Only a few kilometers from the French border, located at the most prominent bend of the river Semois, nestles the coquettish, romantic Bouillon. The town offers a memorable escapade for connoisseurs at any time of the year. The surrounding forest protects it from the sharp Belgian winds and turns it into the perfect place to run away from the hectic city life. In the narrow streets, the small bridges, and the homey restaurants, you will find nothing but smiling faces. Here time seems to have stopped, allowing each visitor to enjoy the restful atmosphere of Bouillon.
Over the ages, Bouillon changed many times its status and leaders. The town was a lordship of the Duchy of Lower Lorraine, a domicile of the famous Ardennes-Bouillon dynasty. It was later granted to Godfrey, the most popular of the Lords of Bouillon and one of the leaders of the First Crusade.
Godfrey sold the famous Bouillon Castle to the Prince-Bishopric of Liège. In 1678 the castle passed into the possession of the Prince-Bishopric of France. After the victory against Napoleon Bonaparte, the town was given to the Netherlands for several years, and it became part of Belgium after the Revolution in 1830.
Today Bouillon is a preferred location for walks to both tourists and locals. Long rows of restaurants, cafes and artisanal souvenir shops are situated on both banks of the river Semois.
If you are looking for spots to grab a quick bite, I would recommend “Route 66 Burger” or “La maison de la boulette”. A juicy Bouillon burger or a plate of the traditional boulettes will pamper your palate and satisfy your stomach.
And if you are in the mood for a long lunch or dinner, “L’Aristide” is the right place. Beef tartare, accompanied by the historical local beer Godefroy de Bouillon and Le Moelleux au Chocolat for dessert, would make up for a complete meal for connoisseurs.
The Bouillon Castle (Château Fort de Bouillon) rises majestically above the town. Built in the 8th century at a strategic location on one of the banks of the Semois river, the castle commands a breath-taking view and attracts thousands of tourists every year. Let us get a quick sneak into the medieval interior, without spoiling everything for first-time visitors.
Enter the castle through one of the three solid drawbridges. There is everything a fan of medieval fortresses would expect to find inside - franking towers situated on the outside of the defensive wall, gun ports, a donjon. Wandering through narrow tunnels or wide passages, peering into secret niches, or exploring large rooms, you will go back in time imagining what feudal life used to be. When I find myself in a place like this, I always visualize its daily routine of military affairs and practicing one knight’s skills. But life in the Bouillon castle was also busy with domestic activities, celebrations, and religious ceremonies. Today the din of the festivities in the Great Hall could still be perceived. Just as well as the smell of herbs coming from the alchemy room. It is as if the ringing of endless toasts with golden chalices full of wine could still be picked up. Yes, the Bouillon castle is just as impressive and enchanting as in days of yore.
One old tradition has been preserved to present days - an interactive show with birds of prey takes place several times a day. The birds are well trained and friendly, and if you manage to find a seat in the front row, you may have the chance even to caress some of them.
Less than two kilometres away, a trail leads from the city centre to the zoological treasure of Bouillon – the Wildlife park. You will be able to enjoy a pleasant stroll in the fresh air in the company of dozens of animal species: exotic birds, antelopes, zebras, bears, tigers, and perhaps the funniest attraction – the monkeys, small and big, which are always ready to communicate with visitors.
Bouillon is simply magnificent with its medieval spirit and quaint charm. There is so much to see. You will immerse yourself in myths and traditions on every corner, but the town also offers modern entertainment like kayaking, contemporary museums, exhibitions, and music festivals. Do not miss the opportunity to enjoy a memorable escapade in Bouillon.
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