Maison Leffe & Grotte Merveilleuse, Dinant (Wallonia - Belgium)

Can you even guess why beer was brewed a few centuries ago in Belgium and who did it??? No, it wasn't a pleasure drink like today! Well, anyone who could brew beer brewed it that even included monks and nuns! Why??? That was the only sure shot way of killing all germs in the water, because water was contaminated with germs of even the dreaded plague!!! One of the most popular brand of beer Leffe had its humble beginnings in a monastery here in Dinant!


To begin with - its a bit confusing! There are 2 different places - Maison Leffe and Abbaye Notre-Dame de Leffe. The 2 are located in the opposite directions of the railway station with 1.8km between them. The Abbaye Notre-Dame de Leffe is where originally Leffe Beer was brewed. However it is now still a functioning monastery where setting up a beer museum or beer tasting and serving tourists, would be a hindrance to the people there. Also the monastery does not produce beer anymore, but has been taken over by AB InBev. So, within the site of La Marveilleuse Resort, which is a convent converted to a hotel, a portion has now been converted to Maison Leffe - a museum that talks about the history of Leffe beer plus a bar for beer tasting as well!

Belgian beer culture is a UNESCO recognized intangible cultural heritage. One type of Belgian beer is its Abbey beer. As I mentioned earlier, all the religious centres brewed beer here for purifying water. Today, they don't do it anymore. As time went by, the brewing was taken over by others on behalf of the abbey, as well as commercialized! There are 18 such certified Abbey beers today. Leffe beer was commercialized since 1952 with a tie-up with local brewery run by Nys and Albert Lootvoet with its original recipe. This brewery was later taken over by AB InBev. Today the brewing of Leffe beer happens in Leuven along with the other brands of AB InBev in Stella Artois (read about my visit to Stella Artois Brewery). Till date, Abbaye Notre-Dame de Leffe receives royalty from AB InBev for this beer!


The Museum is now set up in  the original chapel of the original convent which is now La Marveilleuse Resort. Its quite amusing to be surrounded by church benches and stained glass windows and to listen to the history of beer brewing! It is a simple, small interactive museum with digital displays that explain the history of the abbey and brewery. There are also samples of the raw materials used and installations to explain the historical style of manufacturing beer. The bar is located opposite to the museum. The ticket includes beer tasting as well. We could opt for a full size sample of any of their beers or 3 small glasses of their 3 best beers of their choice. With our 2 tickets, we chose one of each and managed to taste 4 Leffe varieties. 

In the first pic are Leffe Brown (the authentic abbey beer with 6.5% alcohol with its dark color from darkly roasted malt), Leffe Blond (the slightly bitter version of the authentic beer with 6.6% alcohol), Leffe Radieuse (with a hint of citrus fruits & coriander seeds with 8.2% alcohol) and Leffe Rituel (with an explosion of flavours including bitter spices & banana with 9% alcohol)!

Another site very close to the resort bears the same name as the resort - Grotte la Merveilleuse or the Merveilleuse Caves. This was discovered in 1904 CE during an excavation to construct a railway line. The cave had been formed by underground river. It was originally called Grotte de Raimpaine. However simply because its formations were just marvelous, it got renamed as Grotte de Mervelliuse! Currently the property is owner by Mr. Robert Libert.

The cave is almost always at the temperature of 13 deg C which was warmer than outside when we went! The cave is 850m of various galleries of which 650m can be explored. Its accessible only by guided tour and we were guided by this very funny guy, Mr.Werner. It was an interesting walk into the cave!

Before getting to the 'Great Hall', we crossed so so many formations including little seated Buddha, bearded man (Jesus Christ?!), 3D scan of in-utero baby (no, I'm not joking, there was definitely a formation like this which freaked me out coz I had seen that hardly a year ago IRL!), and ofcourse several elephants & octopuses! There are waterfall formations where Stalactites have cascaded; there are few columns which have stalactites and stalagmites that have met and joined together - it's all super interesting! In winters, at several crevices, bats can be seen hibernating! We did spot a few by the end of autumn.
One of the earlier owners of the cave did attempt to construct a swimming pool in here and tried to pump in and pump out water. Though the pool was constructed, the water pumping never materialized! It is still there for us to see! The Great Hall till-date serves as a space for concerts and events and can hold upto around a hundred people! Guess what? How about a destination wedding in Dinant inside a cave??? 


To Get There:
To Dinant: Refer to my earlier post
On Google Maps: Maison LeffeAbbaye Notre-Dame de Leffe, Grotte la Merveilleuse
All sites are walkable from Dinant Railway Station, city centre and each other.


