Durbuy is a postcard-pretty town located on the edge of the Ardennes, on the banks of the Ourthe River. It’s a favourite of visitors to Wallonia, for its tiny cobbled streets and timber-frame houses. It was also the recipient of the prestigious EDEN prize for European Destinations of Excellence, in 2003. It can get rather crowded and touristy on a sunny Sunday, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t visit. In fact we have 7 great reasons to visit Durbuy, Belgium.
1. The Quirky Factor
We aren’t above visiting a place just because there is something weird or quirky about it. (We detoured to Bitche, France just because of the name.) There’s plenty of quirky in Belgium and Durbuy is a great example. The town became famous for touting itself as the “Plus petit ville du monde,” (The smallest city in the world). This status dates from 1331 when the town was elevated to the rank of city by John I, Count of Luxemburg, and King of Bohemia. Even though the population dropped to a few hundred residents, Durbuy kept its designation. However, the moniker doesn’t exactly hold true anymore. In 1977, Durbuy amalgamated with 40 surrounding villages. As of January 2012, the total population was 11,207.
2. The Topiary Park
This fun little park could easily fall into the ‘quirky’ category, but it deserves to stand on its own. The Durbuy Topiary Garden is dedicated to the art of pruning trees into complex shapes. The majority of the topiaries are box hedges and the shapes range from animals and birds to people and abstract shapes. There are more than 250 topiaries in the garden, some of which are over 120 years old. A few of our favourites included: Pamela Anderson at the beach, the giant elephant, kayakers and the green Mannekin Pis. Admission is 4.50 for adults and it will take you about an hour to tour the garden.
3. Durbuy Beer
Exploring the country through Belgian Beer is a popular way to see Belgium. Durbuy is no exception, with not just one, but two local brews. The first (and only true) local beer is Marckloff, from Braserie La Ferme au Chêne. This amber beer is fermented in the bottle and is unfiltered. It is truly traditional beer, produced on-site and only sold here. The Brasserie offers guided tours on brewing days and you can do a tasting for 3€. Or enjoy a bottle of Marckloff with your meal on the brasserie terrace.
The other ‘local’ beer is Durboyse and I use the quotation marks because, despite its name, it’s not actually brewed in Durbuy. Durboyse has been brewed since 1986 by the brasserie Lefèbvre in Quenast. Durboyse comes in three different varieties: Blond, Brown and Triple and is available locally in cafes and shops. (Find out more about Belgium’s favourite beverage on our Guide to Belgian Beer and Breweries in Belgium page. )
4. Shopping for Local Products
Speaking of local shops, if you are looking for Wallonian products we found the jackpot in Durbuy. La Vraie Confiture du Durbuy shop is a treasure trove of artisanal products from around the region. The shop is operated by the Confituerie Saint Amour (see below), hence the name, but you’ll find so much more than jams in this shop. We spent ages poring over products we had no idea were made in Belgium. In addition to the jams, there was a wide variety of alcoholic products, from the Durboyse beer to local liqueurs and wines (we’ll have post on these coming soon!). We found tea, honey, spices, sweets and more, all made in Wallonia. It’s an excellent place to go if you’re looking for unique foodie gifts from Belgium.
Address: 7 Rue Eloi, 6940 Durbuy
5. Tasting Artisanal Jams
In addition to their incredible shop in the centre of Durbuy, you can also visit the Confituerie Saint Amour’s artisanal jam factory. As we visited on a Sunday, there was no jam-making in progress, but we did get a peek at the kitchen. There is also a shop on site here. In addition to a wide variety of jams (including sugar-free options) there are chutneys, vinegars, honey, mustard, and even medicinal products.
Address: 13 rue Saint-Amour,6940 Durbuy
6. Outdoor Activities
The Ardennes are a hub for outdoor activities and Durbuy makes a great base. With ample parking lots just outside the centre, we spotted lots of folks setting off for long walks beside the River Ourthe. We also saw families enjoying the river itself in various ways, including canoeing, rafting and kayaking. The area is also a base for horseback riding, geo-caching and mountain-biking. You can find more details about sporting activities in Durbuy on the tourism website.
7. Enjoy a picnic
With all of the great local products available and wide grassy parks along the Ourthe River, Durbuy makes a great picnic spot. We enjoyed a lunch of local cheese and salami, while soaking up some much-needed sun. If you are looking for a more formal lunch, Durbuy’s centre is home to many restaurants with sunny terraces. Check out Trip Advisor’s top picks for inspiration.
Stay tuned for more posts about our yummy Wallonian foodie finds in Durbuy.
For more great castle articles, be sure to visit our Castles in Belgium page where you’ll find links to all of the castles in our little country.
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