Friday, 23 July 2021

20 Best Things to Do in Durbuy: The Biggest Gem of Belgium Hidden in the Smallest City of the World

Durbuy Travel Guide

What are the Things to Do in Durbuy When It is So Small?

Durbuy, located in Wallonia is in the province of Luxembourg in the eastern part of Belgium. However, do not be confused with this province that has the same name as the country, Luxembourg. Durbuy is at Ardennes, south Belgium which belongs to the French-speaking community, Wallonie.

Durbuy has a pretty old charm that makes one indulge in the tranquillity away from the bustling city life. Additionally, there are some display boards outside the Tourist Office and some shops which proudly proclaims Durbuy as the ‘smallest city in the world’.

Upon seeing Durbuy town on arrival, on first glance, I thought to myself that one could complete the tour in Durbuy in 30 minutes. “Is that all?” I asked my boyfriend. He replied, “Let’s explore!” Surely, that is not true if one knows where are the places to visit and the things to do in Durbuy.

Durbuy Panoramic View

Is Durbuy Really the Smallest City in the World?

While searching for a concrete answer online, there are many spheres of arguments. Vatican City has the smallest surface area in the world with a size of 0.44 km2 and a population of 840 in 2016 among all the cities. Since it gained its independence in 1929, it could no longer be called a city but a state.

Durbuy, although dubbed as the smallest city in the world, its size is bigger than that of Vatican City, which is the smallest country in the world. 

It has a size of 156.61 km2 and a population of over 11,000 inhabitants in 2016. Medieval old stone houses built in the 17th and 18th centuries, cobbled streets and lush green forest surrounding are some notable attractions of Durbuy. I would prefer to call Durbuy a little old town instead of a ‘city’ by such a definition.

Nevertheless, Hum in Croatia is officially listed as the smallest town in the world. It has an elevation of 349 m, a surface area of 100 metres long and 30 metres wide. The population is between 20 to 30 inhabitants. It was claimed that Hum has only been in recent years, during the 70s, declared as a town to gain popularity in the tourism industry for being “the smallest town in the world”.

Durbuy Stone Houses

Customised Google Maps – Durbuy Belgium Travel Guide

20 Top Things to Do in Durbuy

① Visit the Tourist Office

After driving for two hours, the first sight of Durbuy, a pretty little town greeted me as seen in the profile image. One travel tip for a free and easy trip in any city is to always go to the Tourism Office to get a map first. You can screen the places of interest from the map even without doing prior online research. Secondly, another advantage is to find out any events, activities or promotion happening in Durbuy at the time of your visit. From the photo below, the Tourist Office is on the right.

Durbuy Tourist Office beside Vieux Pont
Durbuy Tourist Office

② Dine in a Nice Restaurant

We arrived in the city around noon time. One of the best things to do in Durbuy was to try out one of the restaurants there especially the fishes from Ardennes. That would be a great start of the tour later. We went to Côté Cour Hotel-Restaurant to order the fish and the wild pheasant.

The food was not fresh and way below the standard. Furthermore, the service was not good either as the waitress was cold and robotic in manner. I am sure you would have better luck in trying out other restaurants. In my next post, I will show you some Durbuy restaurants and where you can eat.

Walk in Forest Nature Trail

Another top thing to do in Durbuy is to explore nature and take a short trail in the forest. Hence, we went for 30 to 45 minutes walk in Durbuy after our full but unsatisfying lunch. Our intention was to search for the highest point on the hill so that we could see Durbuy medieval town more clearly from the peak. The first part of the walk was mostly on an even ground.

As shown in the first image below, we walked up from the slope on the left side of the restaurant, La Piazza from the road Tier Moreau. It linked to road Neuve Voie later. When we switched path to Rue des Crêtes later, we saw a holiday vacation lodge, Gite des Crêtes. The following photo below La Piazza was Hotel Wellness. We walked down from the left side of Hotel Wellness after completing one round of the trail loop.

In the second image above, we continued walking on Rue des Crêtes until we saw a signboard stating “Boucle de Durbuy” which means “Loop of Durbuy”. This narrow path was the starting point of our forest trail, supposedly to be only a 10-minutes walk. It was a spin-off from Rue des Crêtes as shown on the Google Maps labelled (C) above. The nameless road would lead you back to Hotel Wellness. The image below was the view of Durbuy.

