Belgium was not really at the top of my list of next destinations. That’s why I am all the more pleased after my Belgium holidays that I decided to go on this round trip. Belgium offers varied landscapes and many different sights in a confined space.
How I came up with the idea of traveling to Belgium is due to my trip to Turkey. Due to the enormous delay of the plane I got into arithmetic and wondered where I was going to get my car at that time. So we travel to the airport (2.5 hours), fly to Turkey (2-3 hours – normally) and transfer to the hotel (2 hours). So if I get in the car for six hours, I’ll come to… Belgium, for example! So get in and let’s go.
List of my TOP attractions in Belgium – Wallonia
- Liège with festival of lights and train station
- Durbuy – the smallest city in Belgium
- Grottes de Hotton – “Grotte des Mille et une Nuits”
- Bouillon – Home of the first crusader Godefroy de Bouillon
- Let’s go to the Trappist monks – Abbaye d’Orval
- The ship lifts of the Canal du Centre – a little bit of world heritage
- Tournai – former capital of the Franconian Empire
Belgium Holidays – Land of two cultures
After a little more than three hours I am already at my first destination in Belgium: Liège or Liège – we are in the French-speaking part of Belgium – in Wallonia.
Festival of lights in Liège – La Nocturne des Coteaux de la Citadelle
But first of all Liège, who happens to be celebrating the annual festival of lights in the old town this evening. Every first Saturday in October, the oldest part of the city is transformed into a sea of 20,000 candles. Numerous stalls and booths invite you to taste the regional specialities, which I will not miss. “Open courtyards” provide an insight into the cultural buildings that would otherwise not be possible.
Liège was originally intended to be the first overnight destination, as there are few other places of interest in this city. But the festival of lights is the first highlight of this short round trip through Belgium. The next morning we head south on the 633 towards the Ardennes. I drive through the Ourthe Valley following the Vallée de l’ Ourthe – one of the most picturesque routes through the Ardennes. Make a stopover in the town of Durbuy.
Durbuy – the “smallest city in Belgium”.
Actually, I’d have to write “City” Durbuy. Although this small community has only 400 inhabitants, it has town charter. I am impressed by these old alleys and the medieval ensemble of buildings made of grey stone, which originate from the region. This is how I imagine – somewhat idealized – a small medieval town. Numerous restaurants invite you to stay here. Since I am going to spend my holidays in Belgium at the beginning of October, it is quite quiet here.
Grottes de Hotton – “Grotte des Mille et une Nuits”
After a delicious meal I set off on my way to the Grottes de Hotton, which I have a holiday for today on my travel map in Belgium. In 1958 the stalactite cave, also called “Grotto of a Thousand and One Nights”, was discovered. The guided tour in English, French or Dutch takes about one hour and is definitely worthwhile – without it you can’t get in.
I am impressed to see what nature has created with its powers here. In many places I am confronted with fantastic colour games and bizarre stalactite and stalactite sculptures. This grotto or the nearby Grottes de Han is a must-see on an Ardennes trip.
A few more tips for visiting the Grottes de Hotton
- During my visit in October are pleasant 22 degrees outside the stalactite cave. In the cave, however, are only 12 degrees. So I’m glad I brought warm clothes.
- Put on sturdy shoes. Even though the paths are quite safe, there is moisture down there, so it is slippery in some places.
- It’s up and down for over an hour. Upstairs and downstairs. You should be fit if you want to visit the cave.
On the way to Belgium’s largest castle – Bouillon
Continue on the Vallée de l’ Ourthe with its charming landscapes on the 833 towards La Roche-en-Ardenne. When I come out of the forest and take the first street in town, I have to swallow it for a while.
I have never seen a tank come into my field of vision in Germany before – except during exercises. This is, of course, because one of the famous battles of the Second World War was fought here: the Battle of the Ardennes. And the Museum of the Battle of the Bulge is also located here.
I continue my journey on the highway 89, which becomes a motorway. I would like to arrive early in the next few days in order to be able to take a look around the town.
