None of Belgium's famous beer abbeys is more photogenic than Abbaye Notre Dame when its golden sandstone is glowing in soft afternoon light. A Cistercian monastery since 1132, the complex had barely finished a total rebuild when, in 1793, it was wrecked by antireligious French Revolutionary soldiers. Rebuilding only restarted in the 1920s. The evocative ancient ruins were left to one side and can be visited along with an 18th-century pharmacy room, an audio visual on monastic life (French/Dutch), a medicinal herb garden and a curious museum in the labyrinthine vaults. Visitors are welcome to attend offices in the modern monastery church; it's also possible to stay here (by arrangement) on a spiritual retreat (firstname.lastname@example.org), during which you’re encouraged to join in the daily cycle of prayers.
The abbey’s famous brewery is normally closed to visitors, but 300m from the monastery is Orval’s modern tavern, À l'Ange Gardien. As well as ‘normal’ Orval it also serves draft ‘Orval Vert’, a lighter, hoppier monastery ale available nowhere else. Many meals incorporate Orval beer and/or cheese. Upstairs is an exhibition space and roof terrace with abbey views.