Ardennes (called Ardennen in Dutch and L’Árdenne in French) is a mountainous region mostly located in the Southern part of Belgium and Luxembourg and extends to France and Germany. My family and I love going to Belgium. In fact we visited many Belgian cities, such as Antwerp, Bruges, Brussels, Gent, Mechelen, in addition to the Belgian Ardennes. I have written few blogs about some of those cities. For more inspiration, check Bruges Belgium: Nine family activities during travel and Antwerp Belgium: Seven reasons to visit. In comparison with many Belgian cities, Belgian Ardennes is very memorable to me because this is the region I first practiced driving outside the Netherlands, a month after getting my Dutch driving license. Driving to Ardennes was quite a bold move since I was a neophyte driver in European road (during that time) and going out of the Netherlands with more than five hours drive in unfamiliar road posed more risks. But in the end, I (and my family) made it despite the series of unfortunate events! See my blog about Zen and the art of traveling: Ardennes holiday to know how we survived this trip. In this blog, I’ll discuss many interesting facts about Belgian Ardennes and Ardennes in general. This could be an inspiration why you should visit Ardennes.
Seven interesting facts about Belgian Ardennes:
1. There are many medieval looking hotels and hostels!
There are many hotels and hostels to stay in Ardennes. The interesting about them is that they are old architectures that give a feeling of living in a medieval castle. In our case, we chose to stay in La Sapeniere Hostellerie in Laforte, Belgium. For us the hotel offers a complete package – affordable, strategically located with beautiful nature, and gives castle-like feeling.
2. When in Belgian Ardennes, you can cross border in three countries!
Since Ardennes extends on the area of Belgium, France, and Luxembourg, it is very easy to cross border in these countries. For example, from Hotel La Sapeniere that is located in the Southern most of Belgium, it only takes 10 minutes drive to the south in Normandy (a region in the North of France) and an hour drive to the east in Luxembourg. Isn’t it cool to access three countries in one day?
3. Belgian Ardennes has many cultural influences while being traditional in its own way.
Since the Ardennes forest stretched out to four countries, it is interesting to see the cultural mixture and diversity in this region. In a restaurant, it is possible that each waiter who assists customers uses different languages, such as Dutch, French, Belgian, German, and English. We had experienced this for quite a few times, so it is a nice practice if you know at least one of these languages. The mixed of French and Belgian style architectures in villages is also quite noticeable. The foods are also culturally different. The food are mostly Belgian but the portions are relatively in German large portions. Despite these cultural influences, Ardennes is still able to maintain its old tradition. The villages are very old and has many traditional buildings. Only the occasional solar panel that you see in the roof will remind you that you are living in 21st century and not in the middle ages! There many traditional foods, local beers, and folklore still surviving in this modern times.
4. Ardennes is rich in legends and fairy tales.
As part of being a traditional town, there are many centuries old folklore that are still currently popular in Ardennes region. It is right. The folklores on witches, warewolves, devils, white ladies, dwarves, legendary characters in the fairy tale such as Pinnochio and others have been in the region for a very long time until now. In fact, you can still see the remnants of these culture (or belief) in the region. There is walking path in the mountain of Laforet that is dedicated to both legendary and fairy tale creatures and a Marrionette place nearby La Sapiniere hotel.
5. Ardennes is an important battleground in European history.
The Ardennes forest is an important point in the battles during World Wars I and II. During these two wars, the Germans used Ardennes in entering and conquering France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. In World War II, it took only six weeks for Germans to invade these four countries due to their tactics in the terrains. Later on, however, the Allied forces defeated the Germans in the Battle of Bulge (in Belgium) in 1945.
6. Market towns and villages in the mountain region are settled in the river banks.
Ardennes is composed of many old, small villages scattered in the mountain and located in the river banks. These villages are definitely not nearby each other, thus it is wise to have a car or bike. Interestingly, you’ll appreciate the uniqueness and relaxness of life in these villages. Throughout our holidays, we managed to explore the nearby villages in Laforet, such as Bohan, Bouillon, Vremese Semois. They are all spectacular in their own ways!
7. Ardennes is home of adrenalin sports.
The beautiful terrain of Ardennes made it a popular site for sports that requires adrenalin. For instance, Formula 1 Race track in Liege is considered by the drivers to be the most popular in the world. There is also a cycling race in the region, which is participated by many cyclists, perhaps not only in Benelux region. And of course, sky diving spa is also possible to do in Ardennes.