One day in La-Roche-en-Ardenne (Wallonia - Belgium)

This article originally appeared in My Travelogue by Bhushavali
 
My original idea was a 2 day trip to Marche-en-Famenne to hike Fond-des-Vaulx on one day and explore Marche-en-Famenne and Waha on one day. However when the lock-down began all the hotels shut down, making an overnight stay impossible. So I did a day trip to just hike Fond-des-Vaulx. Finally, when hotels opened up, I did manage to do a 2-day trip and on day-1, I did a day trip to La-Roche-en-Ardennes which turned out to be an excellent idea.
La-Roche-en-Ardennes was the first place that many suggested to me when I was planning a trip to Belgian Ardennes. But when I tried to find a route to go here, it was a bit too far away for a day-trip with a toddler! After postponing it indefinitely, this moment turned out to be a great chance. A day-trip to La-Roche-en-Ardennes from Marche-en-Famenne is super easy! On Day 1, I went to La-Roche-en-Ardennes from Brussels, but in the evening I only had to return to Hotel Quartier Latin in Marche-en-Famenne which was practically possible.
So here goes my one day in La-Roche-en-Ardenne...

THINGS TO DO IN LA-ROCHE-EN-ARDENNE

MUSEUM OF THE BATTLE OF ARDENNES
Our day in la-Roche-en-Ardennes began with the Musée de la Bataille des Ardennes. This is a huge museum is 3 floors and just a stone's throw away from the La-Roche-en-Ardenne Tourism Office. It takes quite some time to see it all.

History of the Battle of Bulge: La-Roche-en-Ardennes was amusingly a major site during Second World War and this is exactly where the Battle of Bulge took place. It happened from Dec 1944 to Jan 1945. As you can imagine, Belgian weather in that era would have been super cold and there was heavy snow in Belgian Ardennes
The idea of the German army was the cross the river Ourthe river here, then cross the Meuse river and head to Antwerp Port. The region was an Allied Army territory. The German army launched a surprise attack and captured it. Allies retreated only to come back and bomb the area just after Christmas, but the cold weather and poor visibility made matters worse. The major battle continued between them. By early January, there was more and more artillery shelling from the Allies to end the German siege on La-Roche, with completely destroyed the town and killed more than 100 civilians and of course, several thousands of soldiers on either side. This is the bloodiest battle of the USA in WWII, thus making La-Roche-en-Ardenne an important memorial tourism site for Americans!!!

The museum has several original weapons, uniforms and more, a lot of which were gifts from veterans and their families. There are more than 100 mannequins depicting the uniforms of American, English, German soldiers of various ranks, as well as other workers like Doctors, Nurses and also the general public including kids of that time. There are also several photographic documents and personal objects etc. There are also some military vehicle beginning with a huge tanker right at the entrance of the museum, on the street! 

Where is the Battle of the Bulge Museum - On Google Maps: Musée de la Bataille des Ardennes
How to reach Battle of the Bulge Museum (Musée de la Bataille des Ardennes): 3 mins walk (300m) from La-Roche Quai de l'Ourthe bus stop
Battle of the Bulge Museum (Musée de la Bataille des Ardennes) Opening Hours: 
     10:00AM to 6:00PM (last entry at 5:00PM). 
     Open on all days in July, Aug. 
     Tue-Sun in Mar-Jun & Sept to Dec.
     Open only on weekends from Jan to March. 
Battle of the Bulge Museum (Musée de la Bataille des Ardennes) Tickets: €8 (can be reserved by phone)

La-Roche-en-Ardenne Things to do Chateau Feodal

La-Roche-en-Ardenne Things to do Chateau Feodal

La-Roche-en-Ardenne Things to do Chateau Feodal

La-Roche-en-Ardenne Things to do Chateau Feodal


CHÂTEAU FÉODAL DE LA ROCHE-EN-ARDENNE
This is perhaps the most important place to visit in La-Roche-en-Ardennes. 

