Villers Abbey - Abbaye de Villers (Wallonia - Belgium)

This article first appeared in My Travelogue by Bhushavali

DAY TRIP FROM BRUSSELS TO ONE OF THE PICTURESQUE CHURCH RUINS IN BELGIUM

VILLERS-LA-VILLE ABBEY
Villers Abbey and Orval Abbey has been on my wishlist for a long time now, esp. after I visited Aulne Abbey in Thuin. Recently I managed to check one of those boxes! Read on to know more about Abbaye de Villers (Villers Abbey) in Villers-la-Ville, Wallonia, Belgium

Abbaye de Villers Abbey Most instagrammable places in Belgium


Abbaye de Villers Abbey Places to visit in Wallonia

Abbaye de Villers Abbey Places to visit in Wallonia

Abbaye de Villers Abbey Places to visit in Wallonia

Abbaye de Villers Abbey Places to visit in Wallonia

Abbaye de Villers Abbey Places to visit in Wallonia

HISTORY OF VILLERS ABBEY (ABBAYE DE VILLERS)
The history of Villers Abbey begins in 1146 CE when the monks of the Cistercian Clairvaux Abbey in France were invited by the knight Gauthier of Marbais. Later in the same year, about 17 monks settled here and constructed a Romanesque abbey here with local materials. By 1197 the abbey grew exponentially with 400 monks and 10000 ha land ownership. A huge Gothic abbey was built at this time which is what is in ruins right now. For 2 centuries, through 16th C & 17th C, the abbey was under frequent attacks and was abandoned time and again. It was during this time that the abbey was repaired whenever damaged, with bricks, which can still be seen. By 18th C it was rebuilt in a neoclassical style but then soon after that, it was abandoned forever, thanks to the French Revolution. 

RESTORATION OF VILLERS ABBEY (ABBAYE DE VILLERS)
In the early 20th C, the restoration of Villers Abbey began however got interrupted by the 2 world wars. By late 20th C CE, the restoration got over and the ruins of Villers Abbey (Abbaye de Villers) was open for the public! 

VIRTUAL TOUR OF VILLERS ABBEY (ABBAYE DE VILLERS)
The tour of the Villers Abbey begins at the visitors centre from where a passage leads to the Abbey. This passage goes through the old rose bushes (the varieties that existed before 1857 CE to early 20th C CE) and has a fantastic view of the Abbey. While being mesmerized by the abbey ruins to the right, what you'll miss is, what we missed was, a huge garden sculpture of the abbey's logo to the left. Right before entering the abbey ruins is a short climb to the viewpoint. Atop here is the horse-stable as well. If the weather is not bad, the horses would be outside, grazing!
Within the abbey ruins, the first stop is a small herb garden, which has now been re-utilized for the same purpose. The next room had been used as the kitchen, which makes immense sense because the monks would have just picked up fresh herbs while cooking! The next place had been the cloister which looks like a central courtyard today. The first picture of this post is of the cloister. On a sunny day, the way the sunlight creates shadows here is just mesmerizing. Esp., the view of the flying buttresses of the main church is just awesome! This is the 2nd most picturesque spot, most instagrammable location, in the whole abbey. Here's also the tomb of the knight monk Gobert d'Aspremont and behind him is an exquisite rosette window. Its original placement was in the main church, but later during restoration, it was brought down here. 

Abbaye de Villers Abbey Things to do in Wallonia

Abbaye de Villers Abbey Things to do in Wallonia

Abbaye de Villers Abbey Most instagrammable places in Belgium

Abbaye de Villers Abbey Things to do in Wallonia

Abbaye de Villers Abbey Things to do in Wallonia

Abbaye de Villers Abbey Most instagrammable places in Belgium

In one direction from here had been the lay brothers' building and another is the path to go upstairs! From there, the view of the Cloister from atop is great and you're practically just beside the windows of monks refectory. It is in fact not possible to go inside the refectory, but it is possible to view it from atop! Keep in mind, that this path is a bit difficult with harsh drops, so hold on to your kids (this part is not wheelchair/stroller friendly as well). 
On another side of the Cloister, a walk passing-by the tomb of Gobert d'Aspremont, leads to the most picturesque spot in the entire abbey, the most instagrammable location in the entire abbey - the ruins of the nave of the church! A portion of the high ceiling is intact and so is the apse and some of the gothic windows. 
Behind the church is the Garden of Scents (Jardin des Senteurs) which is a meditative path that helps contemplation & self-discovery. A short hike up on this path leads to the ruins of Saint Bernard's Chapel. We did not however go on this path. Beside was a separate building that had served as the guest house and workshops. The guest was originally built in 13th C but was converted to a brewery in 16th C and the workshops were extended in 18th C CE.
Back to the cloister! In another direction are a series of smaller rooms that had once served as the armarium (storage room of not arms but of books, chants, prayers etc), chapter room, parlour and monks dormitory. Finally through the common room is the actual central courtyard. Here were the infirmary, funeral cellars and prison! A prison in the abbey? Well, it's more for the undisciplined monks and minor crimes that happen within the abbey premises!
In front of it is a huge garden across which the railway line crosses over a bridge!! Behind it is a huge staircase that led to the Chapel of Notre Dame de Montaigu, built in 1616 CE and the Vineyard, which was completely dry thanks to the cold weather when I visited Viller Abbey! But it was still worth the climb because the view from atop with the railway bridge crossing by, it was fantastic.
There are plenty of places to sit down and take a break all over the ruins of Villers abbey. Almost the entire abbey, except for the upstairs & the vineyard is accessible with a stroller/wheelchair. 

