Running in Namur: the capital of Wallonia
Located at the confluence of the Sambre and Meuse rivers, Namur is the heir to an ancient Roman city. To run in Namur is to meet the noble houses that succeeded one another, while admiring its rich architectural heritage. But also to discover its many festivals, in the heart of an active and modern city!
As the seventh largest Belgian city in terms of surface area, and eleventh in terms of population, Namur is first and foremost distinguished by its history. Situated between two rivers, on a confluence that has been occupied since the Neolithic period, it has preserved a large number of remarkable buildings from its rich past.
Indeed, if we know that the first urbanisation of Namur dates back to Roman times, and that the city existed under the name of Namuco under the Merovingians, the appearance of the first Counts of Namur in the 10th century marks the beginning of a succession of noble houses at the head of the fief. Its citadel, whose foundations date back to the Romans, is one of the largest in Europe. It was first a castle, then the county seat, and then became the present-day citadel in the hands of the brilliant architects Vauban and Coehoorn. Its vast network of underground passages led Napoleon I to nickname it the "termite mound of Europe". During your walk in Namur, you can easily visit it by running... or by taking the cable car that leads to it!
From the remains of the Grognon to the Brewers' district
Over the centuries, Namur's appearance has changed according to the conflicts that have shaken Europe. Especially in the 17th century, which marked a real architectural turning point: running through the streets of the city, you will see few buildings from before that time. Especially since the Grognon district, the historic cradle of the city, was razed to the ground in the early 1970s due to insalubrity. Its strange name was due to its location, in a "beak" of land separating the Sambre from the Meuse - a Grognon, from the Old French groin, meaning a prominence of the land.
However, at the foot of the citadel, you will discover some remains from the medieval period, including the towers of the former third enclosure. The city of Namur had suffered twenty sieges in twenty centuries, and at the height of its defensive power it had four walls, which the citadel reinforced. This made it a major stronghold of the Southern Netherlands, but above all one of the most coveted in Europe. Its belfry, the Tour Saint-Jacques, was built at the end of the 14th century. This former defence tower, which has been redesigned without losing its fortified appearance, is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
As the water flows
Along the river Sambre, you can admire two successive districts during your run. Firstly, the Bishop's Palace, in which the magnificent Italian cathedral of Saint-Aubain, built in the 18th century on the basis of an old collegiate church, stands. Then, further on, there is the brewers' district, created at the same time as these craftsmen settled in large numbers, attracted by the proximity of the river and the liveliness of this commercial district.
During a walk along the towpath or a simple stroll along the quays, you will appreciate this district, now renovated, which has far fewer breweries than in its commercial heyday. You can also take a "Namourette", one of the small boats that navigate the two rivers, between gondola and whaleboat.
Beyond its monuments, Namur is an active and modern city, a real "Smart city" renowned for its cultural events, especially its festivals. It is the seat of the Walloon government, but also of the Parliament of Wallonia, which is housed in the former Saint-Gilles hospice, a medieval building that is one of the few remaining vestiges of the Grognon. From a cultural point of view, Namur . On the one hand, during your stay in Namur, you may have the chance to admire one of the city's stilt jousts, which are now part of the intangible heritage of humanity. Namur's stilt walkers have been around for over 600 years!
Namur is also full of museums, both archaeological and artistic. Don't miss the Diocesan Museum and the Cathedral Treasury, which contain rare examples of Mosan silverware. Or the African museum, which is organised around the Belgian presence in the Congo. For a visit out of the ordinary, you can also consider a visit to the Strawberry Museum, about the cultivation of this fruit, or to the Terra Nova Centre, which offers you a real multimedia excursion into the history of the city.
Of course, if you visit Namur in September, don't miss the Walloon Festivals, a golden opportunity to taste the local "peket", a juniper liqueur. Or the famous International French Film Festival (FIFF). However, almost every month you will find a major cultural event to enjoy in the heart of the Belgian city.
Run with Runnin'City from the Citadel to Saint Aubain Cathedral!