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britman Dinan - A travel report by Brit
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Dinan,  France - flag France -  Bretagne
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britman's travel reports

Medieval Dinan, North East Brittany, France

  13 votes
Page: 1 2
Dinan in North East Brittany, France is a magical, sometimes mystical, well restored, well preserved, walled medieval town, complete with imposing ramparts, towers and a Castle. It’s full of art, history and wonderful buildings - so allow at least a full days visit or even better, stay overnight and enjoy some of its many restaurants, bars and café’s.

Medieval Old Town Dinan in the daytime
Medieval Old Town Dinan in the daytime
The old town is most atmospheric, crammed full of half timbered buildings dating from the 13th and 14th centuries, with cobbled rambling streets all carefully restored and preserved. Interspersed throughout the old town are numerous individually owned cafes, bars, restaurants and the colourful shops of butchers, bakers and today scented candle-makers. The shops of florists, artisans, craftsmen and weavers mingle with the ubiquitous gift and post card shops that thrive in any town that is a magnet to tourists. Dinan’s population is now around 11,000. Its history revolves around its feuds with England. Notably, the Duke of Lancaster’s invasion of 1357 when the local hero was Bertrand Du Guesclin whose brother Oliver, having been kidnapped, was held to ransom, by his captor an English Knight, one Cambridge. Bernard challenged Cambridge in a one to one combat and won. He continued campaigning for the King of France until he died some 23 years later. His bronze statue commemorates him on that very battleground, the Place du Champs, now less importantly used as a car park, which faces both the Hotel D'Avaugour and the Cantorbury restaurant in the old town. The 1907 fire in Cordeliers’ Street apparently caused citizens to become aware of the importance of the preservation of medieval half timbered buildings to Dinan’s heritage. The first listing of a medieval house in the harbour district took place in 1928 and it was indeed great foresight to see such early attempts of conservation that deserve congratulation today.

Favourite spots:
Chemin du Ronde Dinan
Chemin du Ronde Dinan
Rue du Petite Fort is a truly impressive example of conservation and preservation. This lane descends steeply, dropping some 75 metres (300 feet) in its 750 metre length, from the old town to the picturesque River Rance and the old port of Dinan. The walk up and down is invigorating, scenic and very interesting and even more enjoyable when you envisage a cooling or warming drink waiting to be ordered at one of the many picturesque café’s at the bottom of the valley along the riverside and old port.

What's really great:
River Rance & The old Port Dinan Brittany
River Rance & The old Port Dinan Brittany
1. Old Town – walk its cobbled streets- (Take the old town tourist train for 5 Euros for a one hour overview - if you only have time for a brief visit). Climb the Tour d’l’Horloge (currently under renovation) in Rue d’l’Horloge for a scenic panorama of Dinan.

2. Tour the Ramparts – I recommend a walking tour to just two of the three parts of the wall:- Promenade de la Duchesse-Anne from Tour Penthievre to the Tour St Anne and then continue from there along the Promenade des Grands Fossels to the tower of St Julien. The finest part of the tour is to walk along the watch path of the ramparts – access is by the Porte de Jerzual stairs on the Rue du Petit Fort walking to the Porte San Malo stairs on Rue de l’ Ecolle.

3. Stroll down Rue du Petit Fort to the River Rance & Old Port (allow at least an hour and add time for a break halfway back up this very steep hill!!) -

Old Dinan In readiness for a Festival
Old Dinan In readiness for a Festival

The Maison du Gouvernour (Governor’s House) is a delightful late 15th Century house with three half timbered sides built on a granite base to protect the floors from damp. It covers 140 square metres however; the internal tour only covers two of its four floors and is not worth expending even the two Euros to see.

4. The Chateau (Dinan’s 13th to 15th Century Castle) – Houses a small museum of the towns history. The watchtower terrace allows a panoramic view of the town.

5. The Museum of Rail is of interest, particularly if you are a railway buff and is situate immediately outside the old town at the start of the D2 road to Ploubalay.

Maison du Gouvernour on Rue Petite Fort, Dinan
Maison du Gouvernour on Rue Petite Fort, Dinan
1. Hotel De l’Avagour, 1 Place du Champs is a treasure – one of the most comfortable, reasonably priced hotels in France. Best hotel in Dinan by far. The staff are so helpful and friendly. Beautiful gardens overlooking the Town wall – the bedrooms overlooking these gardens are very quiet. Thoroughly recommended and reasonably priced.

