The small town of Rochefort is encircled in a loop by the Lomme River, beneath the eerie ruins of a medieval castle.
The area around Rochefort is Famenne, where limestone hills hollowed out by the Lomme and Lesse rivers create a labyrinthine cave system.
There is one right on the edge of town, while the endless Han-sur-Lesse caves to the south are a well-known destination and part of the estate that includes various other tourist attractions, such as a museum and a safari of European species.
Beer lovers may know Rochefort for its world-class Rochefort 10, a stout brewed behind closed doors by the Trappist monks of Rochefort Abbey.
1. Grotte de Lorette-Rochefort
The entrance to this cave system is just a short walk from the center of Rochefort and features six basements.
The cave is named after the church of Our Lady of Loreto on the surface.
Unusually, Lorette Cave plummets into the ground almost vertically.
The 90-minute guided tour begins with the new pavilion, where the film Videokarst delves into geological and tectonic phenomena.
60 meters below the surface, you’ll enter the Salle du Sabbat (Sabbath Room), where your guide will release a small hot air balloon to demonstrate the space’s cathedral-like scale.
Next comes the light and sound show, and then you blink back into the day.
2. Grottes de Han-sur-Lesse
Drive 5 minutes south on the N86 and you’ll come to a huge estate built around a cave dug out of the limestone hills of the Lyther River.
To the southeast of the cave entrance you can see where Lesse fell into the ground from a sinkhole at the mysterious Gouffre de Belvaux.
It stayed two kilometers underground before rising to the surface again.
The caves of Han-sur-Lesse were mapped in the 18th and 19th centuries, but were frequented by humans thousands of years ago.
The only way to get to the entrance is by taking the old-fashioned tram, an artifact of a century-old transportation network that departs from the center of the village.
An incredible 14.25 kilometers of galleries have been discovered so far, and you can walk a two-kilometer route in epic rooms illuminated by energy-efficient LEDs.
The largest room is La Salle du Dôme, with a width of 150 meters and a ceiling of 127 meters.
3. Parc Animalier du Domaine des Grottes de Han
Overlooking the caves, Massif de Boine has a 250-hectare native wildlife park, first opened in 1970, showcasing species that once inhabited temperate Western Europe. Residents of the park can stroll through the large paddock, which can be seen on foot from a special trail or “Safari Car” (a tourist train pulled by a truck).
There are about 20 species of animals in the park, including wolves, wild cats, Przewalski’s horses, lynxes, ibex, brown bears, various deer, highland cattle and Poitou donkeys.
The walk is 5km long with tree top viewing decks, benches and picnic tables, and a shuttle bus that takes you to the bear pen.
4. Parcours Speleo
Hardy explorers can take the role of speleologists through guided tours of the Han-sur-Lesse caves.
Wearing boots, overalls and a helmet with lights, you’ll scramble through river mud and rubble to places that are off-limits to ordinary tourists.
Parcours Speleo follows a loose theme as you search for treasure left behind by a group of notorious robbers once hidden in a cave.
Book online to avoid queues.
The Han-sur-Lesse cave has more than 9,000 years of human history, leaving behind a wealth of evidence from the Mesolithic to modern times.
These are all on display at the Préhisto Han exhibition, which features a wealth of finds such as spears and arrows, pottery and jewellery, most of which date back to the Late Bronze Age some 3,000 years ago.
The museum also covers the fascinating history of cave discoveries and houses memorabilia from the first full expedition in 1817. You can check out a large model of the system drawn for the 1939 Liege International Water Show and discover everything you need to know about the cave’s geology.
6. Han 1900
In any case, our last attraction at Domaine des Grottes de Han is still worth it, especially if you are interested in the work and family life of Famenne in the past.
Han 1900 has more than 50 dioramas showing scenes from everyday life.
The museum houses approximately 5,000 authentic tools from the period and takes you on a tour of dozens of commercial establishments, including grocery stores, bakeries, laundromats, shoemakers, blacksmiths, tinsmiths, blacksmiths, watchmakers, coppersmiths, potters, and more Wait.
7. Château Comtal de Rochefort
For many centuries, until the beginning of the 19th century, Rochefort was under the watch of the largest castle in Famenne.
Although it is in ruins today, the Comtal de Rochefort still occupies the entire town on a rocky ridge at the bottom of the Lomme loop.
During its era, the castle remained in the hands of some of the most important aristocratic families in Western European history, such as the Lamarck family.
