Squeezed in between two rivers converging, lined with a smattering of Art Deco and Beaux-Arts houses, permanently guarded by both a looming citadel and the Wallonian government and home to some of the hippest bars in the country. There are plenty of things to do in Namur to warrant spending a weekend.
Namur is a comfortable one-hour train ride from Brussels, at the heart of southern Belgium, right atop the confluence of two major rivers. Historically this strategic location ensured the city was an important playground for the French, Spanish, Dutch, and later on the Germans during both WWI and WWII.
Rising from the ashes of a turbulent first half of the 20th century, Namur regrouped, rebuilt and transformed into the eclectic city you see today. Dripping with culture, interactive museums, bright blue cable cars with soaring views over the gargantuan citadel and some of the country’s most impressive churches.
Being born and raised in Belgium, it took me an appalling 35 years to visit Namur properly. I warmly encourage you not to make the same mistake and add it to your Belgium itinerary from the get-go! Let’s delve into the various Namur attractions to help you plan your trip.
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Things to do in Namur: Quick Planning Guide
TOP PICKS FOR ACCOMMODATIONS
- Where we stayed: Les Tanneurs
- Sustainable Pick: Le Chateau de Namur
- Most Unique: Vintage Design B&B
- More options: Browse all Namur hotels
HIGHLIGHTS OF NAMUR
- Top activity: Visit the Citadel of Namur
- Favorite museum: Decorative Arts Museum
- Best cocktails: Botanical by Alfonse
- Optional: Guided Walking Tour (4 hours)
USEFUL READING: Browse through all my Belgium Guides
TOURISM OFFICE: Pl. de la Station, 5000 Namur
OFFICIAL TOURISM WEBSITE: Visit Namur and Visit Wallonia
15 Namur attractions to explore
1. Go inside the Citadel of Namur
The crowning jewel of Namur is without a doubt to gargantuan citadel perched atop a soaring mount – 190 meters high, which for flat Belgium is about as close to a mountain as one can get. This unique vantage point has been the site of a Citadel since the 10th century BC and was an important strategic stronghold well into the 20th century.
When I first visited Namur on a rainy day many, many years ago, the citadel was a drab pile of Medieval rocks, which happened to have a great view over the Meuse Valley. Since then much has changed, and the various buildings on the mount have undergone extensive restorations.
To explore the citadel, there are a variety of different options. Tickets can be purchased at the entrance of the Terra Nova visitors center. Check the latest opening hours as well as prices on the official website.
- Terra Nova visitors center: Located in the former military barracks. The visitors center has a scale model of Namur, images and audio testimonials focussing on the history of Namur. (€6/ticket)
- Underground Tunnels: What makes the citadel very worth of visit are the 7km of underground tunnels burrowing underneath the unassuming fortress. Beautifully restored, they tell the history of the citadel and Namur through a set of 3D projections along a portion of the tunnels. Can only be visited as part of a guided tour. (€12/ticket)
- Tourist train with commentary: If you are traveling with children, the 20-minute little train ride around the Citadel Mount is a great way to learn about the history of the citadel and take in some of the most panoramic viewpoints. Departs from the Terra Nova Visitors Center (€6/ticket).
2. Explore the hill surrounding the Citadel of Namur
The mount atop which the colossal citadel is perched has a slew of places to visit, views to capture and readily available benches to plop down for a picnic. My recommendation would be to take the cable cars up to the citadel and opt to walk back down after you visited the Citadel itself.
Meander down the aptly named Route Merveilleuse (Marvelous Route), an easy 20-minute walk will take you from the cable car station at the very top, back down to the River Meuse in front of the Grognon roundabout.
To head down, follow the signs for “Citadelle” until you reach Terra Nova or the visitors center of the citadel. From here look for the little signs reading “Exit”, they will take you to the Route Merveilleuse.
Aside from the uninterrupted views over the Meuse Valley and the entire city of Namur, you are likely to bump into the most famous Namur attraction aside from the citadel: A large golden turtle. This piece of art goes by the name of ‘Searching for Utopia’ and was created by the controversial artist Jan Fabre.
