Namur Things to Do

  • an autumn day; boat tours in the Meuse.
    an autumn day; boat tours in the Meuse.
    by halikowski
  • At the Citadel
    At the Citadel
    by balhannah
  • St. Aubain
    St. Aubain
    by balhannah

Most Recent Things to Do in Namur

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    Other Things To Do At The Citadel

    by johngayton Written Dec 24, 2015

    Not only is Namur's Citadel fascinating as a military stronghold there's a host of other interesting bits and bobs scattered around within its walls.

    Main Pic: Following the partial demilitarisation in 1887 the former parade ground was converted into an open-air theatre and sports arena with the addition of a faux-Roman grandstand - the theatre at the rear and the arena at the front. This is used for various cultural events during the course of the year, the main one being the annual Verdur Rock festival in June which is a city-sponsored freebie attracting over 7,000 festival goers. www.verdur-rock.be/

    Pic #2: The Citadel Tennis Club with its 10 courts. This is open to visitors subject to availability and rather usefully has a bar and restaurant in its clubhouse. www.tennis-citadelle.be/

    Pic #3: The Old Forge which is a pottery workshop and exhibition space for local artists. www.facebook.com/Les-Namureux-de-la-citadelle-de-Namur-%A0-la-vieille-forge-belgique-272037999521681/?fref=nf

    Pic #4: "The Man Who Measures The Clouds" (l'Homme Qui Mesure Les Nuages). The Citadel grounds are often used as exhibition spaces, usually in conjunction with events in the city itself. This sculpture is by the Belgian artist Jan Fabre which was brought to the Citadel as part of the summer 2015 exhibition "Facing Time" which was a celebration of Fabre's works along with that of the locally-famous Félicien Rops. Fabre's "Homme" stands atop the ramparts overlooking the Sambre and certainly was eye-catching even from far down below when I strolled along the footpath on the opposite bank.

    Pic #5: The water tower constructed in 1913 to feed the demilitarised parks and other leisure facilities within the Citadel. Note that the military bit had its own deep wells for fresh water supplies which date back to Medieval times.

    Website: http://www.ville.namur.be/page.asp?langue=FR&id=935&+=OK

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    An Absolute Must Do - The Citadel

    by johngayton Written Dec 24, 2015

    Towering over the city is massive hulk of the Citadel de Namur, 2000 years of successive fortification and refortification which have dominated the city's history. Archaeologists have traced human settlement on the site, the limestone massif known as the Grognon at the confluence of the rivers Sambre and Meuse, to 6,000 BC and the first signs of military occupation to the 1st century AD when the Romans established a village and small port.

    During the Dark Ages the area is thought to have been settled by both Franks and Gauls, the latter of whom gave it its name, Nam being a local Gaulish god. Fortification of the Grognon began in earnest following its early 10th century acquisition by the Counts of Namur - the earliest reference to which is a 919 AD charter granting a Comte Beregar the title Comte de Namur.

    Over the ensuing 500 years the successive Comtes de Namur constructed an almost impregnable, self-contained chateau, bordered on two sides by the rivers which were linked by a moat on the other two. Massive stone walls, with strategically-located towers and drawbridge gateways, completed the defensive structure and within the walls was effectively a township in its own right with orchards, vegetable allotments and grazing areas for livestock. Deep wells provided fresh water and so by the 15th century the chateau could withstand all but the most determined assault or siege.

    Unsurprisingly the fortress remained unconquered until the 16th century - it did change hands in 1421 when sold to the Duke of Burgundy but that was a family affair. It was finally taken in 1577 by Don Juan, then the Governor of the Netherlands, who managed to bribe someone to leave the "Green Ramp" open and undefended.

    With the Dutch, Spanish, Austrians and French in a series of perpetual conflicts and allegiances the Citadel was to undergo several upheavals over the next couple of hundred years. Advances in artillery, both offensive and defensive, required substantial modifications, firstly by the Dutch military engineer van Coehoorn and then later by the prolific French Marshal Vauban who added his signature bastions to the walls.

    After the Belgians gained their independence in 1830 Namur became a garrison town and the Citadel a major barracks. The Citadel was partly demilitarised in 1887 but continued in use as a military base until 1977.

    During both World Wars it was occupied by German forces but only after hard-pressed defence and in particular the three days it took the Germans army to conquer the Citadel at the start of World War 1 is attributed as an important factor in their eventual defeat since it allowed the French and British a crucial period to muster their own defences.

