Things to do in Thuin & Labuissiere (Wallonia - Belgium)

A train journey along the River Sambre!
Sustainable tourism in Wallonia.

This region attracted me the first time I visited here - the banks of river Sambre. The first time I visited here, I hired a bike from Charleroi and rode along the river Sambre till Aulne Abbey on a solo day trip. This time, I wanted to go further and explore to lesser-known gems of this area and this time I was accompanied by my little toddler. So, here you go... All about my sustainable, weekend trip from Brussels by train. ..
Also Read: If you like a train ride along a river - Upper Middle Rhine Valley
TRAVEL ALONG THE RIVER SAMBRE
River Sambre begins at Namur and goes well into France flowing through Charleroi, Thuin, Erquelinnes etc. Along the Sambre river, goes a RAVeL cycling path from Charleroi to Erquelinnes which is what I took on my last trip. This time I took the SNCB-NMBS Train route S63. There are 10 stops between Charleroi and Erquelinnes and it is a good idea to stop at almost each of those!

things to do in Thuin

Thuin River Sambre

Birding in Haute Sambre Nature Reserve Labuissiere

MARCHIENNE-ZONE & LANDELIES RAILWAY STATIONS
The very first railway station after Charleroi Sud is Marchienne-Zone. This is so close that it is even connected by bus from Charleroi. Very close to this is where the PowerPlant IM is located. A bit of the Industrial heritage of Charleroi along the river Sambre continues till about this point.
Do note that the Marchienne-Zone is different from Marchienne-au-Pont which is just the previous station before Charleroi in the Brussels -> Charleroi line. Very close to Marchienne-au-Pont is the Fresque de Rue is located which has the street-art along the river Sambre.  
The next stop is Landelies which is the closest railway station to visit Aulne Abbey (Thuin Abbey), though it is about 2km away.  
Also Read: Things to do in Charleroi (incl. biking along river Sambre till Thuin & Aulne Abbey)

THUIN RAILWAY STATION
The next railway station on this line is Thuin and this was our first stop on the 2nd trip to the region. I spent an entire day in Thuin and walked most of it.  We began walking from the railway station, crossed the Sambre river and continued walking towards the belfry. 

Things to do in Thuin Posty Bury

Things to do in Thuin Ruelle Gripelotte

Things to do in Thuin Fortification Ramparts

WALKING THE STREETS - THINGS TO DO IN THUIN
As I walked, I realized that the streets are in multiple altitudes and most of them are hilly slopes. It reminded me much of Kerala & Luxembourg. I could see the Thuin Belfry atop a hill, surrounded by the town! I was heading to the Thuin Belfry and Google Maps showed me a route. But then, I saw this tiny staircase and I kinda assumed that it would go and join the road above. These staircase streets are common in most hilly towns. Called Ruelle Gripelotte, it didn't exist on Google Maps (now I've added it though - follow me on my Google Maps profile here). I took a chance and went up these stairs and voila, I was only a few metres away from the Belfry when I was out!
Much later during the day, when I was walking beside the Hanging Gardens of Thuin, I realized that a portion of the town is actually the ramparts of the fortifications. There were, what looked like, arched entrances of castles, but were, in reality, passages! It feels like you're entering some building, but you cross through them and you reach another street! These are called 'Posty'. One was Posty Bury which lends a stunning view of the Hanging Gardens and is the route to reach Grand Bon Dieu. 

Where is Ruelle Gripelotte (on Google Maps)? Rle Gripelotte
How to reach Ruelle Gripelotte? The starting point of Ruelle Gripelotte is 350m from Thuin Railway Station across River Sambre, just after you spot Rue Longue to your left.
Where is Posty Bury (on Google Maps)? Posty Bury

