It has been written that “The villages of the Ardennes live surrounded by a tenacious population of trees”. The landscape seen every day by the people who live in the Ardennes is made up of vast forests, agricultural farmland and peaceful valleys, sprinkled with a string of pretty towns and charming villages, of which seven have been awarded the title of one of the “Prettiest Villages in Wallonia”: Chassepierre, Mirwart, Nobressart, Ny, Sohier, Torgny and Wéris. But there are dozens of other villages and small towns, built on a human scale, that are worth a visit, including Arlon, Bastogne, Marche-en-Famenne, Bouillon, Florenville, La Roche-en-Ardenne, Saint-Hubert, Vielsalm, Hotton and Houffalize. Their modest size makes them more neighbourly and convivial: benefits that their inhabitants enjoy sharing abundantly.
The Prettiest Villages in Wallonia
Belgian Luxembourg has no city or metropolis worthy of the name. Its 277,000 inhabitants live “in the country” in small towns and villages, including seven of the “Prettiest Villages in Wallonia”. They are Torgny, a little slice of Provence in Belgium close to the border with the French province of Lorraine and the citadel at Montmedy; Wéris, famous for its dolmens, standing stones and legendary boulders; Nobressart with its centre where farmhouses face the church of St John-the-Baptist; Ny, which owes its beauty to the marriage of stone and water in its fountains; Sohier, appreciated for its habitat and abundant flowers; Chassepierre, a haven of peace in the Gaume at the gateway to the Ardennes that is famous for its Street Arts Festival held every year on the third weekend of August, and finally Mirwart, beloved by lovers of walks in quiet forests.
Other unmissable villages
Other villages are worth a visit and make excellent start points for walks and hikes. One is Redu, famous for books and a the Belgain Space Centre, in the upper Lesse valley. In the valley of the Semois, you must visit Rochehaut and its promontory overlooking the iconic meander in the river that surrounds the village of Frahan. Then a stroll through Mortehan to enjoy its unusual, unworldly, marine-style cemetery and its ancient low houses, that form a Walloon Architectural Heritage Site. Fans of good tobacco will head for Corbion, with its Tobacco Workshop and Museum and its viewpoints. The poet Paul Verlaine lived in the village and the inventor of the pistol was born there. At the heart of the Semois forest is Herbeumont and its castle which recall these lines written by Verlaine: “In the land where my father was born, there are innumerable woods, where, sometimes, you see the glint of wolves’ eyes in the darkness.” In the Ourthe valley, there is Achouffe, as famous for its beer and its bars as for its imps. Nearby is Nadrin, the gourmet’s village, which deserves as much attention as that paid to it by the famous photographer Edmond Dauchot in his works, as does the famous Hérou rock, the rippling river and the hamlet of Ollomont, which seems frozen in another age.
In addition to those villages, there are towns that are worth visiting too. The province’s capital is Arlon, a Roman town close to the border with the Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg. Bastogne, the epicentre of the Battle of the Ardennes, is now a shoppers’ paradise with many shops open on Sundays. Its Mardasson war memorial and its many war museums have made it a world-famous remembrance site. Marche-en-Famenne has a delightful town centre and can claim to be one of the best examples of successful urban renewal. The medieval Durbuy, is known as the world’s smallest city. Saint-Hubert owes its reputation to the legend of the saint and to the variety of its restaurants!
Wonderful small towns
Other small towns lie along rivers or main roads. Some are long-established tourist destinations, such as Bouillon, home to the castle of Duke Godfrey, the most famous Belgian crusader; Florenville between the Ardenne and the Gaume; Houffalize popular with children and mountain-bikers; Historic La Roche-en-Ardenne, pearl of the Ardennes lapped by the River Ourthe; Saint-Hubert with its huge forest and legend of the patron saint of hunters; Vielsalm in the middle of a large wood and once home to witches; Hotton, with its caves; and finally Houffalize, a pleasant place to stop on the tourist route up the Ourthe valley from Durbuy. Other places are well known for their dynamic businesses or their administrative centres and schools, including Paliseul, Bertrix, Neufchâteau and Libramont in the central Ardennes, Erezée in the north and Habay, Tintigny and Musson in the south.