Things to do in Nivelles (Wallonia - Belgium)

This article first appeared in My Travelogue by Bhushavali

Sometime before visiting Seneffe, I did a day trip to Nivelles as well. Nivelles is the point to which I travelled by train and then took a bus to Seneffe, so I took a day just to explore Nivelles. 

IS IT NIVELLES OR NIJVEL?
Well, just like everything else in Belgium, the names of all places are also in Dutch or French. Nivelles is located in the Walloon Brabant province in Wallonia where the local language is French. The name Nivelles is its French spelling while the name Nijvel is the spelling in Flemish (Dutch) the other official language of Belgium. In either case, the pronunciation is the same: Ni-vel. 

Nivelles Saint Gertrude
Maison du Tourisme Nivelles Wallonia

Things to do in Nivelles Walking Tour

Things to do in Nivelles Walking Tour Gold Walk

Things to do in Nivelles Walking Tour Gold Walk

TOP 5 THINGS TO DO IN NIVELLES
& PLACES TO VISIT AROUND NIVELLES

HISTORIC TOWN CENTRE OF NIVELLES
The first thing I did as soon as I reached Nivelles, was to head to the Maison du Tourisme, Nivelles office to collect the walking map of the Historic Town Centre of Nivelles. The major walking route through the historic centre of Nivelles is called the Gold Walk. There are 3 little extensions of this route Loop 1 through Holy Sepulchre (Green route), Loop 2 through Simon Tower (Pink route), Loop 3 through Park Dodaine (Blue route). With the time I had, I did only the Gold Walk. 
Self Guided Walking Tour of Nivelles: My route began at the Maison du Tourisme, Nivelles. Just outside it is the archway across the street called La Porte de Saintes. Under it are 2 mosaic works of the historic town plan with its fortification walls. Further ahead is the Eglise des Recollets. This is the 2nd tallest tower of Nivelles after Nivelles Cathedral. This is a part of the complex built by Charles V and Margaret of Austria in 1524 CE. The church was restored in 1960 CE. 
Further ahead are quite a few old, historic buildings. At the end of the street is the Bailiff's House. This house belongs to the 17th C CE and the facade is a typical architecture of 18th C CE. Unfortunately it isn't possible to enter the Bailiff's house but it has one of the most interesting architectural elements! It has 108 little alcoves for the pigeons. It's kinda, a historic pigeon house/dovecotes. In this area, are several other charming historic houses of 17th, 18th C CE. 
Soon I was on the tiny lane called Rue Neuve with had just a couple of houses and it turned left at the end of the road, whereon it was called Rue des Conceptionnists. These streets perhaps have the oldest houses in the region intact with their old-world charm. There was even a small fountain in front of a house and a plaque that mentioned 1724. Once out of that street, I was almost at the square of the Cathedral. One of the streets here is called Impasse de la Porte Rouge. Impasses are short streets with dead ends and Porte Rouge literally means Red Door and yes, there's a red door at the end of the street. Actually one of the most instagrammable places in Nivelles.
Since I was at Grand Place my next stop, of course, Nivelles Cathedral (St Gertrude's Collegiate Church). But before entering the Cathedral there are a few interesting things to spot outside - Jean de Nivelles, Fontaine du Perron and Jean de Nivelles' dog. Jean de Nivelles is the symbol of the town and to spot him you have to look up. Atop the southern tower of the Cathedral is the gilded sculpture of Jean de Nivelles who strikes the bell every hour. The original Jean de Nivelles was a French Nobleman who lived in the 1400s. The gilded sculpture is made of copper and is 2m tall and dates back to 15th C CE as well. 
After the Cathedral, don't forget to go straight ahead to the Simon Tower (Tour Simone), the only surviving section of the 12th C CE, city walls. The city wall was surrounded by a moat and had 11 towers through its length and today, all that exists, is this tower. 

Where is Nivelles Tourism Office (on Google Maps)Maison du Tourisme, Nivelles
How to reach Nivelles Tourism Office?  1km (13 mins walk) from Nivelles Gare. 
Nivelles Tourism Office opening hours: 9:00AM to 05:00PM everyday