    Visiting the present-day Citadel takes you through this fascinating 2000 years of its history and the great thing is that it's mostly free. Just wandering the grounds, all 80 hectares of them, will happily occupy you for a couple of hours. There's loads of useful information boards scattered around explaining what's what and the views over the city, the river valleys and the surrounding countryside are stunning.

    The new visitor centre (which wasn't open when I was there unfortunately) looks a well-worth starting point and if you don't feel up to the walking bit there's a little land train which takes you around with a guided commentary.

    There are also a variety of other guided tours available, including one for the underground passages and a twice a day (during the season) “La Médiévale” exposition of the Castle of the Counts.

    Also useful are the couple of strategically-located cafes or if you want to bring your own picnic there are areas set aside to sit and enjoy.

    To access the Citadel you can walk up by several routes, drive up by the winding Rue Merveilleuse or there's an hourly bus service from La Plante which stops off at the railway station on the route - TEC ligne #3.

    Website below has details (in French, Dutch and English) of opening times, tours and useful background information.

    Website: http://www.ville.namur.be/page.asp?langue=FR&id=935&+=OK

    Chateau de Comtes de Namur Notice Of Forthcoming Opening Of Visitor Centre Passageways Within The Walls Citadel Gate - Pont Levi View Down The Meuse Valley
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    Halle Al'Chair

    by johngayton Written Dec 22, 2015

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    Unfortunately I didn't have time to go inside but the Halle Al'Chair certainly looks interesting. This is the former meat and fish market, built between 1588 and 1590 and is one of the city's oldest buildings.

    For its time this was a radical public health innovation, replacing the open-air street stalls and by locating it on the river outside the city meant that animals for slaughter no longer needed to be driven through the streets and fish could be landed straight from the boats. The open arches kept down the smells and at the end of the working day the hall's detritus could be washed into the river instead of the city's open sewers.

    It continued off-and-on as a market until 1806, by which time the butchers and fishmongers had moved into shops and the building was taken over by the city authorities. The local Archaeological Society moved in in 1855 and substantially renovated the hall as a museum and archive. It suffered major damage during the Second World War but was restored under the direction of the architect George Puissant who strove to retain most of its original features.

    It is still the Archaeological Museum and also houses one of the tourist information offices.

    Address: Rue de Pont 21

    Directions: On the bank of the Sambre just before the confluence with the Meuse.

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    Ideal For An Afternoon Beer!

    by johngayton Updated Dec 21, 2015

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    Even if you don't take any of the guided tours of the Citadel it is still a fascinating, and educational, site just to wander. There's plenty of informative signage and the views constantly change as you explore the ramparts. Personally I spent about two-and-a-half hours doing my random meandering bit.

    Which is, of course, thirsty work!

    Fortunately about halfway through my visit I found this little brasserie - La Reine Blanche. This attractive building, complete with its terrasse, is within the walls of the historic Chateau des Comte de Namur which is pretty much in the centre of things and so made an ideal spot to stop and metaphorically put my feet up for a while.

    Not only is it ideal for a beer, or even a coffee, but also offers a varied brasserie-style menu with something to suit everyone.

    Obviously they stock the Blanche de Namur "witbier", which I've sampled a couple of times, but since I was in the mood for blondes this trip I opted for a Triple Moine, from the same brewery - Brasserie du Bocq at Purnode-Yvoir. Very tasty she was too ;-HIC!

    Address: Route Merveilleuse 50

    Directions: Within the walls of the Castle of the Counts at the Citadel

    Website: http://www.reineblanche.be/

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    Monument to the Heroes of the Province

    by johngayton Written Dec 21, 2015

    Belgium was literally on the front line at the start of both World Wars and throughout World War I was the front for much of its duration. The provinces of Namur, along with that of Liege, saw bitter fighting over the course of both wars and the poignant monument pictured is the Namur city's tribute to those who died in the province.

    You'll find it facing the Sambre river bank below the Citadel at Avenue Reine Astrid and is on the route up to the Citadel if you've crossed over by the Pont de l'Eveche.

    I haven't got any details of the sculptor, nor the date of its unveiling but hopefully I'll be passing through this area in the not too distant future and I'll try to find out.

    Website: http://www.bel-memorial.org/cities/namur/namur/mon_heros_province/namur_mon_heros_de_la_province.htm

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    Where The Table Had My Name On It

    by johngayton Written Dec 21, 2015

    I was going to write Le Ratin-Tot up as "Nightlife" tip, despite having only dropped in for a couple of afternoon beers, but it seems it doesn't actually advertise as being open after 19.00, or maybe 20.00, or maybe...

