Bouillon Castle (Château de Bouillon) - History, Things to do, Tickets etc

This article first appeared in My Travelogue by Bhushavali
 
ALL ABOUT THE FORTRESS OF BOUILLON

Just like how, Namur Citadel & Dinant Castle are the pride of the respective cities, in Bouillon too, the Bouillon Castle is the pride of Bouillon. It is majestic and is visible from all over the town. Visiting Bouillon Castle (once in the day and once again at night) is one of the top things to do in Bouillon. 

BOUILLON PRONUNCIATION
First of all, before you start reading this article, let me help you with Bouillon pronunciation, so you can read it correctly! Bouillon is one of the charming towns of Wallonia, in Southern Belgium. The local language in this region is French. So Bouillon has a French pronunciation. It is pronounced more like Bwi-yyon. Take note of the 2nd half of the first syllable which is 'wi' and not 'vi' to be pronounced with rounded lips!

Bouillon Castle Torchlight tour at night


Bouillon Castle history

Godfrey of Bouillon Crusade Wars

Bouillon Castle history

Bouillon Castle history

HISTORY OF BOUILLON TOWN
The history of Bouillon dates back to prehistoric times (since 7500 BCE). This was one of the flint mining sites during the Paleolithic period (old stone age). Then during the Gallo-Romain era, this region was a settlement and there are a few fortifications of the era and the earliest fortifications of Bouillon Castle may have been built around that time!

WHO IS GODFREY OF BOUILLON AND WHAT ARE CRUSADE WARS?
In the late 11th C CE, the Byzantine empire wanted help from Pope Urban II who initiated a war in order to liberate Jerusalem, from Turkish rule. On a different note, Peter the Hermit, from France went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. However, he was stopped on his way by the Turks. He came back and that's when the holy war started between Christians and Muslims. Large groups of the general public gathered by Peter the Hermit began this 'armed pilgrimage' to Jerusalem! There was a series of nine wars in 2 centuries called the Crusade Wars! 
Godfrey of Bouillon was the first-ever Lord of Bouillon and played the lead role in the First Crusade! Under him, thousands of soldiers, as well as people gathered by Peter, marched to Jerusalem, re-captured it and set up the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Though Godfrey of Bouillon was the first king of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, he didn't want the title, because 'he didn't want a crown of gold where Jesus had worn a crown of thorns'. He died about a year later.

BOUILLON CASTLE HISTORY
After the Gallo-Roman era, the first stone-built castle may have happened in 8th C CE. The oldest part of the current castle belongs to the early 11th  CE which was built under Godfrey of Bouillon. However, just prior to embarking on the First Crusade war, he sold the castle to the Bishop Prince of Liege in order to fund the journey. After being under Bishop Prince of Liege for a long time, it much later came under the French emperor Louis XIV in 17th C CE. Most of the external fortification was expanded under him.

