What to do and where to stay on a weekend in Sedan ?
Sedan is steeped in history and a gorgeous little town to spend a weekend. You could spend 24 hours within the castle walls or head out into the wider town and see the best of Sedan’s food, architecture and ancient history.
Sedan town is in the Ardennes and the Grand Est region of north-eastern France. It is just half an hour’s drive from Charleville Mezieres and a perfect stop off on either the EuroVelo route 19 cycling route or as part of a holiday in and around the Ardennes.
The town was founded in 1424 when work started on its huge thick walled castle. The castle claims to be the largest fortified medieval castle in Europe, covering an area of 7.4 acres across 7 levels! It certainly had a majestic and commanding appearance as we drove through the tall thick castle gates to arrive into Château de Sedan!
Sedan has a relatively small population of 17,000 and you can certainly feel parts of that close knit community when you walk around the town and markets. The population has been slowly shrinking since its peak in 1975 at almost 26,000 and you can tell some properties haven’t been quite as looked after as they once were. Crumbling walls add to the atmosphere of ancient Sedan.
If you are thinking of visiting the beautiful town of Sedan, I share all my tips below for how to make the most of your time in this alluring town!
Where to stay in Sedan
Hôtel Le Château Fort de Sedan
We were so excited to be staying in the magnificent Hôtel Le Château Fort de Sedan, a hotel inside an actual castle! I felt like royalty as we drove inside through the tall arched gateway.
As a guest of the hotel you can park inside the walls of the castle, or there is lots of parking just outside the walls too. It’s free to park.
It seemed quite busy when we arrived with lots of cars parked outside the hotel, but when you’re in a ginormous thick walled castle it takes a lot to actually make the hotel seem overcrowded inside.
The entrance hall to the hotel also holds the restaurant midi au château and some cosy little rooms built into the thick ancient walls where you can sit with a book and a glass of wine or a hot chocolate.
The friendly staff let us check in early as we had just arrived back from out 20km bike ride on the EuroVelo 19 route and were in need of an outfit change! The hotel is currently undergoing some renovations and so many of the rooms are newly decorated.
Remember to ask for a non-smoking room, as smoking rooms still exist in France! Our room was a perfect mix of modern amenities whilst still keeping that feeling that you’re sleeping in a castle!
Our room was warm and had a modern bathroom, big wardrobe, desk/dressing table and big comfy bed (with extra pillows!). The cute arched window looked out into the centre of the castle where the cars were parked and made me want to let down my hair (if it was longer) like Rapunzel.
A buffet breakfast was served the next morning, which included freshly squeezed orange juice, you could squeeze yourself alongside a great collection of coffees and teas. After a huge dinner the night before at the Restaurant la Principaute in the hotel I didn’t have much more than a pain au chocolate and some scrambled egg. With a bigger appetite I would have munched my way through cereals, fruits, meats and the fresh bread (or toast) selection.
The Hôtel Le Châtaeu Fort de Sedan is probably the finest hotel in Sedan and is popular for both tourists and business trips, due to its conferencing facilities. There was also a couple of large groups of friends staying in the hotel, using it as a base to cycle or hike around the area. With plenty of rooms it’s a great getaway for anyone.
Where to eat in Sedan
You don’t have to move very far for a good meal in Sedan, in fact you could stay right where you are and eat in the hotel. The hotel has two restaurants and both serve delicious food.
Hotel Chateau Fort Sedan – Restaurant Midi au Chȃteau
The Restaurant Midi au Château is in the reception area of the hotel and serves a mixture of sandwiches and salads alongside more traditional hot dishes and daily specials. We had a small tapas starter of tapenades and bread followed by a Confit Duck for me and a very French beef Tartare with chips for Olly.
You can also grab a drink in the restaurant throughout the day too, whether that’s a glass of wine or a chocolat chaud.
Hotel Chȃteau Fort Sedan – Restaurant La Principauté
The Restaurant La Principauté is the hotel’s main restaurant where evening meals are served. You walk down a long corridor in the castle before walking through some heavy velvet curtains and into the chandelier filled, high ceilinged dining room. It was beautiful!
There were two menus, one that was included as part of our bed, breakfast and dinner deal or a more extensive menu that was an additional cost. It depends how you book as to which menu would make most sense. We had a deal which included the set menu, breakfast and our room, though if you book your hotel room on its own it won’t make as much difference which menu you choose.
The food was heavenly including melt in your mouth tuna and a huge assiette of desserts, which was basically 4 desserts for the price of one. I still didn’t share! 😉
Restaurant Le Saint Michel
Once you’re done eating at the hotel, then there are some lovely restaurants outside the castle walls in town too! We only had chance for one lunch outside the hotel and that was at a traditional cosy French restaurant called Le Saint Michel. The restaurant was full of locals and clearly a popular weekend lunch spot.
We chose from a simple 3 course menu for €16… what a bargain! The meal included soup, salamis, steak and for my main a ‘not quite so French’ spaghetti Bolognese. I just fancied a bit of pasta! It was tasty home cooked grub, with a Nanna’s cooking kind of feel to it.
For home cooked grub in a family friendly restaurant this is the place to go. I imagine in the winter when the big central fire is going it is a really cosy place to visit.
