The Castle of Godfrey of Bouillon (The Castle of Godfrey of Bouillon )
Land of the crusaders
At the bend in the Route de France lies the fortress which, for a thousand years, has cast its shadow and its history over the small city of Bouillon. A story written in blood and the epic of the First Crusade, led by the master of the place, Godfrey of Bouillon… Here, legend and history mingle.
A - The Hôtel de la Poste Voir sur la carte
At the time of the two poets, there was nothing touristic about Bouillon. Paul Verlaine noted, in Sketches of Belgium: “The paved areas of Bouillon are horribly paved. You’d think they were pebbles, though we’re I don’t know how far from the sea. Little houses of uneven slate stones, covered with slate, too” It must all have looked grey and sad. A few kilometres away, the French army was routed at the battle of Sedan: haggard soldiers, mere shadows of the imperial army, wandered along the quays made filthy by the tanneries and overlooked by the gloomy ruins of the fortified castle. At the Hôtel de la Poste, Verlaine talked to the innkeeper who told him of the arrival of Napoleon III, before his captivity. “The Emperor was as pale as death. He sat at the head of the table, carved and served as the master of the house, with perfect sang-froid: all in silence; then he went straight up to bed.”
Not having the financial resources of an Emperor, Rimbaud and Verlaine stayed at the Hôtel des Ardennes.
B - The dance of the Semois and the trout! Voir sur la carte
In Bouillon, life flows peacefully at the pace of the untamed, nourishing river. And fishermen are delighted with the “black Semois on its bed of stones”!
Did you know?
Paul Verlaine considered the trout in Bouillon to be divine…The trout! Which reverence prevents me, this time, from describing as divine, but which a respect as tender as it is retrospective and a slightly profane recognition will perhaps not prevent me, in this case, from magnifying as clerical, the trout of the Semoy, which may even be dignified as salmon, truly appreciated in the company of good colleagues of this good priest. Oh, the trout of the Semoy!...
C - The castle and the legend of Godfrey of Bouillon Voir sur la carte
Even though the castle today bears little resemblance to that of 1096, it is well worth visiting as the presence of Duke Godfrey can still be sensed: a strange feeling pervades you as you stroll through the ruins, as if the shadow of this great leader of the first crusade could appear in the knight’s’ room or the spiral stairs at any moment… Within the castle walls, the sense of wonder continues when birds of prey rise up from the ruins and perform a heavenly ballet. This show brings to mind an age-old hunting technique: falconry.
> During the season, a falconry display takes place within the castle walls (including the site admission price).
The last ticket is delivered 45 minutes before closing.
Joint tickets for the Castle, the Archeoscope and the Museum are available.
esplanade Godefroid, 1
Tel : 0032(0) 61 46 42 02
Web : www.bouillon-initiative.be
Avoid parking in front of the castle entrance. Instead, explore the imposing walls by following the path that starts alongside the tennis courts, upstream of the Bastion de Bourgogne. The path is lit, so when night falls the route becomes a playground for night birds immersing themselves in ten centuries of history…
D - The Archeoscope Voir sur la carte
A fascinating time machine has been installed in a 17th-century convent. Thanks to the very latest multimedia techniques, visitors can follow in the footsteps of Godfrey, reliving the highlights of the first crusade. The ideal complement to a visit to the fortified castle.
Open from 11.30am to 02pm and from 05pm to 11pm (00:00 during the week-end) and on sunday from 04pm to 11pm.
Rempart des Jésuites 7
Tel : 0033(0)84315607
Visit the castle and the Archeoscope to learn about Godfrey’s epic story. Inquire about the pass for these two attractions and benefit from a discount.
E - The Ducal Museum Voir sur la carte
This is the ideal setting in which to find out about Bouillon’s thousand-year history thanks to the varied and attractive collections.
type of visit: free (1h) or Guided visits in English with previous appointment. .
rue du Petit, 1
Tel : 0032(0) 61 46 41 89
Web : www.museeducalbouillon.be
F - The Abbey of Our Lady of Clairefontaine in Cordemoy Voir sur la carte
Cross the neo-Gothic Poulie bridge and go along the magnificent route de la Semois: this will take you to Cordemoy or Clairefontaine Abbey. The style may be familiar as it calls to mind Orval Abbey, designed by the same architect, Henry Vaes, with its diagonal ribs evoking hands clasped together in prayer. The cloistered nuns receive visitors within their community every day.
Church available for any kind of public
To take part in the prayer of trappistine nuns
Accomodation on request
Tel : 0032(0) 61 22 90 80
A small shop run by the sisters sells produce from the abbey.