I expected the scenery to be unblocked but the trees were blocking the view. So, a little disappointing. The first image below was the point that we saw the town. The soil was a bit muddy and slippery then. As a result, we had to walk down slowly with handrail support most times as shown in the second image. Consequently, the hike took longer than 10 minutes for us.

④ Visit Durbuy Castle

The Durbuy Castle (Chateau de Durbuy) history dated back as early as 1078. It has undergone several devastations over the centuries due to fire and wars. The Durbuy Castle was rebuilt on the ruins of the old castle in 1731. The present building is the result of reconstruction from the eighteenth century. There was an extensive restoration by the Countess d’Ursel from 1880 to 1882.

Durbuy Castle in Belgium. Also known as "Château de Durbuy" in French.

⑤ Admire Shrub Art in the World Largest Topiary Park

Topiary is the art or practice of clipping shrubs or trees into ornamental shapes. Since 1997, Durbuy Topiary Park (Le Parc des Topiaires) has been offering visitors more than 250 designs from human to animal forms in a 1-hectare garden. Entrance fee is €4.50/adult and €1 for children between 6 to 12 years old. Free for children below 6 years old.

There are also guided tour for 10 people with a discounted rate. You can request for a guide who speaks English, French or Dutch too. Ironically, the world smallest city has the largest topiary park of 10,000 m² in the world. The Durbuy Topiary Park is definitely a top place to visit and pride of Belgium not to be missed.

⑥ Stroll along Scenic Ourthe River

The 165 km Ourthe River which runs in Ardennes flows through Durbuy. The picturesque scenery provides a stunning background for several photography shots in different angles and locations. Therefore, a leisure stroll along the river capturing different perspectives of the landscape is one of the things to do in Durbuy.

Durbuy Ourthe River in Belgium

Ourthe River Durbuy from Bridge

⑦ Drink Beer at Durbuy Local Brewery

Durbuy has also their own locally brewed beer – Marckloff at La Ferme au Chêne. Located along the River Ourthe, the brewery cum restaurant is easy to spot as it seems to be the one and only one around the vicinity. The brewery was originally established in 1560 by Philippe Marckloff.

Other than savouring the brewed beer speciality in a historical monument beside the Ourthe River, guests can also dine in the restaurant with local cuisine. The other beer brand, La Durboyse which states on its label “Beer of Durbuy” is in fact brewed at the Lefebvre Brewery in Quenast which is 100 km away from Durbuy. The restaurant is reported to be closed until end June 2020.

Durbuy Belgium La Ferme au Chene - Marckloff Brewery

⑧ Play 18-holes Mini-Golf

The 18-holes Mini Golf entrance with the modern steel construction is captivating. It costs €5 per person for a 30-minute game. The area opens all year except January. During the weekday, Mini-Golf starts from 1 pm. Over the weekend and during the school holiday, it opens from 10 am. The games are subjected to weather condition. Adequate lighting is provided in the evening.

The toilet is on the left side of the building. The toilet may seem to be a very trivial matter but not when nature surrounds you especially for the ladies. Otherwise, you really have to answer the call of nature in nature.

Durbuy Mini Golf

⑨ Visit Saint-Nicolas Church

Saint-Nicolas Church is a Roman Catholic Parish church behind the Mini Golf. The construction of Saint-Nicolas Church begun in 1630. Later in 1643, it was consecrated. It housed a baptismal font dated back to the sixteenth century. Subsequently, it was converted to a convent in the city in 1675 and enlarged in 1774.

Durbuy Belgium Saint-Nicholas Church
Saint-Nicholas Church behind Mini-Golf

Saint-Nicholas Church Durbuy Belgium

⑩ Look at Anticline Durbuy

Although Durbuy is a charming old town, I had the deepest impression on this huge rock located along the pathway of Chemin Touristique and Avenue Hubert Philippart. Suddenly, I looked like a tiny ant. That was what happened to me when nobody was watching. The landscape surrounding the rock, Saint Nicolas Church and Mini-Golf is rather remarkable and worth to take a look. You rock!

