Dinan is a charming medieval town, not to be confused with Dinard! Indeed, Dinard is located across from Saint-Malo, while Dinan is slightly inland along the Rance River: it’s a riverside town! If you love ancient architecture, you’ll adore visiting Dinan.
So, if you’re looking for inspiration and things to do in Dinan in Brittany, let me guide you.
7 Things to Do in Dinan
What I particularly love about Dinan is its medieval atmosphere. From half-timbered houses to the old stone ramparts, it feels like wandering through the Middle Ages. So, here are some things to do to explore Dinan in Brittany from every angle.
Explore the Historic Center of Dinan
In Dinan’s city center, typical half-timbered houses line the streets. The Cordeliers and Merciers Square is an essential stop to admire Dinan’s architecture.
If you have time, I also recommend taking a stroll to the Dinan Market Halls, a perfect place for market enthusiasts.
Anyway, in the city center, the streets are narrow, the cobblestone streets reminiscent of small Breton villages. There are also numerous shops and restaurants that add the perfect touch of liveliness to the place.
My advice? Take the time to wander through the streets and alleys at random; you may come across some lovely surprises. The city center isn't very large, so there's little risk of getting lost.
Climb to the Top of the Clock Tower
The Clock Tower dominates the town with its 45-meter height! It was built in the 15th century by the town’s bourgeoisie as a symbol of their power.
At the time, its role was to watch over the town. But in the 16th century, a clock was installed. The mechanism has not been changed since then, making it one of the oldest in Europe. For your information, two bells chime every quarter of an hour, and a larger one every hour.
If you’re up for it, you can take a tour of this tower and climb to the top by taking the 158 steps of the building. The panoramic view of Dinan and the Rance Valley will surely leave you impressed.
As a reference, the entrance ticket costs €4 per adult.
Admire the Basilica of Saint-Sauveur and Saint-Malo Church
Dinan bears a strong religious heritage with evidence of Catholicism’s presence in the region.
An absolute must-see in Dinan is the Basilica of Saint-Sauveur, a beautiful blend of architectural styles. Constructed from the 12th century onwards, the basilica houses the tomb of Bertrand Du Guesclin, a famous Breton who left his mark on Dinan’s history.
Smaller but equally lovely, Saint-Malo Church stands out for its stained glass windows. If you observe them closely, you’ll recognize Dinan’s history in them.
Stroll by Dinan’s Port
It’s impossible to visit Dinan without stopping at the port. If the sun is shining, you’ll love sipping a coffee and soaking up some sun! To explore Dinan from all angles, the port is an excellent starting point.
Dinan’s port is just a few minutes from the city center and its hustle and bustle, yet it offers a completely different ambiance.
The area is particularly relaxing and soothing. If you’re looking for the perfect spot for photos, the little bridge over the Rance seems to be the ideal place.
Visit Dinan Castle
Dinan Castle is an iconic monument in the region. It was built at the end of the 14th century at the request of Duke John IV, who wanted to assert his power. The castle’s history is quite impressive, and even from the outside, you’ll be amazed by its various towers: the Duke’s Tower and the Coëtquen Tower.
But the castle is also known because Anne of Brittany, in the 15th century, chose it as her residence after the death of her husband, King Charles VIII.
But the Castle is also known because it is the place Anne of Brittany chose in the 15th century to settle there after the death of her husband, King Charles VIII.
For a long time, a museum occupied the castle’s keep, but it closed a few years ago to prevent the works from becoming damp. Nevertheless, it is still possible to visit the castle.
To learn more about the history of the site, I recommend opting for a guided tour, included in the ticket price (€7.50 per adult). However, this is not available all year round. I invite you to check directly on the castle’s website for more practical information.
Stroll on the Ramparts of Dinan in Brittany
The town of Dinan is protected by 3 km of ramparts overlooking the Rance. You can spot them from afar when you arrive in Dinan, and they immediately immerse you in the medieval atmosphere of the town!
Unlike the ramparts of Saint-Malo, which can easily be toured, only a small part of Dinan’s ramparts is accessible for self-guided visits. To have full access, you will need to take a guided tour available at the Tourist Office.
My advice? To enjoy the ramparts even more, know that every 2 years, the Ramparts Festival takes place in July and plunges the place into the heart of history, giving it a medieval feel: jousting tournaments, medieval market, and a grand parade are on the program!
Discover the Artisans on Rue du Jerzual
Rue du Jerzual is the most famous street in the village. It’s the main artery of Dinan because it connects the city center to the port. You can’t visit Dinan without stopping by.
But it is especially known because you will find many artisan shops and artists’ workshops there. For your information, this street was the favorite place of weavers and tanners during the industrial era.
However, you need to be in good shape to walk around! The street is only 500m long, but it has a significant elevation change ranging from 12 to 18%.
Discover the English Gardens
The Emerald Coast is particularly influenced by English culture, and Dinan is no exception.
In fact, there is a small English garden that is worth a visit, if only for the clear view of the valley.
The English garden of Dinan was created in 1853, on the site of the old cemetery of Dinan, in honor of a British colony. It’s a nice place to discover another aspect of Dinan in Brittany.
The Ramparts Festival in Dinan
In 2023, on July 22 and 23, Dinan came to life during the Ramparts Festival. Throughout the weekend, many events took place to celebrate the medieval era.
Moreover, this year, the Dinan Ramparts Festival was celebrating its 40th anniversary! For the occasion, you were able to attend knight tournaments or life-size equestrian shows. There were activities specially designed for children, such as shield decoration. But also initiations to the art of blacksmithing and sword fighting or even role-playing games (of course, dressed up!).
More than 140 artisans and exhibitors were present, and no less than 700 actors animated the weekend! It was possible to stroll through the aisles of a real reconstituted medieval market or watch a parade in period costumes.
What to Do Around Dinan?
If you have some time and want to explore the surroundings of Dinan, there are many possibilities.
Located not far from Dinan (you can easily walk or cycle there), the small town of Léhon is also a small character village.
You’ll also find some old stones there. The sublime Saint-Magloire Abbey is, in fact, a beautiful historical testimony. If you love nature, this place is for you, as every species of plants and flowers is indicated on a small sign.
Finally, in Léhon, you’ll also find the ruins of a feudal castle. Less impressive than the castle in Dinan, but another trace of our rich historical past.
Heading towards Saint-Malo while following the Rance, the village of Saint-Suliac is a little Breton wonder.
It’s actually one of my favorite places on the Emerald Coast. There are almost no shops, except for a bakery and a restaurant, but the narrow streets and stone houses are very charming.
Quévert is a small town not far from Dinan. Also located inland, I recommend it especially for Le Courtil des Senteurs, a large rose garden where you can find more than 500 varieties of roses and 250 various plants that thrive in Brittany.
I hope you will enjoy visiting Dinan and its surroundings. Moreover, don’t hesitate to share in the comments what you liked the most! Northern Brittany has many little treasures like this to offer…