Isn’t it when we travel we notice how small a place in the world we take up? It certainly is the case for me. It was even more the case when I finally visited the smallest city in the world which is Durbuy in Belgium. I had been wanting to go for such a long time but never did for I don’t know what reason because Durbuy is definitely worth a visit. Let me tell you all about how my visit to Durbuy went and give you my top tips of things to do when in Durbuy.
- How To Get To Durbuy Belgium
- What to do in Durbuy
- My Amazing 1 Day Durbuy Itinerary
How To Get To Durbuy Belgium
Well as you can probably guess getting to Durbuy is not the most simple of tasks but a worthy task. This is indeed because of its size but also where it is located. Durbuy is located in the province of Luxembourg Belgium, quite in the heart of the Ardennes. The Ardennes is a region in Belgium, Germany and Luxembourg that has kilometers long of greenery, hills and very cute villages and cities. Perfect for a city break if you ask me!
Getting To Durbuy Via Public Transport
Even though Durbuy isn’t located as easily as for example Brussels they have made it easier to access the smallest city in the world with multiple parkings surrounding the city and a shuttle bus.
It’s this shuttle but that is vital for those of you who want to visit Durbuy using public transport. This shuttle travels between the trainstation of Barvaux and Durbuy. The train station of Barvaux is the closest train station to Durbuy so that is where you should plan your trip to when traveling via public transport.
Now as far as I have found you can do the trip by bus as well but then you have to plan on staying in Durbuy or in the area for a couple days because it could take quite a long time to get to Durbuy as far as I’ve seen. You’ll have numerous lay-overs and waiting periods which makes the trip really long when coming from Brussels.
Traveling To Durbuy By Car
When traveling to Durbuy by car, which I personally highly recommend, getting to Durbuy gets a little easier. I decided on the car option and made a road trip out of it. Before I even continue on telling you about the many parking options near Durbuy, I have to tell you about my drive there.
Driving through the Ardennes is quite the experience. Yes of course, the views are beautiful! Extraordinary greenery to be seen as far as the eye can look. Amazing truly. However the Ardennes have many hills and you need to go up and down quite a few of them to get to Durbuy, at least I did. The roads are small and the turns can be quite sharp, so be warned. There was a point in time where all four of my wheels were at a different height. I wasn’t kidding when I said it was a little easier. You still come face to face with the curves and heights of the Ardennes.
Anyways when traveling to Durbuy by car you have a multitude of options to park as there are many parkings surrounding Durbuy. You can’t effectively park your car in Durbuy, but you can get as close as 200m from the oldtown of Durbuy which is really good if you ask me. Almost all parkings are paid parkings where you can only pay with coins as far as I could see. Be sure to have some change when going so you can fill the meter for as long as you want to marvel at the beauty that is Durbuy.
There is one parking that is free which is called Parking Pré Georis. This parking is located a little further than all the other ones, but you can walk to Durbuy in about five minutes. I didn’t find the walk up that bad to be honest. It was a great opportunity to soak up the greenery I had been driving through to get to Durbuy.
If you don’t want to walk from the parking to the centre you can also wait for the shuttle bus that comes by every 10 minutes or depending on the season. It will take you to the bridge in Durbuy which is a perfect starting location to explore Durbuy. Do be mindful of what time the last shuttle leaves as the times and frequency changes depending on the season.
What to do in Durbuy
Even though Durbuy prides itself in being the smallest city in the world there are still plenty of things to do in and definitely around Durbuy. So being bored during your Durbuy visit is truly an accomplishment because there are so many places to visit in Durbuy.
List of Durbuy Activities
Hiking in Durbuy
There is a trail that starts in Durbuy that takes you up to a lookout point with literal breathtaking views. Of course there are many more trails however they will take you through the surrounding areas and not just begin and end in Durbuy. Well, you can make it a round trip of course but the one I just mentioned won’t take you out of Durbuy at all. The other ones can.
Cycling in Durbuy
If hiking is not your thing you can also cycle through Durbuy. This will take you to the surrounding area which is beautiful and I imagine challenging too.