Thuin Actual Art Trail

Thuin Actual Art Trail

Thuin Actual Art Trail

THUIN ART TRAIL - THINGS TO DO IN THUIN
Even before reaching the Thuin Belfry, my first stop was 'under' the Belfry. Not underground but on the adjacent street which is at a lower altitude! Here's a huge art installation, meant to be seen from the river or from anywhere in that direction. It is a huge 17m long sentence in bold neon orange, saying 'L’ombre n’a pas encore étendu son emprise sur nos espérances' (means 'the shadow has not yet extended its hold on our hopes'). Did you even spot tiny little Atyudarini at the far end of that artwork? That's how big it is!
Thuin Art Trail is the brainchild of Fluide. In 2015 and 2018, various public art installations were set up by various artists. Some of those are in the town centre, some closer to the Thuin Hanging Gardens and some in the forest of Bois du Grand Bon Dieu. So, how to visit Thuin Art trail? A good idea is to follow one or more routes of the Thuin walking tour map (mentioned below) and stop by at the various art installations on the way.
Our 2nd & 3rd stop were very close to the Belfry - 'Comme un gant' and 'Gardiens du Fleuve'. Then walking through the tiny lanes of the town, I reached the view of the Hanging Gardens (more details below) and here are 2 more, both frescoes - Choucas des tours (a wall of a house filled with silhouettes of several Jackdaws) and Messiah (Virgin Mary depicted as Matrioshka doll with Jesus inside her!).  
Soon, we entered the Posty Bury, and started walking towards Chant des Oiseaux. On the way was one more art 'Back to the tools', a pattern made of garden snippings. Soon we were at Chant des Oiseaux at the magnificent artwork of 'Comme un puits de vie' and a view of another artwork 'Silverado' from here. More continued below....

Thuin Art Trail map: via Fluide Thuin (You can get the physical booklet at Thuin Tourism office)

Places to visit in Thuin Hanging Gardens

Places to visit in Thuin Hanging Gardens

THUIN HANGING GARDENS & VINEYARD - THINGS TO DO IN THUIN
When I first heard of Thuin Hanging Gardens, I thought it was a 'garden'! But turns out, it is much more than a garden. It is an entire side of the ramparts filled with grass, gardens and vineyards etc. Being on the southern side of the ramparts, this region has a micro-climate which makes it perfect for the vineyards. Obviously, there's a local winery, but unfortunately, I didn't have time to check that out.  
As mentioned above, we crossed the Posty Bury and reached Chant des Oiseaux and the view from there was just spectacular. There was the hanging garden, the ramparts, the skyline of Thuin town itself complete with its Belfry, churches and more. From here not only is 'Silverado' visible but also 'Choucas des tours' & 'Messiah'!

Walking Tour of Thuin map: via Visit Thuin (downloads/opens as PDF)
Chant des Oiseaux viewpoint (On Google Maps): Chant des Oiseaux

Places to visit in Thuin Bois du Grand Bon Dieu

Things to do in Thuin Bois du Grand Bon Dieu

Places to visit in Thuin Bois du Grand Bon Dieu

BOIS DU GRAND BON DIEU - THINGS TO DO IN THUIN
Bois du Grand Bon Dieu is just further ahead of Chant des Oiseaux and is a wooded area in the outskirts of Thuin. The walk through the forest was an absolute joy, especially in autumn when the earth wasn't even visible and was covered with leaves! There are a few Parcours (adventure course) activities for kids on the way and Atyudarini had so much fun doing a few of those on the way. For her, it felt like a scavenger hunt as well, running into the forest to find the next activity to do! 
In fact, 2 of the art installations of Thuin Art Trail are inside this forest. The first is Mario Ferretti's Hêtres. In 2018, 14 dead beech trees were cut off in this forest and he picked up 2 of those cut them, hollowed them out, rearranged them with metal rods and put them back in the forest! We spotted them both.
The 2nd is Xavier Rijs' l’Arbre à palabres. This is a series of about 30 different pieces scattered all over this forest. Basically, he picked up fallen trees and discarded wooden furniture, put them all together to create some very whimsical, nature-inspired furniture, public benches that blend into the environment! I spotted about 6-7 of these benches before heading back to the town.
It is a huge 23-hectare forest with quite a few viewpoints. The forest has a rich history and has been in occupation since Gallo-Roman era and even a few gold coins were found here! Currently, still, archaeological excavations are going on and portions of the forest have been cordoned off.

