by several wars, the last one being the Battle of Dinant during WWi. There are three notable landmarks in Dinant that I was able to visit. The first is the Collegiate Church of Notre Dame de Dinant, a 13th-century Gothic cathedral that sits on the banks of the River Meuse. It’s right by the bridge and very hard to miss.
Citadel Entrance Fee: €8,50 (includes cable car)
The church is actually located right by my next stop, the fortified Citadel of Dinant. It’s a fort that overlooks the city and you can either take the cable car or climb up the 408 steps (which I totally did since it was the best way to take photographs of the city). The guided tours are only in French and Dutch but they do provide you with a small pamphlet that is written in English. The Citadel was built to control the Meuse valley in the 11th-century and has been destroyed and rebuilt several times since. It was the scene of conflict during both World Wars and there are rooms you can walk into and listen to the sounds of war, which was really haunting and a little overwhelming for me. The climb up and touring around and getting back down took about 2 hours.
Couques V. Collard 1774
Best known for Flamiche and Couque de Dinant
Rue Grande 72 Dinant 5500 Belgium
I got a quick breakfast at a cafe before hunting around the town for the famous couque de Dinant, which is literally quite the hardest cookie in the existence of biscuits! According to the Legend, during the great siege of 1466, the people of Dinant were starving and had only two things at their disposal: wheat flour and honey. They made these into dough and baked it. They can be preserved indefinitely and are so incredibly hard that you need to break off a little piece and suck on it until it dissolves or soak it in coffee. Couques are also stamped by local brasswork and so can be used as holiday ornaments or displays. I bought a large one with the scene of Dinant stamped on it as a souvenir.
Grotto Entrance Fee: €9
Duration: 50 mins
Guided tour required
With my souvenir, I walked up to Le Grotte de Dinant La Merveilleuse (The Grotto of Dinant) to see the caves and stalagmites. They only do guided tours since it can get quite slippery and dangerous but I totally recommend seeing the grotto! It was a perfect end to the afternoon!
DID YOU KNOW?
The inventor of the saxophone, Antoine-Joseph “Adolphe” Sax, was born in Dinant. As a result, the main bridge is lined with decorated models of the saxaphone
Dinant (Belgium) to Namur
Travel Time: 30 minutes
After the grotto, I took the train to Namur and just my luck, it started pouring! I managed to “hike” up the Citadel of Namur and see the Eglise Saint-Loup from the outside but I spent most of the late afternoon sitting in cafes and trying to get out of the rain. I got completely soaked when I was walking around the citadel but the photos I took made it totally worth it!
I did go to Boulangerie Legrand, which the pretty much the best breads bakery in the city hands down so I definitely suggest making time to visit, buy some bread, and just relax by the river (which is what I wanted to do if it hadn’t been raining so much!). Carrément BON is also one of the really cute cafes where I tried to shelter myself from the rain. Their gosette créme and the passionfruit, praline, and coffee mousse cake with espresso ice cream were just what I needed to cosy up from the cold!
USEFUL FRENCH PHRASE:
“Mon français est mauvais” = My French is terrible
It was so crazy that I had reservations for dinner at The Agathopede (inside Royal Snail Hotel) but ended up cancelling it and headed back to Brussels. That restaurant was on my list for a while so I was really heartbroken to have to cancel it. It’s one of the best restaurants in Namur and the menu looked really interesting. You have the following options: the 3-course menu (€37), the 4-course menu (€45), or the 6 Course Menu (€75). I highly recommend just going for the 6-course meal and get the best experience. Namur is also known for its boutique shops and its commerce so it was interesting seeing the fashion trends and the architecture of the shops. It really is a cute city that is worth stopping by. Don’t forget to also go inside the Eglise Saint-Loup! It has a beautiful interior and they hold concerts from time to time, it was just closed by the time I got there. I think Dinant and Namur are close enough to Brussels to spend a day visiting and learning about the French region!
Namur to Bruxelles-Midi (Brussels)
Travel Time: 1h 12min