Water Sport in Durbuy
Durbuy is right next to the river Ourthe which is a side stream of the Meuse. It’s possible to kayak on the river as I saw some people doing it and also saw a sign of where you can rent a kayak. The sign was nearby Parking Pré Georis. I can’t tell you the price of renting a kayak as that is something I am not into as the water was not blue. We’ll get to the only watersport I did in a minute.
Durbuy Adventure Valley
If you really like adventures but don’t want to go all over Durbuy to find them then Durbuy Adventure Valley is for you. They have all sorts of things for you to do from an escape room to a zipline and of course the actual Adventure Park where you can test your physical abilities in a whole range of different ways.
A fun fact about the Zipline in Adventure Valley is that it’s the longest one in the Benelux. (The Benelux is a political economical region made up of The Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg.)
The day passes for Adventure Valley start from €16,- for kids between 4 and 6 to €38,- for 12 and older. What I personally find fantastic about their pricing is if you are with someone who is just along for the company but doesn’t want to partake in any of the activities then you can buy them a visitors pass of €6,-. That way they can still go everywhere and be part of the fun without having to pay for something they are not using.
My Amazing 1 Day Durbuy Itinerary
Of course we have to start at the center point of Durbuy which is the old town. A word that is most used to describe the old town of Durbuy is cute and they are not wrong. The old town certainly does not disappoint in cuteness but also not in authenticity. It still has medieval cobblestone streets everywhere. Not only in terms of pavement but also the way the buildings have been built.
The streets are narrow, kind of giving you a village feel instead of that of a city. I do have to admit that this could be due to our, or just my, bias to associate cities with lots of lights, traffic and general buzzing. While in the old town of Durbuy all you will find is people walking calmly enjoying themselves, even the cars passing on the main road aren’t noticeable in the streets of the oldtown. You might spot a few people with a bike in hand but all other traffic is definitely foot traffic.
In the oldtown you will find shops selling popular local items as souvenirs, jewelry and clothing shops but also bars and restaurants of which one will get a special mention as it really sticks out. But my favourite thing about small narrow streets is finding small ice cream shops. I know this is weird but I just love it. In Durbuy there are two ice cream shops, both selling very unique flavors that have been churned right there as far as I’ve been told since I was there on a warm summer day. It was of course a treat to see. (I couldn’t actually have any because of dietary restrictions having to do with me becoming sick, but that didn’t stop me from wandering in and having a look so I could tell you all about it. Therefore when you go have a scoop in my name!)
As Durbuy is the smallest city in the world there of course aren’t that many streets to the oldtown of Durbuy but that doesn’t make it any less impressive. When you reach one of the many ‘’entrance/exit’’ points of Durbuy oldtown you will often be met with a main road leading in or out of Durbuy depending on what side you are going. Except for one or two which will lead you to an impressive street of restaurants.
Restaurants & Bars* in Durbuy
If you’re thinking ‘’smallest city in the world’’ so they probably only have a couple of restaurants as not a lot of people live there then you are super mistaken. Even though there are only about 400 people living in Durbuy, the amount of places they have to have breakfast, lunch and dinner at is enough to choose a different one for every meal for maybe a week or two? Maybe even three? Either way the point is, you can eat and eat very well in Durbuy.
There are plenty of stand alone restaurants but also restaurants that are part of a hotel. The majority of them you can find on that street that I just mentioned. You’ll have rows of restaurants to choose from on both sides of the street. It kind of resembles a square which is also what it is called by them but the reality of it is that it’s a street that ends on a square on both ends. I do have to admit that on one side you have more to go options such as Belgian fries and on the other more sit down and have lunch/dinner options. If you’re not in the mood to have Belgian cuisine you can definitely dine with other cuisines as well.
When you are not in the mood for lunch or dinner but just need to quench your thirst there are plentiful bars there as well. But do make sure to also take a look in the oldtown of Durbuy as there you can find a bar that is a must visit if you ask me. Not only that, you will also find more unique restaurants to choose from!
