Villers-la-Ville is a place that I’ve wanted to visit for years—ever since I was doing my Belgium Under the Radar series. Somehow, I never got to visiting it.
This year, however, I visited it twice in one week.
Villers-la-Ville is a place that probably only a few of you have heard about before. So, let me give you a short introduction.
Abbey Ruins of Villers-la-Ville
A small town of no more than 10,000 inhabitants in the Belgian province of Walloon Brabant, Villers-la-Ville is home to the massive ruins of an old Cisterian abbey. The Villers Abbey used to be one of Europe’s most important Cisterian abbeys before it was abandoned in 1796, after the French revolutionary administration had closed and sold the abbey.
Villers Abbey, or Abbaye de Villers in French, was founded in 1146 by one abbot, five lay brothers and twelve monks. This first abbey is now known as Villers I—it was relocated a few months later to a site lower down the valley, a site that is now referred to as Villers II.
Further reading: 10 Belgian Towns That Will Surprise You
At the end of the 13th century, the abbey’s golden age, Villers Abbey was completely rebuilt. Villers III expanded and ended up including numerous buildings such as a huge church, a reflectory, workshops, pharmacy, gardens, a kitchen and even a hostelry. In its heyday, Villers Abbey is said to have housed up to 100 monks and no fewer than 300 lay brothers. Villers III lasted until the late 18th century and is what can be visited today.
After being purchased by the Belgian state in 1893, what was then a complex of ruins was restored. It became an official historic site in 1973. Nowadays, many of the abbey’s original buildings have been restored and conserved and can be visited.
Particularly the enormous church is a highlight, with its impressive arches and pillars a superb example of medieval Cisterian architecture.
Further reading: 15 Essential Activities to Do in Belgium
The 850-year-old collection of ruined buildings in Villers-la-Ville offers a fascinating insight in the life inside a Cisterian abbey in the late Middle Ages and makes for a fantastic day trip from Brussels.
People who are looking for something that’s definitely off the beaten track in Belgium are encouraged to visit this marvelous historic site.
Villers-la-Ville Visitor Information
The ruins of Villers Abbey are open to the public all-year round. From November 1 to March 31, they can be visited every day between 10 am and 5 pm, except on Tuesdays. From April 1 to October 31, they are open every single day between 10 am and 6 pm.
Tickets cost 6 euros for adults. Group, children and senior tickets have different (lower) prices. With a ticket, visitors can leave and re-enter as many times as they want.
Generally speaking, a self-guided visit to the abbey ruins of Villers-la-Ville—a map is provided for free—takes about an hour and a half.
People visiting around lunchtime can use the picnic tables that are found onsite, or enjoy lunch and a local Belgian beer at La Cave du Moulin Restaurant located across the street from the entrance, or at Le Chalet de Forêt situated a couple of minutes’ walk up the road.
The address of Villers Abbey is:
Rue de l’Abbaye 55