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I must admit I wasn’t familiar with any famous Belgians. On my visit to Dinant, however, I discovered that it was a Belgian who invented the saxophone. Adolphe Sax hails from Dinant and this town is incredibly proud of that fact, with saxophones everywhere. Look around and there are saxophones lining the streets, there’s a saxophone statue, a sculpture of Adolphe holding a sax, bars named sax, souvenirs with saxophones on them and even saxophones on sale in the music shop.
Dinant, a small town which sits alongside the Meuse River, is accessible by direct train from Brussels or by car. Two of the most noticeable landmarks in this quaint town are the Citadel, perched on a cliff one hundred metres high, and the Cathedral of Notre Dame, which stands in front of it. The streets of Dinant are lined with pubs selling Belgian beers, shops selling food stuffs such as sausage and salami, huge cookies and belgian chocolates. There are also hotels, cafes, restaurants and other chain stores.
You can access the fortress of the Citadel by car from the highway or by an elevator. But if you’re up for the challenge and can stir up the energy then climb the 408 steps to the top (just make sure you don’t pass out before you get there). The fortress that stands there today was built in 1820 by the Dutch and offers an incredible view of the town and river below. It replaced the ruins of the original fortress which was built to defend the Meuse against invaders in 1051 but was torn apart in 1753. Once you’re at the top, ring the doorbell and step inside to take a tour of the Citadel, where you can see the weapons and canons, life-like scenes of Dinant’s history plus recreations of the dungeons and daily life in a Dutch garrison.
Make sure you walk through the recreation of a trench from the Great War and step down into the collapsed shelter- a bomb has caused it to shift and tilt sideways, meaning you find it hard to stand up straight!
There are plenty of other activities for those who like the outdoors in and around the countryside of Dinant- you can walk, walk and walk, take a river cruise, kayak along the Lesse, explore the nearby caves including Grottes La Merveilleuse or have a go at rock climbing and abseiling.