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The Ardennes

In the Ardennes the three main cities are: Liege, the "Cite ardente", known for its irreverent citizens; Namur, the historic, strategic, fortified city on the Meuse river and Tournai, famous for a fabulous Romanesque/gothic cathedral, 18th century royal porcelain and XV and XVI century tapestry.

To really enjoy the Ardennes you should choose the small roads, and discover its wonderful castles, monasteries and country inns where you can stop for a treat of trout fresh out of the stream, or for the adventurous, a piece of juicy wild boar. To sample all the cheeses and beers of the region is serious work.

While you are indulging in Epicurean treats, you may at the same time visit a few places that will give you personal insight into historic events that have shaped Europe over the centuries.


The focal point of any visit to Tournai today is the grand Cathedral of Notre Dame, a five-towered Romanesque and early Gothic masterpiece built during the 12th and 13th centuries. Its treasury contains the silver and copper "Shrine of Our Lady," completed in the early 13th century. The Cathedral also houses paintings of Rubens and his contemporary Jordaens.

Also worth visiting in Tournai are the outstanding Museum of Tapestry and the Museum of Fine Arts. Under the Dukes of Burgundy, Tournai was the principal production center for widely coveted tapestries that are now in the collection of kings and museums all over Europe. The Museum of Fine Arts, an airy, art nouveau structure designed by Victory Horta in 1928, houses a superior collection of Flemish and French works from the 15th century to the present. Tournai's own Roger van der Weyden (Roger de la Pasture) is well represented here.

Before leaving the area visit the nearby Beloeil Castle, owned by the Princes de Ligne and famous for its expansive gardens.

More information on Tournai


La cite Ardente, the hot-blooded city. Who coined the words, we shall never know but no one passing through Liege can ever doubt the sheer perfection of the phrase.

For much of its history, Liege was a center of ecclesiastical power. The Prince-Bishops developed a rather democratic institution. They succeeded in keeping Liege removed from the fearful wars that swept over Belgium and Europe in the late 1500 's and 1600's preserving the economic base that was to make Liege an industrial pioneer in later times. Under their churchly administration, Liege developed Europe's earliest and most advanced coal mining industry, metallurgy plants, glassworks and especially gun factories.

Testimony to this past glory is the Palace of the Prince-Bishops. Of the two courtyards that abut the palace grounds, the second is the most beautiful. It is surrounded by the actual residence of the Prince-Bishops, one of the largest secular Gothic building of Europe. Presently it houses the court rooms of Liege. Opposite this Palace is the ancient Market Place with its "Perron" column, symbol of the city's liberties and the Town Hall.

Many fine churches still grace the city. In the beautiful twin-towered Romanesque Saint Barthelemy Church you will find one of the most remarkable masterpieces of Liege, the Baptismal font by Renier de Huy, cast in the 12th century. Other musts are the Curtius Museum, 17th century mansion of the patrician industrialist, Jean Curtius, in fine Mosan style; lovely Merovingian jewelry, Carolingian coins, Gallo -Roman stone objects and the famous "evangeliary" of Bishop Notger. The Arts Museum rivals similar museums in Dresden and Vienna, displaying weaponry, both exotic and refined, and spanning several centuries.

Night life happens in "le Carre" in central Liege and on an island in the center of the river called "Outre Meuse." There you will find piano bars, taverns and cafes packed with feisty Liegois. Liege is also famous for its adult puppet theater and is home to the legendary Tchantches.


The Citadel of Namur served as a strategic bastion, attracting wave upon wave of attacks and experiencing an equally determined series of reconstruction's and reinforcements. The most famous of these contests occurred in the late 17th century, during the War of the Grand Alliance. In 1692, the renowned fortress architect and siege engineer Vauban took Namur for the French while Louis XIV himself looked on. Vauban strengthened Namur so well that it was thought impregnable, but only three years later it was taken in less than a month by the forces of William of Orange.

Today the citadel is accessible by a winding road or by cable-car, offering visitors a good view of the peaceful town below and the rivers Sambre and Meuse. Although the citadel is a dominating presence in Namur, the town itself holds great appeal. Its quiet streets are graced with a number of fine 18th century mansions and several beautiful churches. Namur is also a rich repository of Mosan artwork, most notably the Treasury of the Priory of Oignies. Among the treasury's fine objects are many pieces manufactured in the early 13th century by Brother Hugo of Oignies, one of the greatest goldsmiths of the middle ages. Brother Hugo's work includes a reliquary for a rib of Saint Peter, two astonishing double crosses, chalices, phylacteries, and an evangelical cover.

Other Towns in the Ardennes

Bouillon is the town and castle in Luxembourg where in the 11th century, Duke Godefried of Bouillon started the Crusades that would end in the fall of Jerusalem. The castle still stands proud, draw bridges and all.

Spa gave its name to all spas and was the watering hole of the entire aristocracy of Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries, including Tzar Peter the Great who was cured by the waters of Spa of a severe form of indigestion.

The Battle of the Bulge centered around the town of Bastogne. Today, the town stands as a memorial to this decisive moment of World War II: the 101st Airborne stopped the last offensive of the German troops and prepared for the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany.

Dinant and its 16th century Citadel. Also the hometown of Adolph Sax, who invented the saxophone.

Durbuy; in 1331 it was proclaimed the smallest chartered town in the world, and still likes to think so.

Binche is especially known for its annual carnival in February.

Francorchamps is world famous for its annual Formula I car race.

Waterloo is, of course, the place where Napoleon lost the battle against the allied troops commanded by the Duke of Wellington and the Prussian Marshal Blucher in June 1815.

Han-sur-Lesse is a paradise for kayaking and don't forget to visit to the nearby caves of Han.

Rochefort organizes the International Comedy Festival that takes place every year

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