Map of all the Parcours activities in Bois du Grand Bon Dieu: via Sitytrail
Where is Bois du Grand Bon Dieu (on Google Maps) - Staring point of the walking trail (also the entrance of Bois du Grand Bon Dieu)

UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Wallonia Thuin Belfry

UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Wallonia Thuin Belfry

UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Wallonia Thuin Belfry

THUIN BELFRY - PLACES TO VISIT IN THUIN
I was back in the town right on time to climb the Thuin Belfry to listen to the bell from atop the belfry! Thuin Belfry is also one of the 56 Belfries of Belgium & France listed together as a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with the belfries in Charleroi, Tournai, Mechelen, Ghent, Brugge etc. 
Architecture of Thuin Belfry: There are 6 levels and the entrance is inside Thuin Tourism office. The first level is where a movie is played about the history of the belfry & geography of the region. Then the staircase begins. The next level is where the clock mechanism is. The 4th level is where the 2 large bells are and the carillon is at the 5th level.  As you go higher and higher the staircase becomes narrower and the height between each step keep increasing and width decreasing, making it a bit more like a ladder than a staircase. The topmost level is where the viewpoints are. There are 4 ladders on all 4 sides that leads to the 4 turrets which lend such an exceptional view of the town. There are 194 steps to reach atop and it isn't wheelchair/stroller friendly. Atyudarini did manage to climb all the way up to the top and even climb the ladders to get a view of the town from 2 turrets!
History of Thuin Belfry: Thuin Belfry was originally built centuries ago perhaps with its beginnings are a watchtower. In 1638 CE, the magistrate of Thuin ordered a new tower to be built at this point. Today it is very much possible to see the difference. Till halfway through the height of the tower there's stone architecture (complete with norman arches) and then there's brick architecture! The brick belfry was built in 1638, upon an existing stone tower! Later the Collegiate Church of St Théodard was built beside it. Even though the church accessed the Belfry, it still belonged to the municipality which is why it survived French Revolution. Somehow it survived the World Wars too!

Where is Thuin Belfry (On Google Maps): Belffroi de Thuin
Thuin Belfry opening hours: Tue-Fri only - 10:00AM to 12:00Noon & 1:00PM to 4:00/5:00/6:00PM (winter/autumn/otherwise respectively). During vacations only it is open everyday.
Thuin Belfry tickets: €4 (can be bought online on Thuin Belfry's official website)
How to reach Thuin Belfry: 650m (9 mins walk) from Thuin railway station via Ruelle Gripelotte

Unusual museums of Belgium ASVi Tramway museum Lobbes

Unusual museums of Belgium ASVi Tramway museum Lobbes

Things to do in Lobbes ASVi Tramway museum

Things to do in Lobbes ASVi Tramway museum

LOBBES RAILWAY STATION

ASVI TRAMWAY MUSEUM - THINGS TO DO IN LOBBES & THUIN
ASVI Tramway museum is actually located in Thuin and that was my last stop at the end of my day at Thuin. Twice a week, a tram runs from the museum to Lobbes. Since I didn't go on this tram, I walked back to Thuin railway station from the museum. If you go on the tram, you're already in Lobbes. If not, take the train and the next station after Thuin is Lobbes and you could ride the tram from here as well!
Long back in 1885 CE, when this railway line didn't exist, the region was connected by tramway line! Today a very small portion of the tramway still runs and the various trams that functioned regularly are now on display. The most impressive of them all, Locomotive 303, a steam engine! This is the oldest engine on display. It was built by La Metallurgique in 1888 CE, in Tubize. This was actually outside the museum when we went, to be taken out for a drive the next day! Unfortunately, I never got to ride the steam engine. 
Whether the tram that runs on the day you visit is electric or vapour, just take it and go to Thuin or Biesme (or Lobbes!). It goes via the wooded areas in both directions from Thuin! Through Bois du Grand Bon Dieu, on the Thuin - Biesme line and through the outskirts of Lobbes in the Thuin - Lobbes. It is so incredibly beautiful to take that line. It did remind me a bit of the STIB Line 44 in Brussels, but in a much more calm, peaceful, village area. 
Apart from the steam engine, there's also an electric engine that's on regular circulation. Apart from these 2, there are quite a few trams inside the museum all of which can be climbed on and operated! Atyudarini had so much fun trying to 'drive' these trams!

