An hour tranquil train ride heading south from Brussels is a picturesque city in the French-speaking region of Wallonia. Going to Namur the day after Brussels turned out to be rather refreshing; alternating the days between the capital’s hustle and bustle and the southern town’s laid back ambience.
The fully geared local train conductor in the very quintessential representation of his job, perfect for a look book. Pretty uncanny resemblance to this guy on the Polar Express, don’t you agree?
Namur — of cobbled pathways, congregation of Gothic monuments forming narrow yet inviting alleyways, and notably the robust citadel atop of a hill pinned to the corner at the crossings of two rivers, Sambre and Meuse (photos below).
Arriving on a Sunday morning, we were met with the good and bad. The bad — the city was in almost complete shutdown. All stores and shops were closed for the day (including the Citadel!), and only certain restaurants and cafés opened their doors shortly before lunch time. The good — the town was clear of pedestrians quite entirely, giving unobstructed, picture-perfect views of the façade.
Behind this charismatic city is a history of long drawn-out conflicts and wars. Due to its vantage point at the crossings of two rivers connecting to the riches of northern Belgium, Namur has suffered rounds of invading armies over hundreds of years, causing the citadel especially to be seized, battered and patched up time after time. Any significant remnants in the city now becomes tourist attractions.
The highlight, of course, is the citadel — built with double walls, it was meant to function as a city in the event of a war. The fortress covers a whole craggy hilltop with ramparts, tunnels and sections of grey outer wall. All round great views, more so from a section known as Château des Comtes and the café Le Panorama.
Open everyday from 9am to 6pm, except Sundays. The open areas are free to access at any time, with the entrance on the steep slopes from Rue des Moulins or via a stairway from Place St-Hilaire. Six daily shuttles (return €3) run between the train station and Terra Nova. Alternatively, take the hourly bus 3 to the Château de Namur and stroll downhill from there.
The essence of the city is captured pretty much in the photo above — extremely relaxed, so much so that Namur’s official symbol is the snail, relating to the local’s embrace of the slower pace in life. Although, this representation can be easily taken for the delectable timeless French cuisine, escargot.
WHERE TO EAT IN NAMUR: BODART BRASSERIE
Right next to Place d’Armes, Bodart serves freshly baked goods favoured by both visitors and locals; you name it and this surprising boulangerie bakes it; surprising because it defies the classic traveler principle that any restaurant or café situated near tourist landmarks are usually tourist traps. I’d give Bodart 4 out of 5.
Saving the best of Belgium for last – the medieval town of Bruges.