The namur citadel
This gem of military architecture looks down on the strategic junction where the River Sambre joins the River Meuse. Over the centuries, the citadel came to symbolise Namur, now the seat of the Regional government of Wallonia. It is a powerful gateway to the Ardennes.
Namur became a military and commercial strategic point that was fought over for centuries. The modern town grew up around the citadel, which has now changed role from a military fortress to a tourist attraction.
The rocky spur towering above the Meuse had a castle built on it and then a church and gradually became a veritable self-contained fortified town. The citadel was key in Namur’s commercial success up to 1429, when the Count of Namur sold his lands to the Duke of Burgundy, heralding a turbulent period, when Namur was ruled in turn by the Holy Roman Empire, then France and then the Netherlands. Each new owner ordered extensions to the citadel, which became one of the largest in Europe. Some of the most significant changes were made by King Louis XIV of France’s great military architect, Vauban.
Following Belgian independence in 1830, the citadel became one of the residences of the new King of the Belgians, Leopold I, and its garrison was slowly reduced until the last soldiers left in 1977. By then it had already become a tourist attraction, and visitor numbers grew as its facilities for them were developed. Exhibitions about the citadel’s history were created and audio-guides and guided tours developed to allow visitors to explore the ramparts and the extraordinary warren of underground passages cut into the rock. Today, you can take the tourist road train up to the citadel and around it, enjoying magnificent panoramic views from its grassy terraces.
Don’t forget your camera!
Throughout the year, the citadel also hosts a range of events: son et lumière shows, theatrical performances, concerts, etc. It has become a must-see attraction for tourists on their way to the Ardennes, who come, in the Emperor Napoleon’s words “to contemplate the centuries” from one of the finest viewpoints in Europe.