Namur is the capital of Wallonia, the French-speaking southern part of Belgium. Namur is also the capital of the province with the same name, Namur. The city is inhabited by about 110,000 inhabitants.
Namur has been an important trading settlement since Celtic times, straddling east–west and north–south trade routes across the Ardennes, and the Romans established a permanent presence under direction of Julius Caesar. The settlement flourished during the Middle Ages, when the Merovingians built a castle on the rocky spur overlooking the town at the confluence of the Sambre and Meuse.
In 1262, Namur was conquered by the Count of Flanders, and sold to Duke Philip the Good of Burgundy in 1421. After Namur became part of the Spanish Netherlands in the 1640s, the castle was considerably strengthened and grew into the present day Citadel. The fortifications proved inadequate to repel the invasion of Louis XIV of France in 1692, leading to the capturing of the town and its annexation to France. The French occupation force started reinforcing the citadel, but were unable to finish it by the time Willian II of Orange-Nassau conquered the city three years later. Control of the city changed ownership a few times through treaties with the Spanish Netherlands and the Austrian House of Habsburg. In 1713 the Treaty of Utrecht was signed, transferring control over the city to the Austrians, while reserving the Dutch the right to garrison in the citadel. It was rebuilt under their tenure in the following years.
France invaded the region again in 1794, annexing Namur a second time, until the Congress of Vienna in 1815 incorporated Namur into the United Kingdom of the Netherlands after the death of Napoleon. When Belgium gained independence in 1830 following the Belgian Revolution, Namur once again became an important garrison city for the newly formed government. The citadel was rebuilt yet again in 1887.
When the First World War broke out in 1914, the citadel made Namur a primary military target, and on 21 August of that year the German air force bombarded the town without warning. The Germans, seeking to use the Meuse valley as a route into France, sought to secure the citadel at all costs. Despite the citadel being billed as virtually impregnable, the overwhelming German force captured the citadel after three days of intense fighting, and Namur remained under German control for the rest of the war. The city suffered a similar fate during the Second World War when it ended up at the frontline of the defending Allies against the Axis invasion force. It played a role in the Battle of the Ardennes at the outbreak of the war in 1940, and again in the decisive Battle of the Bulge in 1944. Namur sustained heavy damage during both conflicts.
When federal Belgium broke apart into its three regions, the Walloon Region, the Flanders Region and the Brussels Capital Region, Namur was chosen to be the capital of the Walloon Region and the seat of its executive and parliament. It was finally declared the official capital of Wallonia in 1986, despite it being considerably smaller than Liège or Charleroi.
As a result of its favorable location in the Walloon Region and the Benelux, Namur remains an important industrial and commercial centre in the Walloon Region. Its most important industries are machinery production and metal works, leather goods, and porcelain.
- 1 Tourist Office, Place de la Station, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Located inside the Namur railway station building.
The city stands at the confluence of the Sambre and Meuse rivers, and straddles three different regions, with Condroz the most well known of them. It is located to the west of Charleroi and south-east of Brussels. It includes also the neighborhood of Beez, known for its limestone quarry with world class calcite crystals, Jambes as a local event center, and Marche-les-Dames where the corpse of King Albert I was found after his climbing accident in 1934.
The climate of Namur is, as with most of the Sambre and Meuse region, quite humid. Expect rain in any season, but particularly in spring and autumn. Do not count on a sunny morning for a day with outdoor activities, as weather may turn quickly. Having a raincoat or umbrella along is recommended. Temperatures typically range from 5°C to 20°C most of the year, with low peaks down to -15°C in winter, and highs up to 35°C in summer.
Namur is located 60 km south-east of Belgium's capital city, Brussels. It can be reached by train from Brussels (about 50 minutes with an intercity train from Brussels Schuman), on the direct line from Brussels (Midi, Centrale, Nord, Schuman or Luxembourg) to Dinant or Luxembourg. Get off at 1 Namur Gare SNCB or 2 Jambes Gare SNCB. Both stations are operated by the Walloon branch of the Belgian national railway company NMBS, which translates to SNCB in French.
