The perfect weekend break combines lazy strolls down cobbled streets, a generous serve of nature, cosy bars to settle into and reminisce over the events of the day and exceptional cuisine that will have you nursing a food coma for hours.
Tucked away in the Belgian countryside, we found all that and more awaiting us in and around Namur.
This lively student town is simply bursting with funky bars, pretty cobbled laneways and incredible food and with nearby Dinant, the folds of the Ardennes and an explosion of wineries right on its doorstep, it also provides plenty of opportunities to escape to nature.
Looking for an offbeat weekend break in Europe? These are the best things to do in and around Namur and Dinant on your weekend getaway.
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When daylight fades and the slated roofs and waterways are awash with golden light, Namur’s citadel overlooking the city is where you want to be. The normally tranquil fortress transforms into a popular watering hole, particularly in summer, so do like the locals do and carry a few Belgian beers up to the top to watch the sunset over the Meuse – it’s one of the best things to do in Namur.
As the warm glow melts from the sky, wander down to the banks of the river before getting lost in the twisting laneways of the old town. Stroll the cobbled streets past cheery storefronts, pastel houses and lively bars overflowing onto the pavements.
In a city known for its gastronomic flair, Le Grill stands a touch above the rest.
As the in-house restaurant of Les Tanneurs Hotel where we were staying, we’d certainly say Le Grill is worth a visit even if you’re staying elsewhere in town. Just be sure to reserve ahead.
Unsurprisingly, grilled-to-perfection meat dishes are their speciality accompanied by mouth-watering French sauces and potato-heavy sides. Did we mention that food coma?
Choose from a seasonal 2 or 3-course daily menu or the a la carte selection. Though proteins are undoubtedly the focus here, there is a small selection of vegetarian dishes on offer as well.
Location | Rue des Tanneries, Namur
One of the best things about this corner of Belgium is that you can hop from bustling city to serene nature in a matter of minutes.
Start the morning right (and work off a little more of that dinner) by gliding down the tranquil waters of the Lesse Valley. Meander beneath the lush forest canopy, past twittering birds and carpets of wildflowers, down a gurgling rapid or two toward the pièce de résistance, Walzin Castle teetering on the clifftop high above the river.
The currents are fast flowing along most of the route which means relatively little paddling is actually required. So sit back, relax and enjoy the serenity.
On summer weekends, this has become an exceedingly popular activity so be sure to get an early start to beat the crowds and remember to leave a spare change of clothes in your car as you’ll almost certainly get a little wet.
Location | Buy your tickets from Dinant Evasion in Anseremme before catching the train to Gendon to pick up your kayaks.
Opening Hours | April through October from 8:30 or 9 a.m. depending on the season.
Prices | Prices start at €25 per person in a single kayak or €16 per person in a triple kayak. Packages are also available including train fare to the start of the kayak.
Dry off and settle into this cosy tea house in the heart of Dinant.
Desserts are really the speciality here with a fully stocked chocolate and cake counter in the entryway, so definitely leave some room for the sweet stuff. But you’ll also find a selection of fresh salads, pastries and sandwiches on offer, or mix all three (and a bite of their delicious cake) with the hearty 3-course lunch option which is excellent value at just €12.
On a sunny day, an open-air table on the terrace is the perfect spot to eat, otherwise hunker down inside with a table by the window overlooking the Meuse.
Stock up on with a box (or five) of Leonidas, one of Belgium’s finest chocolates, before you leave.
Location | Rue Adolphe Sax 10, Dinant
Opening Hours | Wednesday to Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. (7 p.m. on weekends). Closed on Tuesdays.
Wedged between lush forests and soaring cliffs, Dinant is a delightful tangle of cobbled streets and colourful waterfront houses which reflect perfectly on a calm day. But, unlike the other canal cities of Europe, Dinant has a rather unusual obsession – the saxophone.
From the brightly decorated instruments that salute the way across the Meuse, to the sax-shaped cookies in every bakery window, to the tiny saxophonic details sprinkled throughout the town, Dinant now exists in many ways as a homage to the instrument and its inventor, Adolphe Sax who was born in town.
La Maison du Monsieur Sax is a small, free museum and a worthwhile stop with a soundtrack of jazz and a prototype of the original design.
Location | Rue Adolphe Sax 37, Dinant
Opening Hours | Open every day from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Though not as large as Namur’s Fortress, Dinant’s Citadel clinging tightly to the pinnacle of rock on which it stands has unparalleled views across the valley and over the winding cobbled lanes of the old town.
Guided tours in several languages are included in the entrance fee and leave every hour from April to September. Out of season, guided tours run on weekends only.
Opening Hours | Open daily from 10. a.m. to 4:30 p.m. or 6 p.m. depending on the season. Open on weekends only in January.
Price | Entry costs €8.50 which includes a visit to the citadel, a 1-hour tour and a ride up in the cable car.
Weave your way along the banks of the Meuse back to Namur’s old town and set off to explore the maze of alleyways one last time before winding down with a drink or two in one of the city’s leafy plazas or lively backstreets.
For dinner, settle on whatever strikes your fancy – a classic Belgian feast, an Italian spread or perhaps the flavours of Japan. You’ll find excellent options for all these in town.
