Dinan, its History and Attractions
Researched and Written in her own words by Morgane
Written by Morgane who completed her six week's work experience in our Jersey office. Thank you Morgane. This article formed part of Morgan'e project work and is very useful information for visitors to Dinan.
There has been a panic recently with some collapse of the Rampart walls but this is now being successfully rectified.
DINAN, A Town of Art and History
Dinan, overlooking “La Vallée de la Rance”, knew how to protect a big part of its heritage. The town, situated in “Côtes d’Armor” (Brittany) still possesses its ramparts and its historic monuments… It’s worth the trip!
A Return to the past
Walking in the street of the “Vieux Dinan”, contemplating the houses with very specific architecture, you may ask yourself about its history…
Dinan takes it’s name from the two Celtics words contraction “Dunos” (colline) and “Ahna” (Living protector and dead guardian goddess)
At the 9th Century, the first inhabitants arrived: Monks who settled at the foot of the hill and soon after, some Lords who erected a wooden fortress. Two centuries later, Dinan was born with the building of a Benedictine monastery.
In the 12th Century, the town was already protected by a stone wall and its market, namely exchanges with England and Flanders, was booming. Shopkeepers were attracted by this flourishing town which will become a Ducal town in 1283 but this rapid development was stopped by the War of Succession. This war, which would last for 23 years (1341-1364) opposed the French and English people.
In 1357, Dinan was besieged but the town and its ramparts (2650 meters in length) proved their efficiency. It was during this siege that Bertrand Du Guesclin fought against Thomas Canterbury in the place named “Le Champ-Clos” where his victory, predicted by his future wife Thiphaine Raguenel who it was said possessed special powers, took place. There is a big statue of Du Guesclin in the square. His heart is still buried in St Sauveur’s Church.
In 1364, Jean IV besieged the town during one long month and finally succeeded in entering the town. He celebrated his success by building a Donjon.
A new prosperous period begun, St-Malo’s church was rebuilt after 1490. Anne de Bretagne married Charles 7th and then Louis 12th, which linked Brittany to France in a common destiny.
During the 16th Century, Dinan disowned the Duke of Mercoeur and gave allegiance to Henry IV. During this period, convents and monasteries were restored and from the 18th Century, Dinan’s architecture (luxury hotels, viaduct…) improved considerably as well as its infrastructures (public lighting…)
Have a look…
The Governor’s Tower:
Built during the 15th Century, it is an artillery tower with its walls of 8 meters of thickness.
Situated between La “Porte St-Malo” and “La Porte du Jerzual”, it occupies a very important military position, controlling the two entrances of the north of the town.
La Porte du Jerzual:
Built during the 13th and 14th century, this door is only ever opened in the middle of only one tower.
In 1992, its restoration permitted to restore the “Chemin de Ronde” too and let tourists take advantage of the pleasant view on the street.
It is one of the oldest towers of the town ramparts (13th Century). It offers a lovely view over La Rance and the Port.
“La Promenade de la Duchesse Anne”:
Walkers along this patch can admire a beautiful panorama of la “Vallée de la Rance”
Also known as “La Tour de la Duchesse Anne”, its construction began in 1380. It is composed of two towers linked to a stone ring.
“La Promenade des Petits Fossés”:
Soil ramparts, created in the 15th Century, to protect the surrounding wall against artillery shot, this walk stretches from “L’Hôtel de Ville” to the Donjon.
“La Tour de l’Horloge”:
One of the most important monuments in Dinan, this Tower (15th Century) offers an exceptional view of the town and on the “Vallée de la Rance”.
“Le Jardin Anglais”:
This garden was open up in 1852 on the ancient parish cemetery.
“Place des Cordeliers et des Merciers”:
This is a beautiful area comprising of houses built in the 15th to 20th Century).
For several years now Dinan has organised very successful celebrations namely “Un enfant dans la ville” and “La Fête des Remparts” which take place in alternate years during the summer.
“Un Enfant dans la Ville”:
2007 was the year of children. The “Un Enfant dans la Ville” celebration commenced in 1990. This celebration is free for children who can go all over the town like a big playground.
Diverse activities are available for children who have a great time. A marvellous moment to bring together children and parents.
“La Fête des Remparts”:
If visiting is not enough for you, you can participate of Middle-Age life by wearing the appropriate costume available in different shops in the town, (or by making them yourself). Moreover, if you wear a costume, you receive a discount on the entrance price.
This Medieval Festival gives a particular atmosphere to the town making it alive and memorable.
Apart from the free street entertainment, you can see several exhibitions and activities in different places of the town, eat middle-age specialities in places especially set up for the occasion, listening to the harps and old musical instruments. On the last day - Sunday, “La Fête des Remparts” traditionally ends with a parade of all the costumed participants through the town and a firework display.
The Taste of Dinan: Les Gavottes
No, it isn’t a dance but a delicious crêpe extremely delicate, rolling up in itself, generally arranged by two in a lovely golden paper. This biscuit is crisp and melts in the mouth and comes in several flavours such as orange, lemon, milk chocolate, dark chocolate…... and are perfect to eat with desserts like mousse or even for a snack and can accompany after dinner coffee.
The Gavottes’ shop is situated next to Tourism Office and it’s possible to visit the factory not far from Dinan. This is a product exclusively made in Dinan but exported to much further away.
Let’s Go Shopping!
If visiting is not really your thing, you can go window-shopping! One day won’t be enough to discover all the shops hidden in the streets of the town.
The best way would be to begin in the town centre near the Marie (Town Hall) and to go back up in the street “La Grand Rue”. There, you will find a lot of clothes shop (Etam, Esprit, Kiwi…) and some jeweller’s shops (La Bijouterie Lachiver…).
If you go into the old medieval centre of Dinan in “La Rue du Jerzual”, the atmosphere and the shops are totally different; you can find a lot of nice handcraft shops and some art dealers. According to me, the best place to buy a souvenir from your stay in Dinan is that street.
Coming down “la Rue du Jerzual”, why not having a well deserved rest and a drink in one of the pubs lining “La Rance”?
If you are an early riser, you can have a walk in Dinan’s market which takes place every Thursday morning on the “Du Guesclin place” where fresh food, clothes, accessorizes… are waiting for you!