Namur is accessible by boat, the Meuse comes from France and the Samber flows through Namur, where the two rivers meet.
3 Flixbus has several connections to Namur. A direct coach service between Paris and Namur takes 5.30 hours for approximately €20. Namur can also be reached from Aachen in about 2 hours for €7. Other connecting cities are Augsburg, Basel, Bern, Besançon, Bonn, Bordeaux, Budapest, Calais, Colmar, Cologne, Dijon, Freiburg, Grenoble, Heidelberg, Karlsruhe, Koblenz, Lausanne, Le Mans, Lissabon, London, Ludwigshafen, Lyon, Madrid, Milano, Mannheim, Munich, Nantes, Nürnberg, Orléans, Prague, Strasbourg, Stuttgart and Toulouse.
The layout of the city is complex and navigation is not easy, a detailed map is highly recommended. OpenStreetMap has moderate coverage of Namur.
Namur is not really a big city and is perfect to discover on foot. With good hiking shoes, light gear and favorable weather it is the most interesting, cheapest and most pleasant option. The roads ascending the citadel are covered by cobblestones, so hiking up is the best budget option. Many areas in the historic center are reserved for pedestrians, and sidewalks are available almost everywhere. Several pedestrian bridges cross the Meuse and Sambre.
Cycling is gaining popularity among the locals, but is still limited due to the number of cobbled streets. On the other hand, many one-way streets are "except bicycles", so cyclists enjoy special privileges. Bikes can be rented at 1 Pro Velo next to the SNCB railway station. For trips returning to the railway station, the 2 Blue Bike service provided by the SNCB itself offers train travelers to explore the city, but bikes must be returned to the same station.
By public transport
The public transport network is operated by the Walloon bus company TEC. Tickets can be purchased from kiosks, or directly from bus drivers where they are only marginally more expensive. Do not expect bus drivers to converse fluently in English, so having your destination written out on a piece of paper may help to avoid confusion.
- 1 Citadel, Route Merveilleuse 64, ☏ . Daily 10:00—18:00. The primary tourist attraction of Namur, the Citadel is a fortress at the confluence of the Meuse and Sambre rivers. Its original design dates from Roman times, with foundations laid out in 937. Throughout history it was captured, destroyed and rebuilt several times. It underwent major expansions under Dutch control between 1631 and 1675. Its current topology was designed by Dutch architect Menno van Coehoorn and improved by Vauban after the siege of 1692. A variety of positions were added in the 18th century, but the complex was finally disestablished as a military post in 1891 when it was superseded by a ring of forts around Namur to provide better protection against the improved range of artillery at the time. It saw battle a last time during the German invasion of World War I, after which the new fortifications took over its defensive role. The Citadel is classified as a Walloon Major Heritage site, and together with the citadels of Dinant, Huy and Liège it forms part of the so-called Meuse Citadels. For those unable to climb the hill, a tourist train is available for an additional fee. €11 normal ticket. €8 for children aged 6-18.
The assassination (?) of King Albert I
The death of King Albert I of Belgium is surrounded with mystery, and the circumstances long kept a secret to the Belgian people. When the King discovered a romance of his wife, Duchess Elisabeth of Bavaria with the head of the royal guard, according to tradition, the King challenged the officer to a duel. As was customary at the time, the challenged party decided on the weapon, and being a skilled marksman, the choice for a pistol was quickly made. The duel concluded quickly in the favor of the unknown officer, who killed the King with a single bullet between the eyes. Fearing a scandal with negative consequences to the stability of the country, the King's death was camouflaged as an alpinism accident: the body was moved from Namur to nearby 2 Marche-les-Dames where the King had climbed the limestone rock walls before on multiple occasions. To prevent the discovery of the bullet wound and lack of fractures that could be expected after an alpinism accident, the King was not placed on a bier but buried discreetly. It was only in the 1960s that the truth was revealed by a former royal guard member on his own deathbed, but the mystery surrounding the case remains. A memorial statue can be visited at the location where the King, according to the legend, fell to his death.