Originally created as part of an exhibition in 2015, locals fell in love with this gargantuan golden statue and decided it should become a permanent fixture. And thus the splendor of Namur is since closely guarded by the unlikeliest of custodians – a larger-than-life gleaming turtle.
Drinks with a view: Enjoy the view with a local beer Blanche de Namur at the brasserie Le Panorama located 100 meters from the cable car stop atop the Citadel Mount.
3. Ride the cable cars
Similar to La Paz, Bolivia, the cable cars in Namur have become somewhat emblematic of the city. They are not the first cable cars to have soared through the air but the third. The original cable cars were commissioned in the late 19th century, connecting the city with the Grand Hotel atop the hill (now known as Le Chateau de Namur Hotel).
Soaring costs saw the funicular railways close in 1907, only to be reopened in 1956. The combination of a threatening 53-ton boulder and an overzealous arsonist forced the cable cars to close once again in 1997. Akin to a cat with nine lives, the cable cars bounced back and were reopened in 2021.
As the little blue cable cars soar up over the River Samber, the panoramic view of the city is projected through their, somewhat smudged, glass panes. While only 8 minutes from start to finish, it is one of my personal favorite Namur attractions.
STARTING POINT | Place Maurice Servais
FEES | Adults – One way €5; Return €7.5 // Children – One way €5; Return €5.5
OPENING HOURS | 10:00 am to 5:00 pm (6:00 pm on Saturday and Sunday)
4. Visit the Cathedral Saint Aubin
For its relatively small size, Namur houses an impressive array of churches, the most grandiose of which is the Cathedral Saint Aubin. This most recent addition, recent being a ‘mere’ 250 years ago, adheres to a classical style of architecture with a generous pinch of baroque influence. I highly recommend taking a peek inside!
The observant few might notice a lone clock tower standing adjacent to the Cathedral. The tower itself is a remnant of the 13th-century church that once graced this square. It is not open to the public.
Legend has it the patron saint of the cathedral i.e. Saint Aubin, was a true chatterbox. So much so, that upon decapitation, his then body-less head continued talking. An ode to this legend can be found in the form of a small beheaded statue nestled inside a nook of the main altar.
FARES | Free
OPENING HOURS | Wednesday to Saturday 08.30 am – 05.00 pm; Sunday 09.30 am – 07.30 pm
LOCATION: Pl. Saint-Aubain, 5000 Namur
Foodie Tip: Grab a drink at the French-style bistro Le Brasserie François or if you are looking for something a bit more rustic head to nearby Le Chapitre, filled to the brim with antique furniture and serving locals beers.
5. Marvel at the Church of Saint Loup
Readers of this blog might know I have a slight fascination with Baroque-style churches. It started in Palermo, Sicily, and has since taken on a life of its own. After scouring most of Europe, this little church in tiny Namur managed to take me by utter surprise. For lack of a better word: Wowza!
Built by the Jesuits in the 17th century, the Church of Saint Loup was meant to impress. As you take a peek inside the large glass doors, take in the ornately carved sandstone ceiling and the abundance of black (Belgian) marble, excavated from a nearby quarry.
Guided tours are available at 3 pm every Saturday. A very active group of volunteers run this church and are renovating various parts of the building currently closed to the public. At present the church does not carry a UNESCO heritage classification, but it would not surprise me if this changes in the next few years.
FARES | Free
OPENING HOURS | Tuesday to Friday 10.00 am – 04.00 pm; Saturday 11.00 am – 04.00 pm
LOCATION | Rue du Collège 17, 5000 Namur
6. Get inspired at the Museum of Decorative Arts of Namur
We stumbled upon this museum completely by accident, and it turned out to be one of my favorite things to do in Namur. Housed in an 18th-century mansion, it is dedicated to showcasing the interior design of the 18th century.
The most impressive portions of the museum are the perfectly preserved kitchen, the sweeping wooden staircase leading to the second floor and the wonderfully tranquil garden. I spent a good 30 minutes oohing and aahing over textured wallpaper, intricately decorated commodes, and tiled walls.