    It has though been open since 1616, the year that is not 16 minutes after 4, and is the oldest bar in the city, and one of its oldest buildings.

    This is a cracking little pub, nestled in the corner of the Place aux Legumes (vegetable marketplace) next to the Eglise Saint Jean Baptiste. With 11 beers on tap and a further 30-odd by the bottle (including 11 "Trappistes") it certainly takes its beer seriously and seems to host regular tastings from up-and-coming micro-breweries.

    On a sunny May lunchtime the little terrace overlooking the square was pleasantly buzzy and the high table with its barstool (and ashtray) by the door definitely had my name on it - I was travelling incognito using the alias Saint Joseph at the time ;-HIC! This was a pleasant spot to sit with a beer watching the world go by in the colourfully-busy city centre. Service was typically laid-back Namur, friendly with it and prices very reasonable - I could have had a large beer (Maes) for a mere 4 euros.

    The beer menu runs to about half-a-dozen pages, with offerings from all over Belgium, with the regional specialities highlighted. Unusually, for its location, it doesn't do food except for beer-nibbles such as salami, cheese and crisps. I had a quick peek inside which revealed a tidily traditional front bar with an impressive mural of one of the old Meuse bridges with the Citadel looming above and I should imagine this would be a cosy little bar on a winter's evening - if it's open in the evening.

    When I returned for my day-out the following day this was the obvious place to head to after my wanderings around the Citadel and equally enjoyable it was too.

    Sticking to the regional beers the couple I tried, as pictured, were:

    The house beer, Saint Joseph, from the Brasserie Lefebvre at Rebecq-Quenast which was a firm-bodied alcoholic blonde.

    And the Blonde de Chavee, from Silenrieux, just south of Charleroi who was fruity, slightly cloudy and even more alcoholic than the St Joseph.

    Oooh, I do like my Belgian blondes...

    Address: Marche aux Legumes

    Directions: Old city centre, off the Rue de l'Ange

    Website: http://users.skynet.be/fa324799/ratintot.html

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    Cathedrale Saint Aubain

    by johngayton Written Dec 20, 2015

    This version of Namur's cathedral was quite a late arrival on the scene, having been built between 1751 and 1771 and consecrated the following year. It replaced an earlier cathedral, also dedicated to Saint Aubain, which was deemed too small, and dilapidated for its purposes.

    The modern cathedral is considered unique in style for Belgium, being based on the classical idea of a European basilica.

    I never did find it at street level on my meanderings, but then I wasn't looking for it - it does though have an imposing footprint on the old city when viewed from the Citadel.

    Address: Place Saint Aubain

    Directions: In the old city centre, close to the Palais de Justice.

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    Eglise Saint Loup

    by johngayton Written Dec 20, 2015

    This fine piece of Pays Bas Baroque architecture in the old city centre is particularly interesting for the fact that it was originally built as the chapel for the Jesuit college here in Namur, the college having been established in 1610. The chapel was constructed between 1621 and 1641 under the supervision of the leading Belgian Baroque architect Pierre Huyssens but required another four years of "snagging" before it was finally consecrated in 1645 by the Bishop of Namur, Englebert Dubois.

    The chapel was originally dedicated to Saint Ignace but after the 1773 suppression by Pope Clement XIV the Jesuits were forced to quit their college and the church was subsequently rededicated to Saint Loup in 1777.

    One of the church's more dubious claims to fame is that the then controversial French poet Charles Baudelaire suffered a massive stroke whilst attending a mass there in 1666, the stroke attributed to syphilis.

    These days, although still consecrated, Saint Loup is mainly used for concerts and exhibitions.

    Address: Rue de College

    Directions: Just off the Place Marche des Legumes

    From Street Level From The Citadel
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    Not Quite The London Eye

    by johngayton Written Dec 19, 2015

    For all the fun of the fair Namur hosts an annual festival in May dedicated to "travelling arts" with visiting clowns, acrobats, tightrope walkers and the like. The centrepiece is La Grande Roue, a 30 metre Ferris wheel which is erected on the Place de l'Ange in the old city. With Namur being very much a low-rise city the 30 metre apogee offers great views across the city, the rivers and the surrounding countryside.

    The wheel has been a feature of the festival since 2005 but was controversially missing in 2010.

    It seems that when the local authority were finalising the program they informed the local press that the wheel wouldn't be present that year since the owner preferred to take it to Brussels. A scathing article duly appeared.

