After reading about Abbaye de Villers after seeing some photos when researching day trips from Brussels, I had to visit this beautiful Belgian abbey! Villers Abbey is located in Villers-la-Ville within French part of Belgium, called Wallonia, and I consider one of the best things to see in Belgium. This beautiful abbey is in ruins, which part of its charm, however keep reading for reasons to visit Villers Abbey, including amazing abbey beer, and beautiful photos of Abbaye de villers.
I first read about Villers Abbey on Atlas Obscura. I have a love for abandoned places and after seeing one photo of Abbaye Villers when researching day trips from Brussels, I was sold. My husband, my in-laws, and I had a blast running around this sprawling complex of beautifully preserved ruins with dreamy fall foliage (we visited in November).
Villers abbey (Abbaye de Villers) is a Cistercian abbey dating back to the 1100s, however the abbey was abandoned in 1796. The abbey is quite large and it’s thought that up to 100 monks lived at the abbey at one point, however restoration efforts didn’t begin until the late 1700s. The abbey is still absolutely beautiful and perfect for architecture/history/ruin lovers looking for a nice day trip from Brussels.
Villers Abbey is located in the town of Villers-La-Ville, only 40 minutes south of Brussels, making it the perfect day trip from Brussels. It’s a twelve minute drive from the Hergé museum, which documents the life and work of George Remi, the author of Tintin. (It would be very doable to combine the two with giving yourself at least 2-3 hours to explore Villers Abbey.)
Admission to Villers Abbey costs 8 euros for adults, 3 euros for children (6-12), 6 euros for students/seniors citizens, and free for disabled people, young kids, and teachers. (At time of publishing.)
They are open most days from 10am to 5/6pm (depending on the day) with closures around Christmas. I was surprised how empty the abbey was. However, if you happen to visit Villers Abbey on a Saturday or Sunday, you’ll be surrounded by bridal parties taking their wedding photos in the abbey. You’ll probably end up crashing the back of someone’s photo, but don’t worry too much about it.
Villers Abbey has its own microbrewery with some amazing locally produced beer based on the monks’ archives of beer recipes using organic ingredients and traditional methods. My husband loved the 9% triple (Abbaye de Villers IX) while I went for the blonde 5% Authentique (Abbaye de Villers V). I recommend stocking up if you’re a beer lover. There’s also a restaurant if you want a bite.
If you visit, realize that this abbey is HUGE, so it will take you at least three hours to explore it properly between the chapel, the “gardens”, the exterior, and the viewpoint. Similarly, there’s even secret passages underneath the structures, so if you’re into that (like my husband), you’ll be pleased 😉 (Some are not allowed to be accessed, so just check the signs carefully before you enter.
Keep track of members of your party as Villers Abbey is giant. (We lost my mother-in-law for an hour.)
You can get there by car, which gives you more flexibility. Similarly, you can take the train to Villers-la-Ville, which leaves you 2km from the abbey.
Although Villers Abbey does not include chocolate, it showcases a rich part of Belgian history: its monasteries, so if you’re looking for some beautiful and different things to see in Belgium, I highly recommend visiting Villers Abbey.
Read more about amazing day trips from Brussels in Wallonia!