The town of Dinant stands on the east bank of the River Meuse in a gorge created by dramatic limestone cliffs. The river is navigable up to and beyond the French frontier at Givet, 22 km upstream. The Rock of Bayard, a pinnacle about 2 km upstream was separated from the adjacent cliff by a road cut through in 1698 to enable the passage of the baggage train of the arm of Louis XIV. The town’s political history has been subjected to many changes, and it has featured in many military campaigns. The citadel which commands the river crossing was built in the 11th century by the Prince Bishops of Liège. It was sacked by Charles the Bold in 1466, rebuilt in 1530, then seized by Louis XIV in 1675. New fortifications were subsequently built by the great French military engineer Vauban (see Besançon). The citadel was again rebuilt in 1818-21 in the period after the Conference of Vienna when present-day Belgium and the Netherlands were united (They separated in 1830). Dinant was the scene of fighting in both World Wars of the 20th century.
Visitors can approach the citadel by a flight of 408 steps completed in 1577 or by a cable car installed in 1956. Within the citadel is a comprehensive military museum, which shows the day-to-day life of a garrison in peace time. Its features include a blacksmith’s forge, kitchens, and the military prison. There are extensive displays of swords, bayonets and crossbows, and explanations of how various kinds of weapon, artillery and small arms, would have been employed to defend the citadel. Several military campaigns are explained through dioramas. A display on the First World War is centred on a collapsed trench, and another section explains how the Battle of the Bulge was fought in the area at the end of 1944. There are also displays of ‘dindanderie’, the objets d’art made in copper in Dinant and surrounding villages from the 14th century. At Bouvignes, on the left bank of the River Meuse, was the 19th century brass and copper mill of Warnant-Anhée, which manufactured boiler parts as well as dindanderie. The views of the Ardennes from the citadel are amongst the most breathtaking in Europe.