Dinan is without doubt one of the most attractive and best preserved small towns in Brittany. With its 1.8 mile (3km)-long ramparts, half-timbered houses, attractive port and cobbled streets filled with art galleries and craft shops, it’s worth a day of anyone’s time.
The most attractive part of Dinan is arguably its port, which is where you’ll arrive if you take a boat from Dinard or Saint-Malo. The quay is lined with old stone houses, many of which are now waterside restaurants and chandlers’ shops. Take a walk along the old towpath or cross the 15th-century stone bridge to Lanvallay to find out about life on the river in the Maison de la Rance discovery centre. Wherever you are, you won’t miss the 131ft (40m)-high viaduct.
Arts and crafts
From the port, make your way up the steep Rue du Petit-Fort, which was Dinan’s main point of access until the 18th century. This cobbled hill with its half-timbered houses appears on many a postcard; have a browse in the arts and crafts shops. Dinan has been designated a Ville d’Art et d’Histoire (Town of Art and History) and the town is filled with artists, sculptors, engravers, bookbinders, glassblowers and more.
The old town
Dinan’s old town is a warren of narrow streets where it appears that time has stood still. The quaintest part is Place des Merciers where you’ll find the best examples of the town’s half-timbered houses; just opposite is the pedestrianised Rue de la Cordonnerie, also known as ‘thirsty street’ as it has nine bars.
To get your bearings, climb the 158 steps to the top of the 40m (132ft)-high Tour de l’Horloge for wonderful views over Dinan and the surrounding area – you can see as far as Mont-Saint Michel on a clear day. Nearby Place du Guesclin is the site of the Thursday-morning market.
The 13th-century castle now houses the town’s museum and this is the best place to start a tour of the magnificent ramparts, 8804ft (2684m) long, which are the oldest and most impressive in Brittany. Dinan holds the Fête des Remparts medieval festival each July.