Dinan, A Delightful Medieval Town In Brittany

The quaint little town of Dinan is one of the best preserved medieval villages in Brittany, France and has a completely different atmosphere from other small towns in the area. It was the first town that my husband and I visited during our recent cruise along the coasts of France, Spain and Portugal and what a delightful treat is was.

Dinan, One Of The Prettiest Towns In Brittany

Our first port of call was in Saint-Malo, France and most of the people on the Seven Seas Explorer were going to visit Mont Saint-Michel. While Mont Saint-Michel is “a must see” if you are in the area, we had already visited on several of our previous trips to France. Instead, we decided to visit the historic hilltop town of Dinan, about 15 miles south of Saint-Malo. Dinan has been called one of the “prettiest towns in Brittany” so we couldn’t pass up a chance to visit it.

View Of Dinan’s Old River Port From The Ramparts

Dinan escaped bombing in WWII and is wonderfully preserved. It has a picture postcard old town that is still surrounded by most of its thick ramparts and has almost all of its defensive towers still standing.

The walled old town is a maze of very narrow, steep cobblestone streets lined with arcaded ancient stone and overhanging half-timbered buildings.

Half-Timbered Buildings In Dinan

Place des Merciers is where you can find some of the prettiest buildings. Many of them date back to the 15th century and have been wonderfully restored although some have such a lean to them that you wonder how they don’t topple over. Lots of the old structures are now boutiques, galleries, crêperies and restaurants…the town just oozes with charm.

Click on any photo in the article to enlarge and see a slide show.

The Tour de l’Horloge, an impressive 15th century clock tower, can be seen from many parts of the old town and offers wonderful views if you climb to the top.

Nearby the Maison de la Harpe, a 16th century half-timbered house, is now the headquarters of International Celtic Harp Committee.

Behind the St. Sauveur Basilica, which is in the center of town, there is a small English garden and nearby you will find St. Catherine’s Tower. You can get a wonderful view down to the River Rance and what used to be the old port from the tower and ramparts here.

View Of The Rance River With Old Stone Houses

The Rue du Jerzual is a steep, picturesque street that leads down the hill to the river and the little port. At the bottom, there is a 15th century stone bridge that crosses the water to the other side. The river front and the streets behind are lined with pretty stone houses, many of them waterside restaurants and it is also where you can find boats that offer cruises along the river.

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It had been many years since my husband and I had been in this area of France. Somehow during our travels to Brittany and Normandy, we never visited Dinan. I have a feeling it was because we couldn’t find parking nearby for the historic walled old town. I’m so happy that we got a chance to visit on this trip.

Brittany, with its own language, Celtic traditions, music and traditional foods, almost feels like visiting some other country instead of being in the most westerly region of France. If you get the opportunity to visit Brittany, I would encourage you to visit the medieval village of Dinan. Once a mighty walled citadel, now the charming town really is one of the prettiest in Brittany. Hopefully you will be lucky enough to visit on a sunny, warm day when there is one of the numerous traditional festivals being held. While there, take time to sample a few of their crêpes, both savory and sweet, along with  a glass of cider.

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111 thoughts on “Dinan, A Delightful Medieval Town In Brittany

  1. Stunning, think I went there about 30 years ago…we’re off to Northern France for Christmas so if it’s not too far from where we’re staying we may have to make a visit!

  2. When we did the same cruise, we visited Mont Saint-Michel — because we’d never been, and always wanted to see it. That said, you could spend days in Brittany (and Normandy) and never run out of interesting things to see. Dinan sounds terrific — love the pictures. We need to take that cruise again so we can visit Dinan. 🙂

    1. Hi John, I think most of the passengers on our cruise visited Mont Saint-Michel…it would be a shame not to experience it. The area is wonderful and as you said, there is much to see and do.

    1. Hi Kay, One of the nicest things about living in London is that all of Europe is practically on your doorstep. I’m glad that you enjoyed the post and that it brought back memories of time spent nearby.

    1. Hi Mad Dog, I’m happy to know that the post about Dinan brought back memories of your visit there. It had been quite a few years since we had been in this area of France ourselves.

    1. Thank you for your compliment Penny. Yes the steep streets in Dinan were memorable but wait until you read about the next French town we visited.

