Dinan is a magical fortified French city. Home to oodles of timber-framed architecture, eateries serving traditional dishes, and plenty of history, this magical Breton settlement may well have it all, making the town the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of busy modern day life. Here’s a complete travel guide for Dinan France; where to go, what to see, where to stay, and where you should eat!
Why you need to visit the French region of Brittany
In many respects, Brittany doesn’t feel French at all, more like its own country. With its own customs, practices, and traditions, Brittany has always had its own unique vibe and even has its own local language (asides from French): the Celtic Language of Breton. The reason for this is very simple: Brittany only became a part of the French kingdom in the 16th century (the precise date being 1532). Prior to this, Brittany was its own kingdom!
A land of sea, rugged coastline, and some of the most beautiful towns and villages in l’Hexagon, if you’ve not already added it to your bucket list, then you simply must place Brittany at the top of your must-visit destinations. Even if you’re short on time, this long weekend in Brittany itinerary will ensure you get to see all the best things the region has to offer!
What makes Dinan so magical? (and why you must visit!)
A couple of months ago, I visited the magical town of the medieval town of Dinan France for the first (and so far, only) time. Dinan really cast a spell on me and I can’t return as soon as possible… The town has barely changed since the Middle Ages. In fact, it’s one of the best preserved medieval towns in France.
As a result, stepping into Dinan is a little like stepping back in time and Dinan France is easily one of the most beautiful towns in Brittany. After all, the fortified ramparts of Dinan may only be 1.8 miles long but what really holds you back from leaving is the sheer beauty of the town.
This rare example of a medieval town is made even more unique by its position of quite literally hanging on the side of a hill. This is rare in medieval towns which usually lie at the bottom of a valley or at the top of a hill. The strategic placement of Dinan has probably been a large contributing factor in its survival.
Best things to do in Dinan
As a historic French town with plenty of stunning architecture, it should come as no surprise that there’s no shortage of interesting things to do in Dinan. From scaling walls dating back to the middle ages to sampling local cuisine, here’s the best of Dinan attractions:
Wander the port: Once upon a time, the main way that the city would trade with the rest of Brittany would be via water transport along the River Rance. Today, one of the very best things to do in Dinan is to simply wander along the water’s edge and admire the timber-framed architecture from a little further away.
Try a Kouignn-Amann: This local delicacy is honestly one of the best things I’ve ever eaten! All sugar, butter, and pastry, the best place to purchase this Breton sweet is at La Maison De Tatie Jeanne (82 Rue du Petit Fort) where you’ll find traditional as well as more unusual flavours.
Walk the ancient walls: One of the best things to do in Dinan is simply to wander the medieval ramparts and see where your feet take you. Providing beautiful views of the town and the Breton landscape beyond, Les Ramparts de Dinan stretches over 2 km around the old part of the city.
Admire the Château de Dinan: Of course, when in France, you’re never too far away from a French château and Dinan is no different. Constructed during the late 1300s, and also known as the Donjon de la Duchesse Anne, today this great feat of architecture is home to a museum dedicated to the history of the town.
Visit the St. Sauveur Basilica: Situated in its very own sqaure, parts of the basilica date back to the 12th-century, though most of this ecclesiastical building dates from the 15th and 16th centuries. If you love architecture, then you must visit this building, if only to see the rich blend of high Gothic and Romanesque styles.
Rue du Jerzual: The most medieval high street you’ll find in Brittany!
Although there’s plenty of history to be sen, the real star of the show is the town’s equally impressive as it is steep, main high street, Rue du Jeruzal. Winding down, past restaurants, café, shops and right down to the historic Dinan port (which lies along the River Rance), Rue du Jerzual is one of the most impressive main town streets in Europe.
The iconic medieval street has been in use since at least the 13th century. And although no one is quite sure where the name comes from, it’s thought that it may derive from the old French word ‘Jarjual’ (meaning Rue Haute). In total, the road covers a 75-metre gradient. All timber-framed houses and wisteria-covered façades, if you’re looking for your next Instagram-worthy place to capture, then you need to look no further that the medieval high street!
Where to eat, drink, and caffeinate in Dinan
This magical town has seen quite the upsurge of tourism in the past few years, no doubt thanks to its charm and old world feel. As such, there’s no shortage of places to eat and drink in Dinan. While in the city, be sure to sample some local specialities (all the pastries, local ciders, and a sea-inspired menu to name but a few):
Crêperie Au Coin de la Breizh (18 Rue de la Poissonnerie): You can’t visit Brittany and not sample at least a crepe (or, one on each day of your visit, just for good measure!) The corner located creperie has the best reviews in town and is well worth a stop by on your way through the historic city centre.
Le Cantorbery (6 Rue Sainte-Claire): If you’re looking for something a little more formal, then Le Cantorbery serves French food which is just as delicious as it is traditional.
Harmonika (34 Rue du Petit Fort): Located along the River Rance, this quaint coffee shop is the perfect spot to stop on any wander around the medieval town.
Where to stay in Dinan France
For those looking for the ultimate escape from the hustle and bustle of busy modern day life, then a weekend in Dinan provides the chance to experience a retreat you won’t forget. Just be sure to bring your camera along- you won’t regret it! Here are the best places to stay in Dinan:
Hôtel Arvor Dinan: Situated in the very heart of the city and located within a former covent, the timber-framed house makes for an unforgettable weekend getaway.
La Villa Côté Cour & Côté Spa: Well-reviewed and home to plenty of modern amenities, if you’re looking for a little bit of luxury during your time in Dinan, then this is the place for you.
Hotel Mercure Dinan Port Le Jerzual: If you’d rather stay at the bottom of the city, near the port, then this four-star, well-reviewed hotel is for you.
How to visit Dinan and the best time to go
As with the rest of Brittany, and indeed France, the best time to visit is in the European shoulder seasons when the light is at its best, the crowds are fewer, and everything is still open! Go at other times of the year (i.e. winter or summer) and you risk bad weather or too many crowds.
For those visiting Dinan by train, there is the Gare de Dinan which can be found on the fringes of the historic town centre. While in the ancient city itself, it’s worth noting that there are cobbled lanes pretty much everywhere and so you should bring comfortable walking shoes.