Jam, Beer, and Topiary: the Many Joys of Durbuy, Belgium

Often described as the "smallest city in the world", Durbuy, in the Walloon region of Belgium, is a magical medieval town that indulges in the pleasures of traditional Belgian food, drink and culture. The recent recipient of an award honoring its efforts in sustainable tourism, this fairy-tale spot is nestled within the lush greenery of the Ardennes mountain range and presided over by the Durbuy Castle, a confection of a building fit for Prince Charming.

Just two hours from Brussels, Durbuy lies along the banks of the Ourthe River. With only several hundred inhabitants in the city center,  and just 11,000 in the surrounding area, Durbuy truly is a small-scale gem. Though its first castle was built way back in 889, the town only officially became a 'city' in 1331. Durbuy's sleepy sense of the centuries is enhanced by the characteristic limestone houses that compose the city and dot the countryside.

stopiary park durbuy

Photo: Panoramio

Climb up to the top of the Belvedere lookout point for fantastic views of the town, then head down to stroll among the cafes and shops lining the old town's cobblestone lanes. Durbuy's cuisine emphasizes seasonal ingredients and local, Walloonian treats such as wild game and fish – treats that are on display in the Wednesday and Sunday markets. Be sure to try try the two 'official' Durbuy beers – Marckloff and Durboyse – and to stop in to the famous Confituerie Saint Amour, which stocks local liqueurs, wines and fantastic house-made jams. Pack a picnic and head to one of the many grassy parks lining the Ourthe River.

Durbuy

Photo: Travel Experience Live

Oddly enough for one of the world's smallest cities, Durbuy boasts the world's largest topiary garden. The Durbuy Topiary Park has over 250 shrubs and hedges that have been painstakingly transformed into animals and abstract sculptures. If a garden seems too tame and tranquil, the countryside around Durbuy offers plenty of opportunity to feel at one with nature. A 180 kilometer hiking trail passes nearby, as well as several trails with more day-trip friendly distances. If you're set on getting wet, tourists and locals love to kayak, canoe, or just splash around in the waters of the Ourthe.

In the spring, an enormous labyrinth is set up at a nearby farm, with shows and games for children, while in the winter, the city's famed Christmas market is sure to delight. For anyone looking to unwind in a postcard-perfect town, or hoping to restore themselves among the trees with a good meal in their bellies, Durbuy offers, food, nature and charm to spare.

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