Picture: view on the castle of Durbuy besides the river Ourthe
» St.-Nicolas church
» Grain Hall
» Anticlinal rock
» Topiary park
» Midget Golf
General. This tiny town profiles itself as the smalles town in the world. Although the marketing machine claims this to be true and although Durbuy actually is anything but large, in reality it is not. The popularity of this town in the heart of the Ardennes resulted in the fact that not many people are actually still living here. The original inhabitants had to make way for shops, restaurants and hotels in the historic center, which makes that it did lose a bit of its authenticity. Despite this, it remains a beautiful place with plenty of charm: narrow cobblestone streets, a majestic castle above the historic center and a picturesque situation in the valley of the Ourthe river.
This town is extremely popular with visitors from Flanders and the Netherlands; on busy days you hear more Dutch in the streets than French. This being said, English speaking visitors should not despair because all information signs are also in English and you will be helped in your language with a smile.
Short history. The area around Durbuy has been inhabited since long time. Evidence of this can amongst other be found in nearby Wéris that is known for its megalites. Durbuy itself became a county in the 11th century but it depended on the larger county of Namur. In that period, the first castle was built. In the 12th century Durbuy transitted to the county of Luxembourg. Situated in the north of this county, it became a very important place for the defense of the territory. To accomplish its military role, the stronghold was reinforced and the settlement that had emerged in the meantime at the foot of the castle was walled. In 1331, Durbuy was granted town privileges by John I of Bohemia, the count of Luxembourg. Franciscan friars and nuns settled in Durbuy and arranged for a side branch of the Ourthe river to be drained. They remained an important community until the religious order was abolished at the end of the 18th century. In the 20th century, Durbuy was discovered by tourism and especially during holiday periods and weekends it can be very busy in the little town.
Castle. The castle is one of the most prominent places of interest of Durbuy. The first stronghold was constructed in the 11th century and was reinforced in the course of the 13th century when it had to defend the northern borders of the county of Luxembourg. In the 18th century, the castle came in the possession of the important noble family d'Ursel. They had it rebuilt in 1731. The present look dates back to a restoration that was performed around 1880. The noble family d'Ursel still has ownership of the domain.
Saint-Nicolas church. This church (l'église Saint-Nicolas) was consacrated in 1643 and initially this was actually the convent church of the Franciscan cloister that was situated just next to it. When the religious order was abolished (at the end of the 18th century), the church became the parish church of Durbuy in 1810 with Saint-Nicolas as patron saint.
Grain hall. There are a number of beautiful old buildings in the historic town center but it's mainly the ancient Grain Hall (also called the Spanish house) that catches the eye due to its impressive half-timbered facade. The hall was mentioned for the first time in 1380 but in its present condition, the building would date back to the 16th century. Initially this was a covered market place but throughout the centuries it has served different purposes. Nowadays it is used as an exhibition space. The hall is registered as exceptional patrimony of the Walloon region.
Nature. You never need to look far to find nature in the Ardennes: woods, hills,... Here the river Ourthe flows right next to the small town. The anticlinal rock that you can find right next to the center is an exceptional natural phenomenon. An anticlinale is a fold in the landscape (due to pressure, shifts in the earth's crust) making different earth layers visible in a bend of the surface. The oldest layers are the ones situated in the middle of the bend. Impressive to see.
Sports. The region of Durbuy is very well-known for outdoor sports. The river Ourthe very suitable for kayaking or canoeing and the woods are excellent for hiking or mountainbiking. You can even do rock-climbing. There are numerous possibilities in the area for sporty or adventurous excursions. If you prefer to do it a bit slower, then you could try your chances at the midget golf course just next to the church of Durbuy.
How to get to Durbuy? By far the easiest way is to get there with own transportation. The old town center is mainly car-free but there are several large parkings just outside the town (walking distance).
Tours & info. Durbuy is not big and it's easy to explore on foot. If you want to go a bit further, then you can take one of the touristic trains (gathering point is at the tourist office). The tourist office is located on the Place aux Foires.
Picture 1: Narrow street in the
hirstoric center of Durbuy
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