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Last Updated on 17th November 2017 by Sophie Nadeau

I don’t know about you, but when I think of Brittany, I think of windswept coastlines and little fishing villages. What I don’t think of is quaint cobblestone streets, potted flower window sills and all manner of artisan boutiques. But that’s exactly what Dinan is- the unexpected town.

In fact, the town is unusual in more ways than one; rather than being a typical riverside settlement, the majority of the town is constructed high above the river Rance on the surrounding hillside. People have settled in Dinan and its’ surrounding area have been inhabited since time immemorial. With the discovery of ancient ruins and a dolmen (like the ones at Carnac), it’s likely that Dinan has been inhabited for thousands of years.


Dinan: The most beautiful town in Brittany?

Some of the buildings that are still standing in this ancient walled town date all the way back to the 13th century- making for a pretty impressive day out. The town is even depicted as an important battleground in the famous Bayeux Tapestry. Incidentally, Dinan is one of the few places whose name is the same in both French and Breton (the Celtic language that has its’ origins in the region of Brittany).

Port of Dinan

Although Dinan may have been known for its’ hilltop architecture, inevitably the inhabitants of the town still had to have access to the outside world- hence the presence of a port. The port is lined with fishing boats and restaurants. It’s the perfect place to wander, take photographs and enjoy a refreshing drink. If you’re looking for something a little more unusual to do, there’s also the opportunity to hire boats or go kayaking along the Rance.

dinan port

Medieval and fortified Ramparts

Considering that this IS a walled town, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that you can visit (and even walk along) the fortified ramparts. If you really want to get a feel for the town, then your best bet is to climb the steps up onto the still standing medieval wall and take a good look at the town from above. From here, it becomes just how apparent how well packed the houses in Dinan are. Small roads and lanes meander through stone built houses, brought to life with patches of greenery and bursts of floral colours.

ramparts dinan

La Rue du Jerzual: a winding medieval street

I’m not lying when I say that this road was probably the most picturesque road I’ve seen in my entire life. The medieval road encompasses a 75 m slope and the street façade has changed little in the past few hundred years. You can almost picture medieval apprentices running their errands, and horse-drawn carts pulling merchant wares up and down this cobblestoned roads. Fortunately, the road no longer smells like it presumably would have done in the middle ages!

The street is littered with timber-framed houses, stained glass windows and other quirky examples of medieval architecture. Although the street gets pretty busy around lunchtime, I found that there weren’t too many tourists past 5 pm- despite the fact that we visited at the weekend.


There is literally a photo opportunity at every single point along this road! This little table facing a quaint café would have been the perfect place to sit with an expresso and write a new blog post…


Basilica Saint Saveur

The Basilica Saint Saveur of Dinan sits high up on the hill as the crowning jewel of the town. With its’ vantage point at the top of the hill overlooking the river Rance, it’s stood here since the 12th century. Throughout the ages, various additions and alterations have taken place in the basilica, creating the building we see today. It’s so steeped in history that it’s now classed as a French Historic Monument.

dinan cathedral

Sample a local delicacy: Kouign-Amann

Even if you’ve only been reading this blog for all of five minutes, you’ll know that I have a real sweet tooth. And by that, I mean literally, any pastry that comes along is great. Particularly fresh ones. The local boulangerie had this sweet treat in two I opted for the raspberry version- having already sampled a good portion of my friend’s ’traditional’ one!

The Kouign-Amann is made in a few layers (like puff pastry) and comes from the Breton Kouign (cake)-Amann (butter). It’s slowly baked in order to allow for richness of flavour. Yves-René Scoria is often credited as having invented it in the mid-late 1800s. The recipe is about 40% dough, 30% sugar and 30% butter- no wonder it tastes and looks so rich!

kouign-amann dinan

Pin ‘A Guide to the Medieval Town of Dinan’

A quick guide to Dinan, Brittany, France: best things to see and do in Dinan, a medieval to dinan

About Author

Sophie Nadeau loves dogs, books, Paris, pizza, and history, though not necessarily in that order. A fan of all things France related, she runs when she's not chasing after the next sunset shot or consuming her weight in sweet food. Currently based in Paris after studies in London, she's spent most of her life living in the beautiful Devonian countryside in South West England!


  • Natasha
    10th November 2016 at 7:45 pm

    Wow this looks like such a beautiful place, I’ve heard of Dinan before but didn’t know it was like this! Reminds me a little of Le Mans old town (have you been?) I’ve living in France this year and might have to give this a weekend visit 🙂

  • Urvi
    19th August 2016 at 3:06 pm

    These looks like my ferry tale town. I am adding this to my bucket list for sure.

  • Joanna
    19th August 2016 at 11:23 am

    Oh, this looks so lovely! I regret now that I didn’t chose it to go to when the Ryanair sale was on. It was on my short list but I ended up choosing another destination due to better flight times. I definitely have to come and visit one time. I am lucky to live in the South of England and there is a direct ferry to Brittany from my home town. I would love to walk on those streets and see those beautiful flowers at each house.

  • Nina
    19th August 2016 at 12:11 am

    This is one of the loveliest places I have seen so far and i read a lot of blogs!

  • Jessica
    18th August 2016 at 10:44 pm

    Wait, I had no idea this town even existed and it looks absolutely beautiful! I have a friend going to France this fall, and am going to share this with her 🙂 Thank you for the great info!

  • Erica
    18th August 2016 at 7:25 pm

    I’m glad I came across this! I’m planning a trip to France for the fall and, as a country, it’s been reviewed and written about so much by so many that it’s hard to pare it all down to what’s important. I love this as a guide, but also as a teaser (great photos!) for a town that is now officially on my list 🙂

    Also, that pastry looks amazing.

  • Jasmine
    18th August 2016 at 4:34 pm

    It’s so gorgeous, I love the old cobblestone streets and castle looking buildings. That is amazing that there are buildings from the 13th century. This is definitely a spot I’d love to visit!

  • Lyssie
    18th August 2016 at 3:31 pm

    Wow, it’s a fairy tale town!! So beautiful, I’m adding this to my bucket list. I actually had no idea where Dinan or Brittany even were so I had to google it and I’d love to explore this part of France! I found with most European fishing towns that since the day starts so early, everything closes pretty early too. Did you find this to be the case or was there a lot to do in Dinan? I can’t stop thinking about those pictures, I really want to go now!!

  • blondemoments
    18th August 2016 at 2:49 pm

    I actually do have a friend who lives close to that city. She never told me about how gorgeous that is. Shame.

  • Briana
    18th August 2016 at 2:19 pm

    These photos give me wanderlust bad!!! It looks like a lovely little slice of European Spring….really fantastic!

  • Two Small Potatoes
    18th August 2016 at 1:34 pm

    The pastry looks so yummy! I definitely would have gone for the raspberry too.

  • Joseph
    6th August 2016 at 9:32 am

    Really looks like a charming town to visit!

  • Maggie
    3rd August 2016 at 4:16 am

    I’ve never visited Brittany before but I am totally lusting after Dinan after reading this beautiful post!! Everywhere just looks so picturesque! xx

  • Tanja (the Red phone box travels)
    2nd August 2016 at 7:54 pm

    really beautiful!


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