I told you a minute ago that there is one bar that sticks out like a sore eye in the street view of the old town of Durbuy. This bar is called Tortuga Bar. It has a Caribbean pirate theme and they were not shy with their decorations. I believe in this case a picture says more than a thousand words so I’m going to let you look for yourself as to how this bar makes itself very known in Durbuy.
Just for the record the bar is indeed very fun and should definitely be included in your durbuy itinerary, no matter how many days you’re going.
Roche d’Omalius or Roche à la Falize
This rock formation forms the highest point of Durbuy. It is a part of a park with UNESCO world heritage recognition and thus definitely worth taking a look at. Honestly you can’t miss it as it’s huge!! Apart from being huge it’s also incredibly old, nothing can grow tall overnight now can it? The rock formation is over or about 300 million years old.. Take a minute to grasp that..
It would seem like there is not much to see but the rock but actually you are able to hike up and get to the highest point of Durbuy. Let me tell you that I highly recommend it.
Observation Tower Belvedère
I have to be completely honest here and say that visiting this tower is worth it to see it but the conditions to go up the tower and have an even better view of the area of Durbuy is not. In order to go up the observation tower you have to join the tourist train that drives up there.
It is recommended to not walk up to the tower as it’s a pretty steep walk up. They are correct in saying that the walk up the hill to the tower is indeed incredibly steep. However if you don’t want to hike up Roche à la Falize, your only option is to take the other side and walk up. I didn’t want to hike because I wasn’t wearing appropriate hiking shoes. Now of course the recommendation based on the steepness is valid but I do wonder whether it is also there to drive up sales for the tourist train.
Another important point is that I had read that the observation deck is open when the train is running. I saw the train coming and going several times and had looked up that it would keep going till five o’clock ish in the afternoon. I went up to the tower a little over 2PM and found myself in front of a closed gate. Yes the tower is on a gated land in the middle of what appears to be a residential area of Durbuy.
Another couple also arrived and saw the closed gate and were wondering the same thing as me, is the tower closed after all? They rang at the house across the street from the tower and the nice lady living there informed us that the tower is only open when the tourist train is actually present, which was more true than we could’ve imagined. A couple minutes later we heard the train coming and I asked the driver if we could pay and enter the tower upon which he explained that the only way to enter the tower is when you have also taken a ride with the train. There’s no option to pay at the tower to go up.
It wasn’t all bad though the train driver was very nice and did allow me onto the land to see over the edge which also gave me great views of the surrounding area. Once everyone is done going up and down the tower he locks the gate back up and goes on to finish the ride. So you do indeed need him to open the gate.
I had been doubting whether to take a ride with the train in order to be able to also go up the Belvedère tower but ultimately decided against it as I wanted other experiences.
Parc Des Topiaires
When you follow the main road from the bridge entering Durbuy when you come from the parking, you will walk straight over to another bridge of which to its left you can see Topiaires park. It is located beautifully by the river Ourthe. I of course have a biased opinion as parks generally look more beautiful in the sun.
The park itself is beautiful and the topiary is quite extraordinary but nothing I had not seen before. This made me come to the conclusion to not buy a ticket to wander the full park. Now you might be wondering how can I say that the park is beautiful when I didn’t enter it? Well I walked up the hill where the park is located and I could see straight into the park and could identify lots of the topiary from there already. There’s another way I saw quite a bit of the park which I will share with you a little later.
One thing that was really amazing that I actually had not found online is that near the Topiary park in Durbuy you have a parking lot that has day passes. All the other parkings that I had passed either while effectively in Durbuy or the ones I had looked up online where pay by the hour. The price for this parking is €7,-. I can’t tell you whether it is more economical than the pay by the hour parkings but I can say that it will give you peace of mind not having to worry about what time you need to top up the meter!
When going to Parc Des Topiaires you will pass Durbuy Castle which really is mostly visible all over town. It majestically reminds you of the medieval times Durbuy went through with a castle being the center and the ‘’towns people’’ living near it. And let’s be honest, would a medieval town be as medieval without a castle to look up to?
