Dinan is often called the most perfectly preserved medieval town in Brittany. Situated alongside the River Rance, it is surrounded by parks, trees and 600 year old ramparts extending for 2 miles and including 14 watch-towers and 4 decorative gateways. The cobbled streets are full of picturesque C15th and C16th half-timbered houses, traditional craft shops and over 50 bars, cafes and restaurants.
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Dinan is in the eastern part of Brittany, south of St Malo and north of Rennes. Dinard airport and St Malo ferry port can be reached in 40mins.
Until as recently as the 1960s, Dinan, and Brittany in general, remained something of a rural, windswept and isolated rocky peninsula. Poorly served by trains and roads, it stayed apart from the rest of France, maintaining old traditions. In the last few decades, however, it has started to join modern France and now its produce and seafood is shipped all over the world. Dinan in particular, has progressed from being an isolated military stronghold to exporting leather, canvas, wax, honey and timber and importing salt, cod, cider, tea, porcelain and spices; having primarily been encouraged by the dukes Jean Le Roux and Jean II.
Nonetheless, the old traditions are still actively in place. About 500,000 people in France, for example, still speak the Breton language. A language developed over the areas long history; Brittany’s earliest known inhabitants were Celtic who eventually christened the area ‘little Britain.’ And religious customs are frequently celebrated, the ‘grands pardons’ for example, are held by scores of villages on patron saints’ days. Villagers dress up in traditional dress and parade around the streets carrying religious banners.
Sights to see include: the old town, around place des Cordeliers and place des Merciers and the modern town around place Duclos. Saint-Sauveur church, which has a mix of architecture including 9 Gothic chapels and a Romanesque porch, as well as, supposedley, the heart of Bertrand du Guesclin (a knight who defended Dinan against an English seige in 1357), Jardin Anglais which is a pretty park with excellent views over the port, La Tour de l’Horloge, a C15th clock tower offering a view of the town for 3€, Rue Jerzual which is exemplary in its traditional architecture and shops, Chateau de Duchesse Anne which was built in 1384 and now houses a small local history museum and the port of Dinan (via rue du Petit Fort) which has been busy for centuries.
Every Thursday there is a fruit and veg market at place du Champs, Wednesday afternoons in July and August there is a flea market, and every other July there is a spectacular two-day festival: ‘Fete des Remparts.’ Around 30,000 visitors arrive in the town, locals dress up in medieval costumes and there are jousting competitions, street entertainers, banquets, fairs, parades and fireworks. It truly is an impressive journey back through time. The town is also not far from the Northern coastline so the seaside is a good day out also.
Food & Drink
Old-fashioned Breton cooking is not elaborate; the quality of the ingredients that go into a dish is always more important than any complicated techniques or fancy sauces that might be applied to them. The crêpe is the basic everyday food and lobster is the primary festive food. Crêpes come in 2 main varieties: crêpes sucrées (sugared crêpes) and crêpes salées (salted crêpes). Cider is the main drink and for dessert there is ‘Kouign Amann’ (butter cake) which originated in the C19th. Couchen is also popular, an alcoholic drink made from the fermentation of honey in water.
Le Cantorbery, 6 rue Ste-Claire, tel no: 02 96 39 02 52, has a good 21€ menu in an old-fashioned setting.
Chez La Mère Pourcel, 2 place des Merciers, tel no: 02 96 39 03 80, menu at 30€.
La Lycorne, 6 rue de la Poissonnerie, tel no : 02 96 39 08 13, menu 20€ specialising in mussels.
Créperie Ahna, 7 rue de la Poissonnerie, tel no : 02 96 39 09 13, menu 10€
Our team of sale advisers at Sextant Properties will be happy to help you to find a property in Dinan. We have a large network of partners in Brittany. All of them are registered French real estate agents and speak both French and English. Whatever kind of property you are looking for: farmhouse, longere, barn, gite, B&B, country house, mill, castle or chateau, we will do our best to find a property in Dinan matching your requirements.