I looooove history. The feeling of walking in a place where so many have walked before. Touching stone, cold now but one warmed by fires, conversation, conflict and an unknowable life. Impossibly remote and yet just at hand. Belgium is brimming with historical treasures from the well known to the nearly forgotten. Luckily the ruins at Villers la ville are enjoying a second lease on life due to a recent investment and creation of a world class visitor center.
Tipped off by an article, I was amazed to find that the gorgeous ruins of this 12th century abbey are just 40 minutes outside of Brussels, just past Waterloo. Without delay, I bundled up my little man, grabbed my camera and away we went. After an easy drive, we turned the corner and my jaw dropped. This place is huge! It covers a sprawling 36 hectares with many buildings including the cathedral, abbot’s palace, a dungeon (!) and the many buildings and rooms in which the monks went about their daily life, largely in silent reflection.
The old mill building has been converted to a modern and beautiful visitor center which gives information about the abbey and monks who lived there. There is even a room sized model of the grounds so you can see what it once looked like. The visitor center is connected to the abbey via a bridge and once you step onto the grounds, the adventure begins.
Left to decay after the French revolution and subsequent capture of Belgian territory, it is hard to imagine that such a busy and epic place was left to the elements but so it was. Walls and fixtures but no roofs. Crumpling brick and stone. Complete and yet broken. It is a hair raising experience to walk through. And the cathedral will take your breath away and bring a tear to your eye. It is magical.
We have definitely added this to our official visitors tour. And you KNOW this is the site of a future Bear & Dragon Adventure. Go check out it!
Where: Rue de l’Abbaye, 55, 1495 Villers-la-Ville
When: 1st November – 31st March: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm (open everyday)
1st April – 31st October: 10:00 am – 6:00 pm (open everyday)
Annual closing: December 24, December 25, December 31 and January 1
- Adults: € 8
- Children (aged 6 to 12): € 3
- Children (<6 years), disabled persons**, teachers, friends of the Abbey: Free
- Audioguide: € 1,50