Admittedly, it might not be everyone’s cup of tea. If you are a fan of beautiful architecture, and curious to catch a glimpse into the lives of the 18th-century aristocracy make a beeline for this museum.
FARES | Free
OPENING HOURS | Tuesday to Sunday 10.00 am – 06.00 pm
LOCATION | Rue Joseph Saintraint 3, 5000 Namur
7. Walk the Isaac Cordal Street Art Trail
Galician artist Isaac Cordal proves that the best things in this world come in small sizes. His miniature cement sculptures depict characters in drab costumes carrying out the mundane routines of their day-to-day life. A critique on social inequality, consumerism and climate change are all wrapped up in these pocket-sized little figurines.
The tiny sculptures are dotted around various unexpected urban places all across Europe. No less than 15 have made their way to the streets of Namur. Spot them all while walking the Isaac Cordal Street Art Trail (scroll down the page for the map).
8. Delve further into the Namur street art
STREET ART MAP | The city created a (French) map with various official street art dotted around the city. Download the PDF before heading out.
Street art might be a much lesser-known Namur attraction, yet nonetheless worthwhile exploring! Starting off with the magnificent Fresque des Wallons, a trompe-l’oeil style fresco commissioned by the city in 2014. It contains over 250 references to the cultural heritage of the region (Wallonia).
On the hunt for more unofficial street art? The most prolific street art can be found just off the main train station on the square Leopold (by the eponymous parking). This part of town can get a little dodgy at nightfall, so plan your exploring during the day.
9. Chill out at the Cat Café
A non-negotiable place to visit in Namur for anyone with a heart for cats. Miss Miaouw is a cozy tea room offering a variety of hot beverages, milkshakes and sweet cakes. Recently taken over by new owners, they now also offer a brunch menu.
It was my very first time visiting a cat café, and I was ever so slightly surprised to find prowling felines crawling into my bag for a sniff, jumping on the table for some extra cuddles, or lazily staring at me while I sipped my coffee.
These furry buggers are sociable, love being stroked and most of all are looking for a forever home. That’s right, the cats in the café are all up for adoption!
OPENING HOURS | Wednesday to Sunday 10.30 am – 06.00 pm
LOCATION | Rue des Brasseurs 8
10. Peruse the Art Deco neighborhood of Namur
One of my favorite things to do in a new city is to get lost while taking in the dizzying array of architecture. Oftentimes this leads to wonderous discoveries, and Namur absolutely proved my point.
Rue des Carmes and Rue des Croisieres are a treasure trove of Art Deco, Beaux-Arts and iconic Packet-Boat (Paquebot) architecture. This part of town was extensively rebuilt in the 1930s, at a time when the intricate and costly Art Nouveau style was abandoned for a more functional design.
Aside from snapping hundreds of pictures of architecture, make time to grab a drink in one of the many little bars or hunt down the very best second-hand clothing and vintage furniture that can be picked up at bargain prices.
TOURS | We did a guided tour of the Art Deco neighborhood with a knowledgeable local guide which was very informative!
11. Learn about sustainability at Le NID
“Le NID” is short for Namur Intelligente et Durable. Aside from a café/restaurant overlooking the confluence of the River Samber and Meuse, it houses an interactive space dedicated to the urban expansion of Namur.
As the city continues to expand it has vowed to do so in a more “intelligent and sustainable way”. Through various informative panels, VR headsets and interactive exhibitions, the evolution of the city to date as well as the future plans to curb carbon emissions are shared with visitors.
If you are hardcore into sustainable development, this is the place to be! If not, skip the exhibition and instead grab a café in the downstairs bar instead.
ENTRANCE FEE | Free
OPENING HOURS | Wednesday to Friday 10.00 am – 06.00 pm; Saturday and Sunday 02.00 pm – 06.00 pm
LOCATION | Rue Jean Ciparisse 5
12. Take to the water
The city of Namur was built around the confluence of two important rivers: Samber and Meuse. As such there are endless possibilities to take to the water, some more active (kayak), others a lot more chilled out (Croisière Namur).
