Dinant with Kids Part II: The City

Author: Martha Hepler   /   Dinant, Explore   /  
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Conveniently located on Place Reine Astrid, right at the base of the cable car down from the Citadelle (read about the Citadelle HERE), is the Gothic church Collégiale Notre-Dame. Its 16th century black clock tower is the most striking feature of the town’s skyline. Of course the church has been destroyed to varying degrees and extensively rebuilt over its nearly 800-year history—most recently after World War I. The interior is beautifully maintained and well-lit with religious art ranging from ancient to modern, and visitors are welcome. I had a debate with my five-year-old about whether this statue was once painted or not.

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Walking across the bridge across the street from the church affords a gorgeous view of that side of town. We enjoyed its current decorations as well: several giant saxophone sculptures celebrating the 200th anniversary of their inventor’s birth in Dinant (more on that later). The bridge’s namesake, Charles de Gaulle, was wounded on it during World War I and is honored with a statue at the far end.

The river is very pleasant for strolling along, passing restaurant after café after bar after ice cream parlor; on this particular day it was gloriously sunny with a brisk wind to keep the heat away. But the perfect way to see the town is to take one of the many available boat tours, which run the gamut from a rather large cruise ship to low, long window-protected sightseeing boats to four-seater motorboats that you can take out for an hour at a time. You can buy tickets right along the river walk at each dock.

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Just up the main road from the church (there are many signs pointing the way) lies La Maison de Monsieur Sax, a free exhibit dedicated to Adolphe Sax. He was born in Dinant in 1814 and invented the saxophone and many other instruments—he was something of a revolutionary in the music world, as I learned from this informative room. And as any jazz lover can tell you, his genius paved the way for that most American of art forms; my grateful husband pointed that out. Not far from here is Place Patenier, which looked to be a great place to let antsy kids run free. Many café windows are lined with characteristic decorative cookies called couques de Dinant.

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Yet another world war landmark lies a long walk or a short drive out the south side of town: the Rocher Bayard. It marks the farthest western reach of the German military during World War II’s Ardennes Offensive and is an impressive sight in its own right. (The legend of Bayard is quite interesting as well.)

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We finished our day by continuing on the road to the south of town, finding charming neighborhoods and picturesque woods, hills, and valleys. There is much more to explore in Dinant, such as the Grotte la Merveilleuse, or the outdoor adventure center Dinant Evasion (which we drove by and were instantly jealous we weren’t in kayaks on the river!), and an enticing campground just outside of town. Dinant is so rich in history, beauty, and activities that instead of scratching off of our list as completed, we ended up just moving it to our “must-go-back” column.


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