- 3 Museum of Old Namurois Art, Rue de Fer 24, ☏ . Tu-Su: 10:00—18:00. Closed on M. On a rainy day worth a visit. It has recorded guiding in English and a collection of Medieval and Renaissance Christian art. €3 for permanent exhibition, a €5 ticket gives entrance to the temporary exhibitions as well.
- 4 Archaeological Museum, Rue du Pont 21. Tu-Su: 10:00—17:00. Closed on M. Mostly displaying artifacts from Roman Namur, is less organised and interesting. Much of the old city is beautiful, in a rather French style. Free.
- Treasure of Hugo d'Oignies. On no account should be missed.
- 5 Belfry (Belfrois). One of the 56 belfries in Belgium recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
- Hire a bicycle and cycle up and through the Citadel. There is also a network of mountain bike itineraries beginning and ending in Namur, but the signage, which is very good at the beginning, with large coloured arrows painted on the road, suddenly vanishes without explanation.
- A tour company in nearby Dinant (Les Kayaks Bleus, http://www.lessekayaks.be) organises river kayaking trips. It would probably be possible to paddle downstream all the way to Holland and the North Sea.
- There are public swimming pools in Salzinnes, Saint-Servais and Jambes.
- 1 Urban Trail Namur, Allée du Stade 3 (train to Jambes Gare SNCB), ☏ , email@example.com. 9:30-12:00. A 11.5 km run through the city, annually organized in fall. Starting on the south bank of the river in Jambes, the run takes participants along the most interesting places of Namur, including the citadel and the seat of the Walloon Government, as well as the historic center of Namur. The entrance fee includes a T-shirt with a size of choice, and refreshments alongside the road, and a breakfast upon arrival. Note: a running climb of the citadel requires above average physical condition of participants. € 25.
- University of Namur. More than 6000 students.
Namur lacks a proper shopping mall. The inner city supermarkets are one Match and one (smaller) Spar.
Other supermarkets are Carrefour and Colruyt in Jambes and another Colruyt and Delhaize in Salzinnes among others. Major shopping streets stretch from the Namur train station to Rue de Fer and Rue de l'Ange where you will find normal fashion outlets like H&M, Newlook, Zara, Kim Pie, Cool Cats, O' Appels, Charles Vogele Switzerland, Esprit, JBC, C& A, Women's secret, ICL Paris IV, Di, Camaieu among others.
- Pâtisserie Café Dumont. M-Sa: 07:30—18:30 (so one could have breakfast there), Su 14:30—18:30. Has waffles with whipped cream and melted chocolate that are downright decadent.
- 1 Le Panorama restaurant, Route Merveilleuse 82 (on the Citadel), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Has a terrace with a great view over the city and the river and a free Wi-Fi hotspot. Plat du jour costs under €10.
- Galler. A chocolate shop-cum-café. The café is exquisitely old-fashioned and offers a wide range of hot chocolates.
- Les Thés de Sophie. Sells and serves speciality teas.
- Café Delahaut. Offers a fine variety of coffees and sports a large coffee roaster outside the café.
- 1 Youth Hostel (Auberge de Jeunesse), Avenue Félicien Rops 8, ☏ . Right by the river and it has free unlimited Wi-Fi, a nice view, a good self-catering kitchen and a bar. They close all common areas by 23:00, however. Guests are required to wash their own dishes after breakfast. From €19.
- 2 L'Ange Gabriel, Avenue Baron Louis Huart 7-15, ☏ , email@example.com. Namur also has also a few boats in which you can spend the night. This is one of them. The boat has 4 rooms and is right below the Citadel. €60.
- 3 Le Grill des Tanneurs, Rue des Tanneries 13, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Built inside 11 former city houses this hotel is quite luxurious and very central. This hotel has private parking. On the ground floor is a restaurant. €60 to €215.
- Brussels — the national capital
- Charleroi — the Detroit of Wallonia with a rich industrial history
- Namur might also be your gateway to the Ardennes and Luxembourg.