Where is ASVI Tramway Museum (On Google Maps)Musée du Tram Vicinal à Thuin - ASVi asbl
How to reach ASVI Tramway Museum? 1km from Thuin railway station. The Thuin-Lobbes tramline has a stop just beside Lobbes railway station.
ASVI Tramway Museum Tickets: €5
ASVI Tramway Museum + Tram ride Tickets: €5 + €10/€15 for full-day/on special days for the electric tram (+€5 for vapour tram)
ASVI Tramway Museum Opening Hours: Apr-Oct only - 11:00AM to 6:00PM on weekends; 1:00PM to 6:00PM on Wednesdays
ASVI Tramway Museum Electric/Steam Tram Timings: Electric tram runs on Saturdays (& Sundays only in July & Aug) once every hour from 11:15 to Lobbes & once every hour from 11:45 to Biesme. Steam tram runs only on Sundays & only at 13:30, 15:30 & 17:30. The schedule varies a lot according to season. Message them on the official Facebook Page of ASVi to find the timings.

COLLÉGIALE SAINT-URSMER DE LOBBES - THE OLDEST CHURCH IN BELGIUM
Here's the absolutely surprising thing! Do you know which is the oldest church in Belgium? It is Collégiale Saint-Ursmer in Lobbes. It is located very close to Lobbes railway station as well as the tram stop. 
Collégiale Saint-Ursmer de Lobbes was built in the Carolingian era (like Lorsch Abbey in Germany) in 4th C CE and was a part of St.Peter's Abbey. There are a few Merovingian Sarcophagi in this church. It was majorly expanded during the Romanesque Era. Unfortunately, like most other churches in the region, this was also destroyed during French Revolution in 1794 CE. However, the current crypt & nave are from that original Norman architecture. 

Where is the oldest church in Belgium (On Google Maps)Collegiale Saint-Ursmer de Lobbes Church
How to reach Collegiale Saint-Ursmer de Lobbes Church? 600m from Lobbes Railway station; 350m from Lobbes Pont du Nord
Nearest tram stop at Collegiale Saint-Ursmer de Lobbes Church? Lobbes Pont du Nord
Collegiale Saint-Ursmer de Lobbes Church opening hours: 10:00AM to 4:00PM in winters; 9:00AM to 6:00PM otherwise
Collegiale Saint-Ursmer de Lobbes Church tickets: Free
 
Labuissiere Haute Sambre Nature Reserve

Labuissiere Haute Sambre Nature Reserve

Labuissiere Haute Sambre Nature Reserve

LABUISSIERE RAILWAY STATION

After visiting Thuin, I headed to Labuissiere where I spent the night at Au Craupad Charmant. The next day, my first stop was at Labuissiere Nature Reserve which has been on my wishlist for some time. 

LABUISSIERE NATURE RESERVE IN HAUTE SAMBRE
Labuissiere Nature reserve is the largest heron nesting area in the whole of Belgium. The nature reserve here is managed by Natagora. The whole marshland covers an area of 50 hectares and is the home to many migratory birds including Great Egrets, Grey Herons etc as well as other living organisms that make the biodiversity of the place so rich, including Pool Frogs, Yellow Waterlilies, and many insects as well. 
Only small portions of the Nature Reserve are open for general public to wander. Natgora has built cabins in the midst of the Nature Reserve, that is blended with the nature around it. The ability to sit in these cabins and watch birds is just absolutely wow. It is like a camouflaged building! There are 170 species of birds here and we managed to see atleast 4-5, including Mallard ducks, Mute swans, Coots, Cormorants etc. 

