So, you might be wondering about the title of this article, no?! Well, first let me tell you a little detail: Dinant is not next door to Luxembourg, but it is just one (very worthy) hour driving away! It’s a lovely little city with a lot of history to teach us all.
Even though the most prominent building nowadays is the Cathedral, the historical landmark that defines Dinant is its fortress, the so called Citadelle de Dinant built in 1815 under the direction of the “architect” Vauban (any link to our dear Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg is NOT pure coincidence, but I’ll let that for you to find out 😀).
My recommendation is for you to enter “Citadelle de Dinant” in your GPS. By doing this, you avoid some craziness on the parking quest as the parking facilities at the Citadelle is free for its visitors! You will also avoid the traffic down there in the city center as the access to the Citadelle is done by the suburbs. Actually, at some point you might have the impression that you’re completely lost in the countryside as you will only spot the city once you enter the Citadelle! So don’t worry, just trust me that you’ll get there! 🙂
Entrance tickets to the Citadelle have 2 options: Citadelle and Cable Car to the City (return ticket) or Citadelle, Cable Car and Boat Ride. This time we skipped the boat ride as we didn’t have plans to spend all day there. Otherwise, it’s a good deal, especially when compared to buying separate tickets for each attraction!
Visiting the Citadelle
Although you can visit part of the Citadelle by yourself (map area number 2 and common areas), most of the fun can only be reached by joining one of the guided tours. The guided tour is included in the ticket, so all you need to do is to head to the main square of the Citadelle where the guides are waiting to form the groups (there’s a big clock with the time of the “next departure”).
The visits are conducted in French and Dutch but, you can look for Joseph, the most funny “old teacher/guide”. He makes sure to engage you into the group dynamics with an excellent level of English. Plus, he also engages all children with funny details and intimidating questions to double check if anyone knows a bit of history 😉
All areas of the tour are equally interesting and full of history, but there are 3 points that clearly stand out (in my humble opinion):
– At the free access area (number 2), the rooms with binoculars where you can compare the city view of the present time with the exact same view about one hundred years ago;
– The main viewpoint of the Citadelle (guided tour), from where you can enjoy a magnificent view over Dinant and the river Meuse;
– And the big surprise at the very end of the guided tour is the Barracks and Bunker room. It’s a unique room that simulates the trenches in a war scenario followed by an impressive reconstruction of a bunker hit by a bomb. I’ll just tell you that walking through that bunker is a scary experience with tons of laughing (even though we all know that behind this kind of a touristic experience are very sad history times…). If you are easily impressed by dizziness, maybe you should skip this last room, otherwise, go for it!! (PS – Even little kids, without stroller, are welcome to enter it . It is not dangerous, but a parent should absolutely help them walking through it).
Having lunch at the Citadelle
As you might notice by the entrance of the Citadelle (inside the Citadelle grounds), there is a very nice and big playground by an onsite snack-bar / restaurant. Although it is not a perfect place/service nor it serves perfect food (it’s kind of fast-food, with hot-dogs, hamburgers and pizzas), this place is perfectly located by the playground and offers plenty of outdoor tables under the shadow of big trees.
Visiting the City of Dinant
So, after having lunch and spending a bit of energy at the playground, your family might already be ready to continue exploring Dinant. So head to the Cable Car (or adventure yourself through the 408 steps down to the old city!).
The Cable Car will bring you directly to the Cathedral’s side door and from there to the Saxophone Bridge (Did I already tell you that Dinant is the birth city of Adolphe Sax, the inventor of the Saxophone?). The official name of the bridge is “Pont Charles de Gaulle”. However, in 2014, some huge and colorful saxophones were placed in there in commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the birth of Adolph Sax, so people started calling it the Bridge of the Saxophones!
You may also pop by the House of Adolph Sax (“La Maison de Monsieur Sax”). Admission of this so called interpretative center is free and it’s an opportunity to better understand the wonderful story of the saxophone (address: 37 Rue Sax, 5500 Dinant).
Some additional insider tips:
– Plan to arrive to the Citadelle no later than 10 o’clock. By doing this you’ll not only avoid being included in a hugegroup visit, but it will also allow you to have lunch by 11:30 (12:00 the latest);
– There are many visitors that, not knowing about the parking at the Citadelle, start by visiting the city center and then go up to the Citadelle by Cable Car. This usually results in long waiting queues by the Cable Car ticket office. BUT, you, being already a ticket holder, can indeed avoid the queue and just show your ticket to the ticket office lady (I did confirm this point at the ticket office!) – anyway, even though you are still following the rules, you might have to face some very upsetting people staring at you 😉