Last Updated: August 2, 2022

12 Must-See Abbeys In Belgium

Belgium is famous for many things but few are as widely known as the Belgian abbeys. Famous worldwide for producing some truly delicious abbey beer, Trappist abbeys in Belgium have a long-standing tradition of brewing beer. It started off as a way of offering food and lodging to travelers, and nowadays it’s a way to cover the costs of monks’ lives.

But beer certainly isn’t the only reason to visit the Belgian abbeys, especially since most of them don’t allow access to their breweries. Instead, people travel from all over the world to experience the culture and history of the abbeys, and to get a sense of the monks’ spiritual lives. Plus to buy some beers at the abbey shop.

So, if you want to discover more about Belgian abbeys and their historical and cultural importance, be sure to visit one of the 12 must-see Belgian abbeys below!

Orval Abbey

Orval Abbey

Orval Abbey is situated in Villers-devant-Orval in the province of Luxembourg. It dates back to the 12th century when it was established as a Cistercian monastery. Today, the Belgian abbey remains well known for its rich history and spiritual life, but also for the production of cheese and Trappist beer.

You won’t have any regrets if you choose to visit this Trappist monastery. Visitors are free to explore the Monastic Museum, the garden of medicinal plants, and Communs Abraham, which is the only building from the old Abbey that’s still standing. Visitors can’t tour the brewery whenever they want, so keep that in mind if your interest in Belgian abbeys is strictly related to beer brewing.

It’s worth noting that the Orval Abbey often hosts open-door days when visitors are invited to tour their brewery. However, you must sign up online if you want to tour the premises and see the production of abbey beers.

St. Benedict Abbey/Achel Abbey

St. Benedict Abbey is situated in Achel in the Limburg province of Belgium, near the Dutch border. A spiritual community existed here in Achel since the 17th century, but it didn’t get the abbey status until 1872. This is when the beer brewing in the abbey began, and monastic life in the abbey was characterized by manual work, reading, and prayer.

This abbey was closed in 2021, with the last two remaining monks moving to the Westmalle Abbey. Visitors can no longer go inside the monastery, but the abbey shop and beer hall remain open to the public. You can still purchase lots of great Trappist beer in this former abbey, and you’ll be glad to know that it’s a bit cheaper than in supermarkets!

The beer hall is where you can taste the beers and cheese that were produced in the Achel Abbey. Taste as much food and drinks as you can, so you’ll be certain what to stock up on in the abbey shop!

Westmalle Abbey

Westmalle Abbey is a Cistercian monastery in Westmalle, in the Antwerp province. The community was initially founded way back in 1794, but it wasn’t until 1836 that it was elevated to an abbey. The year they got the abbey status is the year when the monks brewed their first batch of the Trappist beer, and they’ve been continuing this tradition ever since.

The Westmalle brewery is not open for public visits, but there are ways to learn so much about it that you’ll feel like you’ve actually toured it. It is possible to go for walks around the abbey, and along the way learn about the ways of life of the Trappist monks and all their artisan activities.

Also, Café Trappisten is situated just across the street from the abbey, and it has a video of the Trappist brewery. You can view this video free of charge, as well as try the beer in that locale!

St. Sixtus Abbey

Saint Sixtus Abbey

Image courtesy of Bernt Rostad

St. Sixtus Abbey is situated in Westvleteren, in the province of West Flanders. It’s a classic Trappist abbey, known for the spiritual lives of monks and the Belgian beer culture. St. Sixtus Abbey is one of the few remaining abbeys in Belgium that still produce authentic Trappist beers, but unfortunately, their brewery is not open for public visits.

The history of this brewery begins in 1814 when Jan-Baptist Victor settles in the Westvleteren woods as a hermit. Monastic communities had been living here for a while prior to that, and he was eventually joined by monks from the Mont-des-Cats French abbey.

The monks cultivated the fields surrounding the abbey and produced cheese, in order to cover their costs of living. It wasn’t until 1838 that they had their first brewery expenses, and only in 1839 did they produce their first beer.

In the mid-19th century, the monks expanded the abbey to include three brew houses, a new church, and several other buildings. This Belgian abbey has been producing Westvleteren Trappist beer ever since its first brew, and even though there were some hurdles, they’ve managed to overcome every challenge they faced.

Rochefort Abbey

Rochefort Abbey is situated in Namur, and it’s one of a few remaining Trappist monasteries in Belgium. Unfortunately, they don’t offer tours of the brewery to visitors, but it is possible to explore the grounds of the monastery. You just can’t see where the beer is made, so keep that in mind if you’re interested in the Belgian abbeys specifically because of the Trappist breweries.

Rochefort abbey dates back to the early 13th century when it was established as a Cistercian monastery for nuns. The nuns were replaced by Trappist monks in the 15th century, and it’s remained like that ever since.

It’s worth noting that the Rochefort Abbey was invaded during the French Revolution, and it was sold to a man who demolished it and turned it into a farm. This was in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

The abbey was restored towards the end of the 19th century, and new buildings were raised. Even a new brewery was founded on these grounds, but it wasn’t until the mid-20th century that the brewery began manufacturing enough beer for sale.

Scourmont Abbey

Scourmont Abbey is a Trappist monastery situated in the Forges village, in Belgium’s Hainaut province. This Trappist abbey is famous for the Chimay brewery, which is one of the few remaining Belgian Trappist breweries.

The history of the abbey community dates back all the way to 1850. A group of monks established a community on the Scourmont plateau, which included a farm, a cheese creamery, and a beer brewery. The priory was granted abbey status in 1871, and since then it’s been famous for the Chimay Brewery.