To Stay:
Hotels and B&Bs at all price points are available in nearest city Namur.
There are a few hotels in Dinant. Here’s my review of La Mervelliuse Resort where I stayed.

Entry Tickets & Timings:
Maison Leffe: €7; 11:00AM to 06:00PM; Oct-May: Fri-Sun only; June-Sept: Tues-Sun
Grotte la Merveilleuse: €9; Tues-Sun: Guided tours once every hour from 11:00AM to 3:00/4:00/5:00PM (in winter/autumn/summer respectively)

My complete Dinant travelogue: Dinant Citadel, Notre Dame CollĂ©giale, Maison Leffe, Grotte Merveilleuse, Charles de Gaulle Bridge, La Maison de Monsieur Sax, Mosan - the Medieval Heritage House, Castle of Crevecoeur, Pâtisserie Couques de Dinant V. Collard 1774

P.S: I was invited by Wallonia Tourism to experience the city for review purposes, however the opinions are my own and this post does not to advertise the product/service.
P.S.2: Leffe beer is an alcoholic beverage. You must be of legal drinking age to consume it, as stated by your country. Excessive drinking is injurious to health. Drinking & Driving can be lethal. 

Bhushavali N

An ardent traveler by passion. I am a wanderlust.. Read more about me here.

15 comments:

  1. What an interesting history of beer! I had no idea why it was first brewed but it makes a lot of sense. I love the caves you visited. I love caves and whenever a place I'm visiting has them, it's a must do.

    ReplyDelete
  2. The history of beer and liquor is so interesting! During our travels in France, we learned about Chartreuse which was made by monks. Then we hopped over to England and learned about Buckfast tonic which was made by monks in the UK. Great article :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. I didn't know Belgian beer has such interesting history. Wow, I mean in the monasteries? To cleanse germs? That is something I have never heard of before. Plus the caves look so magical. It reminded me of Vietnam caves I had visited a few years back.

    ReplyDelete
  4. This was quite an enlightening post. I had no idea beers were brewed for such an innovative reason. I agree that it is a little amusing to listen all about beer in a holy place. I mean, who knew this was why beers were brewed for originally!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I'm definitely not an alcohol-drinker, but it's always fun to learn about the history of various drinks. Like so many others, I had no idea the humble beginnings of beer - in a monastery! But for sure, I can understand why. I'm sure it was super surreal to be surrounded by church items and listening to the history of beer!

    ReplyDelete
  6. It's fun learning the history of food and drinks and seeing how it is part of the culture. Sounds like the monks were on to something. Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  7. I love learning so much about our history with these beautiful travel blogs. I had no idea the history of beer, but I must say, it totally makes sense. And a beer that is 9% alcohol and sounds delicious, too. I would love to try that one.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Wow great post, I love reading about history especially when its related to beer. I am excited to show off some of my newly learned Belgium beer facts tonight at the bar.

    ReplyDelete
  9. We are alcohol intolerant, so we'd probably order something non-alcohol. Sweet non-alcoholic wine perhaps. Hahaha! But I think most of our time would be spent inside Merveilleuse Caves. It looks like a crystal kingdom, similar to Central Cave in our very own Samar, Philippines.

    ReplyDelete
  10. What a great idea for an article! I knew some of these historical facts about beer and I also visited The Abbaye Notre-Dame de Leffe a couple of years ago. The caves look absolutely marvelous too. Thanks for sharing this, it brought back so many nice memories :)

    ReplyDelete
  11. This is a kind of beer tour that I've been searching for. Not just to know how to craft the bear but also know its history. You are awesome and your blog!

    ReplyDelete
  12. I love the way you present the ancient history of beer! I knew it was common (and not delicious) in olden days but I didn't know that it was necessary to kill the bacteria. That is also fascinating that Belgian beer culture is an intangible cultural aspect designated by UNESCO, I don't know that I've heard of that before!

    ReplyDelete
  13. I always love a good beer museum! I had never heard that people used to drink beer to avoid getting contaminated by water, really interesting to know!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Belgian beer is some of the best! Would love the chance to brew my own. Which is your favorite style?

    ReplyDelete
  15. Wow! What an interesting article and stories of beer! The caves you visited looks gorgeous. I hope I will visit this place one day, looks spectacular.

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for visiting...! Why not leave a comment.? And tell your friends..!!!
By commenting you accept to our GDPR Policy.

popstrap.com