Abbaye de Stavelot

The Ardennes

The once-gigantic church of the Stavelot-Malmédy prince-abbots was destroyed in the aftermath of the French Revolution. But behind the archaeological fragments that remain is a similarly large abbey building painted a vibrant crab-red. Its museums, videos and audio guide introduce the historical intrigues of the former principality. There's also an interesting series of temporary exhibitions and an impressive collection of racing cars and motorbikes illustrating 100 years of motor racing – not so strange, given the proximity of the Circuit Spa-Francorchamps.

Upstairs, a sub-museum celebrates (though with somewhat insufficient explanation) Guillaume Apollinaire (1880–1919), the French poet, art critic and champion of Picasso. Youthful Apollinaire summered in Stavelot one year while his mum gambled in Spa. Presumably she lost, as they slipped away without paying their hotel bill.

Led by a detailed audio guide (English available) the overall experience is pleasant, if a little disjointed. There's a fine gift shop and cafe with extra seating in the open courtyard.

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