  3. One of my friends and colleagues husband is from Brittany snd he used to own a lovely little bistro on the east side of Toronto; we loved the food, so unique and delicious but sadly did not visit often because it was on the other side of town!
    What an incredible place, definitely going on my bucket list. Reminds me a little of Stein am Rhein, a gorgeous little place just outside Zurich, our friends lived there and we visited a few times. I have a feeling your posts are going to make me vie for Europe more than ever!

    1. Thank you Eva, I’m happy to know that you enjoyed the post about Dinan. When I’ve finished writing about all the wonderful places we visited on this cruise, I definitely think you will have Europe on your mind for future travels.

    1. Hi Gerlinde, I’m glad we finally made it to. Dinan…it was such a charming little town. Thank you for your nice compliment, it is much appreciated.

  4. I LOVE places like this. I will be sure to keep Dinan in mind should I go to Brittany. I will, of course, have some crepes. Very much enjoyed the pictures. Thanks.

    1. Hi Darlene, I do hope you get a chance to visit both Brittany and Dinan…you would indeed enjoy the area. Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed the photos.

  5. Have not been able to work this charming town into a schedule the 2 times I was there. I will not miss this town a third time. It is #1 on the list.

  6. Am rather ignorant of the parts of France north of Paris: yes to the Champagne area in the east and the Loire wanes and castles to the west, but . . . beautiful atmospheric photos, Karen. That said am almost sorry that modernity allows such mass tourism . . .guess I would have liked to see this historical site slowly appreciated by those who found it almost by happenstance . . .

    1. I’m glad that you enjoyed the photos Eha of pretty little Dinan, thank you. Actually the village doesn’t get as many tourist as you might imagine. Now nearby Mont Saint-Michel is another story. It is one of the most visited sites in France.

  7. Beautiful pictures! We spent 3 weeks travelling through Normandy last year and we loved it. Mont St. Michel is a wonder and we also visited towns that look like Dinan. We wanted to travel further to Brittany, but there was so much to see and visit in Normandy, we decided to make another trip just to Brittany sometime next. Well, this year we chose Italy and Venedig, so Brittany is still on the list. Our advantage is that we’re not that far away from it.

    1. Thank you for your compliment Adina, I’m glad that you enjoyed the photos. You are indeed lucky to have so many wonderful travel opportunities not so far away from you. I too could spend lots of time in both Brittany and Normandy.

  8. Karen, what a charming town. I can just imagine walking the narrow streets and enjoying the architecture, and yes a delicious crepe. Thank you for introducing me to this town, I was not familiar with it. I eagerly await the next installment from your cruise.

    1. I’m happy to have introduced you to Dinan, Pam as It is a charming town. I’ll be posting tomorrow about two different places in France that I think you would enjoy. Thank you for following along.

    1. Hi Diane, I’m glad that you enjoyed the post. No…no tripping on this trip as my husband holds on tightly to me since I have a track record of breaking a foot at the most inconvenient of times. 🙂

  9. We visited Dinan and Josselin about 4 years ago and were enchanted by it. Brittany is a fascinating region with ancient History and lots to offer and keep a traveller busy for weeks. I was in awe of the megalithic sites in Carnac dating back to 5000-3500 BC: absolutely amazing! We’ll be back after Christmas to visit Finisterre: can’t wait!

    1. Hi Fatima, There is so much to see in Brittany, you could spend weeks there and not see it all. I’ll be following along on your next adventure after Christmas.

  10. We’ve traveled through Normandy, but didn’t make it to Dinan. It’s such a wonderful looking town and what a perfect way to arrive. Thanks for sharing your travels.

  11. It never fails to amaze me how towns and villages on the continent (of Europe) manage to maintain a prettiness we just don’t have in the U.K. My village is okay but the only wow factor is the countryside – unlike Dinan, which definitely has plenty of wow about it!
    We went to Brittany earlier in the year and I would like to return for a better look. I’m glad you enjoyed your time there, Karen.

    1. Hi Helen, You are right about Dinan having plenty of wow about it…it looks straight out of a fairytale. I do hope you get a chance to return and continue your travels through Brittany.

    1. Hi Susan, The view from the ramparts was lovely. You are right about the streets, you had to really be careful walking. The steep cobbled streets continued to exists throughout much of this trip.

  12. It looks and sounds lovely Karen. You have captured the atmosphere in your pictures. I visited a few places in that area many years ago, including Mont St Michel, but was reliant on trains and buses in those days, so missed this pretty little town.

