There are two common sayings, that perfectly describes the situation, which occurred with us visiting Namur. First one: Good things come when you least expect them. And the other one: Sometimes the best things are right in front of you. In other words, Namur was under our noses1 all of our time in Belgium, but we haven’t expected nothing unique there, so we kept postponing our visit there, until, well, last Sunday.
Since we have already visited all the most popular tourist destination in Belgium, we started choosing among less known Belgian cities. So it happens, that our temporary home in Belgium is located in the heart of the country, and so is Namur. We drove along the city for tens of times, we even had a several visits to the grocery store, located in the suburban part of the city. From the beginning of our wanderings in Belgium, we knew two of the most significant sights in the city are River Meuse and Citadel of Namur. But somehow, that didn’t seem intriguing enough, to visit this city sooner.
But it turned out, that all our assumptions and presumptions, which we had before entering Namur, was completely false. Namur won us over in 5 minutes, and it became the one Belgian city, where we had a longest stroll. We walked 10 kilometers across the city, and were still excited about the things we had a chance to see!
Short Background, Dry Facts and Several Thoughts
Namur is located at the confluence of two rivers: River Meuse and River Sambre, and it is a capital city of Wallonia region, a French-speaking part of Belgium. City is surrounded by the hilly Ardennes mountains, which holds probably the most beautiful natural landscape in whole Belgium. Thanks to Ardennes, Namur is located on a hilly territory above the Meuse and Sambre, and this is probably the most unique feature that city has.
Namur’s history started back in the Celtic times, when confluence of Meuse and Sambre became a significant trading point. Though, later on came Romans with Julius Caesar and their great culture in front, but a true face of Namur appeared only in the Middle Ages, when a symbol of the city – Citadel of Namur, was built.
Though city has a lot of things to be proud of, but the one, that truly surprised us, was the St Aubin’s Cathedral. Seems like it was taken from Italy and placed in the middle of Belgium. It’s the architecture that couldn’t be found anywhere in this region. And though we hadn’t known this at the time when we were wandering around it, but we were completely right. St Aubin’s Cathedral is the only Cathedral in Belgium, that was built in Baroque style. Believe us, Dear Reader, you won’t find anything similar nowhere around. St Aubin’s was a feast for our eyes!
Wandering Around In Namur
At first, we thought that our stroll through Namur won’t take long. An hour, maybe two, and we’ll be back home for lunch. But, oh my, Dear Reader, how wrong were we. Walk up and down the hills of the city was not only full of amazing discoveries, but it was also a good exercise for our legs!
Nevertheless, those 10 kilometers were worth to be walked! Let us prove it to you. Look at what discoveries we have made that great Sunday!
Citadel of Namur
Fortress of Namur is city’s major sight. It stands on the top of the hill, above the confluence of two rivers, and is a spectacular place to admire city from up above. Citadel covers a really big territory, and is full of sights to see and experience. Several restaurants, museums, interesting sculptures, scenic overlooks, old fortress walls, dark corridors and tunnels, picturesque walking paths. To sum up, all the most spectacular sides of the city could be admired from the top of Citadel’s hill.
Castle of Namur
‘From that point it will be only down the hill’, was the words that P. told me for three or four times, while wandering around the Citadel territory. Though it seemed that there isn’t any higher place left in the city, but just around the corner we still managed to find even higher point ahead. But everything has the end, and so does the Citadel hill – it ends with an elegant Château de Namur.
Nowadays Castle of Namur is a classy restaurant and hotel, with beautiful rose garden and a panoramic overlook to the city. Though we wandered there in mid-winter, and hadn’t got a chance to admire blooming nature, but it is clear that this place should look really charming during the months of spring, summer and autumn.
Promenades by the River Meuse
Namur Castle was the top of the city, and from there we started going down to explore the ground floor of the city. The first discovery, that we made when we got down the hill, was the romantic River Meuse promenades. You could walk or ride a bike for tens of kilometers along the Meuse, and it would offer you an afternoon full of wonderful views. These riversides leads you straight to the famous Belgian cities of Huy and Dinant.
Nevertheless, the most charming part of the Meuse riverside in the territory of the city, is around the Pont de Jambes bridge. This old stone bridge connects Namur with the old town of Jambes, which, until the end of 20th century, was a small, but separate town on the other side of Meuse. Now it’s the unique part of Namur.
Sambre is the smaller, but, personally for me, more charming river than Meuse. As the riversides of Meuse, Sambre is also accompanied by the Citadel hill on one side. But here we really enjoyed the line of lovely house facades on the other side of the river. If Meuse riversides were very spacious, then while walking along Sambre, we felt surround by the greatness of Citadel and the charm of the narrow streets of the lovely Namur old town.
And the best thing about the path along Sambre, is that at some point familiar face of Belgium starts to transform into totally new view. The architecture and atmosphere here starts to remind more of Italy, than of Belgium.
St Aubin’s Cathedral
And this, as I’ve already blurted out, was a cherry on top of our whole Sunday wanderings. One of a kind beauty in whole country. St Aubin’s Cathedral owns THE architecture, and, believe us, Dear Reader, you won’t find anything similar in Belgium, or around it. You can dislike citadels, old fortresses, river promenades, etc., but St Aubin’s is the reason why you have to make a stop in Namur, while exploring Belgium.
However, there is one strange thing here. Somehow the square in front of the Cathedral is made into a parking lot, but not a space to admire this majestic building. Considering how charming are the surrounding facades, and neighboring streets, we both agreed that this parking-lot-thing is the worst idea that city could’ve done to such a great place.
I have never expected to say this, but Namur left us with the similar feeling, as the Belgian celebrities, Brugge and Gent, did. And, in addition to this, I have to say, that it totally ousted Brussels and Antwerp.
Namur is underrated, and, I think, this is what gives him half of its charm. Firstly, it takes you by surprise. Secondly, there aren’t any crowds, you can walk around the most beautiful parts of the city and enjoy them without masses of people around you. And, though, Gent remains our favorite city in Belgium, and Durbuy – our most beloved little town, but Namur have fairly earned the name of the best city to see in Wallonia part of the country.
Anyway, what do you think, Dear Reader? Does Namur look like a place you should want to visit, while in Belgium? Or maybe you’ve already did? Waiting for your thoughts in the comments.