Dinan’s Top 5 Attractions
Dinan, the walled Breton town in north western France, holds a special place in my heart as it was one of the early towns we explored on our house purchasing trip (read our story on buying a French house ‘It Has To Be France‘) when everything about France was so very new. I could not absorb enough of this town’s heritage and history and even now, after visiting it a number of times since, I find this town of character always surprises me with yet another hidden treasure.
Dinan is well known for its exceptional rich architectural heritage which evolved as the town prospered, particularly between the 14th to 18th centuries. Dinan flourished in the trading of linen, leather, wool and cereal with cargo departing on ships from its harbour on the River Rance. The town is set on a hill overlooking the Rance Valley and was described by Victor Hugo as perching “on an overhanging precipice… like a swallow’s nest”.
The biggest attractions of the town include its half timbered houses, the cobbled streets of the Vieille Ville, the Donjon de la Duchesse Anne, the Basilique St-Sauveur, the harbour and the massive town walls.
The Castle or Château de Dinan
The castle includes a keep – the Donjon de la Duchesse Anne (14th century), the Tour de Coëtquen and the Porte du Guichet (13th century). A museum of local history is inside the 14th century keep and displays traditional Breton headdresses, paintings, sculptures and archeological artifacts. At the top you can get a panoramic view of Dinan and its surrounds. This is a great photo taking location.
The Basilique St-Saveur of Dinan
The Basilique St-Saveur is unique in Brittany in that it has a combination of Romanesque and Byzantine Styles as it was begun in the 12th century and not completed until the 16th. It was started by a knight who safely returned from a crusade against the Saracens to thank the Lord (Saveur) for protecting him.
I particularly loved the stained windows of this Basilique and the main portal painting seen above.
Place des Merciers
You can admire its half timbered buildings, enjoy a refreshing drink and shop the stylish boutiques. Handmade and unique homewares, ladies and mens clothing boutiques, bookstores and local art work and souvenir shops are all in abundance in Place des Merciers (Haberdashers’ Square) and the old town.
The Town Walls of Dinan
The town walls of Dinan were built in the 13th century and strengthened by Francis I, Duke of Brittany in the 15th century and renovated in the 17th century. There are six towers along the walls and from them you get a great view of the town and the Rance.
I love French towns with their ancient walls and ramparts, so climb them whenever I can. If you also love walking around ancient town walls then Saint Malo is another must see town in Brittany. If you are exploring further south than Dinan and Saint Malo then Concarneau, the third largest fishing port in France also has an old walled town and interesting harbour. The Fete des Remparts or Festival of the Walls is a great festival to experience in Dinan.
The Rance River
The Rance River, which now houses luxurious boats rather than cargo ships, is worth an explore. The town’s massive walls are an impressive sight as you make your way down to the River. This River was the hub of trade over the centuries and even on an overcast day the walk along the river bank is an enjoyable activity. In summer it’s perfect to take a stroll with a delicious icecream in hand.
For more information on this Breton town and its activities visit the Brittany Tourism website.
These are my 5 favourite activities in Dinan, but if you have your own suggestion of what to do in Dinan, please let us know in comments and help others who may be planning a visit to this historic town also.
Happy travel planning and au revoir …
PIN FOR LATER
Check these great travel guides from Amazon if you want more information on Dinan, Saint Malo and other attractions in the north western region of France and our affiliate Disclosure Statement