Belgium may be famed for its beer, but it’s the flourishing wine culture of Wallonia that is beginning to cause a stir. Around Namur, you’ll find a handful of small, family-run wineries with a commitment to organic farming and a wholesome approach to winemaking.
After a well-deserved lie in, meander south along the river toward the lush grounds and leafy driveway of our favourite winery in the region, Château de Bioul, a passion project of owners Andy and Vanessa Wykman that ended up on the well-tended gardens of their family castle.
Other wineries in the region include Château Bon Baron which is set in a beautiful corner of the countryside, and Domaine du Chenoy which combines the expertise of years in Bordeaux’s wine industry with rustic charm.
Château de Bioul | Tastings are available on weekends between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. from April to October for €15. Visits on weekdays are by reservation only. Visits include a tour of the newly opened interactive wine museum (including a dedicated corner of wine jokes that will give you a chuckle) followed by a tasting of three wines in the modern bar downstairs or on the patio in the sunshine.
Château Bon Baron | Tasting are generally reserved for larger groups but may be possible to arrange for a smaller party by appointment. Price is €10.
Domaine du Chenoy | Vineyard tours and tastings are available from Tuesday to Saturday between 9 a.m and 5 p.m for €9. Reservations are not essential but it’s a good idea to let them know you’ll be visiting beforehand. Of course, this winery is closed on Sundays, but add it to the list if you’ll be visiting on another day.
Just 10 minutes from Bioul lies Les Jardins d’Annevoie, a pleasant sprawling garden renowned for their electricity-free water features which have been tended for over 250 years.
The main spectacle, however, occurs once a year on the third weekend in May when the gardens transform into the stage of a Venetian masquerade complete with extravagant costumes and Italian nibbles.
Location | Rue des Jardins 37, Annevoie-Rouillon
Price | €8.20
Opening Hours | Open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
After a morning of wining in Wallonia’s picturesque countryside, it’s time to head north for a touch of history. But first, lunch!
Push on to Villers Abbey and stop off for lunch at Le Chalet de la Forêt which serves up huge portions of traditional Belgian fare. Meat eaters should try the carbonnades (stoofvlees in Dutch), a tangy, slightly sweet meat stew cooked for hours in a sauce of beer and onion served with an obligatory (and enormous) portion of frites. Menus are in French and Flemish only.
Location | Rue de Chevelipont 6, Genappe
Opening Hours | Tuesday to Sunday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Closed Mondays.
If you happen to be visiting during the week, another beautiful spot for lunch is Epicure in the heart of Namur. Though we didn’t get the chance to eat here during our trip, it has quickly become a firm lunchtime favourite in the city serving up rustic but tasty food at decent prices. Unfortunately though, they’re closed on Sundays.
Location | Marché au Chanvre 3, Namur
Opening Hours | Monday to Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. (3 p.m. on Saturdays). Closed Sundays.
Woven with centuries of history and tradition, Villers Abbey (Abbaye de Villers) now stands in ruin amidst the Walloon countryside.
Wander through the dank underground prison that inspired a scene in Les Miserables, enjoy in the views from the Chapels of Saint-Bernard and Notre Dame de Montaigu and take a moment to gawk at the high ceiling and arched corridors of the church – a masterpiece of Cistercian architecture.
Have more time to explore? Don’t miss our other Wallonia guides for more inspiration for your trip.
Budget | Located right beside the river with a spacious courtyard, onsite bar and guest kitchen, the Auberge de Jeunesse de Namur (the Youth Hostel) is an excellent budget option in Namur. If you’re travelling by train, it’s a fair walk from the station but they have plenty of guest parking if you have a car. Prices start from €24 for a dorm or €58 for a private room with breakfast included. Hostelling International members can receive a 10% discount plus deals on several attractions around town.
Mid-Range | Situated in the heart of Namur’s historic centre, Les Tanneurs is a beautiful hotel combining spacious rooms with the classic exposed brickwork and curious network of passages of the buildings original design. The onsite restaurant, Le Grill, is also a fantastic choice for meat eaters with a daily menu or a la carte options. Prices start at €45 for a single or €60 for a double.
Mid-Range | Looking for a true taste of country living on your weekend getaway? Nestled right alongside the Meuse River, Le Richmond is a country mansion turned charming B&B with simple but comfortable rooms, beautiful gardens and a sumptuous breakfast homemade from regional products. The property is a good 30-minute drive from Namur centre toward Dinant, but if you’re looking for a complete escape, this place might just be perfect for you.
Looking for something else? Namur has a wide selection of accommodation options to suit every taste and budget, whether you’re looking to spend the night in an insanely beautiful chateau (that’s right, you can sleep in a castle in these parts), a wonderful country retreat or a cosy b&b in the buzzing centre. Just search here to find what you’re looking for!
While most of these places can be easily reached by train, we’d recommend renting a car for your weekend escape. At both Brussels Zaventem and Charleroi (Brussels South) airports, you’ll find all the major car rental companies available and it’s less than an hour’s drive to Namur. Search rates for car rental here.
If you do decide to travel by train, save money by buying a weekend ticket which saves you 50% on all return travel rather than using standard single tickets. Check terms and conditions here.
A big thanks to Wallonia Belgium Tourism for hosting us during our stay. As always, all opinions are our own.