La-Roche-en-Ardenne Castle history: Like most castles in strategic locations this too has its beginnings as early as the Neolithic (New Stone-age) era. The first castle was built here in mid 9th C CE. By mid-14th C CE, it was under Jean the Blind, Count of Luxembourg and he authorized the people of La-Roche to strengthen the fortification walls and make it as big as it is today. Much later, in 17th C CE, its strategic location did catch the attention of Louis XIV, who got the military architect Vauban (who also worked on Namur Citadel, Bouillon castle, Luxembourg fortification etc) to improvise it. However, Louis XIV lost it to Spain who didn't care about it and it slowly fell into disuse. 

As soon as you enter, a path goes into the castle and another goes into the balcony. The view from here of the entire town is fabulous. There are a couple of seating arrangements here where you could have a picnic. The path into the castle goes through its underground cellars and various rooms to finally to the large courtyard and then the tower. All the rocks are in much-withered state thanks to the fury of nature over the centuries. From here, the view is great and also the Belvédère de La Roche (more about it below) is visible. 

Where is the La-Roche-en-Ardenne Castle - On Google Maps: Château Féodal de La Roche-en-Ardenne
How to reach La-Roche-en-Ardenne Castle (Château Féodal): 3 mins walk (300m) from La-Roche Quai de l'Ourthe bus stop incl. climbing stairs.
La-Roche-en-Ardenne Castle (Château FéodalOpening Hours: 
     July & Aug - 10:00AM to 6:00PM. 
     Apr to Jun & Sept to Oct - 11:00AM to 5:00PM. 
     Nov to Mar - Weekdays: 1:00PM to 4:00PM and Weekends: 11:00AM to 4:30PM
La-Roche-en-Ardenne Castle (Château Féodal) Tickets: €6.50 (can be bought online from the official website of Chateau Feodal)

Hiking in La-Roche-en-Ardenne Sainte-Marguerite Chapel

Hiking in La-Roche-en-Ardenne Sainte-Marguerite Chapel

Hiking in La-Roche-en-Ardenne Things to do

Hiking in La-Roche-en-Ardenne Things to do

HIKING TRAILS
There are several hiking trails in La-Roche-en-Ardennes. One thing to remember is, while distances may seem short, do keep in mind that this a hilly region and there a lot of upward slopes. Some hikes are stroller friendly. I took the Promenade 4 which was a way-marked trail.
My first stop on this trail was this charming little chapel called Sainte-Marguerite Chapel. This is said to be in existence since the 1600s. Originally there were 2 statues in there - Our Lady of Pain and St Margaret, which were unfortunately stolen. This chapel was a special prayer site for pregnant women for safe delivery.
Also Read: The temple for pregnant women for safe delivery in Trichy, India - Thayumanavar Temple
At a very short distance from here is the viewpoint which was visible from the Castle - Diester Viewpoint or Belvédère de La Roche. It is quite a bit of a steep hike on a small rocky hill and is off the Promenade 4 trail. As usual, the upward climb isn't much of a difficulty, but the climb dows is, more so in rainy weather when the rocks get a bit slippery. This portion of the hike from the street to the viewpoint isn't stroller friendly. 
Hiking further ahead from the Belvédère de La Roche is the arboretum and soon the path re-connects with the Promenade 4 path near Parc à Gibier (more about it below). Further is the point to return back along the river Ourthe from where it is a downhill walk. Yes, till this point, it is various degrees of uphill walk. Through the Viewpoint & the arboretum is a steep uphill, and through the stroller-friendly waymarked trail, it is a mild uphill.
This is exactly where the Diable Chateau (Devil's Castle) is located. It is a rock that kinda looks like a ruined castle. So the legend came up that, there was indeed a castle here built by the devil and on Christmas night, God destroyed it and the ruins of it is what we see. That said, this is the ideal break-point (esp., if you're not stopping at Parc à Gibier) for a picnic with its many picnic tables with a perfect view.
Further down from there, towards the city are 2 Beaverdams (more about it below) across the river and on the other side are a crater created by bombing during the 2nd World War. There's another one to down the lane. 
If you're fit and not with kids, a good idea would be to go through the Belvedere and Arboretum and then come back down through the waymarked trail. If not, or if you have a stroller, just follow the way-marked trail.

Promenade 4 hiking map: via Cirkwi
Where are La-Roche-en-Ardenne Tourism Office - On Google Maps: Maison du Tourisme Coeur de l'Ardenne
How to reach La-Roche-en-Ardenne Tourism Office: A minute walk (100m away) from La-Roche Quai de l'Ourthe Bus Stop 

Diester Viewpoint Belvédère de La Roche Place to visit La-Roche-en-Ardenne

Beaver dams of La-Roche-en-Ardenne Things to do in Wallonia Pic Credit: Olivier Lefèvre (left) & Colette Mottet (right). Used here  with permission from Tourisme Coeur de l'Ardenne

Beaver dams of La-Roche-en-Ardenne Things to do in Wallonia
Pic Credit: Olivier Lefèvre. Used here with permission from Tourisme Coeur de l'Ardenne

BEAVER DAMS
The most fascinating part of the walking trail is to see a beaver dam! So far, I've only seen beaver dams on videos and photos and this was crazy! I never had really gotten a grasp on the scale of beaver dams and I always kinda assumed them to be small, relative to the size of a beaver, but guess what, they're massive and the dams actually spread from one bank of the river to the other!!! There are 2 major Beaver Dams visible from the walking trail. Both are across the river Ourthe. If you're lucky you might even spot the beavers, we weren't!

Where are the Beaver Dams in La-Roche-en-Ardenne Castle - On Google Maps: Bart's Beaverdam and Rob's Beaverdam.
How to reach the Beaver Dams in La-Roche-en-Ardenne: Follow the way-marked trail 4 or 2km from La-Roche Quai de l'Ourthe Bus Stop in the opposite direction.

PARC À GIBIER WILDLIFE PARK
Parc à Gibier is the miniature version of the Wildlife Park in Grottes de Han! Covering an area of 10 hectares, this zoo is the home to deers, mountain goats, wild boars, wolves, lynx cats, foxes, eagle owls etc. The walking trail inside the Parc à Gibier is only 1.2km (but steep) making it a good stop-over on the Promenade 4 walk. Unfortunately, I missed this because I went on a weekday in March when it was closed! 

Where is Parc à Gibier On Google Maps: Parc à Gibier
How to reach Parc à Gibier: 1.7km (30 mins moderately uphill walk) from La-Roche Quai de l'Ourthe bus stop
Parc à Gibier Opening Hours: 
     July & Aug - 10:00AM to 7:00PM. 
     Apr to Jun & Sept to Oct - Weekdays: 11:00AM to 5:00PM and Weekends: 10:00AM to 6:00PM.  
     Nov to Mar - Weekends only: 10:00AM to 6:00PM.  
Parc à Gibier Tickets: €6.50 (can be bought online from the official website of Parc à Gibier)

HOW TO REACH LA-ROCHE-EN-ARDENNE FROM BRUSSELS BY TRAIN
The trains from Brussels to Arlon / Luxembourg (LU) go via Marloie. These trains run once every hour from Brussels Midi and stop also at Brussels Central / Nord / Schuman / Luxembourg. The journey time to reach Marloie is about 1:45hrs. From Marloie there are direct LeTEC buses to reach La-Roche-en-Ardenne.
There are 2 buses from Marloie to La-Roche-en-Ardennes. LeTEC route 11/2 and 15. While 15 is a direct bus that reaches in 30 mins, 11 goes via Hotton and the journey time is 1 hour. The earliest LeTEC bus 15 is at 8:40AM on weekends. This can be caught if you take 6:32AM IC from Brussels Midi (6:50 at Schuman). If you're planning to do a day trip to La-Roche-en-Ardenne from Brussels, this is the train & bus combo to take in order to have enough time to explore La-Roche-en-Ardenne. 
Return by 5:46PM bus to reach Brussels by 8:00PM or if you're tired take the 3:46PM to reach Brussels by 6:00PM. Note: There is no 4:46 bus. There are only 5 buses for the entire day and 5:46 is the last one. Keep a tab on the bus timings to make sure to get one!
Here's a tip: Carry a sickness bag (vomit bag) if you're (or your kids are) prone to motion sickness. The bus from Marloie to La-Roche-en-Ardenne goes through the Ardennes hills which has several, several bends! 

Things to do in La-roche-en-Ardenne pinterest Things to do in La-roche-en-Ardenne pinterest

LA-ROCHE-EN-ARDENNE ITINERARY
One Day in La-Roche-en-Ardenne: Museum of Battle, Chateau Feodal, Walking trail (incl. Animal Park & Beavers Dam)
Two Days in La-Roche-en-Ardenne:
Day 1 - Explore La-Roche-en-Ardenne town
Day 2 option 1 - Explore the village Ortho & Herlinval. It is located about 10km from La-Roche-en-Ardenne and it is possible to reach Ortho by bike (buses are available on weekdays). There are way-marked hiking routes through Ortho & Herlinval. In Herlinval is Cheslin d'Ortho, a Gallo-Romain trench of 3rd-4th C CE, in Ortho, is the ruins of the historic Chaupré oil mill and viewpoint that lends gorgeous views of the village. Also in Ortho is an adorable Chèvrerie Ivoire Noir, a goat farm where you can pet, feed the goats and also buy some local goat cheese! The maps of the hikes to reach these places are available with the tourism office.
Day 2 option 2 - If you're really up for it, if you're a pro-hiker, head to Nisramont. It is 10km away, so you'll have to bike to Nisramont (buses are available on weekdays). There's a 15km difficult trail that goes around the lake of Nisramont at the confluence of the 2 tributaries of the river Ourthe confluence. Check out the details of this hike on Visit Wallonia's official website. I hope to do this someday, obviously when I'm able to go there without my little Atyudarini! Let's see!

LA-ROCHE-EN-ARDENNE HOTELS
There are a few b&bs, holiday homes and hotels in La-Roche-en-Ardenne. As mentioned earlier I stayed in Marche-en-Famenne and visited La-Roche-en-Ardenne as a daytrip. Read my review of Hotel Quartier Latin in Marche-en-Famenne, a super comfortable hotel with all amenities in the heart of the city, but housed in a historic, renovated 19th C Jesuit church.

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

10 comments:

  1. I love how travel makes history come to life. I remember learning about Battle of Bulge in school but the only thing I truly remember is the name, would love to visit Musée de la Bataille des Ardennes. Castle ruins are a lot of fun to explore and your video of La-Roche-en-Ardenne Castle shows this is no exception. The view is a bonus!

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  2. A day trip to La-Roche-en-Ardennes from Ardennes seems to be the perfect idea. Musée de la Bataille des Ardennes with History of the Battle of Bulge is really impressive. I want to visit it to learn about the Battle of Bulge. Château Féodal has also amazing story. Great to know that the first castle was built here in mid 9th C CE. I also like the idea of hiking trails, especially this one with beavers.

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  3. Travel planning these days does need to be a bit flexible. Glad the hotels finally opened so you could stay in La Roche En Ardenne. Hubby would definitely want to spend many hours in the museum and explore the history of this region. I would want to head out for hikes. But will be forewarned about the area being hilly. Good to burn off the calories from all that great French food. Linda (LD Holland)

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  4. What’s there not to love about this destination- it has history, museums, and hiking. It’s great that some are family friendly, and also offer a bit of a challenge too. Thanks for the tip about how steep they might be.

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  5. I think I will need to visit Belgium again. I have missed so many beautiful places and only saw the touristy places there. A day trip to see Marche-en-Famenne and Waha looks amazing and I would love to go see them and get an insight into their history. I like visiting museums too and that will surely be an awesome trip for me.

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  6. Wow! This place is interesting. It is a great place to learn more about history and the 2nd world war. We would love to visit this huge museum in the feature. It is nice to know that the veterans themselves contributed to this.

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  7. Oh wow! I had heard of the Battle of the Bulge, but I didn't know where it took place. The location seems so pretty, and I love all of the nature around it. What a gorgeous location!

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  8. A great museum of a great battle, Musée de la Bataille des, and hiking! I just found out that Brussels is just 1.75 hours from the Belgian Ardennes!

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  9. This indeed sounds like a lovely day trip - learning more about the local history by visiting a museum and castle. Next, spending some time in nature on the trails. Hopefully spotting some wildlife like you did, but especially to get to the vantage point to see the landscape beyond. Helpful tips you shared making the trails a bit more accessible for those planning to visit here.

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  10. I am not much into museums but I do like visiting historical places so the La-Roche-en-Ardenne Castle looks great to me. Also, I'd love to try some of the hiking trails. I do not get to see much nature or greenery around where I live (in Dubai) so I miss that a lot!

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