Places to visit in Nivelles St.Gertrude Church

Places to visit in Nivelles St.Gertrude Church

Places to visit in Nivelles St.Gertrude Church

St.Gertrude Church Archaeological Basement

St.Gertrude Relics Shrine Nivelles

ST GERTRUDE'S COLLEGIATE CHURCH, NIVELLES
While it is possible to visit the Nivelles Church free of cost, it is definitely a good idea to go for a guided tour. There are several places in the church that can be accessed only with a guide like its archaeological basement, St.Gertrude's chapel, Imperial room etc and it is totally worth it to opt for a St Gertrude's Collegiate Church guided tour. Btw, though often it is referred to as Nivelles Cathedral, it is not a Cathedral and is a Collegiate Church.
Since I went on a guided tour, he took me first to the Archeological Basement. It was quite a revelation to the history of the church. To begin with, the historic church here was of 7th C CE dedicated to St.Peter where, the patron saint, St.Gertrude was buried. The spot is marked today and there are also the graves of Ermentrude, Himeltrude and many others. It was quite amusing to actually see a thigh bone sticking out from under the construction! The little church of St.Peter slowly grew over time to what it is, right now.
Also in the basement is the Crypt which is the spot above which the shrine of St.Gertrude is located right now. In medieval times, this spot was used by devotees to experience being closest to the shrine, since the actual shrine had been cordoned off. 
After the underground visit, we came to the ground level, most of which is open to all and accessible without a guided tour. There are 3 stunning artworks here - Thonon's Altarpiece, Wooden sculpture of Blessed Virgin and the Pulpit. Thonon's Altarpiece is a marble-alabaster altarpiece with 9 bas-reliefs depicting various stories from the life of St.Gertrude, sculpted in 1623 by Jean Thonon of Dinant. The Wooden sculpture of Blessed Virgin is so exceptionally beautiful! This was sculpted by an unknown sculptor by the end of 15th C CE. The pulpit is the masterpiece of Laurent Delvaux. Why is it a masterpiece? It combines the contrasting white marble with varnished wood, which makes it look exceptional. Also don't miss the Processional Chariot and the many life-sized sculptures, also sculpted by Laurent Delvaux. On this floor is also the Cloister which is also accessible only by guided tour. 
There's a room dedicated to the shrine of St.Gertrude. Long back, in 1298, a Gothic Shrine had been made to place the relics of St.Gertrude. Sadly during WWI, in 1940, it was severely damaged and then in 1982, a very modern, contemporary shrine was made by artist Félix Roulin. 
After that was our upper floor visit which is entirely restricted only to guided tours. The staircase is inside the Jean de Nivelles tower. The first room here is St.Gertrude's Chapel which has a pier attached to the wall with about a 25cm gap. The legend here is that only those with the grace of St.Gertrude will be able to pass through that! Guess what? I managed to pass through!!!! Here's also a small exhibition room that has the scraps of the original 13th C CE Gothic shrine of St.Gertrude, after it was almost entirely destroyed during the war. There's also a replicated complete Gothic shrine made of steel. On the floor above is the Imperial Room which is the treasury. It has various amazing, historic artworks of the church over time. The guided tour takes about 1:30 hours. 

Where is St.Gertrude's Collegiate Church in Nivelles (on Google Maps)Collégiale Sainte-Gertrude de Nivelles
How to reach St.Gertrude's Collegiate Church in Nivelles?  1km (13 mins walk) from Nivelles Gare. 
Nivelles St.Gertrude's Collegiate Church entrance tickets: Free
Nivelles St.Gertrude's Collegiate Church opening hours: 9:00AM to 05:00PM every day
Nivelles St.Gertrude's Collegiate Church Guided tour tickets: €6 (can be bought at the entrance of the church. Reservation not required)
Nivelles St.Gertrude's Collegiate Church guided tour timings: 2:30PM every day

St.Gertrude chapel Nivelles

Processional Chariot Collegiate Church of St.Gertrude Nivelles

Sites to see in Nivelles Belgium

Relics of St.Gertrude, Nivelles, Wallonia

Cloister at St Gertrude's Collegiate Church, Nivelles, Wallonia

DODAINE PARK
There is no place in Nivelles as good as Dodaine Park to spend the evening. Parc de la Dodaine is one of the top tourist attractions in Nivelles. The park, in fact, is the major section of the Blue loop. The speciality of the park is that, by itself, it is a historic site that was created at the beginning of 19th C CE. With a centrally located fountain and water body it is absolutely picturesque.
Entering Dodaine Park was beautiful with a series of stairs. My first stop in Dodaine Park was the Baroque gate. As I walked ahead there were the French gardens (the perfectly manicured, planned gardens). The view of the Nivelles Cathedral through the French Gardens, through the fountain, is just gorgeous. Adding more to the French Garden's elegance are the several sculptures dotted all over the place. That's what makes this place the best choice to just sit down, relax and spend the evening before getting on the train to head back home. 
Past the French Gardens, close to the waterbody, is the English Gardens. There are a couple of cafes in the garden and many many benches, but nothing better than sitting on the grass and relaxing. 

