75 metres above the banks of the river Rance rises the hill of Dinan, where 12th century walls jealously guard one of the most beautiful medieval towns in French Brittany. The castle, the cobbled streets, the wooden houses and its heritage make this idyllic city a delight to walk slowly. Here I help you organize your visit and tell you what to see in Dinan.
🗺 What to see in Dinan
The ancient city of the Dukes of Brittany is quite small and easy to walk around in a few hours. What’s more, the tourist office located next to the castle offers you a map with two suggested itineraries, each of which will take you a maximum of 2 hours. So you can easily dedicate a morning to it and then continue on to other destinations, such as Saint Malo on the coast.
Here I will tell you about the most important visits to Dinan in three areas: the intramural area, the port and a tour of the wall. You can combine the three, which is how I did it: I went up and down the wall to get to know both the medieval historic center and the high walks to get views and see the towers and gates.
👣 What to see in Dinan: ANTIQUE HELMET
In this first tour I will tell you the most important thing to see within the walled area, some little corners that I think you should not miss, either because they are very picturesque or because they have an incalculable historical value.
However, like most villages in Brittany, it is best to walk them and walk them until you wear the soles of your shoes. Its charm is in plain sight.
🔷 Dinan Castle
I’m going to start the tour with one of Dinan’s icons: his castle. In fact, this “castle” is one of the jewels of the medieval wall where you can appreciate the towers, a gate and the typical architecture of the residence of the Breton dukes.
The castle is fostered by the ducal tower dating from the fourteenth century, the Coëtquen tower dating from the late fifteenth century which is a clear example of the defensive works of the Middle Ages and the Guichet gate of the thirteenth century. These elements were united in the 16th century to create a large palace complex.
It is possible to enter to visit it and to cross the different stays, even the high part of the tower to admire the views. I didn’t have enough time to get in, but those who have been there say it’s worth it and that the tour can take about 60-75 minutes. There are no audiguias, but there are posters in French and English explaining each room.
⏲ Hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 1.30pm to 6.30pm (last entry at 5.30pm). Closes on Mondays.👛 Price: 7€
💡 TIP: if you arrive in Dinan on a Thursday, take advantage of the morning to take a walk through the squares of Champ Clos and Du Glesclin (they are together) where they have a big flea market that day starting at 6am. Right in the middle of both squares you will see the statue of Bertrand Du Glesclin, a soldier who liberated Normandy and Britain after the Hundred Years War.
<font color=#38B0DE>-=🔷=- Proudly Presents
Once you leave behind the castle and the squares Champ Clos and Du Glesclin, you will enter the most picturesque area of the medieval town: the Calle del reloj with its 15th century tower.
Although you don’t have to go to it to see it, since it is the second tallest building in the city. The tower bell was a gift from Anne of Brittany to the city in the early 16th century to be used as a bell tower to mark the rhythm of the town.
Today the tower is open to the public to climb to the top and admire the views, and on the ascent there is a small exhibition on the history of the city.
⏲ Hours: April and May open daily from 2pm to 6pm. From June to September open daily from 10am to 6.30om.👛 Price: 4€.
🔷 Rue de l’Apport
A short walk from the clock tower you will come across Carrer de l’Apport which is one of the best examples of architectural ensembles typical of Dinan: wooden framed houses from the 15th to the 18th centuries, with porches supported by wooden pillars and huge windows.
🔷 Calles Merciers and Cordeliers
The continuation of the street “Rue de l’Apport” is the street Merciers (for a couple of hundred meters) and then changes its name to Cordeliers street. In total there are no more than 500 meters, but it is one of the most beautiful walks in the city, with medieval houses, shops and bars.
Let your steps take you guided by instinct and with your eyes wide open, because the details along the way are precious.
🔷 Saint-Malo Church
In the heart of the historic centre of Dinan you will find the Saint Malo church which dates back to the 15th century, although it underwent extensions and reconstuctions for several centuries, the last being in the 19th century.
It is of Gothic style and has some beautiful modern stained-glass windows (s.XX) that show us the different districts of the city.
🔷 Jerzual Street
Considered the most beautiful street in the city, Jerzual is a must see in Dinan. In reality the street has two names, the intramural part is called Jerzual and, once you cross the door of the same name, the street is called Pettit Fort and takes you downhill to the port.