Where is Haute Sambre Nature Reserve (On Google Maps)Entry point to reach the Natagora Cabins
How to reach Haute Sambre Nature Reserve1.5km from Labuissiere Railway Station
Haute Sambre Nature Reserve Tickets: Free
Haute Sambre Nature Reserve Opening hours: Sunrise to Sunset
Haute Sambre Nature Reserve official Facebook page: Natagora

CARRIÈRES DE L'IMAGINAIRE QUARRY - Château de Labuissière
On the way back from Labuissiere Nature Reserve, we stopped a bit at Carrières de l'Imaginaire, an old quarry site that once was where the castle called Château de Labuissière. When it was destroyed in 1964, its bricks were sold. Many buildings in this region were built using those bricks including the B&B where we stayed, Au Crapaud Charmant. Today the place is completely reclaimed by nature and is a wonderful hiking area. We did a very short hike here before heading back to the B&B. I was told that during Halloween, night walks & bonfires happen here! Small parts of the castle are visible here and there. I spotted a tiny little arched doorway of the fortification in the middle of nowhere, engulfed by greenery! Did you find it in the 3rd pic below?

Where is Carrières de l'Imaginaire quarry (on Google Maps)? Carrières de l'Imaginaire
How to reach Carrières de l'Imaginaire? 1.1km from Labuissiere Railway Station; 600m from Haute Sambre Nature reserve
Carrières de l'Imaginaire tickets: Free
Carrières de l'Imaginaire opening hours: 24x7

Charming towns in Wallonia Labuissiere

Charming towns in Wallonia Labuissiere

Charming towns in Wallonia Labuissiere

SOLRE SUR SAMBRE & ERQUELINNES RAILWAY STATIONS
Labuissiere was our last stop on this 2-days train journey along River Sambre and we didn't go all the way till Erquelinnes. But FYI, the next 3 stops are Solre-sur-Sambre, Erquelinnes Village, Erquelinnes. Close to Solre-sur-Sambre railway station is the Chateau fort de Solre-sur-Sambre which is a private property but one of the most instagrammable castles of Belgium just from outside! Erquelinnes Village is the beginning of the town and the last stop is on the border of Belgium & France. There's a nice little microbrewery called Brasserie d'Erquelinnes, the place where Angelus beer is manufactured, right at the border which unfortunately we missed because we didn't go all the way there. Maybe one more trip just for the border or maybe a quick stop when I head to France in that direction? Let's see!!!

BEST HOTELS ALONG RIVER SAMBRE 

AU CRAPAUD CHARMANT B&B - A REVIEW
While the easiest option would be to stay in a hotel in Charleroi and take the train up & down everyday, the best option is definitely to choose one of the charming B&Bs in Wallonia, along the riverside. We stayed at Au Crapaud Charmant in Labuissiere. 

Au Crapaud Charmant Review Merbes le Chateau Labuissiere

Au Crapaud Charmant Review Merbes le Chateau Labuissiere

Au Crapaud Charmant Review Merbes le Chateau Labuissiere

This charming B&B is owned by Ms.Anne. There are just 2 rooms in the B&B which is actually the private residence of Ms.Anne. Her family lives on the ground floor and both the guest rooms are on the first floor. We stayed in the Family Room. It was absolutely delightful. 
Everything there was inspired by, guess what? Frogs! From room decor to stencil art on the walls to the shape of the soaps, everything is Frog shaped! It was so much fun & unusual, that Atyudarini took the soap for herself, like a toy! Literally, Crapaud means Toad in the local language of French! 
The building itself was charming with a vintage feel & half-timbered ceiling. The bathroom was very modern with a glass sink and a mirror with lights all around perfect to do makeup with. The backyard is just awesome. It is open to river Sambre itself! There are quite a few seating arrangements here - one with a cabin-like set-up and many other colourful chairs around a bonfire area, a swing set - to just relax and watch the river Sambre. There are a few chickens and 2 cats that keep you company. If only it had not been a cloudy day when we went, it would have been the perfect place for some stargazing. The best thing to do here would be to order some sparkling wine, stretch your legs, watch the river and enjoy the best of mother nature. 
One of the unusual amenities of the hotel is bathroom slippers! Every time I go on a backpacking trip, it is a bit of a problem to pack bathroom slippers because they occupy space & without those you'd have to wear boots when going for breakfast! Au Crapaud Charmant has a huge basket of slippers & slip-on footwear in assorted sizes for the guests! I didn't have to pack one and I had those to walk around in the backyard and just relax there! 
Right there, in the back yard, is also an open-air Jacuzzi along with an open-air shower. Since it was pretty cold and drizzly when we went, I didn't experience it. But when the weather is better, soaking in the jacuzzi here, surrounded by all greenery, just beside the flowing river Sambre would be just so so relaxing.