VIDEO TOUR OF VILLERS ABBEY (ABBAYE DE VILLERS) 


Abbaye de Villers Abbey Most instagrammable places in Belgium

Abbaye de Villers Abbey Most instagrammable places in Belgium

Abbaye de Villers Abbey Jean-Michel Folon Sculptures

Abbaye de Villers Abbey Jean-Michel Folon Sculptures

Abbaye de Villers Abbey Most instagrammable places in Belgium

Abbaye de Villers Abbey Most instagrammable places in Belgium

TEMPORARY EXPOSITIONS & EVENTS AT VILLERS ABBEY (ABBAYE DE VILLERS)
When I visited Villers Abbey a couple weeks ago, the Expo Folon was happening there (yes, the same Folon as Fondation Folon museum near Chateau de la Hulpe and the beautiful mind behind the stained glass windows of Waha Church near Marche-en-Famenne). Time and again, the abbey  hosts a variety of events from summer festivals, to musical events, to wine tastings, to kids events, to workshops and many more.

MICROBREWERY AT VILLERS ABBEY (ABBAYE DE VILLERS)
Abbeys and beer brewing go hand in hand. As I mentioned in my article on Leffe beer, long back, all the abbeys brewed beer because that was the sure shot way to purify water! Villers Abbey was no exception. A visit to the Villers Abbey micro brasserie & microbrewery is possible but only as group visits with at least 10 people. 
Today the microbrewery here brews 4 kids of beer. V which is the most traditional, authentic recipe of Villers Abbey, as brewed by the monks! Then there's IX which is a tripel beer, then there's La Ténébreuse, a brown beer and there's La Lumineuse, a blonde beer. I haven't tasted any of these, so I really cannot comment about their taste! 

Where is Microbrasserie Villers Abbey: La Micro-Brasserie de l'Abbaye de Villers
Villers Abbey Microbrewery Tickets: €9 (excl. abbey entry)
Villers Abbey Microbrewery Tours: Every 2nd Saturday of the month at 2:30pm & 4pm.
Currently accessible only via pre-booking for small groups. Individual visits temporarily suspended. 

WINERY AT VILLERS ABBEY (ABBAYE DE VILLERS) - VILLERS LA VIGNE
A vineyard existed in Villers Abbey as early as 1312 CE. Recently in 1990, a group of enthusiasts came together to re-create the vineyard and today it is not in a plain but in 5 levels. That's why you climb 5 flights of stairs from the garden of Villers Abbey to the Chapel of Notre Dame de Montaigu. The main variety of grapes cultivated here is ofcourse Pinot Noir, the dearest one to Cistercians. Villers-la-Vigne is available in red, white and rosé.

Where is Vineyard of Villers Abbey (Vignoble de l'Abbaye) (on Google Maps): Vignoble de l'abbaye
Vineyard of Villers Abbey (Vignoble de l'Abbaye) Tickets: €15 (incl. abbey visit)
Vineyard of Villers Abbey (Vignoble de l'Abbaye) Tours: Every 1st Saturday of the month at 2:30pm. Currently accessible only via pre-booking for small groups. Individual visits temporarily suspended. 

HIKING NEAR VILLERS ABBEY - BOIS DE L'ERMITAGE
Behind Villers Abbey there are quite a few hiking routes that go into the forests, Bois de l'ermitage, Bois Sainte-Catherine and Bois de Haute Heuval. 
From Villers Abbey, we headed to Chapelle Notre-Dame des Affligés de Villers-la-Ville. On the way to reach it is the Porte de Namur, built in 1725 CE, a gate of the enclosure wall that surrounded the Abbey. Further ahead from here is the tiny, little, adorable chapel of Notre-Dame des Affligés. There are several hiking routes that branch from here. 

Hiking routes near Abbaye de Villers: 9.5km trail via Wallonia Tourism

Abbaye de Villers Abbey Most instagrammable places in Belgium

Abbaye de Villers Abbey Microbrewery
Pic Credits: © Abbaye de Villers. Used in this blog with permission

Abbaye de Villers Abbey Winery Vignoble Vineyard
Pic Credits: © Abbaye de Villers. Used in this blog with permission

Abbaye de Villers Abbey Things to do in Villers-la-Ville

Abbaye de Villers Abbey Things to do in Villers-la-Ville

STOP! This is a GIF!
Abbaye de Villers Abbey Most instagrammable places in Belgium

PLACES TO VISIT NEAR VILLERS ABBEY (ABBAYE DE VILLERS) 
Ottignies-Louvain-la-Neuve - Herge Museum, Musee L, Bois des Reves, Bois de Lauzelle etc.
Château de Bousval Winery
Chateau le Chatelet (Marbais Castle), Ruine du Château de La Motte

MOST INSTAGRAMMABLE CHURCH RUINS TO VISIT IN BELGIUM
3. Orval Abbey - Abbay d'Orval

VILLERS ABBEY (ABBAYE DE VILLERS) TICKETS
€9; Annual pass - €15.
It is not possible to prebook the tickets online. 

