Belgium with Kids: A monk’s life in Villers-la-Ville

The Abbey of Villers-la-Ville dates back almost a thousand years and walking through its majestic ruins, with its hidden nooks and crannies, you will get a real feel for both the hardships and the serenity of the medieval monk’s life. The grounds also make for a great game of hide and seek!

The Abbey was founded in 1146 by twelve monks and five lay brothers who relocated from France to found an abbey. The original buildings were added onto throughout the years. Life in the abbey continued until 1796.

Pick up a copy of the English-language family guide, I, Radulphe, at the reception. It’s full of interesting historical tidbits and games. Follow the self-guided tour through mossy stone passageways and into the inner sanctum of abbey life. On a cloudy day with the sounds of pigeons and crows flying overhead, it’s easy to imagine the medieval monk’s daily life of work, contemplation and prayer.

Monks lived by a very strict moral code and work ethic that dictated every aspect of their lives.  Since Villers-la-Ville is a Cisterian abbey, they followed the Rule of St. Benedict. The monks ate bread and thick soup every day with occastional treats like eggs, dairy products, chicken and fish. But they never ate meat from quadrupeds (animals with four legs) because the Rule of St Benedict forbade it.

Age: All ages, though the ruins are not stroller friendly.


Adults-6 euros; children (6-12)-2.50 euros; children (<6)-free

Special events:

Every year, on Easter Sunday, the Abbey hosts a family day with games and activities. If you’re there in the summertime, do inquire about the spectacular live plays performed on the abbey grounds. Past examples include The Name of the Rose and Cyrano de Bergerac.


November-March: 10am to 5pm (closed Tuesdays)

April-October: 10am to 6pm

Closed: December 24, 25, and 31 and January 1.


Getting there: The best way to get to Villers-la-Ville is by car. It is 30 km from Brussels.

Eating: There is a restaurant directly across the street from the Abbey, Le Moulin de Villers.  However, the prices are quite steep and the atmosphere a bit formal.  You might want to opt instead for the Chalet de la Foret, located about 100 yards down the street.  They serve sandwiches (3 to 4 euros), omelets, and pasta.  Serving lunch and dinner daily.


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