If you’re seeking a delightful escape to a quaint European town with a rich history and breathtaking natural surroundings, Durbuy, Belgium, might just be your perfect destination. Nestled in the picturesque Ardennes forests, Durbuy is often referred to as the “smallest city in the world,” and it certainly lives up to its reputation. In this travel guide, we’ll explore the essentials of planning a memorable trip to this enchanting Belgian town.
Durbuy is a postcard-perfect town situated along the banks of the Ourthe River in southern Belgium. This charming medieval old town (called Vieille Ville) is characterized by cobblestone streets, well-preserved historical architecture, and a warm, welcoming atmosphere.
Durbuy isn’t just about its charming Old Town; it’s also home to fascinating geological wonders, like the anticline known as Homalius’ Rock or the ‘Roche à la Falize.’ An anticline is a unique U-shaped rock formation that was created over millions of years as layers of sea sediments accumulated. The particular anticline near Durbuy is an astounding 300 million years old, with the city’s highest point perched atop this impressive rock formation.
How to Reach Durbuy
Durbuy is located in the southern part of Belgium within the French-speaking Wallonia Region. There are several ways to reach Durbuy from major cities in Belgium, however Keep in mind that it’s located within a forested area, making it less accessible for public transportation trips.
By Car (Most Recommended) :
For maximum flexibility and the ability to explore the surrounding countryside, renting a car is an excellent option. Durbuy is easily accessible from major Belgian cities, such as Brussels (2 hours) and Liège (1 hour), via well-maintained highways.
By Public Transportation :
You have the choice to catch a train to the nearby Barvaux-sur-Ourthe station, followed by a shuttle bus ride to Durbuy old town. This is a viable option for travelers without a car, but it’s important to note that it can be time-consuming, typically taking at least 3 hours for a one-way trip from Brussels, and potentially longer if you encounter wait times for train and bus connections.
The ideal duration of your stay in Durbuy largely depends on your interests, but a two to three-day trip is usually sufficient to explore the town and its surroundings fully.
Depart from other Belgian cities for a day trip to Durbuy, where you can explore the Old Town, visit the anticline and the Topiary Park, and enjoy a meal at one of the town’s charming restaurants before returning to your starting city.
Spend two days in Durbuy, allowing you to delve deeper into its history by visiting the Durbuy Castle and the Confiturerie Saint-Amour, explore the beautiful Ourthe Valley.
Dedicate three days to an enriching Durbuy experience, including the option to explore nearby attractions such as Radhadesh Castle or embark on a leisurely hike in the scenic Barvaux-sur-Ourthe forest. Families with children can delight in the thrills of the Durbuy Adventure Park. For those seeking to combine their Durbuy adventure with visits to other Belgian cities, Namur, Liege, and the renowned Spa town (famous for its spa facilities) are all conveniently located within a one-hour drive.
Where to Stay in Durbuy
Durbuy offers a range of accommodation options, from charming boutique hotels to cozy bed-and-breakfasts. Staying within the Old Town allows you to immerse yourself in its historic charm. Some popular choices include Hotel Sanglier des Ardennes, Le Saint-Amour, and Le Clos des Récollets.
Explore Durbuy Vieille Ville (Old Town)
Self-Guided Walking Route:
Place aux Foires: Start your journey in the heart of Durbuy’s Old Town. This square is adorned with cafes and shops, making it an excellent spot to savor a coffee or indulge in some souvenir shopping.
Rue des Récollectines: Walk this picturesque street lined with charming facades and unique boutiques.
Saint-Nicolas Church: Visit this beautiful church, which dates back to the 16th century and is a testament to Durbuy’s rich religious history.
Durbuy Anticline: The Durbuy Anticline is a notable geological feature in the Ardennes region of Belgium, characterized by its rock layers folded into an arch-like structure, showcasing millions of years of Earth’s history.
The Topiary Park: Explore the nearby Topiary Park, where meticulously pruned plants take whimsical shapes, creating a unique and enchanting atmosphere.
The Castle of Durbuy: Although not open to the public, the exterior of this medieval castle is worth admiring.
Rue Alphonse Eloy: Meander through this cozy street, brimming with artisan shops and delightful cafes.
Ourthe River Views: Conclude your walking tour by taking in the serene views of the Ourthe River, a perfect place to relax and reflect on Durbuy’s beauty.
What to Eat in Durbuy
Dining in Durbuy offers travelers a diverse culinary experience, with a range of cafes and restaurants to choose from. However, being a small town, it’s advisable to make reservations at popular dining spots to secure a table. During the winter off-season, some cafes and restaurants may be temporarily closed, so it’s wise to check in advance.
Belgium is renowned for its delicious cuisine, and Durbuy is no exception, though prices can be relatively high due to its popularity as a sightseeing destination. It’s worth noting that the quality of dining establishments can vary, so consulting restaurant reviews on platforms like Google Maps or other review sites can help you make the best dining choices during your visit.
For Families: Adventure Valley Durbuy
If you’re traveling with children or simply seeking some adventure, Adventure Valley Durbuy is a must-visit destination. This expansive outdoor park offers thrilling activities such as zip-lining (the longest one in Benelux), kayaking, rock climbing, and more. It’s a great way to complement your cultural exploration of Durbuy with some adrenaline-pumping experiences.
In conclusion, Durbuy is a hidden gem that offers a perfect blend of history, natural beauty, and outdoor adventures. Whether you’re strolling through its medieval streets, savoring Belgian delicacies, or seeking an adrenaline rush, Durbuy has something to offer every traveler. So pack your bags and get ready to experience the charm of Belgium’s smallest city.