    This astonished the owner, Jean Schweig, whose wheel, the only one in Belgium, was sitting in his garage awaiting confirmation of permission. When he approached the department responsible, that of Education and Recreation, he received a letter in reply to say that they could only grant permission after a "competitive tendering" procedure.

    But as the only Grande Roue in Belgium M Schweig was somewhat mystified as to who his competitors could be. So Namur missed out on the big wheel that year and it went to Huy instead.

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    Eglise Saint Jean Baptiste

    by johngayton Written Dec 19, 2015

    This church caught my eye for the simple reason it was next door to the bar who's terrace table had my name on it when it got to beer o'clock.

    This is this city's oldest church, dating from the 13th century, and was substantially rebuilt in 1616 and again in 1890 and overlooks the Place des Legumes in the old city centre. It is especially cherished by the local community as this is one of the churches where Mass is celebrated in the Walloon language during the annual Festival of Wallonia which is held in September.

    Address: Place des Legumes

    Directions: In the old city centre, next to the Ratintot pub.

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    Wandering The Back Streets

    by johngayton Written Dec 19, 2015

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    Although the old city is quite compact there's a very distinct sort of sub-quartier as you head towards the river. Between Rue de l'Ange and Place St Aubain, below Rue St Jaques, there's a mini-maze of narrow, mostly pedestrianised, cobbled streets. Here you'll find a wealth of smaller shops, cafes and other local businesses housed in historically-interesting buildings which date from the 17th century onwards. Some of the streets have a row of exceptional buildings on one side, whilst the opposite side is all more modern, other streets have incongruously mis-matched houses dotted like temporary dentistry for their whole length.

    This is a legacy of the two World Wars which saw the city variously bombed and shelled both during its capture and its liberation. Simple economics meant that those houses and businesses which sustained the worst damage, and had no particular historic importance, were demolished and replaced with contemporary buildings, thus freeing up the monies required to rebuild and restore those which were salvageable to their former glories.

    Strangely enough, to my mind, this gives these little backstreets a very real feel. Often when such restorations are made the result is more like a film set than a living, working community.

    I especially loved the wonderfully-named "Rue des Fossés Fleuris" (Street of Flowery Ditches??) which epitomised what I mean - the little 4-table café terrace opposite the laundrette appealed to my sense of balance.

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    For A Riverside Stroll

    by johngayton Written Dec 19, 2015

    The river which loops south of the old town of Namur is La Sambre, the name appropriately having been derived from the Gaulish "samara" which means "tranquil". This made for a pleasant stroll as I got my bearings, working out what's where, soon after getting off the train.

    From the Pont de la Liberation, where I started, to the confluence with the Meuse is maybe a kilometre along a well-maintained foot and cycle path. On the route there you pass under a couple of other bridges, a couple of riverside restaurants and there are several of the old city water gates leading into the atmospheric side streets before you arrive opposite the Citadel.

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    A Pleasant Little Park

    by johngayton Written Dec 19, 2015

    I came across this little park, "Parc Louise Marie", during my random wandering bit when I first visited Namur as a stop-off between Liege and Mons. Although all I did was have a walk through it on my way down to the river it looked an ideal spot to sit in the sun with a picnic or a takeaway lunch and there was a Thai fast-food wagon parked outside one of the gates which did tempt me.

    As well as its central pond there's the remains of an old bridge which once led to the "Brussels Gate" of the city walls.

    Address: Avenue de Stassart

    Directions: Between the railway station and the river if heading west from the station.

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    Citadel

    by halikowski Updated Jul 23, 2014

    Biggest I've seen in Europe even when compared to Budapest, Salzburg, Graz.
    We were there with grandparents, who found it a bit of a struggle to walk all the way up with the pram in tow. Consequently, we missed the gardens, which are at the highest level, around the chateau.
    Can eat in the restaurant 'Panorama': Spaghetti Bolognaise for 11.10 euros. Dynamic, and good service.

    an autumn day; boat tours in the Meuse.

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    Musee Felicien Rops.

    by halikowski Written Jul 23, 2014

    19th century engraver and artist. Seems to be most famous for erotic and death topics, which are allegorical. We went to a temporary exhibition 'Voyageurs artistiques belges', of which Rops' trip to Norway, Spain and HUngary as a young man took pride of place. Lots of drawings in travel diaries. Beefed up with some materials from the Tervuren museum.

    Directions: Vieille ville, a stone's throw from the Cathedral St. Aubain.

    Website: http://www.museerops.be/techniques/peinture/

    'The Social Revolution'

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