    1. Thank you for your lovely compliment Cathy, I’m happy to know that you enjoyed the post. Even when you travel by car, you just can’t make it to every pretty town. I’m glad we had the opportunity to see Dinan on this trip.

  13. A town frozen in time. What a treasure! Sights like this are quickly being erased through the relentless march of “progress,” so it’s reassuring to know that someone out there still cares enough about history and heritage to preserve it so lovingly.

    1. Hi Hannah, Yes the village does look like it is frozen in time. Many of the readers have mentioned about “progress” spoiling areas. Here is an answer from a local architect in Dinan. “The town of Dinan has a very beautiful and historic centre and as a result many of its buildings come under historical or listed status. This means that any work carried out on them has to be liaised with the Architectes des batiments de France and carried out in such a way that is sensitive to both the historical surroundings and the building.” That is what keeps so many historical areas looking like this.

  14. It looks like a setting in a fairy tale! Those cobblestone streets, I would surely fall down! You must have felt like you had gone back in time! Picturesque does not begin to describe it!
    Jenna

    1. Absolutely Jenna, Dinan is picture perfect with wonderfully restored ancient buildings, it is very special. You really had to be careful on the cobblestone streets…streets like that occurred often on this trip.

    1. Thank you Allie, I appreciate your kind words. I’m happy to know that you enjoyed the post about Dinan and hope you get a chance to visit someday.

    1. I appreciate your compliment Denise, I’m glad you enjoyed the photos. Dinan does make you feel as though you are visiting in another time.

  15. I haven’t had the opportunity to travel in Brittany yet, but it definitely just went up a few notches on my list! I’m all about medieval history, and I know I would love Dinan. These pictures are stunning, and you can almost imagine that you’re back in medieval times. Thanks so much for sharing!!

  16. Keith and I spent a month in Paris and barely ventured out (just one day trip to Giverny). We’d planned to, but just never ran of things we wanted to see, do and, of course EAT in the city. 🙂 But I really want to spend time exploring rural France. And now I feel so inspired to visit Brittany and particularly, Dinan. It looks like an idyllic little town! Thank you, my friend, for the inspiration!!

    1. Hi Marissa, Paris does seem to cast a spell on people…holding them in that wonderful city. While we love Paris, we have spent most of our time visiting the delightful countryside in France. I know you would definitely enjoy traveling to other regions in France. They all offer such different travel experiences.

  17. One of my regrets from my time living in Paris is that I didn’t travel enough to other parts of France. In particular Brittany. Still regret it, especially when I read about places like this one! Ah well, still not too late, eh?

    1. Hi Frank, I definitely hope it is not too late. I do hope you get the opportunity to visit Brittany, it is a lovely region of France with lots to see and do. Oh and yummy food too. 🙂

  18. How wonderful that you had the chance to go back again and enjoy this simply stunning area! The buildings and towers are so well preserved and give the feeling that time has stood still. Thanks so much for sharing. I for one, have never heard of Dinan but I’m thinking its near Normandy?

    All the best, Karen.

    Jane

    1. Hi Jane, There have been places that I had wanted to visit on our travels but sometimes things don’t work out as planned. Dinan was one of those and I’m happy that we finally got to visit. You are correct, Brittany and Normandy are bordering regions. Many people visit both while they are in this northwestern part of France.

  19. What an awesome trip you have. I spent some time catching up with you and I must say that though I love exploring on my own sometime it is just so nice to have someone else do the planning. Your cruise looked fabulous, this town so quaint and I love merry old England.

    1. Hi Abbe, I appreciate your time spent catching up. Yes, we had a wonderful cruise and I’ll be sharing are adventures over the coming weeks. Thank you so much for your nice comment.

  20. You have made me realise I once visited this city when I was a student! I’ve completely forgotten the name, but I remember it was like an open air museum. Thank you so much for bringing back my memories….

  21. HI Karen! So beautiful!! And I’m glad Dinan was preserved through the WWII. Loved the photo taken from above of the town nestled in the trees. You are an amazing photographer! thanks! xox

  22. I love old architecture and cobblestone streets so much, Karen. Those old half-timber buildings look completely captivating. I’d love to see them in person one day. Thanks for sharing about your trip and about Brittany!!

  23. Karen – one of the things I love most about your blog is that I am constantly -through your eyes- discovering new places of which I’d never heard! Like Dinan! It is saved and added to our French Travel Dreams folder. Thank you!

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