2. Hotel Challonge 29, Place Duguesclin has just 19 rooms and is cheaper than the De l’Avagour.

3. Hotel Jerzual, is a Best Western Hotel and is situated a long way from the old town of Dinan – on the opposite side of the Rance River, in fact out of Dinan, in the old port town of Lanvallay. The walk to and from the old town to this hotel is fine - if you are preparing for the Marathon and a car is necessary but a hassle to manoeuvre and park.

Rue de Petite Fort winds steeply from the old town to the old port
Rue de Petite Fort winds steeply from the old town to the old port
Couple of Nightclubs in Rue de la Cordonnerie – Les Templiers and the next door premises both were closed during my Monday/Tuesday night stay.

La Corbinais Golf Club is 15km away and is the nearest Golf Club to Dinan

Breton street musician in the old town
Breton street musician in the old town
Rue de la Cordonnerie is the street of pubs in the old town. It had eight pubs side by side when I counted them, although half were closed during the beginning of the week. All the open bars had an individual style from Breton to Hard Rock and Blues. Far more atmospheric however (after all - you are in France) are the numerous and more authentic café style bars, bistros and creperies that serve sandwiches, salads, croque-monsiuer, and if you must, hot-dogs - as well as booze! Creperies specialise in the Breton thin flat pancakes with various fillings. These specialities are either the savoury buckwheat “Gallete” filled one’s with anything from cheese to mackerel or, its opposite a sweet, “Crepe” filled with fruit, maybe an added liquor, – the most famous one being the delicious orange flavoured Crepe-Suzette.

Cider (Cidre) is the traditional Breton drink fermented from apples, its distilled cousin is Calvados, a smooth apple brandy, usually brought over from the neighbouring province of Normandy. The only authentic Breton wine is Muscadet, a dry white wine which is an excellent accompaniment to the abundant sea food of the region. However, every restaurant, café, bar or creperie will have its Patrons selection of regional wines - French (of course!). A glass of vin rouge, rose or blanc will cost you a couple of Euros’, as will a small beer or lager, the choice is tremendous from local to imported and with so much choice you do not need my specific recommendations

Typical artisan shop on Rue Petit Fort Dinan
Typical artisan shop on Rue Petit Fort Dinan
1. Cantorbery, 6 Rue St Claire. (an open wood fire cooks your dinner whilst you watch in this busy Michelin mentioned restaurant). Personally, my favourite restaurant in Dinan – scores on ambience, food, service, and price. (Best overall Restaurant of my France 2004 trip) Unpretentious and under rated.

2. La Courtina, 6 Rue de la Croix, cosy stone walled restaurant open on Mondays, when most of Dinan’s restaurants close. Reasonably priced, well presented balanced menu. Good selection of wines - realistically priced! – Deserves a visit!

3. Mere Pourcel, 3 Place Mercier, Most expensive in Dinan.

4. Auberge du Pelican, 3 Rue Haute Voie. Specialises in sea food and traditional Breton dishes.

5. If you are on a budget – Picnic! Visit a local bakery (boulangerie) there are many around and buy a fresh baguette (baked twice daily). Next move to the neighbouring charcuterie and patisserie and buy, maybe, a slice of ham (jambon), a petite tranche of fromage or pate - perhaps a quiche-lorraine. – All for a fraction of a restaurant meal. Find your picnic spot and if you are not driving, open a bottle of wine – and voila! Just enjoy France’s cheapest and most memorable dining experience at everyday local prices!

Other recommendations:
The old port offers good dining - at a price!
The old port offers good dining - at a price!
Take warm clothing and rainwear – Brittany can be cold and wet – even in summer!

Do try the picnic option – French restaurants have the knack of offering you a four course fixed price dinner menu for what appears cheaper than just one or two courses – when you add up your travel food budget you soon realise that eating dinner in France is not a cheap alternative. Lunchtime fixed price menus usually offer much better value.

Getting there:- Distances by Road – Paris 400km, St Malo (the nearest English Channel Port) 32km. Rennes, (Brittany’s capital) 54km and Vannes 120km.

Further information on the web: - see or an English language version at

Published on Friday July 16th, 2004

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Mon, Jan 17 2005 - 02:59 PM rating by davidx

Great - just what I now expect from you. We were there for a 14 July parade.

Sun, Nov 07 2004 - 10:48 AM rating by ravinderkumarsi

hii this is another marvellous report by you ,
and such a nice pictures..great.

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