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The medieval town of Dinan in Cotes d’Armor, Brittany, is like somewhere from the imagination of the brothers Grimm with its fairy tale pretty medieval streets guarded by a castle and full of enchanting houses, cobbled hills and pretty squares. Surrounded by ramparts built between the 13th to 15th century, perched on a hill above a gentle river with a pretty little port, if you were to write a wish list for a fairy tale town, Dinan would have it all. Guide to Dinan When I went in late spring, which is a great time to go as you won’t find it too crowded, it was unusually overcast for the time of year, but not cold. The clouds didn’t matter, this place is quite simply magical at any time of the year. Quaint higgledy piggledy halftimbered houses lean against one another, they have been hugging for centuries, some of them date back 700 years. Church bells ring, birds sing in the trees and the town has kept its medieval integrity by deliberately limiting traffic lights and road signs so they don’t spoil the views. When you visit Dinan, wear comfy shoes and be prepared to walk or you’ll miss the best of it. Much of the town is pedestrianised which makes it an absolute joy to wander. It’s hilly in places. Rue du Jerzual for instance, which half-way down becomes rue du Petit Fort. It’s one of the most picturesque streets, and the cobbles run from the top of the town to the port along the river Rance. But, don't worry about the steepness, there are plenty of places to stop for a break, a meal and to browse quaint artisan shops. The houses and shops on this street have really wide windowsills, The style dates back to the middle ages. Then, people didn’t go into shops, they bought from the window and the shopkeepers used the sill as a countertop.
Around halfway down this hill, by the Porte de Jerzual (the ancient city gate), is a staircase to the remaining ramparts. It's open to the public and great for a view over the street and town. Most of the 2.7km of ramparts are now privately owned. The city council sold them off many years ago and locals built houses on and against the old city walls and walkways. The old chateau of Dinan is now an interesting museum about the history of the town. Every other July (even number years) the Fete des Ramparts takes place in Dinan and for three days the town goes medieval mad. Parties, shows, music, festivals and - if you dress up in medieval costume you’ll get free entry to the shows. Visit when this event is on and you might just feel like you stepped into a time machine and got off in the 16th century! Get your bearings from on high. Climb to the top of the 40m high Tour de l’Horloge to enjoy spectacular views over Dinan and the surrounding area. It’s said that on a clear day you can see as far as Mont-Saint Michel. Head to the square of Place des Merciers to see some of the most beautiful houses and shops and take a break in rue de la Cordonnerie. The locals call this street “thirsty street” (rue de la soif) as there are so many bars! On Thursday mornings, Dinan’s weekly market is held on the place du Guesclin There’s been a market here since the 1300s and today it’s a vibrant, colourful event where the wonderful smells of spices, fresh fruit and street food vie for attention alongside stalls selling blooming flowers, pongy cheese and local products.
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