Planning to visit Bastogne in Belgium and you’re not sure what there is to do in town? Then you’re certainly in the right place because this detailed guide will tell you about all the top things to do in Bastogne, Belgium!
A lot of them have to do with the second world war – after all, the town was the site of the famous Battle of the Bulge. But there’s more to Bastogne than military history, including scenic landscapes, delicious smoked meats, and pretty parks. We’ve covered all of them in this guide to the top-rated attractions in Bastogne, but our main focus remains on the WWII landmarks and museums!
The Bastogne War Museum is one of the most popular tourist attractions in this Belgian city. It boasts exhibits on the military history of this town, primarily focusing on the Battle of the Bulge. The town of Bastogne played a big role in this key World War II battle, and the Bastogne War Museum will tell you all about it!
The main exhibit in the museum is centered around four fictional characters. Each has a unique story of how they view and experience the war, and their experiences eventually converge when they all meet up seeking shelter in a cellar during the aerial bombardment of Bagstone. It’s a unique way of telling a part of the story of the second world war, and definitely a good way to learn more about Bastogne’s military history, especially for people who aren’t that familiar with Belgium’s role in World War II.
In addition to the fictional stories, the museum is also home to the Thunderbolt Sherman tank, which was captured by the Germans in this region. There’s also the Mardassom Memorial near the museum, which was erected in tribute to the nearly 77,000 American soldiers – wounded and deceased – from the Battle of the Bulge.
Bastogne was an important battlefield during the second world war, so it makes sense that there are quite a few attractions dedicated to its military history. Bastogne Barracks is another war museum with exhibits on World War II, and more specifically, the Battle of the Bulge.
Unlike the Bastogne War Museum, this museum doesn’t tell any fictional stories that will help you understand how locals perceived the war. Instead, the museum features a recreation of the atmosphere of the Battle of the Bulge, complete with tanks, military trucks, and a plethora of weapons.
Bastogne Barracks is situated in the former headquarters of American soldiers led by General McAuliffe. He commanded the 101st Airborne, and he’s famous because of his reply to the Germans when they asked him to surrender – nuts. That’s all he said.
Bois de la Paix is another war memorial in Bastogne, but one you can combine with exploring the beautiful landscapes near the historic town. Bois de la Paix is a memorial to all the military and civilian casualties of the Battle of the Bulge, with a tree planted in honor of every fallen soldier.
The trees were planted 50 years after the war, and they were arranged in the shape of the UNICEF symbol. It’s truly an inspiring place to visit, and an absolute must for all WWII buffs who traveled to Bastogne specifically for the military landmarks.
But you don’t have to be a war buff to be able to appreciate the beauty of this Bastogne landmark. In fact, you can combine it with a hike through the area – there’s an abundance of hiking trails in the region, and they allow you to discover the beautiful nature that surrounds this historic town.
The Mardasson Memorial is situated on the grounds of the Bastogne War Museum and you should visit it while you’re at the museum. The monument commemorates all the American soldiers who lost their lives during the Battle of the Bulge, plus it offers some beautiful panoramic views of the rolling hills of the Bastogne countryside.
The monument was designed in the shape of the five-pointed star, and it bears the names of the then 48 US states. Pay your respects to the fallen soldiers if you end up visiting the monument, and take a moment to understand just what it represents. Almost 19,000 American soldiers died in the Battle of the Bulge, which makes it the deadliest WWII battle the United States fought in.
Bastogne is a small town and it has a very small town center. You can explore it easily on foot in the afternoon, so definitely make time to see the Bastogne historical centre. Although most of the popular attractions are outside the city walls, it’s certainly not right to travel to this famous Belgium town and not even walk through its old town.
Walk through the streets and admire all the buildings, pop into a store or two to shop for some souvenirs, and don’t forget to take a break from all the WWII tours and grab a bite to eat in one of the many restaurants in the heart of Bastogne.
There are also quite a few notable landmarks and museums in the Bastogne town center. Eglise Saint-Pierre is one of the most notable landmarks that doesn’t have anything to do with the war, and it’s situated in the heart of the town. Visitors should also see the town gates, the many statues and monuments erected throughout the town, and the various military vehicles that are mounted as landmarks on squares.
Guided tours are a great way to explore Bastogne. Most are focused on the city’s role in the Battle of the Bulge, and they’re perfect for anyone who wants to learn more about the war history of Bastogne. Guided tours are particularly great for foreigners who don’t want to aimlessly wander around town, and instead prefer to be guided to notable attractions by knowledgeable locals.
Most guided tours of Bastogne are centered around various World War II monuments, so it doesn’t really matter which tour you go on – you’ll probably be taken to the same attractions, but maybe in a different order. The Bastogne War Museum, the Bastogne Barracks, 101st Airborne Museum, and the Mardasson Memorial are the top landmarks that are included in all the main guided tours of Bastogne.