My residence – Hotel de la Poste Relais Napoleon III
Arrived in Bouillon, which is located in a hidden but worth seeing region of Belgium, I first move into the hotel for the coming days: Hotel de la Poste. It is located directly on the river Semois, which runs through Bouillon. Unload the luggage for a few minutes and off you go. Since Belgium is known for its numerous types of beer, I have a look at the first beer shop and buy my first Belgian beer: The Trappistenbier Trappistes Rochefort 6th Lecker!
Home of the first Crusader Godefroy de Bouillon
The next morning I set off for the castle in Bouillon, which I could already look at from my hotel room. I am very curious to be in this historic place. Since I am interested in history, I have also read a book or two about the Crusades.
But it is only now, when I arrive in Bouillon, that I realise that this is the birthplace of the crusades. The Pope called for this – but it was the crusader Godefroy de Bouillon who led the first crusade and who had his domicile here.
The castle in Bouillon is not only something for fans of medieval castles like me. The castle itself is very impressive, as it is well preserved and has been restored in many places. In addition, it not only offers a glimpse into one or the other room, but almost all areas can be explored.
Through mysterious passages I reach the towers and from there I have a wonderful view over the whole region, because the castle has been strategically built very well. The price of 6,50 Euro includes a visit to the museum and the Falcon show, which takes place three times a day.
Just great. I would make the visit again at any time, because I had a great stay in the castle for three hours and such impressive birds of prey were never so close.
Let’s go to the Trappist monks – Abbaye d’Orval
Since I have already drunk a Trappist beer and I have come to taste it, I would also like to try the beers from Orval. So the next morning I drive to the Trappist Abbey of Notre-Dame d’ Orval, 30 minutes by car from Bouillon. I take the N83 because the scenery along this road is extraordinary.
I can only visit the old monastery complex and not the new area, where the monks still run agriculture, produce cheese and brew the Trappist beer. But now and then I also get a glimpse of the new buildings from the ruins – especially the monumental statue of the Virgin Mary.
But also the walk and the pause in the abbey ruins is very impressive. It is pleasantly quiet, as only a few tourists find their way here. Besides, the weather is fine for me and so I walk through the gardens and ruins.
Before I go back to Bouillon, I have a small meal in the café at the abbey. I take a detour back to drive through the Vallée de la Semois. The beautiful landscape along the N884, N865 and N866 brings me back to Bouillon with beautiful impressions.
Departure to the fabulous Chateau de la Poste
The next morning in my Belgium vacation brings me to my next domicile, the Chateau de la Poste, which is situated in the middle of nature. I chose this destination for myself because after the sightseeing I just need nature around me and I can hike here.
Here I don’t care about having a bigger city around me. There is a lot to do in the Chateau facilities, such as tennis courts and miniature golf. From the terrace I have a spectacular panoramic view over the Belgian region of Condroz. In the evening I enjoy a glass of white wine on this terrace and then play a little pool before I go back into the room.
Note: Most of the rooms are outside the main building. These are smaller than in the lock, but also cheaper. So if you want to stay in the castle, you should take a close look at the booking.
The boat lifts of the Canal du Centre – a bit of world heritagee
Unfortunately, however, it will also continue from this beautiful place at some point. My next item on the programme is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. An extraordinary world heritage, I think. The four ship-lifting lifts on the Canal du Centre, built between 1882 and 1917, are officially part of our world heritage.
I drive to the ship lifts 3 and 2 because they are close to each other and I am impressed. Not only industrial plants were built here, but small flowers were attached to metal struts with attention to detail. It is an exciting place for me, because I haven’t seen anything like it before.
Such plants are completely different when they have been built in our time. These are monumental and in their way overwhelming, as I note shortly afterwards.
Tournai – former capital of the Franconian Empire
Die Industriebauten und architektonischen Meisterleistungen lasse ich mit einem überwältigten Gefühl hinter mir und fahre nach Tournai, wo bereits das nächste UNESCO Welterbe auf mich wartet. Denn die Liebfrauenkathedrale in Tournai gehört ebenfalls zum offiziellen Welterbe.
But now that the day is well advanced, I have to make my way to my next hotel: in Flanders.
As you can see from the length of this article, Belgium – in this case Wallonia – impressed me a lot and I could have written much more, but this would certainly have gone beyond the scope of the article. But I can assure you that Flanders is also very exciting, so why do I have to go on holiday in my Belgium through Flanders, visiting Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp, Leuven and of course Brussels.