Last Updated on 08.09.2023 by Iliyan
I guess you have never heard of the small municipality called Villers-la-Ville in Belgium. It’s located about 45 km. south of Brussels and it is the perfect day trip from the hustle and bustle capital of Belgium. However, to the north of Villers-la-Ville lie the impressive ruins of the Villers Abbey in Belgium, which was one of the most important Cistercian abbeys of Europe.
Villers Abbey (Abbaye de Villers) it’s worth a visit to get in touch with the history of Belgium or if you like exploring ruins and abandoned places.
Villers Abbey, Belgium
The history of the Villers abbey dates back to the 12th century. It was founded in 1146, under the aegis of Saint Bernard in grounds of more than 36 hectares by 12 Cistercian monks and three lay brothers from Clairvaux. It used to be one of Europe’s most important Cisterian abbeys before it was abandoned in 1796 in the wake of the French Revolution.
The abbey had to move twice before finally settling on a location in the 13th century. Initially, the plan was to build a Romanesque abbey, but in 1197 the abbey became Gothic and took more than 100 years to build.
The period between the 12th and 13th century was the golden age of the abbey. During this wealthy period, the abbey and its grounds expanded up to 10,000 hectares, stretching all the way to Antwerp, and almost 400 monks lived in the community.
Decline set in during the 16th century until the end of the 17th century. After several invasions, the monks, fearing for their safety, had to leave the abbey nine times.
It is interesting to mention that there was also a prison in the abbey for undisciplined monks. The Abbot, as the spiritual leader of the community, was also authorized to punish for minor crimes committed within the Abbey grounds.
The 18th century was the Abbey’s second golden age, when the medieval buildings were reconstructed in Neoclassical style.
However, it was finally abandoned in 1796 in the wake of the French Revolution, when French troops forced the last monks out. Shortly before that the Abbey was pillaged and then sold off to a builders merchant.
In 1855, the Belgian railroad company built a railway line on a viaduct. The railway track crossed the site without any consideration for its architectural and historical interest. However, over the years the buildings have been restored and conserved, and the ruins were classified as a historic site and monument.
Nowadays, visitors from all over the world come to Villers-la-Ville to see the ruins of the magnificent abbey.
How to Get to the Villers Abbey?
- By car:
The easiest way to get to Villers Abbey is by car. It is only about 45 minutes from the center of Brussels. There is a free parking lot across the street from the main entrance.
- By train:
- Take railway line 140 from Charleroi-Sud / Charleroi-Zuid to Ottignies. The station is Villers-la-Ville (2 km from the Abbey). From the station you need to walk around 20 minutes to get to the abbey. You can book your tickets here.
Address: Rue de l’Abbaye 55, Villers-la-Ville
Villers Abbey Entrance Fee
The whole area is huge and you can spend 1.30 to 3 hours exploring the ruins. You can have a picnic in the abbey’s garden or you can drink a beer, as Villers Abbey has its own microbrewery.
- Adults: € 9
- Students, senior citizens: € 7
- Children (aged 6 to 12): € 4
- Adults when group of more than 15 people: € 8
- Students, senior citizens when group of more than 15 people: € 6
- Children when group of more than 15 people: € 3.50
The Villers Abbey is open to the public all-year round, except around Christmas. Most days is open from 10 am to 5/6 pm.
- From April to October – 10 am – 6 pm
- From November to March – 10 am – 5 pm
- Closed on 24, 25 and 31.12 and on 01.01.
*Bear in mind that in case of strong winds (from 80 km / h), they may be closed to the public.
Visiting the ruins of the Villers Abbey in Belgium was unforgettable. Villers Abbey is a true hidden gem that must be visited when in Belgium. Take a step back into the past and enjoy.