Take a river cruise: Croisière Namur has three distinct river cruises costing between €8 and €24 per person. The shortest cruise is a mere 50 minutes, while the longest glides along the river for 3 full hours. Cruises run from April to end of October, check the official website (only in FR) for the exact schedule.
Rent an electric boat: We ended up renting a little electric boat from Les Capitaineries de Namur (only in FR) to cruise along the River Meuse. At a hefty €70/hour for a small boat, this is a more expensive option.
Kayak/Canoe: Les Capitaineries de Namur offers hourly rentals for kayaks and canoes. €10/hour will get you a kayak for one person, while €20/hour is the price for a 2-person kayak.
Hop on a Namourette: The local metro is not underground but along the Rivers Samber and Meuse. Namourette are tiny little boats that connect certain points of the city. Expect to pay €1 per ride (cash only), boats only run between May and September.
13. Go bar hopping in Rue des Brasseurs
When you visit Namur, make sure to set aside some time for bar hopping. The city has the quaintest cafés, many of which are around Rue des Brasseurs and Rue de La Croix.
COCKTAILS: Award-winning cocktails served in a wonderfully cozy setting. Botanical by Alfonse was by far my favorite bar in Namur.
LOCAL BEERS: La Cuve à Biere is a hip bar that serves a host of (craft) beers. Has an ample terrace, great place to chill out, weather permitting.
LIGHT SNACK: We walked by Cagette a handful of times, yet sadly never made it in. Cagette is a Spanish tapas restaurant.
PEOPLE WATCHING: Located in the bustling Rue de La Croix, Limoni is the perfect spot to grab a drink after a day of exploring Namur. Plonk down and watch the locals go about their day.
14. Visit the Félicien Rops Museum
A trip to Namur is not complete without popping into the Félicien Rops Museum. The Belgian Félicien Rops was a painter, illustrator, caricaturist and print maker. While not widely known, he did work with many of the most famous publishers and authors of the 19th century including the French poet Charles Baudelaire.
Félicien is known to have used his talent to illustrate erotic and occult literature circulating in the 19th century. It comes as no surprise that his most famous works are slightly salacious, especially for the conservative mindset in which they were created. Sadly the museum was closed for renovations when we went!
ENTRANCE FEE | €3
OPENING HOURS | Tuesday to Sunday 10.00 am – 06.00 pm
LOCATION | Rue Fumal 12, 5000 Namur
15. Amble along the historical center of Namur
The historical center of Namur is wonderfully walkable and small enough not to worry about getting lost. Start at the central square or Place d’Armes, and spot the iconic duo Djoseph (Joe) and Françwès (Frank) with their pet snails, a reference to the slower pace of life in Namur i.e. snails’ pace.
Find an additional reference to the emblematic snails of Namur on the mural painted by Kahef named “Vive Nameur po tot” (Long live Namur for everyone) in Rue Basse Marcelle 10, mosey on down that very same street to La Maison des Dessert and try the local candy, Bietrume de Namur.
Hunt down 17th-century architecture in Rue Fumal and Rue du Président before grabbing a drink on Place Maurice Servais, Rue des Brasseurs, or Rue de La Croix. Make sure to stop by the most beautiful Art Nouveau façade in Namur on Rue de Fer (number 28).
If you happen to be visiting Namur on Saturday, take in the weekly market spilling out from Place de l’Ange.
Additional places to visit in Namur
The above Namur attractions will give you a solid understanding of both its history and culture. Should you find yourself with a bit more time on your hands, there are a handful of additional things to do.
LA HOUPPE CRAFT BREWERY: The Brasserie de Namur is on the left bank of the River Meuse, located in a historic brewery. It brews a handful of craft beers and offers tastings upon request.
LE BANC GEANT: Cross over the Passerelle L’Enjambée you will immediately see a small green space with a few pieces of art, including a giant bench aptly named “Le Banc Géant“. This 82.000 EUR piece of art forms the perfect spot to have a picnic.
