Have you ever visited a town and believed you were in a set of a movie? Stepping into the quaint medieval town of Dinan and you feel like you have been transported back the medieval era. This is precisely what I felt when I visited the citadel a few weeks ago.
Dinan is located between St-Malo and Rennes. So after a few days in St-Malo, I decided to stop by the charming medieval town.
After a laborious descent (suitcase in hand) into the steep cobbled streets to my hotel (Dinan is up a hill), I was left really tired. I have had a busy day in St-Malo. So with Google Maps sending me the wrong way few times, I reached my destination nearly an hour later. To put it into context, the journey typically takes about 15 minutes. During my check-in, I was glad to hear that the hotel had a spa facility, but my smile didn’t last long as I realised that I didn’t pack a swimsuit. Not wanting this to spoil my mood, I set to discover the area.
- 1 Things to do in medieval Dinan
Things to do in medieval Dinan
Explore the Port of Dinan
My hotel was located right at the port of Dinan which made my little stroll along the banks of the River Rance a little easier. I visited in October, and although I did not take part in any water activities, I could see people enjoying boat rides and other water sports like canoe kayak. I was content just looking at the multitude of yachts and sailing boats moored along the Quai Tallard.
Located below the medieval town of Dinan and Lanvallay, La Rance offers a fantastic landscape. The river flows into the English Channel between Dinard and Saint-Malo and extends over more than 100km. Therefore you can take a boat ride from both cities to Dinan. There are plenty of restaurants, cafes/crêperies along the marina where you can sit back and admire the view of the port, especially the viaduct and the old bridge. Or you can just enjoy a delicious galette or crepe. If you are travelling with kids, you can even stop by the Maison de la Rance for an interactive history of the port.
Stroll along the charming streets
To get to the historical citadel of Dinan, you need to go through the charming streets of Rue Haute-Voie, Rue du Petit-Fort and the famous Rue Jerzual. Taking on the steep paved road is like travelling into the Middle Ages. The houses have surprisingly kept their stunning medieval architecture, many of them have been listed Historical Monuments. In fact, the town has been designated a Ville et Pays d’Art et d’Histoires (City and country of art and history). Rue Jerzual is by far the most atmospheric and picturesque of all Dinan’s charming streets. The paved road used to be the main route to link the old town to the port. You will see lots of shops along the way which go to show how busy the street might have been back in the days.
Discover the historic town centre
Following on from the port, I went on to discover the Centre Historique and see the preserved half-timbered houses and monuments that make Dinan so magical. You can definitely spend days looking at the impressive architecture. Inside the town, you will also find the usual craft shops, potteries shops, art galleries, etc… Even though the architecture is stuck back in time, some of the entertainment and shops are that of the 21st century. I was impressed by how inviting and friendly the shop owners were. Actually, everyone seemed to be excellent in Dinan, might be because of the Breton culture!
Walk along the rampart
Dinan was once a fortified walled town protected by ramparts built in the 13th century. A significant section of the 3km rampart remains intact as well as 10 out of the 14 tower guards including 4 gates. Nowadays, you can walk freely on one side of the ramparts. I ended up walking up until the Jardin des Anglais by the Basilica Saint-Sauveur. It’s really worth walking the ramparts as you can admire the great view of the Rance Valley, the port and viaduct. The other section can be done via a guided tour that can be booked through the Tourist Information Centre.
Another way to take in the great views of Dinan is by visiting la Tour de l’Horloge. I did not get to experience the view as it was closed when I visited. The building is only accessible from April to September.
If you arrive in the town centre by car or if you are just wandering around, you will not be able to miss the Chateau de Dinan. The impressive monument which was built at the same time as the ramparts to protect the town now houses the Musée d’Histoire de la Ville de Dinan.
Where to stay in Dinan
When I visited Dinan, I stayed in two different hotels. On the first night, I stayed at the Mercure Dinan Port Le Jerzual hotel. The hotel is just located by the port and within pleasant surroundings. The hotel is comfortable, and everything went smoothly during my stay from the check in to the dinner. The Mercure has a terrace which is nice to use in the warmer weather as well as a small swimming pool and jacuzzi. The second hotel I stayed at was the Ibis Styles Dinan Centre Ville, conveniently located in the city centre. It’s very modern and clean. With free breakfast, it is excellent for people on a limited budget.
How to get to Dinan
If you are already in the Emerald Coast, then travelling to Dinan by bus is very easy and cheap.
The following bus companies operate in Dinan:
- Ti’Bus – tibus.fr – Lines: Dinan/St-Malo; Dinan/Dinard
- Illenoo – illenoo.fr – Line: Dinard/Dinan/Rennes
- Dinan Bus – mairie-dinan.fr – city bus
Although I managed to get to Dinan easily by bus from St-Malo, it might be more difficult if you are travelling from somewhere else.
You can take the TGV train to Rennes station and either hire a car from Rennes or take the bus. Getting there by boat is also possible with Condor Ferries (line: St-Malo/Poole; St-Malo/Weymouth; St-Malo/Jersey or St-Malo/Guernsey) or Brittany Ferries (line: St-Malo/Portsmouth)
Good to know:
Every two years, the town of Dinan is transformed into a major medieval town with Fete des Ramparts. The two-day festival is full of fun where people of all ages gather and dress up like in the Middle Ages. The event usually takes place in late July.
If you are travelling by bus and are planning to stay in one of the hotel mentioned above, then Ibis Styles should be your choice. However, if you are going by car, then Mercure Lanvallay is a better option.
For more information about the medieval town of Dinan, check out their website Dinan Tourist Information Centre.
My visit to Dinan was part of a one-week trip to Brittany. You can find out more about my journey…
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