Located between the Calestienne, Condroz, Fagnes and Ardenne districts, Marche-en-Famenne is the iconic representative of this region with endless potential. Its heritage combined with its modernity make it a good example of successful urban renewal.
Marche-en-Famenne is a town rich in statues and sculptures, pedestrianised streets, natural and architectural heritage.
Many bronze and limestone statues have decorated its streets for many years, for example the statue of “Grand Georges” in Place Albert I: he was the last Town Crier and Bell Ringer.
The Large Violins of Art, which stand in front of the Town Hall were created in 2014 as part of an appeal for projects by the International Luthiers’ School, located in the town centre and which has developed from a collaboration between the town council and the master-luthier Gauthier Louppe. At the school, young enthusiasts are taught the technology and methods used by the great Italian masters of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries for making violins, violas, cellos and double-basses. A permanent exhibition on stringed-instrument-making and the history of classical music instruments is open to visitors to the school.
Art in the streets
Recently, a collection of large dolls, each decorated by volunteer artists, has been placed along the main roads of the town, generating a lot of publicity for the project, co-ordinated by the Kiwanis, to raise awareness of their work to help children in hospital. History-lovers cannot fail to be charmed by the town’s architectural heritage, such as St Stephen’s church (a Major Walloon Heritage Site) with its magnificent, beautifully coloured stained-glass windows designed by the Belgian artist Jean-Michel Folon.
The potential of the Geopark
“Geopark” is a name conferred by UNESCO to a strictly defined area that can contribute to local economic development, through its rare or beautiful geological characteristics. These sites must have been recognised by the scientific authorities. The extraordinary geological potential of the region was behind the application for Geopark status for the Famenne-Ardenne district, which brought together several local authorities, including Marche-en-Famenne. The Famenne-Ardenne geopark has all the features required to obtain this status, including its caves, its sites of special scientific interest and its landscape.
The Hotton Caves
The “1,001 Nights Caves” are located in Hotton, a district which is part of Marche-en-Famenne. They are famous for their exceptional riches and are a “Walloon Exceptional Natural Heritage Site” and have one-star status in the famous Michelin Green Guide. The caves were carved out of the limestone hills by the flow of river water. The wearing away of the stone by water has created marvellous galleries, while the different types of soil present have created the abundance of colours visible in the caves. The Calestienne band of limestone can be followed from the French border to Chimay, Nismes, Han-sur-Lesse, Rochefort, Marche-en-Famenne, Hotton and Durbuy, among others. Located a stone’s throw from the caves, the Calestienne Gardens present typical local flora and fauna. The children’s playground and the beautiful viewpoint terrace for adults ensure a delightful moment for the whole family, with unforgettable views of the magnificent surrounding countryside.
There is always more to discover around Marche-en-Famenne
The location of this human-scale town at the gateway to the Ardennes Forest gives visitors opportunities to enjoy nearby fresh air and countryside. Many waymarked footpaths and mountain-bike trails allow them to enjoy breath-taking views.
Marche-en-Famenne is also close to Han-sur-Lesse, one of the most popular tourist attractions in the region, with over 30 million visitors in the last 250 years. Surrounded by a river and mountains, visitors enjoy walking around this hilltop town and exploring the famous Han caves, a veritable underground cathedral. The wildlife park is also popular with walkers, who can hear one of nature’s great sounds there: the bellowing of rutting stags.
Marche-en-Famenne is also close to other iconic places, such as Durbuy, the world’s smallest city, and La Roche-en-Ardenne, the iconic tourist destination in the Belgian Ardennes. And there is also Rochefort, which attracts many visitors to the Lorette-Rochefort caves. Unlike most of the caves in Belgium, these are very vertical, making the descent into them all the more spectacular.
Dynamism and modernity
In recent years, Marche-en-Famenne has been able to overtake its neighbours through a blend of dynamism and modernity that has seen the opening of many new shops which have brought colour and energy to the town. The town centre has become a convivial and welcoming place in a town that wants to attract more young people with new bars and restaurants where you can pause for a drink or enjoy a meal of local specialities.
An unmissable district that simply must be explored!