unusual places to visit in the Ardennes
The Ardennes. Amazing. Unexpected even.
Little known to the public at large, these Ardennes gems will take you through history, sometimes even beyond the legends. Go exploring off the beaten track to discover what makes some places so special. From the mysterious megaliths of Wéris to the frightening Eben-Ezer tower, or following in the footsteps of Arthur Rimbaud in his uncherished hometown...
1. Wéris, a mini Stonehenge
Five thousand years have passed since the megaliths appeared. These huge blocks of stone were erected by Europe's very first farmers, marking their new connection to the natural world. This was when man began to settle, thanks to new techniques that allowed him to exploit his environment more efficiently.
Around Wéris, the countryside is dotted with their tombs, known as dolmens, and the menhirs that watched over them. Any walker, whatever their level, will take delight in discovering these ancient structures lined up across the limestone plateau known as the calestienne.
Anecdote: Other strangely-shaped stones, this time placed more naturally, have always haunted the human imagination and become the stuff of legends. For a long time they were thought to be the work of giants or of dwarfs, of fairies or witches, or even the devil himself... The Haina stone at the top of the hill to the East of the village has been painted white by the people of Wéris. It is said to close the door to hell and that the devil emerges from beneath it at nightfall
Visit this site, alone or with a guide.
2. Rest in peace, illustrious poet
Arthur Rimbaud rests in quite an amazing cemetery. The boy from "Charlestown" as he liked to call it, never had a good word to say about his hometown of Charleville. "You're lucky not to be living in Charleville any more! My hometown is superior in idiocy to any other small provincial town..."
But his fellow citizens never really held it against him. In fact, his tomb is bedecked all year round with flowers brought by local people and international visitors attracted to the banks of the Meuse to follow in the footsteps of the poet with wings on his heels. You can also visit the new Arthur Rimbaud museum which celebrates his life and works in a completely redesigned facility.
Anecdote: Next to his tomb is a letterbox, where you can leave a message dedicated to the wretched late poet.
The complete visitors' guide to Charleville in the footsteps of Arthur Rimbaud
3. The world's biggest wild boar
The impassive Woinic marks the gateway between the Ardennes and the motorway to the sun, observing travellers and weathering the seasons, year after year. It took artist Eric Sléziak 11 years to weld together the thousands of metal plates that make up Woinic's 50-tonne body. The monumental structure has embellished the A34 motorway since 2008, attracting tens of thousands of visitors every year.
Woinic is a symbol of the Ardennes. But his friendly physical appearance also embodies that typical Northern irony. Here's betting that your Ardennes adventure will kick off on a selfie with Woinic, the biggest wild boar in the world!
Anecdote: The name Woinic is the abbreviation of the names of the sculptor's parents: Woidouche and Nicole
4. One of the most extreme flights of steps in the world
And it was the Huffington Post who said so! Just imagine, 374 steps on a 30% slope. But it's worth the experience, even if it leaves you short of breath. Bueren Mount was built in 1880 to facilitate access to the Glowing City for soldiers stationed at the citadel. Today, these steps hold a few secrets...
First of all, they provide easy access to the citadel slopes of overlaid terraces where the people of Liège enjoy spending long afternoons and even longer summer evenings. In this maze you might also come across the Curtius Brewery with its nicely laid-out terrace where you can try a fabulous local lager. Every year, Bueren Mount is bedecked with flowers arranged in various themed patterns. On the day of the Nuit des Coteaux, the steps are decorated with thousands of candles. A key sight to see in the old town of Liège!
Extra tip: Enjoy getting lost in the cul-de-sacs around Rue Hors-Château. This is a truly atypical secret spot.
5. The atypical tower of Eben-Ezer
Emerging from the earth and from a man's imagination, this place is strange in every way and symbolises the link between earthlings and the skies. It was built out of flint in 1963 by architect Robert Garcia, who made reference to Celestial Jerusalem. You'll be surprised to see 4 cherubs ornating the top of the tower, as a reference to the four elements. Hence, the bull, the lion, the eagle and the angel look down upon visitors in search of the unusual or the spiritual.
The site houses a museum devoted to flint, the main material used to build the tower. It opens all year round and you'll find it just 15 minutes from Maastricht.
6. Semois valley and tobacco farming
For nearly a century, the Semois valley was the ideal place for growing tobacco. The plant could ripen protected from the cold, dry winds of the neighbouring plateaus. Between Membre and Corbion, where the last crops of "Nicot's herb" can be found, immerse yourself in the typical world of the last plantation owners.
Here and there in the villages of Ardennes, the remains of some old tobacco sheds still remind us of that glorious period. From 1850 until the arrival of American cigarettes during the Second World War, there were over 10 million tobacco plants covering more than 400 hectares. A heaven-sent industry whose history can be retraced at the Tobacco Museum in Corbion.
Anecdote: Since June 2018, Semois tobacco has been transformed into a liquid version created specifically for electronic cigarettes!
Discover the tobacco route