But first let’s talk about the intramural part. Jerzual Street is paved and flanked by stone and some wooden framed houses, all full of flowers and still keeps some of the artists’ workshops and shops in sight.
It was in this street where in the beginnings of the city were concentrated the craftsmen, who built their workshops on the ground floor and their houses on the first floor. Its charm lies in the fact that it is the oldest street in the city, given that it was built to transport goods from the port to the city.
Whatever you do in Dinan, don’t leave without walking this street!
💡Would you like to drink and eat something in Dinan?
Come to the “Rue de la Cordonnerie” – also known as the “street of thirst”, which has nine bars and is always very lively, especially in warm times with its terraces.
🔷 The English Garden
The area where the medieval church cemetery once stood is now a beautiful English-style garden with green areas and tall trees.
I recommend that you approach because it is in one of the highest areas of the city and from there you can look out to the viewpoint to get a beautiful postcard of the river and the port area. It is next to the Santa Catalina chapel and behind the basilica of Saint-Sauveur, which are our next stops on this route.
🔷 Santa Catalina Chapel
Near the viewpoint of the English Garden you will find this chapel that dates back to the 18th century and reopened to the public relatively recently.
It was built in classic French style and after being used as a barracks during the Revolution, then functioned as a town hall (early nineteenth century) and as a hospital until 1970. Today it has returned to its original function: to be a Christian temple, very humble and simple.
🔷 The Saint-Sauveur Basilica
In addition to the church of Saint-Malo, the other important religious temple in the city is this basilica “San Salvador” dating from the twelfth century, although it was enlarged, reformed and rebuilt in the following centuries (until the eighteenth century) so you will find a mixture of architectural styles ranging from Romanesque-Byzantine, Gothic and even Baroque.
Its bell tower is the highest in the city, surpassing that of the Clock Tower, as it is 60 meters high.
As a curiosity, inside the church you can see an original 16th century stained glass window and the cenotaph with the heart of Du Glesclin.
🔴 What to see in Dinan: THE PORT
After having walked through the intramural area, with its fairytale streets and the little stone and wooden houses, it is time to cross the Jerzual gate, go downhill along Petit Fort street to reach the oldest area in Dinan: its port.
Petit Fort Street is, next to Jerzual, the most beautiful street in Dinan and you will see that it also condenses a large part of the 114 wooden framed houses that remain in the city. In addition, it maintains the charm of when merchants, artisans, tanners, weavers etc. went up and down the street with their products. On the way you will see the beautiful “Governor’s House” (at 24 Petit Fort), which dates back to the 15th century.
When you reach the bank of the Rance River you will find the “old bridge” (Vieux Pont) and a walk along the river with bars, restaurants and lots of green. If you go during the summer season, you can take a boat ride around the surrounding areas and see Dinan from a different perspective.
It’s a good place, especially in the warm months, to make a small break and sit down for a drink.
🔰 What to see in Dinan: THE WALLS RIDE
Another way to explore Dinan is by taking a tour of its almost 3 kilometer wall that completely surrounds the city.
In the tourist office you can get a map, but in reality there is no loss: you climb the wall from any of the different entrances and from there you follow the circular path to admire the views, the castle, its four gates or the 14 towers that still stand.
You can start your tour of the castle, which I told you about at the beginning of this guide, and then continue in a counterclockwise direction to visit gates, towers and get privileged views of both the environment of Dinan and the old town. The tour can easily be done in 2 hours and will allow you to see the entire city.
I recommend that you go alternating walks through the medieval center with pieces of the wall, which is the best way to admire all the dimensions of one of the most beautiful medieval cities of French Brittany.
🏨 Hotels in Dinan
The city, despite being small, offers a wide range of accommodations ranging from budget hostels to hotels with all the luxuries. There are hotels from 40€ per night.
My recommendation is the Chambres d’hôtes Le Rempart du Jerzual, which is located in a typical Breton house in the heart of Dinan, just where the beautiful Jerzual street ends and Petit Fort begins. The rooms are simple and comfortable and have a beautiful garden.
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* Disclaimer: I made this trip at the invitation of the tourist office of Brittany. All opinions reflected here are personal and at no time have been subject to invitation.
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