Things to Do in Wallonia
Bastogne is a Walloon town in southern Belgium and it was scene of one of the most notorious struggles of World War II: the Battle of the Bulge took place in winter 1944–45 between the retreating Nazis and US troops during the final, ill-fated German offensive against the Allies. Most of the town’s attractions relate to this landmark battle, including the star-shaped Mardasson American War Memorial, which pays homage to the 80,000 US soldiers killed or wounded between December 1944 and the end of January 1945 in the closing days of the war.
Inaugurated in 1950, the white marble mausoleum was designed by Belgian modernist architect Georges Dedoyard to represent the five-pointed stars on the US flag, supported by slender columns and with a memorial garden at its heart. Inscriptions on the walls of the monument depict the insignia of the American battalions involved in the fighting and the names of the (then) 48 states of the USA. A subterranean crypt has three altars for multi-denominational prayers and is decorated with glittering mosaics by French artist Fernand Léger. Accessible by spiral
staircase, views from atop the memorial take in the rolling Ardennes countryside and the Wood of Peace, planted in 1994 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge; plaques on the roof terrace indicate the layout of the battlegrounds.
All-too-often overlooked in favor of its bigger and bolder neighbors, Mons is a city with a timeless charm and its stint as a European Capital of Culture in 2015 has already earned it a prime spot on Belgium’s tourist trail. A former mining town and the site of the notorious Battle of Mons in WWI, Mons has a long history, but today, it’s best known for its lively art scene — Van Gogh once called the city home — and its annual dragon festival, the Ducasse de Mons, held each spring.
Start your tour of Mons at the Grand Place, where you’ll find the 15th-century Gothic Town Hall and the UNESCO-listed Mons Belfry, then walk to the landmark Mundaneum, pay a visit to Van Gogh’s former home or admire the classics at the Musée des Beaux-Arts (Museum of Fine Arts).
Furfooz Park (Parc de Furfooz) is a nature park in the southern part of the Walloon region of Belgium. It is a great place to explore some of the archaeological and geological wonders of Belgium. There are several nature walks through the park, including a 2.5 mile family walk. The paths in the park are suitable for people of all ages. The park covers an area of more than 120 acres of grassy fields and forest, and it is home to a group of sheep. Other wildlife native to Belgium can be found at the park as well interesting plant life.
The park has been occupied by humans for thousands of years, and in Roman times, baths and a fortress were built here. Today you can see the ruins of these sites, as well as a replica of the baths that was rebuilt in 1958. Visitors can also learn about the archaeological heritage of the area by exploring cave markings and other items found here.
Known for its wondrous landscaping, the 135-acre (55-hectare) Pairi Daiza zoo is set in beautifully manicured botanical gardens. Its name fittingly means 'paradise' in Persian.
Located on the grounds of the ancient Cistercian abbey of Cambron, the zoo was established in 1993 with just a small bird garden. Today, the site houses more than 5,000 animals in several geographically themed zones, including the Chinese and Indonesian gardens, a rose garden surrounding the abbey ruins and the Andalusian garden, with its Moorish patios and terraces.
The animals, from lions and giraffes to a fantastic array of birds such as flamingos and raptors, have spacious accommodations. Steam-train rides, playgrounds, daily birds-of-prey shows and all manner of cafés and restaurants add to the family fun among the aquariums, aviaries and tropical greenhouses. And Pairi Daiza is still a work in progress, with many more attractions slowly being added.
The Hougoumont Farm encampment was scene of some of the heaviest fighting in the Battle of Waterloo of June 1815. Fought by the English, Dutch and Prussians against the French, under the leadership of the Duke of Wellington and Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte respectively, it raged for four days and more than 12,000 soldiers died, with a further 35,000 wounded. Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo ended France’s military domination of Europe.
The Waterloo battle site is south of Brussels in Wallonia and today visits encompass the Wellington Museum in the duke’s former HQ, and Napoleon’s command central at an inn called La Belle Alliance, now also a museum. There are several monuments to the war dead scattered around the battlefield, including Lion Hill, built in honor of King William II of the Netherlands, who died in the fighting; the new high-tech Waterloo Visitor Center sits at the foot of this manmade mound.
Hougoumont Farm stood 500 yards (460 m) away from Wellington’s frontline and played a pivotal role at Waterloo; the struggle ended in victory for the Scottish Coldstream Guards, although many troops died as French battalions were prevented from storming the farm. Reopened for the bicentenary of the battle in 2015 after extensive restoration works, the farm buildings are once more pristine and a new memorial stands outside the barns, representing two of Wellington’s soldiers battling to close the gates and preventing the French from overrunning the property.
Situated in Wavre, within day-tripping distance of Brussels, Walibi Belgium is a sprawling amusement park that was previously a Six Flags. Find all sorts of thrill rides, from roller coasters to water rides, along with plenty of kid-friendly attractions, many of which aren't restricted by height.
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