Where to stay in Namur
RECOMMENDATION: Les Tanneurs ($$)
We stayed here and particularly loved the central location, on-site parking, good breakfast (!) and the beautiful renovation work done, converting older buildings into a modern hotel.
SUSTAINABLE PICK: Le Chateau de Namur ($$$)
Perched atop the hill, right next to the Citadel of Namur lies the former home of the Count of Namur, now transformed into a beautiful hotel. Surrounded by a lush forest, it is by far the most special place to stay in Namur.
BOUTIQUE B&B: Vintage Design B&B ($$)
A fully equipped apartment complete with a large garden, a terrace and free on-site bicycles. Located in a renovated 1930s building and beautifully decorated to form a warm and inviting place to stay in Namur.
What to eat & drink in Namur: Local specialties
BIETRUME DE NAMUR: A caramel and hazelnut candy. Can only be found in two places around the city. purchased ours in La Maison des Desserts
AVISANCE: A warm sausage wrapped in crispy pastry. Can be found at the majority of bakeries dotted around town. Sadly I did not see any place that offered a vegetarian version.
BLANCHE DE NAMUR: This light (4.5%) white beer is widely available across the city. Perfect refreshment on a hot day. Aroma’s lemon sorbet, banana, fresh fruity hop notes and wheat
HOUPPE BEER: Locally brewed in Jambes, while a few different varieties are available. The original, Triple Blonde (7.5%) is my favorite.
Where to eat and drink in Namur
It is important to note that traditional Belgian cuisine is heavily reliant on meat. These days most of the brasseries will have a handful of vegetarian options on the menu.
ATELIER BOSSIME: Located a 10-minute drive outside of the city center, Atelier Bossime offers a fine-dining experience in a renovated farm. This farm-to-table restaurant uses locally sourced, seasonal ingredients and transforms them into innovative dishes. Vegan/Vegetarian/GF available. Lunch & Dinner
PAON DU JOUR: Set in the heart of the city and run by lovely young women. The restaurant focuses on using locally sourced ingredients to make delicious vegetarian and vegan dishes. Has a small exhibition space for local artists. Vegan/Vegetarian/GF available. Only open for brunch/lunch.
LA MAISON DES DESSERTS: This little place was absolutely packed to the refers on Saturday morning during brunch time. Great place for families with kids.
Dinant or Namur
In recent years, Dinant has become a very popular tourist attraction in Belgium. The trinity of colorful houses, watery reflections and a picturesque medieval church makes for the perfect “social media-worthy” snapshot.
Dinant in itself is a lovely city, it is the birthplace of Adolph Sax (yep the man who invented the saxophone), has a quaint historical center, and is the epicenter for kayaking in Belgium. Additionally, it is also very close to both the Vêves and Walzin Castle, both of which are dubbed the “Hogwarts Castles” of Belgium.
That being said, Dinant is a bolthole. With a mere 14.000 inhabitants, it does not hold a candle to the capital of the region, Namur. If you are coming on a weekend- or day trip from Brussels, Dinant is further afield and harder to reach than Namur both by train and by car.
Is visiting Namur worth it?
While Namur might not be your first stop in Belgium, it is definitely worth tacking on to your itinerary, if you have some additional time. The city is brimming with southern Belgian culture, distinctly different from the northern part of the country.
There are plenty of things to do in Namur to easily fill up an entire weekend: Whizz up the hill on the blue cable cars, explore the tunnels under the Namur Citadel, mozy around de Rue de Carmes on the lookout for Art Deco architecture and step inside baroque heaven in the Church of Saint Loup.
Have some more time on your hands? Be sure to venture further into the Wallonia region, it has plenty of hikes, castles and quaint villages dotted around to keep you occupied!
MORE TRAVEL RESOURCES FOR VISITING BELGIUM
Belgium: Beautiful places in Belgium to add to your bucket list
Belgium: 16 Castles you can actually stay in Belgium
Brussels: Local guide on which areas to stay, and which ones to avoid!
Brussels: Two-day itinerary for the perfect weekend in Brussels
Antwerp: How to spend a weekend in Antwerp
Further afield: Visiting Vianden Castle in Luxembourg