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Summer city trips in Belgium #12: Namur

00:53 01/09/2017
All summer long, let us be your guide for a day trip or weekend break to towns and cities across Belgium, from tourist favourites to more offbeat destinations. This week: Namur

Its emblem may be the snail, but the capital of Wallonia is slowly ditching its reputation as a genteel city with an equally sedate nightlife. Historic Namur is revving up its image with an expanding calendar of events, from cultural and culinary to heritage and sporting. For a day trip or a weekend break, there’s no shortage of sights and entertainment in this charming university city.

Rising majestically over the confluence of the Meuse and Sambre rivers, the ancient citadel is a living reminder of the city’s once strategic military position in war-torn Europe. It’s now home to activities for all ages, including medieval re-enactments, outdoor theatre and live music, cycle races, torch-lit walks, guided tours and culinary activities. The site’s former military barracks have been converted into the Terra Nova visitor centre. From here, explore the citadel’s historic network of underground tunnels. There’s also a playground for children. A shuttle bus connects to the station and city centre. Visitors on foot can take the tourist shuttle from the foot of the citadel (Rue Notre-Dame or the casino). Keep an eye out for the giant turtle sculpture by Jan Fabre halfway up the citadel. The site is also home to boutiques including delicatessen Made in Namur and perfume atelier Guy Delforge. Alternatively, admire the citadel from the water, thanks to water taxi La Namourette and regular river cruises.

Eat & drink
Head to Rue des Brasseurs and the surrounding cobbled streets for wine bars, cafes and restaurants. Le Bouchon in Rue Haute Marcelle is recommended for fine wine and delicious tapas. If the weather’s fine, enjoy terrace life in Place du Marché aux Légumes and, as the sun sets, Place du Théâtre. For an unsurpassed view, you can’t beat tapas restaurant and bar la Cuisine BelRive, which occupies a moored barge on the quayside. At the foot of the citadel, Rue Notre-Dame continues its slow march towards gentrification with the help of some excellent addresses, including new wine bar Pépite and cafe bar La Pharmacie, specialising in artisan Belgian beers with occasional live music. Continuing past the casino towards La Plante, L’Echasse is a micro-brewery producing Houppe beers. It’s a young enterprise, occupying a 200-year-old brewhouse. For local flavour, cross the ancient Pont de Jambes and sample a beer at La Schtouffe; its terrace catches the sun and affords a fine view of the citadel. For a four-day drinking frenzy, with outdoor concerts and folklore parades, don’t miss the annual Fêtes de Wallonie in September.

The Royal Snail Hotel also has a gastronomic restaurant, L’Agathopède. Further along the riverbank, there’s a friendly youth hostel, the Auberge de Jeunesse Félicien Rops. Up on the citadel, the Ne5t hotel and spa is a renovated farmhouse, combining wellness and gourmet food. The splendid Villa Balat is a new B&B in a fine heritage house on the banks of the Meuse, with three rooms decorated in Belle Epoque style.

This article first appeared in The Bulletin Summer 2017. Pick up a copy in newsagents now, browse the magazine here or subscribe today...

Written by Sarah Crew