What to do in Sedan
Visit the Château Fort de Sedan
The largest fortified castle in Europe, the Château Fort de Sedan is the main event on a visit to Sedan and the primary attraction that brings people to the town. Building of the castle first began in 1424, where a triangular castle that included a monastery was built.
Over the years the castle continued to grow and be added upon with the walls getting thicker and thicker. When first built the curtain wall was a mere 4.5metres thick, but in 1530 they grew these by an additional 26metres! Wow!
Fast forward a ‘few years’ to 1995 and work began on the visitor centre sharing the incredible history of this giant castle and town. From the battles that took place here, to the royalty that lived here, to the different ways people lived within the walls.
The castle’s visitor centre is constantly being added to as more history is unearthed. When you get your tickets you will be given an audio guide, where you can choose your language and follow the trail around the castle learning about the different areas of the castle and artefacts you find inside.
The self-guided tour takes you both inside and outside the castle, with different viewing points across the town where you can begin to imagine what the larger walled area was like in previous centuries.
It’s hard to imagine what life was like in a cold draughty castle in the 15th century, but their life size models and detailed audio guide and detailed information stands help you begin to understand. I’m certainly thankful for the glass and central heating we have these days!
Tickets are €9.50 which includes your audio guide and a film and I would give yourselves about 2 hours to walk around the castle.
The castle also organises a number of events, including a torchlight parade in December and special events for children, school trips and holidays.
Visit the Sedan indoor Market
If it’s more food than history that gets you excited then the Sedan market is the place to go. We were lucky to be in Sedan on a Saturday morning the main day of the market and I was blown away by the variety of produce on offer.
Multi coloured carrots piled high, beside giant radishes and huge pumpkins. Rotisserie chickens tempted me beside big cuts of meat or different fresh fish. The market was buzzing with mainly locals wandering around with their shopping trolleys and bags.
The stalls stretch around the inside a huge purpose built market building and outside into the surrounding streets and next door car park. As well as a huge variety of food there is also a mixture of comic book stalls, homemade basketware, bric a brac, clothes and more. Anything you need you can probably find it at the Sedan market!
I only wish we were staying longer so I could fill my bags with fresh food and cook up a feast for anyone who fancied it! ☺
Buy a Pain du Poilu from Boulangerie Guénard
The Pan du Poilu roughly translates as the hairy bread, named after the hairy soldiers who would eat this bread in the trenches in the First World War. A baker from Sedan, Christophe Guénard, recently re-created this bread and it has become a popular addition in cafes and restaurants around the region.
We bought a Pain du Poilu from Boulangerie Guénard on the morning before we left, knowing it would last a couple of days or more before we got home to eat it! It’s quite hard and crispy on the outside, but perfect for dunking into a big hearty bowl of broth.
Do a walking tour of Sedan before the French Revolution
The castle isn’t the only history of the town and the tourism board have created a number of walking tours to show you some of the other historical buildings of Sedan.
You can further your tour beyond the castle to learn about a number of buildings and monuments from when the castle was first built or you could learn about buildings a ‘little’ more modern day from just before the French revolution.
Our tour of the town included walking in and around the Église Saint-Charles-Borromée (The Church of Saint Charles Borromeo) that sits in the centre of the town square, past the hospital first built in 1696 and past the Fontaine Dauphine which sits on the edge of one of the castle walls.
There is another walking tour that shows you round the city that was built after the French Revolution in the 19th and 20th Centuries. I love cities that have a mix of the more modern day architecture alongside such old buildings. In Sedan they seem to sit well together side by side and it’s a lovely city to enjoy a stroll around, looking up at the magnificent varying architecture.
Try a beer at Sedan’s oldest pub – Le Roy de la Bière
Le Roy de la Bière is an old pub that sits in the centre of town, it is clearly popular with both locals and tourists. It feels like a truly old pub, with walls covered in old posters, signs, and beer mugs. It’s dark inside but feels friendly and the few broken windows covered in cardboard kind of just adds to its atmosphere.
The menu is extensive and includes a very modern list of cocktails and a wide range of beers, we tried one of their specialities ‘Le Cuvee du Roy’, a pale ale that was creamy and slightly fruity and went down well with Olly’s seasoned palate.
I’m told you should also try ‘Le Cuvee du Arthur’ another local favourite named after their famous Arthur Rimbaud.
Walk the GR14 Trail
On our final day in Sedan we headed out of town to walk along a section of the GR14 hiking route. The full route stretches from Belgium all the way to Paris, starting in the Ardennes and further south through rolling countryside and vineyards until you reach Paris.
We only did 6km of the trail, being dropped off in the forest and walking back to the small village of Olly. It was a quiet and peaceful walk, surrounded by huge towering trees, with nothing, but the sound of a few birds and squirrels for company.
The trail goes through Sedan so you could start in the town and either walk north or south along the route either for a day hike or as part of a longer hiking trip. The trails are clearly marked with red and white paint so keep an eye out to make sure you’re sticking to the trail.
So if you’re interested in history, French cuisine or just the idea of staying inside a medieval castle then I definitely recommend a visit to Sedan. A perfect addition to a long weekend in and around Charleville.