Where is Dodaine Park (on Google Maps)? Dodaine Park Nivelles
How to reach Dodaine Park?  1.6km from Nivelles Gare through the main entrance. 750m (9 mins walk) from Nivelles Cathedral through Avenue du Monde entrance which is the staircase entrance!
Dodaine Park tickets & opening hours: Free; 24x7

DOMAINE DU CHAPITRE VINEYARD & WINERY
Very close to Nivelles is Domaine du Chapitre. This is one of the best vineyards very close to Brussels and accessible by public transport as well, though not very easy. If you depend entirely on public transport it is a half-day trip from Brussels, by itself as there are buses roughly, only once every 2 hours, from Nivelles. If you can walk/bike this 2.2km distance then it is easier (which was a bit difficult for me to walk with Atyudarini). So, unfortunately, I haven't been here yet. However, I did manage to get a bottle of their Solaris wine, at the speciality wine store in Nivelles, Un Soir Un Vin (the name literally means "A wine an evening"! The Solaris wine of Domaine du Chapitre has won the Gold medal in the AWC Vienna. 
That said, like Wijnkasteel Vandeurzen, this is also one of the best Belgian wines from the Walloon Brabant region. The domain was once a cow farm and in 2013 vines were planted in 5.5 hectares of land. The area grew as well as the grape varieties. A tour of the Domaine du Chapitre vineyard is possible, complete with a guided walking tour through the vineyard seeing and understanding the difference between the various grape varieties, wrapping it up with a tasting session. 

Where is Domaine du Chapitre Vineyard & Winery (on Google Maps)? Domaine du Chapitre
How to reach Domaine du Chapitre Vineyard by bus? 2.2km from Nivelles Gare. LeTEC bus route 72 from Baulers bus stop (1.3km away) drops just in front of the Vineyard
Domaine du Chapitre Vineyard tickets & opening hours: No fixed opening hours & tours. Message them on the official website of Domaine du Chapitre to fix an appointment

Where is Un Soir Un Vin in Nivelles? Un Soir Un Vin
How to reach Un Soir Un Vin, Nivelles? 1km (11 mins walk)from Nivelles Gare; 200m (2 mins walk) from Nivelles Cathedral
Un Soir Un Vin Nivelles opening hours: Open only on Fridays & Saturdays 10:00AM to 6:00PM
Price of Solaris wine by Domaine du Chapitre: €12

Things to do in Nivelles, Wallonia, Belgium
Pic Credit: Denis Erroyaux via Wallonia Belgium Tourism

Things to do in Nivelles, Wallonia, Belgium
Pic Credit: Jean Paul Remy via Wallonia Belgium Tourism

Things to do in Nivelles, Wallonia, Belgium
Pic Courtesy: Isabelle Grosjean, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Collegiate Church of St.Gertrude
Pic Credit: Denis Erroyaux via Wallonia Belgium Tourism

Sites to see in Wallonia, Belgium

TRIP TO SENEFFE - SENEFFE CASTLE, BALAD'ANE
As I mentioned, I did a day trip from Brussels to Seneffe. It is also possible to do a half-day trip from Nivelles to Seneffe to visit either Seneffe Castle or Balad'ane. Or if at all you want, you could stay in Nivelles or Seneffe and explore both on a 2-day weekend trip. Wallonia Tourism even has a 4-day car-free itinerary of Waterloo to La Louviere via Nivelles & Seneffe.

Read all about Seneffe: One day in Seneffe

TRIP TO GENAPPE - FERME DE LA VALLEE
I'm yet to visit Genappe but that's where Ferme de la Vallée is located. That's one of the adorable (ferme pedagogique / kinderboerderij) children farms in Belgium that can be easily visited by public transport from Brussels. I'm yet to visit here. So I will update you here once I visit Ferme de la Vallée. 

HOW TO REACH NIVELLES
Brussels to Nivelles is an easy day trip even if depend on public transport, with frequent SNCB-NMBS trains running between the 2 cities. Nivelles to Brussels is about 34km on E19 highway via Beersel, Huizingen & Halle. 

