Visit Waterloo, 1815
You have to visit Waterloo if you travel to Belgium!
Seriously, you should not miss this… let me tell you why...
I’m pretty sure you have heard of the Battle of Waterloo? If not, let me give you a short recap. The Battle of Waterloo was where Napoleon lost a very important battle which lead history into what we know as Europe today.
(If you know about this historical event, skip this quick history lesson and read more about the museum beneath.)
Info about the historical event of the Battle of Waterloo
Napoleon dominated Europe for 10 years until 1814 when he was sent to the island of Elba for exile. After only 10 months on Elba, Napoleon saw the chance to rule over France again and headed back to Paris. He was right, and the army welcomed him and the French folk cheered. This was not in favor of the coalition of allies who defeated him before, so the Austrians, Prussians, Russians and British raised a new army and planned to defeat the French again.
In June of 1815, Napoleon marched into Belgium (not existing at that date yet as an own country) and fought the Prussian army, forcing them to move back and keeping them separate from the British army, otherwise the French army would be outnumbered.
Napoleon then decided to charge against the British army, which included Belgian, Dutch and German troops who were based in the village of “Waterloo”.
In many heavy fights on the 18th June 1815 it looked like Napoleon was going to win this important battle and that he was able to march through to Brussels. But Napoleon committed several tactical errors and the Allies were finally able to stop the French army. The Prussians were able to fight back and support the British troops, which got to the point that the French army fled, inclusive Napoleon.
After the defeat, Napoleon was sent to exile on the tiny island of Saint Helena between Africa and South America, where he died 6 years later.
Before 1815, Europe was a region with many wars between all the different kingdoms and borders. After the final defeat of Napoleon, Europe had a period of relative peace, which held up for over 40 years.
Without a doubt, Europe would have definitely been a different place today if Napoleon would have won the battle of Waterloo. Want some more information? Watch this video to learn more about Napoleon and the Battle of Waterloo.
The Museum of Waterloo 1815
The Battle of Waterloo might have taken place a very long time ago and you might think that a museum about this event might be a bit dusty with its appearance, but The Museum of Waterloo 1815 is different, very different.
They use modern technology to bring life to the battle, and the history of that time. It feels a bit like traveling back to the year 1815. There is a huge hill called “Lion’s Mound” with over 225 steps, which is the memorial of the battle. You can climb up and take a look at the landscape where the battle took place, but even then, you cannot really imagine how it was in 1815. Choose to look again through your virtual reality glasses! Yeaph… here you have the option to compare what you see nowadays and what happened over 200 years ago.
You also can’t forget to visit the actual museum. The museum found a really impressive way to combine history with new technology and to even excite historical grumps to find out more about this important life event.
Wall images are not “simple” oil painted images, but actually animated screens, which still look like oil paintings, but moving! Take a look here: twitter.com/TravelDudes/status/908063760870510592
Then there is a path you follow which will take you past soldiers with their uniforms, which are definitely not dusty, but where you get a good impression of that time.
This leads you into a 4D cinema experience. This is where you can really imagine how it was at that time. They show and explain you the different tactical maneuvers and mistakes which were made, but also show the madness of this massacre. Around 50,000 people were killed or wounded in the battle of Waterloo.
There were three farms which played important roles and one is an extra must visit place, the farm “d'Hougoumont”. The Hougoumont Farm lies only a short walk South of the Memorial, but there is also a free bus transfer from the memorial. A battle in a battle took place at this farm.
The French tried to take over this strategically positioned farm and were even able to get through the gates. Ten British soldiers were then able to close the doors again, which meant that the farm was held by the British soldiers. This tinier battle played a very important role in the overall battle, and by understanding those tinier events, you can better understand the bigger battle and the events that took place.
The Hougoumont Farm brings you closer by using modern technology. You’ll experience a nice exhibition, but the film in the barn is what you have to see. I would like to tell you more, but I really can’t. Just trust me, you will be surprised, the creative way the battle of Hougoumont is presented is truly remarkable.
Good to know…
There are two different ticket prices and depending on how interested you are, you can choose the ticket that is right for you. No matter what, you should invest a minimum of 4-5 hours in to visit the Waterloo Battlefield. It’s easy to spend the full day there, if you are interested in learning more.
3-4 hours: Combined Ticket Memorial 1815 - €17
This includes the:
The Memorial 1815
The Lion’s Mound
The 1815 Experience
The Hougoumont Farm
6-7 hours: Pass 1815 - €21
This includes the:
Find more info here.
Belgium beyond Waterloo
Yes, there is far more to explore, as you can read and watch in the video here. On top of that you should visit the Solvay Regional Estate. From the car park, it’s a short walk, which will first lead you to…
Here you will find the cafe/restaurant La Taverne de l'Homme Bleu, which is the perfect place to have lunch before exploring more. Enjoy the view and the good food before visiting the Fondation Folon. Never heard of Jean-Michel Folon? Me neither, but you might have heard of “The Blue Man”, which made Folon famous. Apart from that, he created many posters and drafted many cover images for magazines like Times Magazine. His work is often presented in well-known museums around the world… or you can just head to the Fondation Folon, where you can explore much more of his work all in one place. You’ll find painted art, sculptures, typical things, but also funky and unusual work. This is definitely a dynamic museum and the worth the €9 entrance if you are interested in art.
Just up the hill, you’ll find the…
Château de la Hulpe
The Château de la Hulpe has a huge park around it which you should definitely take a look at. This is the perfect photo stop along the way. Stroll along, relax on the grass, do some yoga, enjoy the views and this nice trip into nature.
Explore the City of Nivelles
Here you will find a typical Belgian city with that atmosphere you were looking for when first arriving in Belgium. You’ll find old traditional houses, a church with a few restaurants, bars and cafes.
The Collegiate Church of Nivelles definitely stands out with its two towers and a huge front.
Right next to it you’ll find the “Taverne Restaurant de l’Union”, which is well-known and is one of the best places to eat the local dish “Tarte Al Djote”. This is a tarte you should not miss! It’s full of chard, local cream cheese and butter... and it’s delicious. Here you’ll find the Tarte Al Djote recipe, if you are interested to give it a go yourself, but let me tell you, it tastes better in Nivelles. ;-)
Why? This dish was more or less endangered to be forgotten until some men got together and formed the brotherhood of Tarte Al Djote. Their mission was and is to preserve this cultural dish and to keep the folkloric and gastronomic heritage of the city of Nivelles.
It’s not easy to join this brotherhood and they take their duty very seriously. Each year they test all the different tarts and rate them. At the end, a winner is chosen and a list is published (in french) with the different restaurants who took part.
Find more info about Brabant Wallon on www.waterlooandbeyond.be.