Au Crapaud Charmant Review Merbes le Chateau Labuissiere

Au Crapaud Charmant Review Merbes le Chateau Labuissiere

Ms.Anne offered to accompany us to visit the Haute Sambre Nature Reserve. It was much more fun to go with her (and her excellent binoculars) because she knew much more about the local biodiversity than us, of course! There is also space in the B&B to store bikes and if you request in advance it is possible to arrange hired bikes. 
It is possible to order dinner here and Ms.Anne gets it from Sas'laisse manger. Dinner & breakfast are at the skylit cabin in the backyard. Really dinner with a view! Absolutely loved it!

Where is Au Crapaud Charmant (On Google Maps)? Au Crapaud Charmant
How to reach Au Crapaud Charmant: 1km (12mins walk) from Labuissiere Railway Station
Au Crapaud Charmant hotel phone number: +32 477 95 88 56
Au Crapaud Charmant Room rates begin at €90 for double occupancy in a standard room. 

3 DAY ITINERARY AT CHARLEROI-THUIN
  • Day 1 - Charleroi (Bois du Luc, Industrial Heritage, Street art tour, Aulne Abbey)
  • Day 2 - Thuin & Lobbes (Hanging Gardens, Art trail, ASVi Tramway Museum) 
  • Day 3 - Labuissiere Nature Reserve
Charleroi Tourism Pinterest Labuissiere Nature Reserve Pinterest Haute Sambre

Things to do in Thuin Pinterest ASVi Tramway Museum Lobbes 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

10 comments:

  1. Wow! Great place and well covered post

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  2. Amazing place. Very informative post.

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  3. Everyhting about Thuin looks awesome. The hotels look good. The nature reserve sounds beautiful. The walks seem awesome. This sounds just like a holiday I need at this moment with less people and more Nature.

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  4. Thuin looks like a really interesting place to explore and it’s an area I’ve not heard of before. The art installation under the belfry looks so interesting and the wooded area looks beautiful as well. I’d love to ride those vintage trains as well.

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  5. I am planning a trip to France and Belgium and the River Sambre train route sounds like a great way to travel between the two. I love the images of Thuin, it sounds like the perfect place to stop and wander for an afternoon.

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  6. Never heard of Thuin and the area before, although I have been to Belgium several times. It looks very cute! I would climb up to the Belfry for the view. The Tramway museum also looks quite interesting - I love exploring old streetcars and steam locomotives.

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  7. Woah! I did not realize that there is so much to see and do in Thuin. I would love to see and visit Thuin Belfry. Thank you for sharing a bit of its history and I am glad it is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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  8. I have never heard of Thuin or Labuissiere before. Belgium is much more than Brussels, and Bruges and unfortunately I missed most of the places. I would surely want to visit Thuin and walk up those streets. Looks beautiful. I am planning to visit Germany next year, so may stop again by Belgium.

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  9. I like all the hikes/walks you did in Thuin. Around town to the art installations all through the woods. I will do them all when I get a chance to visit Thuin. Au Capaut Charmant looks charming, too. With an opportunity to stargazing, it is really a great place to stay in the area.

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  10. THUIN seems like a cool place to explore. It has that old world charm to it. Would love to visit Tramway museum since I LOVE trains!

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