NIVELLES HOTELS
I visited Nivelles & Seneffe on two different day trips from Brussels. I'm planning to visit Genappe on yet another day trip from Brussels. So I didn't stay in any of Nivelles hotels or Seneffe hotels and I cannot personally review any of these hotels for you. However here's are some hotels in Nivelles & Seneffe for your idea. 
There are 2 major chain hotels in Nivelles - Van der Valk Hotel Nivelles-Sud and Ibis Styles Nivelles. In the heart of the city, at the Grand Place itself is HDC Nivelles Grand Place. Apart from these, there are quite a few B&Bs & holiday homes in Nivelles.
3 of the very chamring, historic hotels in Nivelles are La ferme du Chapitre, Le Manoir du Captaine and Haras de Baudemont. La Ferme du Chapitre is the holiday home located inside Domaine du Chapitre Vineyard and Winery.
La Manoir du Captaine is located in Feluy very close to Balad'ane & Feluy Castle. It was once a historic brewery and then a horse farm and has been now renovated into a luxury hotel in Nivelles with 30 rooms keeping its vintage charm intact. 
Haras de Baudemont is in the north of Nivelles, closer to Ittre and about 7km from Nivelles. This was also once a horse farm and is now, a charming, little B&B with just 2 rooms. However, it is difficult to reach Haras de Baudemont by public transport; so, unless you have a bike/car, this may not be suitable.

ONE DAY NIVELLES ITINERARY WITH BIKE / CAR & IN SUMMER
  • Begin with Domaine du Chapitre Vineyard & Winery. If you have a car directly head there and if not, take a train to Nivelles and then bike to Domaine du Chapitre. 
  • By noon head back to Nivelles for lunch. 
  • Let the heavy lunch digest with the Gold walk around the historic town centre of Nivelles. 
  • Then visit the Nivelles Cathedral. 
  • Wrap up the day at Dodaine Park.

ONE DAY NIVELLES ITINERARY BY PUBLIC TRANSPORT / OTHER SEASONS -
  • Begin with the day with Nivelles Cathedral. 
  • Do the Gold Walk as well as its green & pink loops (Holy Sepulchre & Simon Tower)
  • Wrap up the day at Dodaine Park.
It is almost impossible to visit Domaine du Chapitre by public transport (or rather it is a day trip all by itself with a morning bus to go and a 3:00PM bus to return). So you have to skip it. 

ONE DAY NIVELLES & SENEFFE ITINERARY BY PUBLIC TRANSPORT 
  • Begin the day at Seneffe. Directly head to Seneffe Castle. 
  • By noon head back to Nivelles for lunch. 
  • Let the heavy lunch digest with the Gold walk around the historic town centre of Nivelles. 
  • Then visit the Nivelles Cathedral. 
  • Wrap up the day at Dodaine Park.
Things to do in Nivelles, Wallonia Pinterest Things to do in Nivelles, Wallonia 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

8 comments:

  1. I'd never heard of Nivelles before but definitely a worthy city to visit. I would enjoy taking the self guided tour and seeing all the historic sites. I'd also love looking around for great places to photograph. Sounds like you did the same!

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  2. Appreciate how this town looks like a regular affordable neighborhood. The church is stunning and who doesn’t love a free self-guided tour. Will have to remember to bring a picnic to enjoy the park.

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  3. Belgium is one of my favorite countries in the world and I've not had a chance to get to the Wallonia region. The winery is somewhere I'd love to visit, along with the cathedral and Seneffe Castle. I really liked the legend of the grace of St. Gertrude to be able to pass through the small gap as well, those kind of stories are what I enjoy most about traveling.

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  4. The self-guided tour in Nivelles looks interesting. You got to visit beautiful historical places and stayed for as along as you want. It's a good idea to take the guided-tour at St. Gertrude's Collegiate Church as you got to see more. And how wonderful it was to end your visit at Dodaine Park.

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  5. I haven't heard about Nivelles before. It's good to know that it is a French-speaking part of Belgium. Historic Town Centre looks like a perfect place for a walk. Great that you provide details about walking loops as well. Archeological Basement and Crypts and Church for sure are worth seeing with a guided tour to learn about the history of this place. As a wine lover, I highly appreciate your Domaine du Chapitre recommendation. So good to know as it's one of the best vineyards in the area. Excellent and valuable tips for trip planning.

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  6. What an architecture! Salute to those who work hard to maintain and preserve the beauty of these masterpieces. I don't usually associate Belgium with wineries. This is newfound knowledge for me!

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  7. Thank you for the clarification on their names. I had no idea about the information. Happy to learn something new today. Thank you for sharing a bit of history of Nivelles. It's nice to know that it's free to visit though we're very much willing to pay to join the guarded tour.

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  8. French section of Belgium - now that is quite interesting and I sure would love to check it out. The church, Bailiffs home and the old section of the city wall definitely pique my interest and I would love to spend half a day touring them all. Loved all your pics and the thrifty tips that you have included in your post.

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