Part of southern Belgium, Wallonia differs from Flanders because French is spoken there and also because its relief is mostly hilly (no, we won't play the expected pun ...). If it is not bordered by the sea like the "flat country", it includes lakes, many rivers and canals, as well as a river, the Meuse. On their shores stretch green landscapes and other striking sites, such as castles or towns like Namur, capital of a region where water is also used to produce remarkable beers ... On the way for a journey through water, around Namur, in Wallonia ...
The Meuse valley, by boat or by bike
Water in Wallonia is first of all the Meuse, a 950 km long river which originates in the Haute-Marne department in France. It passes through Verdun and Sedan before arriving in Wallonia, then going to throw itself into the North Sea, in the Netherlands.
Its crossing of the region is a source of beautiful walks between Dinant and Namur. On board a boat, to be piloted with or without a license, or during a cruise, you can quietly admire the architecture of the towns, castles or villas that border it at the foot of rocky slopes or covered with vegetation.
Another way to take this enchanting route: follow thecycle route which is part of the EuroVelo route 19 - The Meuse by bike. Its 28 km are very easy, especially if you are riding an electric bicycle. You can easily extend your excursion by leaving the banks of the Meuse to stroll through the small surrounding heights where there are sites to discover.
Namur, the capital of Wallonia
Located at the confluence of the Sambre and the Meuse, which meet at a place called Le Grognon in the heart of the city, Namur is both the capital of the province that bears its name and that of the Walloon Region.
It is a very old city, the origin of which dates back at least to the Roman period. Due to its strategic location, it has had to endure numerous invasions from the south (France), the east (Germany) or the north (Netherlands), as well as bombardments. And yet, its old quarters have preserved a beautiful heritage. We walk with profit in small streets to discover buildings and monuments from different eras.
Have a belfry circular (14th-16th centuries), the Saint-Aubain cathedral (18th), or theSaint-Loup church (17th), Baroque building whose superb interior features, among other things, a sculpted vault and ringed columns ...
Dominating the city, the citadelle is a vast collection of constructions dating from different periods (from the Middle Ages to the 20th century) which extend along the hillside. The road that runs along it to its summit offers beautiful views, while the visit of its undergrounds is most instructive.
Dinant, a Walloon jewel on the banks of the Meuse
City which is proud to be the one which saw the birth of Adolphe Sax, the inventor of the saxophone, Dinant is, like Namur, located on the banks of the Meuse and surmounted by a citadelle located on a steep cliff. It tells the story of the city, which suffered greatly in 1914, the year in which a French lieutenant named Charles de Gaulle was wounded there during a battle against the Germans.
At the top of the citadel, accessible by cable car, a beautiful view of the Meuse valley waiting for you. Below is the Collegiate Church Notre-Dame and its bulbous steeple. These sites together form an emblematic picture of the city.
Further you have Notre-Dame de Leffe Abbey, as well as the Bayard rock, cousin of the Aiguille d'Étretat! At the base of this tapered rock, which rises some forty meters above the Meuse, a narrow passage has been pierced, completely separating it from a cliff.
Castles and gardens of the Meuse valley
There is no shortage of castles with gardens in Wallonia and in particular in the Meuse valley. Here are a few must-see sites:
- The Annevoie water gardens, the only green spaces of this type existing in Belgium, adorn an 18th century castle in Anhée. They include French, Italian and English gardens, with a pond, canal, waterfall, water games, fountain ...
- The Freÿr castle fits beautifully into the landscape on the banks of the Meuse, in Hastière. Representative of the Mosan Renaissance style, it has gardens inspired by those of Le Nôtre.
- Built between the 13th and 17th centuries, surrounded by ponds, the Fernelmont castle includes a remarkable dungeon-porch.
- The Bioul castle, resembling a Renaissance mansion, has the particularity of being the center of an area where organic wine is produced.
- Finally, dating from the Middle Ages, the castle of Vêves, in Celles, imposes with its allure of a fairytale dwelling.
The caves of the Famenne-Ardenne Geopark: underground Wallonia
Located to the south-east of Namur, the territory of Famenne-Ardenne is crossed on the surface by three rivers, the Lesse Lomme andOurthe, and in the basement by numerous caves that water has dug into the rock. This territory is labeled Unesco Global Geopark. At least three caves open to the visit are to be seen.
It is by a small tram that one reaches the caves of Han-sur-Lesse which were formed by the waters of the Lesse, a tributary of the Meuse. We follow the course of a resurgence of this river after admiring concretions nicknamed Minaret, Trophée (stalagmite 7 m high and 20 m in circumference), or Mystérieuses (multicolored), as well as the Dome room (145 m high) ... A sound and light show is given in the Arms room.
