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My GPS is set – Dinan France the final destination. It leads me along narrow country lanes past tiny villages where men carry baguettes tucked under an arm and sheep graze by the roadside. The customary roundabout (rond-point) spits me out on the far side and I dawdle on towards my destination, thrilled to understand every fifth word on the radio.
I have chosen to housesit for six weeks in Brittany, France and it is delivering its fair share of adventure and exploration. I savour rural French life with its leisurely pace, markets and emerald fields yielding produce in winter. Feeling rather French, I linger over café crèmes at corner bistros and search out local cider at the Intermarché.
Partaking in all this “joie de vivre,” I discover I have a new obsession. Well, perhaps more than one.
Galettes, warm and delectable, are number one.
But running a close second?
Not men in berets (although it should be).
Not cheap, exquisite wine (although this is a close contender).
This obsession holds a secret charm over me.
It has me driving all over Brittany.
I am captivated by medieval towns.
Their uneven cobblestones and lopsided houses delight my quirky nature.
Castles, dungeons and age-old ramparts? My imagination sprints to knights jousting and princesses gazing out from castle towers.
I breathe deeply in my medieval places. I want to truly be part of this, not just passing through. 21st-century life unfolds in the same square as it did 800 years ago. I deliberately try to comprehend the passage of time.
Dinan France feeds my medieval craving. I spend a day there solo and return to spend several days with my sister-in-law and niece. What better way to explore this town, three explorer princesses, curiously ambling and sinking into the gem that is Dinan France.
Things To Do In Dinan, France
1. Soak Up Dinan’s Artsy Vibe
He greets me on my first visit, conducting the world from his perch. He leans into the classic slate rooftops of Dinan France, inviting exploration.
2. Dinan France |See All The Half-Timbered Houses
Of all the things to do in Dinan France, the crooked, half-timbered houses are a must. They abound in Dinan. Place des Merciers, the main triangular square, is the heart of the medieval town. Could stepping back in time look any more amazing?
Note: In 2019 there was a disastrous fire in Dinan France which destroyed some of the oldest buildings. Read more here.
3. Medieval Dinan | Stroll The Cobblestone Streets
I wander down steep Rue du Jerzual which hums with artists’ shops and creativity. I browse unique creations by painters, sculptors and ceramists peering through tiny, low doorways wishing for more room in my backpack.
4. Dinan France | Photograph The Façades
One of my favourite things to do in Dinan France is to photograph the intricate, antique doorways. The shutters, wrought iron, historical plaques, stonework and greenery mid-winter are a photographer’s dream.
5. Amble Along The Ramparts In Dinan Brittany
Walk along medieval Dinan’s 13th-century ramparts counting the ten guard towers and four gates into the city. Marvel at the views. All enemies could be seen approaching.
6. Climb La Tour de L’Horloge (The Bell Tower)
It has been watching over Dinan France since the 1400s, ringing out as time passes and providing panoramic views.
Emerging from yet another winding street, I use the bell tower to get my bearings.
7. Dinan France | Get Lost In The Alleyways
I can almost hear them hawking their wares. It is not hard to imagine the fishmongers on rue de Poissonniers and the wool workers on rue de la Lainerie. Different times beg different wares. Twisting, antique streets in Dinan France now bustle with 21st-century bars and tourist shops.
8. Dinan France | Walk The Pathways By The River Rance
Strolling by the River Rance invites a relaxed vibe. There are pathways, cafés, crêperies (try the local speciality of galettes and cider) and a marina full of sailboats. This ancient stone bridge connects Dinan and Lanvallay as does the ten-arched viaduct.
The thought of sailing from Dinan France to Saint-Malo is very enticing.
9. Find The Tucked Away Corners
I keep my eyes on alert. There are gardens, where a hint of colour is exploding mid-February, cobbled laneways and doorways that beg to be examined.
There are so many things to do in Dinan France. Give yourself plenty of time. It is bliss for an explorer, satisfying all medieval obsessions!
“Time stands still
best in moments
that look suspiciously
What’s your favourite medieval town? Your travel obsession?
More Travel Info…
The DinanTourist Office:
The Tourist Bureau at 9 rue du Château has helpful maps and guides to direct your visit to the city. The walking maps are a great place to start.
Getting To Dinan:
By Car: Dinan is about a 50-minute drive from Mont-Saint-Michel and about 40 minutes from Saint-Malo.
By Train: If coming from Mont-Saint-Michel, take the bus to Pontorson and from Pontorson take the train to Dinan. This involves a switch in Rennes or Dol-de-Bretagne.
From Saint-Malo, there is a train service with a switch in Dol-de-Bretagne.
From Rennes, there are direct trains to Dinan.
By Boat: From Saint-Malo, it’s about a 6 hour day trip.
Dinan France Market Day:
Thursday mornings see Place du Guesclin full of stalls selling delicious food, flowers, shoes, scarves, toys and other goods. It is lively and there is a wonderful sense of community.
Through Home Away, we found a renovated, medieval place in Lanvallay. The second-floor apartment was charming with lovely views. A fantastic location.
There are plenty of hotels in Dinan as well.