Durbuy, the most Japanese city in Belgium
Unlike many towns in Belgium, Durbuy was able to keep its architecture integrity. As a result, it is a lovely little city.
Very touristy, it can be awfully crowded during holidays and week-ends. In season, the whole area is swarmed with Flemish and Dutch tourists.
There are not many hotels and they fill in fast so book well in advance if you want to stay in the area. Same goes for camp sites.
There is a fair amount of paid parking lots around the city but it is better to take the first spot you see. Better be safe than sorry.
No trains but there are shuttles from Barvaux-sur-Ourthe where you will find a train station. Alternatively, you can walk or cycle there from/to Barvaux. It is a bit less than 4 kms. Take the touristy road (Ravel) and not the regular road, not suited for pedestrians.
The status of smallest city of the world dates back to 1331. The town was then elevated to the rank of city by John I, Count of Luxemburg and King of Bohemia. As Durbuy is now amalgamated with surrounding villages, it cannot anymore be seen as a small city. It is still a charming postcard-like place well worth a visit.
Following the river Ourthe is a great way to start your visit. It will bring you at the foot of the castle where you will see a small anticline.
Kayaking down the Ourthe is a favourite. Check ahead if there is enough water though. In case of drought, it is forbidden. During sunny days, kayaks might be impossible to rent because of all the people using them. Kayaking is also forbidden when the water level is too high due to heavy rain.
Privately owned by the d’Ursel family, it cannot be visited but its view is stunning.
Destroyed and rebuilt many times since the 9th century, the current restoration dates from the 1880s.
This park is dedicated to the art of pruning trees into complex shapes. There are more than 250 topiaries in the garden, some of which are over 120 years old. It is not a must see and you can see some of the trees from outside. My advice would be to skip it if the weather is bad. It is a nice visit in a sunny day.
Durbuy sister city is Hanyu, in Japan. These two cities established their relationship in 1994, with the help of the Ambassador of Belgium to Japan Patrick Nothomb, the father of the writer Amelie Nothomb.
There is a small zen garden and koïs right next to the big anticline.
Also known as Homalius’ Rock or the ‘Roche à la Falize’, this particular anticline is over 300 million years old.
There is another anticline at the foot of the castle.
It is a 30 min very steep walk up to the summit but the view is splendid and free. There is no point paying to get into the tower, it is a tourist scam.
In season there is a small touristy train going up there for a small fee.
As Durbuy is organising a stone sculpture festival every two years, there are a lot of sculptures to be seen in the area.
There is a wide variety of alcoholic products, from the Durboyse beer to local liqueurs and wines, jam, tea, honey, spices, sweets, flavored oils, syrup, chocolate and more, all made in Wallonia.
Durbuy is also a paradise for those who like to hunt for antiques.
You will not die of hunger here. There are a lot of restaurants, bakeries,...
By the way, Australian home made ice cream is not made in Australia. The brand does not exist there.
During Christmas time, the city is beautifully decorated. There are many stalls and an ice rink.
What to visit in the area?
Stay at the Balade des Gnomes B&B. It is an amazing place.
The village is also really beautiful.
Taste the macaroons with violet flavour.
There is a nice Ravel walk from Bomal to Barvaux. With a bit of luck, you will see beavers. Beware it is full of scouts during school holidays and they can be quite noisy. It can also be flooded after heavy rain.
A Beaujolais Festival is organised every year.
Stroll in Petite Batte street market every Sunday morning from Easter to autumn.
There are many nice walks in the woods surrounding the town.
Go to the giant maize labyrinth.
Locals are no fans of Adventure Valley since its huge expansion but if you are into big adventure parks, it is the place to go.
The stone sculpture symposium is organised every 2 years. The next edition will be in 2019.
Enjoy Indian food and festivals in a beautiful castle.
Check their website to see what is on. They do celebrate quite a few Indian festivals through the year and have a permanent exhibition of Indian art.
Stroll through old stones. A lot of megalithic sites have been excavated in the region.
The village is labelled "one of the most beautiful villages of Wallonia."