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Namur is the capital of Wallonia, the French part of Belgium, and although it has as a snail for a symbol, visiting is anything but boring and slow. Whether you are an architecture junkie or a bon-vivant who prefers to chill in the traditional cafes, Namur can cater to every taste. The city is full of history and the Namurois are not afraid to show it, so grab a local beer and get familiar.
Namur is actually situated at the confluence between these two rivers, which makes it very pleasant to visit the city by water. There is a guided tour that shows landmarks such as the Wallonian Parliament and the Élysette (seat of the Wallonian government). The similarity to the Elysée, the seat of the French government, is not random, as the two regions entertained very good relations at the time the Belgian monument was built. Notice also the famous Jambes Bridge, which is said to date back to Roman times. If you choose to take a bigger trip all the way to Wépion, where Belgian strawberries are produced, you can see more greenery and the beautiful villas, one of which is owned by the famous Belgian tennis player Justine Henin.
The uniqueness of this monument is due to the fact that it is one of the few citadels in Europe that have been so well preserved. However, its also special due to the richness of its past: the military architecture reveals every historical period from the Middle Ages to the 20th century. Because it is located on a hill, this is arguably the best place to have a panoramic view of the city, while enjoying a pleasant walk throughout the area’s vast and diversified nature.
One of this artist’s most famous works, La Mort Qui Dance (‘Dancing Death’, 1878) was inspired by the Gothic Romantic works of Charles Baudelaire, with whom he had an intimate relationship. According to the French poet, there were no artists at the time in this country, apart from Rops. The painter also ended up creating the illustration for Les Epaves, the section of Baudelaire’s masterpiece Les Fleurs Du Mal that had been banned in his home country. For this, Rops drew a skeleton-tree whose roots were plunged in a soil of human sins.
The Ratin Tot celebrated its 400th birthday in 2016, and has already launched its own beer, the Ratin 16, to celebrate the occasion. The flavor is very light, which makes it a refreshing drink for good weather (although the alcohol percentage is an average 7.5). If you prefer a stronger flavor, the Saint Joseph, also a speciality from the city, has one that is wonderful and complex. Another excellent option here is the Poire Cognac, a sweet and dry liquor much like the well-known Peket (Wallonian name for Genever), except for its distinct, rich flavour.
Although some of the pedestrian streets in the center are very lively and full of cafés and shops, visitors can always slip away and relax inside a courtyard here and there. Other streets are quieter, like Rue Fumal and Rue du Président, and allow visitors to admire the colourful buildings from the 17th and 18th centuries, fully restored. Rue des Brasseurs, which used to be the main street of Namur in the Middle Ages, is now an eclectic mix of small offices, as well as modest and not so modest buildings.
A long stroll up Rue de L’Ange and Rue de Fer is a great idea for a sunny day. These are broad streets with all kinds of shops, and also a few snack joints for a quick break. Stop at Maison Saint Aubin for a traditional Avisance: warm sausage wrapped in crispy pastry. And then move into the narrower streets of the centre for some more alternative findings. Scotch and Soda is particularly worth seeing; this clothing store is located inside what used to be a church, and has preserved some of its original ornaments.
In Place d’Armes, the statue of the famous snail can be found, the unofficial symbol of the city. Next to it you can also see Françwès and Djoseph, two figures invented by the painter and cartoonist Jean Legrand, which represent the tranquil philosophy of the people here. If you are tired from all the sight-seeing you can have some mussels in the Café Central, a little pub with wooden walls where many locals of different ages choose to hang out.
This is a great place to taste some of the traditional local dishes. Start with a house appetiser: a drink made of cherry wine and kirsch (cherry liquor). Sit back and enjoy the decoration, mainly red and white, with twists that are reminiscent of a Parisian kitchen in the 1950s. Have a frisée salad with lardons (small bits of bacon), poached egg and vinegar sauce. Then, the famous Jamboneau: knuckle end of leg of pork cooked with Macon wine and roasted with Béarnaise sauce. Things wouldn’t be complete without a bottle of Caracole (another traditional beer from Namur).
Both are imposing pieces of architecture. Saint Loup was built in 1621 and is a beautiful example of the Baroque period, with influences of the Italian Renaissance. The sandstone ceiling, red marble columns and the overall greyish tones give it a colourful glow. Saint-Aubin, on the other hand, is a monumental example of the Classical style. Behind the altar is a memorial to Don John of Austria. After a brilliant military career he was named governor of the Low Countries (currently the Netherlands) in 1576. He later died of typhus in the countryside of Namur.
This is where the famous beer of the same name used to be made. Although it is no longer brewed by monks, you can still observe the traditional lifestyle of the monks who live here, in a place of calm and reflection. The abbey is beautiful and surrounded by immense greenery, where visitors can bike and walk. The tourist center welcomes guests, both religious or not. And at the restaurant there is, of course the possibility of having the Maredsous beer and cheese, as well as other dishes.