Château de Bouillon

Top choice in The Ardennes

Slouching like a great grey dragon high on Bouillon's central rocky ridge, Belgium’s finest feudal castle-ruin harks back to AD 988, but it's especially associated with Crusader knight Godefroid de Bouillon, the first 'Belgian' ruler of Jerusalem. The super-atmospheric site has everything you might wish for in a castle: dank dripping tunnel passages, musty half-lit cell rooms, falconry displays, rough-hewn stairwells and many an eerie nook and cranny to discover. Plus there are off-beat surprises like maturing cheeses and a caligraphy mini-museum.

Audio guides (€2.50) or guidebooks (€1.50) offer extra historical background in four languages. Access is across crag-spanning stone bridges from the car park at the castle's upper northeastern tip. Between March and October, time your visit to include the 45-minute open-air bird shows (11.30am, 2pm and 3.30pm; no extra charge), when trained ‘wig-snatching’ owls, hawks and eagles swoop low over spectators’ heads. In July and August there's an extra 5pm show. To really get the heebie-jeebies prebook a night-time torchlight tour (adult/child/torch hire €10/7/2.50, 10pm Wednesday to Sunday in July and August).

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby The Ardennes attractions

1. Musée Ducal

0.09 MILES

Between the town and Château de Bouillon's car park, this museum spreads over two historic houses and includes a small antique smithy (free access)…

2. Archéoscope Godefroid de Bouillon

0.13 MILES

Accessed via the tourist office, Bouillon’s flashiest attraction is designed to bring the story of Godefroid to life. Visits start every 35 minutes with a…

3. Galerie Maurice Pirotte

0.13 MILES

Even when it's closed, it's still worth seeking out this tiny gallery for its photogenic setting – an old stone house draped with flowers and creepers in…

4. Tombeau du Géant Viewpoint

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5. Rochehaut

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The scenery west of Bouillon reaches a memorable climax at Rochehaut, where a long balcony surveys a glorious view down across a perfect river curl…

6. Pont de Claies

7.52 MILES

Installed every summer, Pont de Claies is Belgium's last seasonal footbridge. Originally designed to let tobacco harvesters reach their crops, it's made…

7. Centre d'Interprétation d'Art

8.06 MILES

In the centre of Vresse, this attractive gallery has a 300-work permanent collection featuring paintings and sculpture by artists with local connections…

8. Le Belge

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In a glass-sided display building, Le Belge is a 1980 recreation of Belgium's first steam locomotive (1835). It's beautifully made but nobody seems quite…