The stupendous granite is the Anticline Durbuy. It is already 300 million years old! The anticline is the geological term to describe a U-shaped rock formation. The apparent folds were the accumulation of the sea sediment over millions of years containing calcium carbonate. More than 50% of the limestone deposited on the granite. The peak of this anticline is the highest point of Durbuy. Another name for the Anticline is Homalius’ Rock or Roche à la Falize.

⑪ Visit Halle aux Blés Museum

Halle aux Blés located along the cobbled street of Rue du Comte d’Ursel has a distinctive red plaster on the upper half of the monument. Dated as early as 1530, Halle aux Blés was a market-hall and was home to the jurisdiction of the judiciary. The present building has been on the list of the exceptional heritage of Wallonia since 1976 and hosts cultural exhibitions currently.

Durbuy Belgium Halle aux Blés

⑫ Explore Durbuy by Cycling

Cycling is a great option to explore more of Durbuy in a shorter time. If you do not have a bike, you can select from five different types of bikes and then get it rented there. The bike rental cost from €19 for 3 hours to €37 depending on the selected bike model.

From 8 April onwards, you might be able to cycle together with a mountain bike guide over the weekend for 2 to 3 hours duration based on the number of participants. The bike rental activity of Durbuy Adventure at Rome Rue 1 opens daily from 9 am to 5 pm. Wearing a helmet is compulsory.

Durbuy Cycling

⑬ Kayaking in Ourthe River

Here is another fun thing to do in Durbuy when the weather is good. Durbuy is a popular destination for kayaking in Belgium on the Ourthe River from 1st April to the end of October too. The Durbuy Kayak offers a choice of 8 km, 12 km and 23 km kayaking distance. The rental price of the kayak starts from €8 for a 4-km single kayak and below €30 for a 23 km tandem kayak.

Due to occasional high or low water level, the Ourthe River might be closed for kayaking activities. It is mandatory by law to wear a lifejacket to avoid getting a €50 fine. Lifejackets are provided free for children below 4 years old.

Durbuy Kayaking

⑭ Clear Obstacles in Durbuy Challenge Park

Challenge Park is an altitude adventure park which comprises of six courses at three different heights of 3 m, 6 m and 10 m. It has more than 100 obstacles for participants to clear different zip lines. Additionally, it also has a climbing wall with three routes and a multi-facet adventure trail with various combinations of difficulty overall. Participants will be taught how to use the Expoglider lifeline system for different courses too. Wearing of helmet and harness is compulsory throughout the obstacle.

Video Length: 2m 04s

⑮ Climbing Activities

For the more adventurous soul, there are three types of climbing activities in the old quarry at Durbuy Adventure at Rue Rome – Click and Climb, Via Ferrata and Via Ferrata + Rappel. For Click and Climb, you ascend the vertical climbing wall of 20 m consisting of several elements with a Powerfan security system. Via Ferrata is more challenging with four levels of difficulty running along a steel rope with the Expoglider security lifeline up to 35 m high.

Video Length: 1m 42s

With Rappel added to Via Ferrata experience, participants will scale up to a height of 55 m and descend from the top through an abseiling. On the summit, enjoy the breathtaking scenery of Ourthe Valley. There will be professional guides around and to explain the use of the security lifeline system.

Video Length: 1m 56s

⑯ Glide Down Mega Zipline

Get that hook on your body. Then, hold your breath and glide down the longest Mega Zipline of Benelux high up there in between the trees. The 1-km slide will pass in a flash so do not close your eyes. Scrutinise Durbuy, the world smallest city within minutes from the top and enjoy the breeze. The starting point is accessible with a path through the woods. Mega Zipline is one of my favourite activities. Though so much fun sliding down nature, it is not for the faint-hearted and the acrophobia.

Video Length: 1m 09s

⑰ Free Fall Rock aka Bungee Jumping

Another name of Free Fall Rock is Bungee Jumping. However, in the Adventure Valley Park, you get less terror than the actual bungee jumping and more fun in return. From a height of 32 m and said to be the highest altitude in Belgium, you experience a more controlled fear of falling as compared to bungee jumping. The company guarantees you with a 100% safe Powerfan safety system to slow you down gently before landing on the ground. Now, do you dare take the plunge?