Place Général McAuliffe is a Bastogne town square, famous for the statue of General McAuliffe and the Sherman tank. These two WWII landmarks are the most notable attractions in the town square, but they’re certainly not the only reason why you should visit this part of Bastogne.
The square is in the town center, so it’s an attraction you can’t miss if you just go for a walk in the historic center of Bastogne. Also, Place Général McAuliffe is lined with restaurants and cafes, making it a great place to go when you’re dying for a snack. Get a coffee or something to eat in one of the many locales in this area before you continue exploring the attractions in town.
The 101st Airborne Museum is another war museum in Bastogne that details the experience of American soldiers. It’s a top-rated tourist attraction in this town, and definitely a must-visit if you’re in Bastogne for the WWII sights.
One of the main attractions in this museum is an underground bunker. Visitors can go into this bunker and experience a simulation of a World War II bombing raid, complete with audio and visual effects. We don’t recommend this attraction to anyone who has already lived through a war and experienced a bombing raid firsthand since it could be a trigger for PTSD.
Even if you don’t want to live through a fake bomb raid, there are plenty of other attractions to admire at this museum. Dioramas, life-sized figures, weapons, maps, and other artifacts are all part of the museum’s collection and they’re just as effective as telling the story of the war as the underground bomb shelter.
Le Musée du Cochon is a popular butcher shop in the heart of Bastogne, and the best place to visit if you want to get a taste of some local delicacies. The name roughly translates to the Pig Museum and it’s a great name for the shop – it’s almost like a pig museum, considering just how many different parts and cuts of pig you can get here.
This is the best place in town to shop for cured and cold meats. It has the largest selection of meats, as well as the best quality out of all the other shops in Bastogne. Even if you’re not a big carnivore, it’s worth it to pick up a few pieces just so you can see what the local delicacies are all about.
Elisabeth Park is another beautiful Bastogne attraction that has nothing to do with the second world war. It’s a large city park in the heart of Bastogne, and it’s a great place to visit if you want to get away from the hordes of tourists.
The park boasts manicured lawns, statues, flowers, fountains, and a hedge maze. Head there if you need a break from all the war attractions, or if you just want to spend some time lounging outside and soaking in the sun. If you’ve traveled to Bastogne with kids or pets, definitely consider taking them to this park in the city center and just letting them roam around for a little while.
Bois Jacques is a part of the woods outside Bastogne that used to be occupied by the 101st Airborne Division during the winter of 1944. The American soldiers planned to take the village of Foy from the Germans, as part of the larger plan to liberate the town of Bastogne. They dug fox holes in Jack’s Wood and managed to survive through the cold winter of 1944.
In January of 1945, the skies cleared up a bit, allowing American reinforcements to find their way to these woods. Several other brigades arrived at Bois Jacques and eventually fighting broke out. The Easy Company (one of the brigades) bore the most casualties between January 9th and 13th, and traces of the bloody WWII fights can still be observed in this forest.
It’s worth noting that this is the story that inspired the Band of Brothers book, which focuses on the stories of the 101st Airborne, 506th, and the Easy Company. Both the book and the TV series that followed were huge commercial successes, and they play a part in Bastogne’s international modern-day fame.
Église Saint-Pierre or St. Peter’s Church is another famous Bastogne sight that has very little to do with the war. Originally from the 12th century, this beautiful church has been restored quite a few times, with the latest restoration happening right after the second world war.
Bastogne was heavily bombarded during the war, and St. Peter’s Church suffered a lot of damage because of the bombardment. The numerous restorations are one of the reasons behind the unique architectural style of this beautiful church. The most notable elements of Eglise Saint-Pierre belong to Gothic and Romanesque architectural styles, and it’s worth noting that the post-war renovations didn’t add new elements to the church’s appearance.
Entrance to this church is entirely free of charge and it’s highly recommended. The ceiling is absolutely impressive, and there are a few other impressive sights inside the church as well. It won’t cost you anything and it only takes about 10 minutes to quickly tour the interior!
There’s a lot more to Bastogne and its people than military history and war monuments, and Musee en Piconrue is a great way to explore that side of the town’s history. The museum’s focus is on legends, religious art, ethnology, and popular beliefs in the Ardennes and Luxembourg. City tours might not include a trip to this museum, so you’ll have to plan a visit on your own if you’re intrigued.
The museum boasts a permanent collection that details the lives of residents in the Ardennes from 1850 to 1950. Other museum exhibits detail the beliefs, traditions, and culture of the population in this part of Belgium, with a heavier focus on religious rites and beliefs.
Musee en Piconrue also hosts temporary exhibits on various subjects, and they’re always worth checking out. In any case, if you want to learn more about Bastogne and its people outside the context of war, this is by far the best museum in town.
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