chateau de bouillon fortress

chateau de bouillon fortress

chateau de bouillon fortress

chateau de bouillon fortress

chateau de bouillon fortress

VIRTUAL TOUR OF BOUILLON CASTLE
Even before you enter the castle, go to the right to see the sculpture of Godfrey of Bouillon with the backdrop of the majestic castle. 
As you enter Bouillon castle, you go through not 1 or 2, but 3 draw bridges. Very close to the innermost drawbridge is the Vauban staircase. It is indeed the same Vauban (under Louis XIV), the renowned military architect, who also was the brainchild behind Namur Citadel's underground tunnels as well as Luxembourg fortifications. We walked further ahead through the tunnels. The small cellars on either side of the tunnels have some displays depicting how those rooms might have been used in their hay times including, the storage of wooden caskets of wine, the storage of flour & other edible things etc. One of these cellars has a very special thing stored in it - Cheese! This cheese is called l'Oeillet du Chateau and is made of unpasteurized goat milk. Since the climatic conditions (humidity and temperature) inside the cave is perfect for the ripening of cheese! And then, there's the 165m deep well in another cellar, I'm not kidding. The castle had never had any issues with the availability of water. There's a huge wooden pulley, that should have been operated by people walking on it; imagine a mega version of the guinea pigs exercise wheel! 
Soon, I was out of the tunnel and in the central courtyard of the castle. This had been once used as the barracks for the soldiers, but later that part has been removed and extended vertically. But still, today, you can see the curved ceiling of the barracks halfway through the wall as well as the doors at higher altitudes that opened to the upper floors of the barracks. Today this space is used for Falconry but I didn't get to witness that. Opposite the old barracks is the rampart walk and further ahead I entered into the clock tower.
The first stop as soon as you enter the tower is the Godfrey of Bouillon's Easy Chair which is believed his lookout post. Today it is believed that sitting on this chair and then getting out through the slot would make people get married within that year! Up to you to believe. Lolz.
Then there are a series of rooms incl. the torture chamber, prisons etc and after a short climb I was at the top of Austria Tower and the view from above was just awesome. It is possible to see the river on either side and it disappears behind the fortification where it bends. The view of the Bouillon town on one side and the greenery on the other are so serene. Surprisingly, unlike most other forts which are perched atop the highest peak, this is slightly at the lower spot, but that's in order to be there where there's groundwater! The higher spot can be hiked from outside the castle and this is where the Bouillon Botanical & Geographical Arboretum is. Unfortunately, I didn't manage to do this hike.
There were 9 outposts around the castle's outer fortification wall facing the river including a couple of bridges with gateways. Today the outer fortification wall doesn't exist and that's where the main street of Bouillon is. But 3 of these outposts still exist and the street goes 'through' them!  

THE ORIGINAL CRUCIFIX OF JESUS CHRIST?
The largest room of the Bouillon Castle is the Godfrey of Bouillon’s room. It was once the horse stable. During restorations, while excavating, they came across this crucifix which was believed to be the original crucifix of Jesus Christ, but like most 'holy items' of Crusade wars like Charlamagne's Throne, this is also a 'forged relic' which belonged to the medieval era and not the beginning of the 1st Millenium. Now, the cross is still underground at the same spot where it was discovered but covered with glass to protect it. 

chateau de bouillon fortress visit

military architect vauban bouillon castle

original crucifix of jesus christ

chateau de bouillon fortress visit

chateau de bouillon fortress visit

Godfrey of Bouillon Crusade Wars

SCRIPTURA EXHIBITION
Scriptura is a permanent exhibition on the first floor of Godfrey of Bouillon’s room. It talks about the history & evolution of written language since the middle ages. Quite interestingly it was this room that served as the hospital in the yesteryears. All over the walls are engraved writings of the hospital inmates and I spotted dates as old as 1868. 

TORCH-LIGHT TOUR OF BOUILLON CASTLE AT NIGHT
After seeing the castle in the daytime seeing all the small details and every room, I was back there at night, this time to see it again, in the light of burning torchlight. This was quite an experience. It started only at 9:30PM and I chose the French tour (also available in Dutch, but not in English). The castle has an altogether different feel at night when all you can see, is only with the fire of the torchlight! 
While the castle itself is awesome lighted by just the fire of the torchlight, the view from atop Austria Tower is just spectacular. The way the town's lights reflect on the river Semois is beautiful. More so, the view from the bridge Port de Liege is all the more gorgeous with the reflection of the castle itself!

GODFREY OF BOUILLON SILK PAINTING EXHIBITION
When I visited there was also a silk fabric painting exhibition of Ms.Marie-Laure Alff. This was all about the life of Godfrey of Bouillon. This is a 15m long, painting consisting of 13 panels. It is actually a very difficult technique to master and the artist has done an exceptional job. 

L'ODYSSÉE DE LUMIÈRE - FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS IN BOUILLON
Every year, a light festival also happens in Bouillon called the Odyssey of Lights (l'Odyssee de Lumiere) when a video-mapping laser show happens not only on the castle but also on the bridges that connect to the castle and more. Sadly, it wasn't happening when I visited here. 

Scriptura Museum Bouillon

Ms.Marie-Laure Alff Godefrey of Bouillon

Bouillon castle torchlight night tour

Bouillon castle torchlight night tour

Bouillon castle torchlight night tour

Bouillon castle torchlight night tour

BOUILLON CASTLE TICKETS & BOUILLON CITY PASS
Bouillon City Pass - €15 (incl. Archeoscope, Ducal Museum) 
Torchlight tour of Bouillon Castle - €12 (incl. 1 torch for a group / 3 people)
Torchlight tour in English/non-summer season - €60 for guide + €7 per person + €2.5 per torch
All can be purchased on the Château de bouillon site officiel

BOUILLON CASTLE OPENING HOURS & TIMINGS
Winters: 
Weekends: 10:00 to 5:00PM; 
Closed on January weekdays.  Dec & Feb weekdays: 1:00PM to 5:00PM
Otherwise: 10:00AM to 6:00PM everyday

Falconry - Mar to Oct everyday at 11:30AM, 2:00PM, 3:30PM (+ 5:00PM in July & Aug and only weekends in Spring & Autumn).
Regular Torchlight tour at night (9:30 PM) happens only in July and August. At other times, a special reservation with a guide has to be made.

HOW TO REACH BOUILLON CASTLE
Where is Bouillon Castle (on Google Maps)Château fort de Bouillon
The easiest way to reach Bouillon is by car. It is about 150km from Brussels via Namur. 
Bouillon Castle parking - Street parking is available right in front of the castle.

HOW TO REACH BOUILLON WITHOUT CAR (BY PUBLIC TRANSPORT)
There's no railway station in Bouillon. So reaching here by public transport is not very easy, but possible. Take a train to Libramont from Brussels (here was some ways to get cheap Belgian train tickets). Then, right in front of Libramont railway station, take LeTEC bus route 8 to Bouillon. The entire journey (train+bus) takes a bit more than 3hrs, including transfer time.

BOUILLON HOTELS
Bouillon is one of the preferred weekend trips from Brussels, esp. among locals and by people who own a car here. So it is a bit touristy among locals, and there are quite a few hotels in the town. Quite a few of excellent hotels in Bouillon lend a beautiful panoramic view of the river Semois like La Ferronniere, Golden Lion Bouillon etc. Head to my other article to read the review of La Ferronniere Bouillon where I stayed.

Chateau de Bouillon Castle Pinterest Chateau de Bouillon Castle 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. Bouillon in Belgium looks very attractive. One day I need to make it to this citadel of civilization.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I love that you included the pronunciation, because as I read the title I was 100 percent sure my 'head voice' was reading it wrong. The castle reminds me of some castles I have visited in Puerto Rico, so much so I had to double check! Wonderful post, and 15 euros for a city pass is such a steal!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Can see myself really enjoying exploring Bouillon castle and the surrounding town. Being from Wales and castles being an everyday experience it make your really appreciate such amazing Architecture

    ReplyDelete
  4. This is interesting! It would be nice o visit and explore the area. I would also like to check out the "holy items" Thank you for sharing these super detailed post. This will come in handy for first time visitors like me.

    ReplyDelete
  5. The castle of Bouillon has been on my list of places to see for years! Your post and the amazing pictures reminded me of that. I came about Godfrey of Bouillon quite often when I visited the crusader castles in Syria and got interested in his hometown.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I love being in Castles because it's a great opportunity to go back in time. And it would be great exploring Bouillon castle and the nearby town. Fascinating structure and the story behind it.

    ReplyDelete
  7. That looks like an awesome castle (that is a pretty thin spine it's set on). and that torch light tour sounds awesome (except for the fact that they don't offer english....hmmmm)

    ReplyDelete
  8. Great guide to Château de Bouillon! I can't believe how old this impressive fortress is: wow, 7500 BC! No wonder it has such a rich history. But no matter how old, I find it very hard to believe that the crucifix they found in the stable was the original crucifix of Jesus Christ. It must be pretty old though, which still makes it an interesting artifact.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I love visiting castles and learning about the history. Bouillon Castle is another gem that I missed during my visit to Belgium. I would definitely want to come back and see the castle. It is so nice that you started your post by helping us pronounce the word.

    ReplyDelete

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