Video Length: 16s

Visit Durbuy Christmas Market

The most fruitful way and perhaps the best time to visit Durbuy is to linger there longer by visiting the Christmas market concurrently. Especially if you love autumn like me, you will appreciate the different hues of warm colours on the leaves in November. Durbuy Christmas Market attracts a lot of visitors every year from November to December during its opening.

  • Durbuy Christmas Market 2019/2020

The Durbuy Christmas Market starts on 22 November 2019 until 5 January 2020.

Durbuy Christmas Market in Belgium

⑲ Pamper Yourself with Wellness Treatment

For those want to indulge in a little bit more luxury and pampering can go for spa, massage, face and body treatment in Durbuy Wellness by Le Sanglier des Ardennes or Hotel Wellness by Eau de Roche. Rejuvenate yourself in sauna, hammam, jacuzzi, swimming pool with jets hydromassages or even wellness rituals provided by experienced professionals. With a wide variety of wellness programmes and a cosy interior to spoil you, your choice of relaxation will never go wrong.

Spa, Massage, Body and Face Care Treatment @ Durbuy Wellness
Durbuy Wellness by Le Sanglier des Ardennes
Spa, Massage, Body and Face Care Treatment @ Durbuy Hotel Wellness - Eau de Roche
Hotel Wellness by Eau de Roche

⑳ Stay Overnight in a Durbuy Hotel

Not enough time to do so many things? You may like to consider staying in one of these Durbuy hotels to maximise your time in the city. The medieval village may be small but some people can rejuvenate when they are far away from the typical city life. Such an old town has the magic to free anyone from stress especially when nature surrounds them.

Adventure Valley Durbuy

The family Maerten founded La Petite Merveille (LPM) in 1964. Subsequently, La Petite Merveille bought Durbuy Adventure in 2016. Adventure Valley Durbuy was a branch out of La Petite Merveille specialising in organising activities in Durbuy Adventure Park. Their office is at Rue Rome 1 which is 1 km away from Durbuy.

Adventure Valley organises activities from 12 to 17 mentioned above. There are much more than the seven activities. The concept of their adventures is for people to purchase different types of passes according to their desires:

  • Adventure Day (Various Prices f ~ €30+)
  • Fly Pass (€15)
  • Adventure Day + Fly Pass (€52)
  • Adventure + Fast Tag (€52).

Therefore, participants select their interests indicated by the pass. They also have à la carte activities like Escape Rooms, Tourist Train, Speleo Experience/Extreme and Laser Game which do not fall into any of the packages.

How to Go to Durbuy by Public Transport?

It is not convenient to go Durbuy because there is no train station which one can take a train and stops directly there. To go Durbuy, one has to take a train that departs hourly from Brussels to Barvaux. From Barvaux Train Station, there is a shuttle bus to bring you to Durbuy. The journey is a 2.5 – 3 hrs ride to visit the smallest town on earth from Brussels.

The signboard at the Durbuy Pont Bus Stop may not look presentable but the information written on it is valuable if someone wants to know more about the public transport info.

Tourist Information about Durbuy

The Durbuy Office Communal of Tourisme agenda has events and things to do in Durbuy throughout the year. You can consult their official website during the period that you will be going. The Syndicat d’Initiative Durbuy Vieille Ville also has a lot of useful tourist information that you can check.

For the next two posts, follow me to explore 10 Impressive Durbuy Hotels to Stay and 12 Chic Restaurants to Keep Your Stomach Happy. I will show you where to eat and the estimated cost of staying in a hotel in Durbuy to keep your budget under control if you know the cost beforehand.

Standing outside the Durbuy Castle in Belgium. Also known as “Château de Durbuy” in French. Isn’t it a real beauty?

Durbuy Accommodation

Here are the hotels and Airbnbs at the lowest prices available online in Durbuy so that you will always get the best offer without hunting around. Book your stay now with your preferred travel partner!

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About Live in Belgium

Hello, my name is MissSJ. I am a Singaporean. I am living with my Belgian partner since July 2016 in a cosmopolitan city, Antwerp. However, I had been travelling to and fro Belgium since 2011 as a tourist. The creation of this blog is to document my new journey in Belgium which I would like to call 'home'. Join me in discovering fascinating Belgium from the eyes of an expat.