G - The bridges and other passageways Voir sur la carte
If a knight on a charger were to ride across Poulie bridge, it would hardly seem surprising: the architecture appears to come straight from the Middle Ages. And yet this neo-Gothic bridge dates from … 1935. This is just one of the crossing points dotted along the untamed course of the Semois, a formidable natural rampart. The slabs of shale rock will be used for centuries as fords across the water. Like the one in Han, at the mouth of the Moulin Hideux, which opened up the path of the great forest of Bouillon. A redoute was established there in 1695, keeping watch over the border of the Kingdom of France.
Did you know?
In Bouillon, the Liège bridge, the oldest in the city, built in 1069, provided a passageway between the Kingdom of France and the Holy Roman Empire. Time and time again, it was swept away and destroyed by the ice sheets carried along by the Semois. The Little Ice Age, which lasted from the early 16th century to the mid-19th century, had transformed the Ardennes into a Nordic country!
A small shop kept by the nuns sells produce from the abbey.
H - The little Bouillon tourist train Voir sur la carte
Passengers adore this little train that takes them on a guided tour of the town and the surrounding area, exploring twelve centuries of history and some superb beauty spots.
Start from the Liège bridge
I - Walks galore Voir sur la carte
In the area around Bouillon, the Semois constantly forms magnificent arabesques in the landscape, hugging the slopes to form peninsulas. On the maps, the paths leap from ridges to valleys: the waymarked routes found here are without doubt among the most beautiful in Wallonia.
The Tourist Office has published a lovely walking map on an IGN (Ordnance Survey) background. We would particularly recommend the ‘Moulin de l’Epine’ walk, which is delightfully pretty.
Walking Voir sur la carte
‘La Ramonette’ walk
The natural site alone is outstanding. The view over the Semois valley and the little city is superb. ‘La Ramonette’ is surrounded by the river and was occupied by the Romans, who saw it as an essential strategic location.
Distance: 1.5 km
Waymarking: red diamond, walk No 10
Time: 1 h
Start: access the path via the route de France. At the tunnel, take the Vieille Route de France, on the right, which climbs.
Walking Voir sur la carte
This route offers you superb panoramic views of Bouillon.
Distance: 6 km
Waymarking: red diamond, walk No 14
Start: access the path from the opposite bank of the Semois, leaving Cordemoy bridge.
Just after the Cordemoy monastery, at the Moulin de l’Épine, you can stop to eat at the inn before continuing along the route (red diamond, walk No 15). Go down into Bouillon along a cantilevered path worthy of the loveliest mountain routes…
J - Meet and savour Voir sur la carte
‘La Vieille Ardenne’ bistro
This is a real institution: back at the start of the last century, the bistro welcomed tourists as they got off the steam train, which could be heard reverberating through the Semois valley. Today, it offers over 60 beers, four of which are draught. “Every month we highlight a traditional draught beer”. You can’t just improvise being an ambassador for Orval beer.
K - Meet and savour Voir sur la carte
This is above all a love story, that of Marc and Nathalie who decided, 18 years ago, to open a shop to be a standard bearer of Belgian beer. Traditional beers are both their strength and their weakness. Strength in their quality, weakness in their production, which is of necessity limited. “My beer orders were not always met”. Fed up with the situation, he began producing his own beer. “I started to brew 20 litres at the back of the shop, in an area of 50 m2…”. Now the brewery has been transferred to the slopes above Bouillon, to Noirefontaine, where more room means that we can brew 50 beers following different recipes.
0pen daily from 9 a.m to 12 a.m and from 2 p.m to 6.30 p.m
Closed on Wednesday
Tel : 0032(0) 61 46 89 40
Web : www.brasseriedebouillon.be
L - Reception and tourist information site Voir sur la carte
La Maison du Tourisme du Pays de Bouillon
quai des Saulx, 12 - 6830 Bouillon
Open all year round from Monday to Saturday from 10am to 6pm and on Sunday from 10am to 5 pm
Closed on 25th December to 1st January
Le Syndicat d’Initiative de Bouillon (located at the entrance to the fortified castle)
esplanade Godefroid, 1 - 6830 Bouillon
all year round except 25th December and 1st January
In December, January and February morning
M - The Bouillon brewery Voir sur la carte
In the 1990s, two young enthusiasts of the region took up the challenge of creating a beer produced in Bouillon itself, intended to captivate both tourists and locals. When he first started, Jacques tested his knowledge and developed his know-how at the back of the shop run by Nathalie, his wife. He researched, developed a delicious beer and first tested it by selling it in the grocer’s store, the ‘Marché de Nathalie’. And it worked! He soon took the plunge: the Bouillon brewery was born. Its success has continued since 1998. The range of beers has been expanded, with something to suit every taste. The Blanche de Bouillon (blanche flavoured with coriander and orange peel), the Cuvée de Bouillon, the Bouillonnaise (brown), the Vauban (blonde) or the Saison des Chasses carry on the great success story of these two of lovers of Bouillon…
rue de la Girafe, 76
Tel : 0032(0) 61 46 89 40
Web : www.brasseriedebouillon.be