Durbuy Castle & Topiary park.
Durbuy is a charming historical town in the Ardennes Forest. With less than 500 inhabitants, Durbuy like to dub itself the "smallest town in the world", thanks to the town charter it obtained in the Middle Ages. This honourary status was maintained through the centuries to this day.
The earliest written mention of the place was Durboium in 814. The first castle was built around 889, and the village was first mentioned in official records in the 11th century.
By the early 14th century Durbuy had aquired city wall, a police and a courthouse, and was awarded the status of "city" by charter of rights, by the John, Count of Luxembourg and King of Bohemia, in 1331.
Up to this day, Durbuy is still officially a town (ville in French, which can be either 'town' or 'city'), and not a village, in spite of its diminutive size. The locals claim it to be the smallest town in the world, but that privilege is probably deserved by Staverden, in the Dutch province of Gelderland, which only counts 40 inhabitants.
The star attraction is the Topiary Park, an amazing collection of 250 sculpted buxus (boxwood). Some specimens are over 100 years old. The topiary is open daily from March to December, and weekends in February, from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm (to 4:00 pm in December). Admission is 4.5 € for adults and 1 € for children aged 6 to 12 (free under 6).
Durbuy has kept its original medieval atmosphere and is mostly geared to tourism nowadays, with plenty of fine restaurants and hotels housed in old blue-grey stone buildings. If you hesitate between the numerous restaurants in town, try the Le Sanglier des Ardennes or Le Fou du Roy.
Topiary Park, Durbuy.
The Ourthe River passes through Durbuy and marking the boundaries between three of Wallonia's geographical regions : the Condroz, the Famenne and the Ardennes. The river is ideal for kayaking and rafting. It is also possible to do horse riding and rent mountain bikes in Durbuy. The nearby megalithic sites of Weris are also recommended.
How to get there
To reach Durbuy by public transport, you should catch a local train to Barvaux-sur-Ourthe, on the Liège-Jemelle line. The journey takes 50 min from Liege, or 25min from Jemelle (Rochefort). If you are coming from Brussels, you can either take a train to Liege, or one to Luxembourg and change at Jemelle. Either way should take about 2 hours to reach Barvaux. From Barvaux, you can take a taxi or walk the 2km to Durbuy. There are also buses but they are very infrequent.
By car, follow the signs for Durbuy from the E411, E25 or N4.
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