When I say Belgium, what comes first to your mind? Brussels for sure, and then I bet Antwerp, and then Ghent and most likely Bruges. And I am sure you have hardly ever heard of places like Dinant, Durbuy or Bouillion. Just get off the beaten track and you will discover a part of Belgium, you have never suspected it existed. Wallonia is all about beautiful places and medieval castles!
With our full-time jobs, a long weekend here and there is the perfect way to travel more. So, we took the Friday and the Monday off and headed to Belgium. I know 4 days are not enough to discover a whole region but we have chosen some of the highlights in Wallonia for this short trip.
What can you expected from this 4-day itinerary in Wallonia? Here’s the balance:
- charming places – 5
- castles – 5
- gardens – 2
- 1 Where is Wallonia and how to get there?
- 2 What to do and see in Wallonia?
- 3 Where to stay in Wallonia?
Where is Wallonia and how to get there?
Wallonia (Wallonie in French and Wallonië in Dutch) is one of the 3 regions in Belgium together with Flanders and Brussels. It’s basically the south-eastern part of Belgium. In Wallonia they speak French, whereas in Flanders they speak Flemish, which is actually Dutch.
Living in the Netherlands, we could just drive to our destination, but you can fly to Brussels International or Charleroi airports and rent a car to explore all those beautiful places in Wallonia. Alternatively, you can use the train or one of the international bus lines, but I would not advise it, unless the travel time is less than 5 hours, otherwise it’s not worth for a short trip of 4 days to “loose” 2 days in transit.
What to do and see in Wallonia?
With only 4 days we couldn’t cover the whole region, that’s why we chose one town as a base and did trips to the rest of the places. To be considered as our base such a place should satisfy these two criteria:
- It should be charming and small;
- It should be centrally located, so that we can visit other beautiful places during our stay.
Rochefort was the perfect choice for our 4-day adventure in Wallonia.
Here is our 4-day itinerary with the places we visited and the things we did in Wallonia. Each day from the itinerary is marked in its own colour on the map. Click on the arrow in the top left corner for more information.
Wallonia itinerary Day 1
As we arrived the night before in our hotel (you need to use your time wisely if you have only a limited number of days per year), we could head in the morning to the first place on our itinerary:
Annevoie Gardens and Castle
The Annevoie Castle is located in the small village of Annevoie-Rouillon. The best way to get there is by car. The castle was built in the 17th c. and belonged first to the family of Halloy and later to the family of Montpellier. Today, the castle is not open for visits, but its marvelous garden is. The garden was designed in 1758 by Charles-Alexis de Montpellier and is the only water garden of this kind in Belgium. It is a fusion of the 3 garden styles popular in the 18th c.: the English, the French and the Italian. The whole garden has been constructed around water with numerous fountains, water jets, canals, ponds, cascades and waterfalls, there is even an artificial grotto of Neptune. What is unique about these water gardens is that there aren’t used any electrical or mechanical pumps and devices. We loved walking around and discovering the various hooks and types of gardens.
The Annevoie Gardens are open from April to November, each day from 9:30 am till 5:30 pm. Adult fare is 8,20 EUR and the reduced fare for children aged 3 to 18, is 5,50 EUR. However, you should add 1,25 EUR for parking if you are coming by car.
You can spend 2 – 2, 5 hrs at the Annevoie Gardens.
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The small town of Dinant is a real hidden gem. It is as picturesque as on all those pictures: with the bright colours of the houses reflecting in the waters of the Meuse River and the dramatic vertical cliffs serving as a background of this colourful splash. Before visiting the town, I didn’t know that it’s the birthplace of Adolph Sax, the inventor of the sax. If you are interested in the history of music instruments you can visit Mr. Sax’s House (La Maison de Mr Sax), or otherwise you can enjoy a walk around in Dinant and admire the 28 gigantic saxophones placed all over the town.
If you are into bird views, I will recommend you taking the cable car to the Citadel of Dinant (Citadelle de Dinant). This medieval fortress, situated 100 m above the street level and built in the 16th century, has plenty of stories to tell. The admission (including the cable car) is 8,50 EUR, children aged 4-12 years pay 6,00 EUR. Once up there you will be struck – the view over the Meuse River and the town is mesmerizing.
Another interesting place to visit in Dinant is the Collegiate Church of Our Lady (Collégiale Notre Dame de Dinant) with its pear-shaped bell tower, dating back to the 13th c.
We spent only half a day in Dinant, but the town itself can be a destination for a long weekend as there’s enough to see and do there. You can take a boat trip on the Meuse River, or visit the caves, the Leffe Abbey and Leffe Museum. It is definitely one of the most beautiful places in Wallonia!
Wallonia itinerary Day 2
For day 2 of our short trip in Wallonia I have chosen another two tiny but picturesque towns in the heart of the Belgian Ardennes: Durbuy and La Roche-en-Ardenne. The Ardennes is a mountainous region in Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany and France.
They say that Durbuy is the smallest town in the world, whether it’s the smallest, I don’t know, but for sure it’s one of the most charming places I have ever seen. The old town is just postcard-perfect! Take your time and walk around in the old town’s cobblestone lanes with quirky shops and lovely cafés. A major point of interest is the Anticline (l’Anticlinal) – a U-shaped rock formation that looks like a vertical wall.
If you love parks and gardens as much as we do, then you would enjoy a visit to the Topiary Gardens. The park features 250 amazing sculptures of immaculately pruned box trees and shrubs. From the park there’s a lovely view to the privately-owned castle of Durbuy. The park is open from 1 March to 31 October and the entry is 4,50 EUR for adults and 1,00 EUR for children aged 6 – 12.
We’ve stayed only half a day in Durbuy, but one can easily spend there a whole day. It kept raining that day but nonetheless we enjoyed this charming little place in Wallonia.
The second stop on our 2nd day in Wallonia was La Roche-en-Ardenne – another small town up the Ourthe River in the Ardennes. Although La Roche was majourly destroyed during WWII, it is still a charming place to visit.
We enjoyed walking around and sitting in one of the cafés on Place du Bronze. We loved so much this place that we missed the opening hours to the ruins of the medieval Castle.
When we finally reached the top of the hill we were not allowed to the castle anymore. It was 4:45 pm, and in April the castle was open only till 5:00 pm. Too bad, we couldn’t hear the story of the Ghost of Berthe de la Roche, but we had a lovely afternoon enjoying a few glasses of Lupulus from the neighbouring Gouvy.
Wallonia itinerary Day 3
Nope, I am not talking about the broth, but about a small Belgian town located almost at the French border.
The most famous attraction of Bouillon is the Castle of Bouillon. The castle was first mentioned in the 10th century and it was the stronghold of the Ardennes-Bouillon Dynasty. The most famous representative of this dynasty being Godfrey of Bouillon – one of the leaders of the First Crusade (1096 – 1099) and the first ruler of the Kingdom of Jerusalem.
The Castle of Bouillon is very well preserved and is accessible via draw bridges. It offers amazing views on the town and the Samois River. We witnessed there a birds-of-pray show, which was quite interesting. In the castles there’s also an exhibition about the history of writing from the Middle Ages to the present day. Entry tickets for adults cost 7,00 EUR and for children 5,00 EUR.
You can spend a whole day in Bouillon as the castle is quite interesting. You can also take a walk in the surroundings which are like a park.
Wallonia itinerary Day 4
The last day of our 4-day trip to Belgium was reserved for our home base – Rochefort. We had only half a day to spend there, as we had to drive back to the Netherlands the same day.
Rochefort is another lovely town on a river in Wallonia – this time the Lesse River. It’s mostly famous about the Trappist beer with the same name and the nearby caves. There are also remains of an old castle, but they can be visited only with an appointment. The castle is open for public on certain days in the year, so check their website, before you go.
There’s a nice little park alongside the river and a few good restaurants in the town. There isn’t much to do and see in the town itself, as all attractions are in the neighbourhood, but nonetheless Rochefort is quite pleasant.
Where to stay in Wallonia?
During our 4-day trip to Wallonia we stayed in a charming hotel, just in the centre of Rocherfort – La Male Poste. The hotel had even a swimming pool, a very posh restaurant and a large sunny terrace.
You can also check the best deals for hotels in Wallonia via the Booking.com form below.
Do you have a full time job? Then you might be interested in other 4-day itineraries in Europe. Check out the following posts:
Have you been to Wallonia in Belgium? Share with us which places you have liked most in the comments!