The castle is currently privately owned by the Ursel Family and as far as I could tell while being there, there are no tours or anything being offered. Believe me, I walked as far round the castle as I possibly could to see if there was some kind of entrance that was open to the public but to no avail. I guess the mystery of what happens in medieval castles shall remain undisclosed for now. It is kind of poetic that way as well as the ‘’regular towns people’’ also didn’t quite know what was going on in the castles.
As I was walking out of Durbuy I decided not to walk over the main bridge but take a more scenic route alongside the river. Told you I did some watersport. This is how I got to see quite a bit more of the Topiary park that I was just telling you about. Walking near the Ourthe is rather peaceful, not as peaceful as walking by the Seine but still peaceful. There was one thing that stood out which I must tell you about. Along the river there are stairs where you can go down and enter the water. In a way this is rather convenient but then again this also seems rather inviting for people to go for a random swim. I don’t know whether you can but it doesn’t seem all too safe to be honest.
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Castle Of Petit Somme
This castle is about 10 minutes away from Durbuy by car. I want to start by saying of all things on the Durbuy itinerary this experience is the one I think back to the most. Radhadesh castle is stunning right from the moment that you drive up to it.
The part that has me wanting to go back is the wonderful tour I got of the castle. I lucked out because I managed to get a private tour. It was the last one of the day and no other people were there. So LUCKY! I am a naturally incredibly shy and introverted person so speaking up in big groups of people is something I think about a zillion times before doing. However with it being just me and my guide I got to ask all my questions and learn so much about the Hare Krishna which are now the owners of the castle.
The tour duration: 1.5 hours
Tour cost: €6.-
The castle has a really really rich history dating back all the way to the 11th Century. It has been in the hands of Kings, Aristocrats and Brokers. It even has been made equal to the ground it stands on. The guide at the castle did an amazing job of explaining the history of the castle starting from the beginning all the way to where the castle is now. I personally find it beautiful that even though the current use of the castle can be a guide on its own, the full history is included while also sharing the Hare Krishna with you.
As I have mentioned a couple of times without any explanation before, the current owner of the castle is the ISKCON which stands for ‘’The International Society for Krishna Consciousness’’. Learning about the Hare Krishna movement, their beliefs and way of life has been very inspiring. It definitely made me stand still at some practices in my own life and revisit some of my ways of thinking.
I highly recommend adding the Radhadesh castle to your Durbuy itinerary. Not only is the tour a wonderful experience which you will probably remember for a lifetime, the surrounding grounds of the Castle Of Petit Somme are beautiful as well. In front of the castle they have this beautifully kept flower garden. When you walk to the side of the castle you will find another garden filled with roses. Now I have to say that I am biased as I love roses so that one I found a little more beautiful than the one in front of the castle. However this is really due to bias as the garden in front of the castle is laid in a shape which I can imagine was very hard to do. So chapeau! Also worth mentioning is that all the greenery is maintained without any pesticides!
At the Petit Somme Castle you can also have dinner and shop for souvenirs to take home with you to remember the castle. If you want to emerge yourself into the Hare Krishna practices a bit more or take part in one of the many classes they offer, such as a yoga class, you can also stay at the hotel that is on the grounds. Even if you don’t wish to do either of those things you can still book a room at the hotel and have a base to explore Durbuy or the area for example Barvaux.
As I went by car I could get to the Radhadesh Castle quite easily. Well I did have to face the Ardennes hills but we already discussed that! If you traveled by public transport to Durbuy and thus would need to continue traveling by public transport there is a possibility for that. In front of the castle I saw a bus stop, I couldn’t tell you which bus stops there but I am sure that if you call them directly they will be able to help you out. Everyone I encountered there has been nothing but incredibly friendly!
The first thing I asked them when I arrived at the reception was whether I could indeed park my car where I had left or needed to move it! They took their time figuring out where exactly I left my car to assure me that it was okay! So that gives me confidence that they can help you sort out how to get to them via public transport.
I think we can conclude that Durbuy the smallest city in the world has not so small things to offer.
*If you drink, drink responsibly and always respect the local drinking age.
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