VILLERS ABBEY (ABBAYE DE VILLERS) OPENING HOURS
Villers Abbey Timings: 10:00AM to 5:00PM/6:00PM in winters & otherwise respectively.
Being a structure in ruins, it gets closed when the weather forecast in Brussels shows heavy winds.

WHERE IS VILLERS ABBEY (ABBAYE DE VILLERS) 
Villers Abbey Location (On Google Maps): Abbaye de Villers
How to reach Villers Abbey (Abbaye de Villers) by car from Brussels: 50km on A4 & N25 via Louvain-la-Neuve.
How to reach Villers Abbey (Abbaye de Villers) by train from Brussels: Any train to Ottignies Gare (most southwards trains, incl. trains heading to Namur, Liege, Arlon, Luxembourg etc stop at Ottignies Gare). Then train route S61 from Ottignies to Villers-la-Ville. S61 runs once every hour. Abbaye de Villers is located about 2km from Villers-la-Ville railway station. 
How to reach Villers Abbey (Abbaye de Villers) from Villers-la-Ville railway station: It is easier & more practical to walk this 2km distance. LeTEC bus route 51 is available. But this line runs only thrice a day on Saturdays and doesn't run on Sundays. Here's the bus schedule from LeTEC's official website.
Nearest bus stop to Villers-la-Ville railway station: Villers-la-Ville Place des Combattants
Nearest bus stop to Villers Abbey: Villers-la-Ville Abbaye

VILLERS ABBEY ITINERARY
It is a good idea to spend the entire day in Villers Abbey for a relaxed, peaceful day out from Brussels, esp., if you are depending on public transport.
One day in Villers-la-Ville (active): Villers Abbey, Hiking in Bois de l'Ermitage.
One day in Villers-la-Ville (gastronomic): Villers Abbey, Microbrewery, Vineyard & Wine tasting.
One day in Villers-la-Ville (with kids): Villers Abbey, Bois de Reves, Musee de l'Eau et la Fontaine.

P.S: I was invited by Villers Abbey to experience the monument for review purposes, however, the opinions are my own and this post does not advertise the product/service.

Abbaye de Villers Abbey Pinterest Abbaye de Villers Abbey Pinterest

Bhushavali

An ardent traveler by passion. Being an ex - Art History Teacher, my area of interest especially lies in Nature and Heritage. Visited 78 UNESCO World Heritage sites as of Sept 2020. I've been listed among the Top 7 Women Travel Bloggers of India, Top 50 in UK. I have been interviewed in a couple of TV Shows, Radio Channels and Events as well. Read more about me and read the testimonials of different brands

9 comments:

  1. I always find it fascinating to see ruins like Villers Abbey with just the outer shell standing. We saw a similar spot when we visited Northern Ireland. As an architecture geek, I can see the main structure and am amazed at the what is left standing. Hubby might head off to the microbrewery while I wandered. Or maybe we would find the winery afterwards. An interesting mix of activities for a visit.

    ReplyDelete
  2. It's incredible that the original structures are still there! It all looks so massive, and such beautiful architecture. Also love the GIF!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I didn't know that the monks brewed beer to purify water. That is an interesting fact. The place looks fascinating. And I hope to be able to see it sometime, maybe do some hikes too in the forest.

    ReplyDelete
  4. This is the first I have heard of Villers Abbey. I really enjoy exploring ruins and imagining what life was once like but have only seen them in England. Having a winery nearby makes this the perfect way to spend a day. I am bookmarking this for my next trip to Belgium.

    ReplyDelete
  5. There's something about ruins that attracts me. I like the history behind it, and like Villers Abbey, I like to imagine how the monks life in it hundreds of years ago. It's interesting to learn that monks brewed beer to purify water.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Your red coat among the ruins is such a lovely pop of color. I would love to attend an event at Villers Abby, I can imagine it looks lovely with festival lights and filled with people. The gif at the end is so adorable, lovely post!

    ReplyDelete
  7. You had me at microbrewery! What an impressive Abbey. It looks even more enormous in the photos with your daughter. Who knew there are prisons in an abbey.

    ReplyDelete
  8. This is the first time ever I heard of Villers Abbey. Such an interesting place. And even in ruins, this place looks magnificent, an only imagine what it looked like during its peak era. I knew a lot of monasteries in that area used to make wine and beer in house but never knew it was to purify water. Fascinating. It is nice that they still have a functioning brewery in the area today. That surely makes this a perfect visit for anyone - whether you like history, or just walking around or exploring breweries! :D

    ReplyDelete
  9. Gothic in the true sense - including the scale. I loved the entire tour of it, including the video one that you have put up. Fascinating to read the history of it and imagine what it might have been in its hey days. So glad you are bringing out these hidden gems in your journey

    ReplyDelete

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