Located at the confluence of the rivers Meuse and Sambre, Namur has always held a strategic position throughout Europe’s history – even from centuries before it got its current name, in the 10th century. Traces of human settlements date back as far as 6,000 BC. Already in the 1st century a little village was thriving here as it could easily maintain trading relations with the rest of the Roman Empire thanks to its own port. But it wasn’t until the 5th century that the port became increasingly important and a need developed for some fortifications. The first steps to what was later to become the Citadel were taken.
In the 10th century the county Namur was established, with the city of Namur, of course, as its capital. Until 1429 it was to be ruled by 23 Counts and while some of them were quite happy to be just the Count of Namur, others moved on to bigger things. Count Baldwin II, for example, went on to become the Emperor of Constantinople. In 1429, Count Jean III, ruined and without a legitimate heir, decided to sell the County to Phillip the Good, Duke of Burgundy.
The Burgundians, and later the Habsburgers, took great effort to fortify the city, yet all these efforts couldn’t stop the city from continuously changing hands. From the 15th to the 19th century, Namur was captured and recaptured by the Spanish, the Austrians, the French, the Dutch and eventually Belgian revolutionaries.
After Belgian’s independence in 1830, the armed forces were stationed in the Citadel and it wasn’t until 1891 that King Leopold II decided to (partly) demilitarize the site. Eventually, in 1975, the Citadel was given to the City of Namur and the last military forces left the site in 1977.
Today, the Citadel is a great place for walks on the grounds surrounding the fort but it’s also a fun place to go to with kids. Guided tours to visit the buildings are offered and there’s also the possibility to take a train ride. We went on a sunny Autumn day and were amazed at the beautiful, albeit a bit eery, effect the sunlight through the autumn leaves had on the walls inside.
If military stuff is not your thing, you can still have a wonderful time exploring the grounds and park. There are a few art and antique shops as well, an open air theatre and a restaurant/B&B. Excellent views over the city can be seen from the Citadel. Beware though that, even though there is a car park at the information centre at the top of the citadel, you will have to take into account some rather steep climbs when you venture into the park.
For more info about the Citadel, visit the website here
For more of my pictures of the Citadel and the around it, click here