It’s one of only 13 remaining Trappist breweries in the world, and they make four different kinds of beer. The abbey church and gardens can be visited any time of the year, while the Chimay brewery remains closed to the public.

It is possible to visit Espace Chimay Inn, where you can learn more about the history and tradition of the Chimay Brewery, as well as get to taste the abbey beer.

Abbey of Our Lady of Leffe

Leffe Abbey

Image courtesy of stnorbert

Abbey of Our Lady of Leffe is situated in the district of Dinant on the river Meuse. The Abbey is in Wallonia province, and if you’re ever in the area, a trip to Dinant is a great idea! The lovely town has lots to offer to its visitors, including a tour of the Abbey of Leffe.

This abbey has been destroyed several times, suffering the most damage during the French Revolution. That’s when the abbey burned down, and it’s worth noting that Leffe beer hasn’t been brewed in this abbey since.

You can tour the abbey but only do so if you want to see the monastery and meet the monks. If you’re more interested in Leffe beer, you’ll want to head to Maison Leffe in Dinant. It’s also known as the Leffe Beer Museum, and here you can get an idea of how the beer is made and learn more about each of the eight kinds of Leffe beer that are brewed.

Visitors also get to try a Leffe beer of their choice, plus you have the option of heading to the museum shop to purchase chalices, beers, and other Leffe souvenirs.

Maredsous Abbey

Maredsous Abbey

Image courtesy of Jaime Pérez

Maredsous Abbey is situated in Anhée in the Wallonia province, and it’s one of the founding members of the Benedictine Confederation’s Annunciation Congregation. It was first founded as a priory back in 1872, but it got the abbey status rather quickly – in 1878.

The monastery and the church both remain open to the public, so there’s plenty to explore on the grounds of Maredsous Abbey. However, if you’re hoping to tour a brewery and try some Trappist beer, you’ll be a bit disappointed – Maredsous Beer is no longer brewed at the abbey. They still make excellent cheeses though, and you can try both the beers and cheese in the abbey cafeteria.

It’s worth noting that this abbey offers guided tours only in French and German. Guided tours in English must be booked privately, and they feature a set price of 125Euros for a group of up to 25 people.

Park Abbey

Park Abbey is situated at Haverlee, south of Leuven in the Flanders province. It’s a Premonstratensian abbey that was initially founded back in the 12th century, and it’s incredibly well preserved considering its age. What’s most impressive is that this abbey has always remained inhabited since its founding!

This Belgian abbey is open for public visits and it’s one of the best abbeys to visit if you’re looking for lots of things to do. This abbey has got an incredibly rich history, lots of things to see on the grounds, and it’s even got a famous cemetery where all the legends from Leuven are buried.

Park Abbey has also re-opened the Braxatorium Parcensis brewery, and they managed to reconstruct the old brewery that was sold as metal scrap during the French Revolution. It’s not a classic Trappist brewery, but the beer is still delicious and you can taste it on the abbey grounds.

Keizersberg Abbey

Situated on Keizersberg Hill north of Leuven, the Keizersberg Abbey is perhaps the best Belgian abbey to visit if you’re into panoramic views. The hilltop location offers a spectacular view of Leuven, but it’s certainly not the only reason to visit this beautiful abbey

Keizersberg Abbey has got an interesting history – it was built on the site of a former castle that was associated with Julis Ceasar. Hence the name – Keizersberg translators to Ceasar’s Hill, referencing the local legends.

The abbey gardens are a public park that anyone can visit, and they’re a great place for a picnic with a fabulous view. However, the abbey buildings are not open to the public – nowadays they’re a student dormitory, and no monks live on the premises.

Also, this abbey has never been involved in beer brewing, so the only Trappist beer you can try on the grounds is the one you bring in your picnic basket.

Grimbergen Abbey

Grimbergen Abbey is situated in the Flemish Brabant province of Belgium. It was first established back in the 12th century as a Premonstratensian monastery, but it was dissolved during the French Revolution.

The abbey church managed to survive and it served as the parish church of Grimbergen until it was elevated to a minor basilica in 1999. Grimbergen Abbey was reinstated after the French Revolution, but not all of its elements managed to survive the devastation. In fact, this abbey has been destroyed and rebuilt three times, so it makes perfect sense that they chose the phoenix as their official symbol.

The abbey’s brewery wasn’t operational for more than two centuries, and the world-famous Grimbergen beer was mass-produced by Carlsberg for quite a while. It wasn’t until 2021 that the Grimbergen Abbey revived their own brewery, which nowadays produces special editions of its iconic beer.

Val-Dieu Abbey

Val-Dieu Abbey is a former Cistercian monastery near Aubel in the province of Liège. If you’re dying to tour the brewery of an authentic Belgian abbey, you’ll definitely have a great time at the Val-Dieu Abbey.

Both the abbey and the brewery are open for public tours, and entrance is fairly inexpensive. It’s about 6 Euros to tour the abbey and some 7 Euros to tour the brewery, which is honestly a steal since it includes both beer and cheese tasting. The tours are all in French but it is possible to arrange for tours in other languages by reservation.

This is a very beautiful abbey with manicured lawns and a sprawling park that surrounds the entire monastery. The tour guides are knowledgeable and they’ll tell you all about the abbey’s rich history, while you’re admiring the unique architecture and fabulous artworks.

Val-Dieu Abbey also boasts a souvenir shop and a cafe where you can taste and buy all the artisanal foods and drinks that are produced on the abbey grounds.

About the Author Roger Timbrook

Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!

follow me on:

Leave a Comment: