So there we were, driving to Normandy, France, for a quick summer getaway when I noticed a road sign in Belgium stating Villers-la-Ville was the next exit. Villers…Villers…I couldn’t figure out why that name sounded familiar.
My brain quickly assessed the situation, and in the same breath I practically yelled at my husband to take the exit.
Totally confused with my hasty commands in the middle of Belgium, he did as I said and then I filled him in:
Early on in the pandemic (like, very shortly after we arrived and before borders between countries “closed”) a friend of mine went to Villers Abbey in Belgium. I was fascinated by this place only an hour and a half from our home and couldn’t wait to visit. The only problem was the fact that Belgium started getting super high covid numbers, so we didn’t venture into the country.
Flash forward to that day in July 2021 when were were leisurely driving through Belgium, and I saw the sign for Villers-la-Ville, the town where the abbey was so we could finally check it out.
Whew. That’s one of the more long-winded versions as to how we arrived at Villers Abbey in Belgium—just one of those places I was excited to see for awhile, but had to be patient until we got there.
Thankfully, it was worth the wait.
What is Villers Abbey in Belgium?
Long story short: Abbaye de Viller (aka Villers Abbey in English) is an abbey dated back to 1146, and it was home to more than 400 monks at one point.
It was abandoned in 1796 (because of a lack of funding during the French Revolution), so it’s been sitting there for 225 years in ruins—gorgeous, remarkable ruins.
It’s the kind of place that leaves you saying, “Oh wow,” every other minute, and then you feel silly since you already said that a dozen times before that.
I love that there’s information about what each area used to be, so you can get a good idea of what the abbey was like back in the day.
The kids enjoyed the open space—while they didn’t go crazy running around, we didn’t feel like they had to be on their absolute best behavior, which was nice. And there were cool things to see, like a jail and also a crypt (but bring a flashlight since it gets dark in there)!
What to Expect During a Visit to Villers Abbey
Since we made a spontaneous stop at Villers Abbey, I didn’t properly plan or look into our outing like usual. Thankfully, we had our afternoon fairly open and had time to explore.
How much time do you need
The whole area is huge; it’s much bigger than I expected.
I’d plan on spending at least two hours there, but you could easily look around for longer. Besides the abbey, there’s also a huge gardens area, along with stairs that lead up to a vineyard on a hill.
Everything is pretty much marked out for where you can go, and there are signs up at different spots with information.
There are free restrooms available (woohoo), but they’re near the Villers Abbey exit—keep that in mind if you have little kids that tell you they need to go….when you’re at the furthest point from the exit.
Water, Food, and Beer
We didn’t realize how large the abbey was, and didn’t bring enough water with us. Since we didn’t expect to be there for that long, we were all super thirsty. Definitely bring more water with you, especially if you visit Villers during the summer.
There were several places to eat nearby, including a little bistro attached to the abbey and a microbrewery. We had other plans for eating that day, so we didn’t stop, but we did pick up some beers from the abbey.
The brewery is only open with very limited hours (four hours on a Saturday), but they do sell them at the front (where you get your tickets), and as you exit the abbey. Fun fact: rumor has it that the beer is based on the monks’ recipes.
You can also bring food—there were picnic benches all over.
Stroller and Dog Friendly
We saw a couple strollers, but keep in mind that these are ruins so not every place will be easily accessible with a stroller. There were multiple opportunities to go up or down stairs that would be almost impossible with a stroller.
Dogs are also allowed, but they must be kept on a leash.
Basic Info for Villers Abbey in Belgium
Website: Villers Abbey
Address: Rue de l’Abbaye, 55, 1495 Villers-la-Ville, Belgium
Kids (6-12): €4
Times/Hours/Covid: check website for current information
How to Get There
Villers Abbey is only about 45 minutes from the center of Brussels, in a little village called Villers-la-Ville.
I recommend visiting via car—it looks like it could be more than an hour travel time (plus walking) to get there by train from Brussels. (Train station: Villers-la-Ville—2 km from the Abbey)
Geilenkirchen NATO Air Base/JFC Brunssum: about 1.5 hrs away
Spangdahlem Air Base: about 2 hours away
Weisbaden: about 4 hours away
Brussels: about 45 minutes away
Amsterdam: about 3 hours away
Where to Park
There was ample parking in front of the entry area (where you’ll get your tickets). Find it the parking spot here: 1495 Villers-la-Ville, Belgium.
If you check out Villers Abbey in Belgium I’d love to know what you think of it—hopefully this guide helped you plan your trip!