Another sound and light is offered in the cave of Lorette-Rochefort, located nearby, during which a small luminous hot-air balloon flies into the Sabbath room ... Hotton caves, or 1 nights, are also formidable with, in particular, their 001 m chasm, their torrent ...
Add to this trio the site of Remouchamps caves which adjoins the Geopark. Like elsewhere, you can appreciate the magnificent concretions, especially in a "cathedral" whose vault is 40 m high and during the boat trip on the underground river, called Rubicon, which concludes the visit. Admire the ease of your “gondolier” guide who pilots his boat using a big stick, his back turned to the obstacles and that over 700 m!
Aquatic leisure activities in Wallonia
The rivers located in the Meuse valley or not far away offer opportunities for various leisure activities.
For example, in the vicinity of Dinant, you can go down the Lesse river en kayak or canoe. On theOurthe also, we practice kayak, as well as the Rafting fishing, etc.
Everything you want to do on and by the water is on the vast site of Eau d'Heure lakes, south-west of Namur and Dinant. 1 ha are dedicated to sports and relaxation activities: walks, cycling, or aboard an amphibious bus named Red Crocodile, fishing, golf, tree climbing and zip lines, sand yachting, aqua golf, swimming, sailing , windsurfing, stand up paddle, canoeing and kayaking, water skiing, diving ... Accommodation and catering on site.
Five in number, these lakes were born in the 1970s when two dams. One of them, straddling the provinces of Namur and Hainaut, can be visited from its underground galleries at the top of its tower (107 m) from which there are beautiful views of the surroundings.
Hikes along the water
There is no shortage of hiking trails in Wallonia. For example, you can follow the course of the Meuse between Dinant and Namur. Taking the GR which flirts with the river, offering different points of view, is also a good idea.
Long thematic routes have been imagined, such as the one linking the Trappist abbeys of Chimay, Rochefort and Orval, which produce very famous beers. It totals 290 km, which makes you thirsty ...
You also have more modest routes, in terms of distance. This is the case of those who take you to the unusual site of Fondry of Dogs (3 km or 12 km) which is located in Viroinval, near the French department of Meuse and this river. Small in size and nevertheless spectacular, this chasm bordered by limestone cliffs is surrounded by a forest and a meadow, which has a microclimate favorable to Mediterranean-type flora!
Another walk deserves you to put on your walking shoes: the one that takes you up the Ninglinspo course, a small torrent which is near Remouchamps and its caves. You can take the path that runs along the water, or an easier path located above. This 6 km loop allows you to admire landscapes as superb as they are changing: mini-waterfalls, "swimming pools" ...
Beers and local products from Wallonia
In Wallonia, we drink water from its sources ... or its breweries. Yep, let's not forget that beer is 90% water !
Some brasseries can be visited, such as that of Bocq, installed in Yvoir since 1858, between Dinant and Namur. Among its most famous products are Blanche de Namur or Gauloise, in different versions.
Breweries ofabbeys also open their doors to you: Maredsous, Saint-Gérard de Brogne, Val-Dieu or Villers. The latter, of Cistercian origin, also offers very romantic ruins.
Orval, Chimay and Rochefort: likewise part of the Walloon taste landscape, beers from the abbeys trappists are very famous. But there, the manufacturing processes are classified top secret!
From these spiritual places also come delicious cheese, like those of Chimay or Orval. Note in this regard that Wallonia is a region with various specialties, such as snack Huy dumpling, Or college of Ciney...
If you prefer the wine to accompany these cheeses, there is what you need, for example the Côtes de Sambre and Meuse.
We cannot cite all the good products offered by Walloon soil and water, but let us evoke the smoked trout, the snail - Namur's favorite animal! -, or the Wépion strawberry, to which a museum is dedicated ...
Find all the good deals, addresses and practical information in the Routard Belgique in bookstores.
Consult our Belgium online guide
Meuse Valley Tourism
How to get there ?
From Paris-Nord, take the Thalys to Liège (2 hours 10 minutes by transport). Up to six daily connections. The “All Belgian stations” offer allows you to extend your trip.
The Tanners of Namur: rue des Tanneries 13. Houses from the 18th century were assembled to become a hotel and two restaurants in Old Namur. No room is like another in this beautiful establishment! Good chic restaurant (L'espièglerie) where the dishes are based on local products and a grill (Grill des Tanneurs) offering brasserie cuisine. Doubles 60-215 €.
Espace Chimay: rue de Poteaupré in Bourlers. A comforting inn serving beers and cheeses from the Trappist Abbey of Chimay. The dishes show a great frankness: stew, quiches, poteauflette, fondue ...
The Meuse by bike: www.meuseavelo.eu
Autonomous Network of Slow Paths (RAVeL), greenways and cycle routes: www.ravel.wallonie.be
Geopark Famenne-Ardenne: www.geoparkfamenneardenne.be
The Great Hiking Trails: www.grsentiers.org