You can head to this habitat to see surviving stone carvings, check out interpretive panels, and soak up the miles-long vistas of Rochefort and Famenna.
8. Malagne – Archéoparc de Rochefort
2000 years ago, east of modern day Rochefort, there was a palatial Roman villa in a large farmland in northern Gaul.
The ruins of the villa have been carefully excavated and marked and can be explored on stairs and footbridges.
On the path through the Archéoparc, you can learn about the ancient domesticated species that lived on the land, explore the various industries of Roman times, and see the reconstruction of old buildings on the farm and tools from that era, such as the drag harvester.
A good place is the Roman Garden and Vegetable Field, with 350 species of plants common in Roman times.
9. Lavaux-Saint-Anne Castle
In the 15th century, lord Lavaux Jean II de Berlo, loyal to Louis de Bourbon, bishop of Liège, was a short drive west of Rochefort. The place built this finely moated castle.
The property has never been of great strategic value for long, but has become more habitable over the years and is today considered one of the most beautiful buildings in Belgium, blending late Gothic with Renaissance architecture.
There is a mighty fortress with 2.5m thick limestone walls, a drawbridge and three smaller domed towers.
The castle is open to the public and houses three museums.
Through a snapshot of family life in the 1600s, we enter the way of life of the Lords of Lavaux.
In the museum on the ground floor, you can study the ecology and natural history of the Famenna region, while the extensive cellars and dungeons show the real life of Famenna farmers in the 1800s and early 1900s.
10. Rochefort Abbey
The Cistercian Abbaye Notre-Dame de Saint-Rémy is a pleasant walk down the road from the town centre, although access is limited to the abbey church.
The monastery dates back to the 13th century convent of nuns, which was replaced by monks in 1464. The abbey was suppressed and demolished during the French Revolution in 1797, but in 1887 a monk from the Abbey of Achle Trapp – founded the Abbey of Rochefort on this site.
The Trappist brewery here has been a revenue generator for 500 years and is known in the beer world for possibly being the best quad (Rochefort 10) in the world. The Cistercian Order of the Strict Observance takes the monastery off the tourist map, but you’ll be able to visit the sparsely decorated church for prayers.
11. Rochefort Beer
The seclusion required by the monks means you can’t visit the brewery, and there’s not even a cafe on site.
But of course, Rochefort also has bistros, cafés and restaurants, especially in Place 1 Albert Place, all stocked with Rochefort beer.
These true Trappist brown beers are brewed using top fermentation, and the water still comes from a historic well in the monastery.
There are only three in Rochefort’s lineup: the Red Hat 6 (7.5%), the Green Hat 8 (9.2%) and the world-famous Blue Hat 10 (11.3%). Rochefort 10 is a quartet, one of the most acclaimed beers in the world, brewed with two malts, pils and caramel malts, two hops, and added sugar to its wort.
While Rochefort 10 is unquestionably powerful (11.3%), its intensity is hidden beneath the richness of plum, cherry and brown sugar.
Stop by Drink Scaillet, a beer dealer on the outskirts of Rochefort, to take home a few bottles.
12. Autrucherie du Doneû
From Easter weekend until mid-November, you can visit Belgium’s only EU-approved ostrich farm.
Autrucherie du Doneû also breeds emus and llamas and has a picturesque location within the castle.
The ostrich inspires a lot of charisma, is capable of reaching speeds of 100 km/h and provides a deadly kick to the defense.
You’ll see them in their paddocks and maybe even witness their curious courtship rituals.
As part of your visit, you can try pancakes made from ostrich eggs at the café, and there is a shop selling various ostrich-derived products.
13. Anticlinal de la Cluse du Ry d’Ave
A 10-minute trip to the village of Ave-et-Auffe will take you to a geological wonder high on the rugged right bank of the Ry d’Ave stream.
Looking through the foliage of N86, you can see the limestone anticline, a large raised fold in the rock.
Here, the sedimentary strata gather into a 35-meter-high arch due to enormous pressure from tectonic movements.
Anticlinal de la Cluse du Ry d’Ave is in the middle Devonian period, about 400 million years old, and the oldest rocks are located in the center of the arch.
14. Roches Park
On both sides of the Lomme River in central Rochefort, there is a park with facilities to add some fun or relaxation on a sunny day.
The main attraction is the heated outdoor swimming pool, with discounted rates for children.
Next to it you will find a mini golf course, tennis courts and a large children’s playground surrounded by hedges.
The two banks are connected by a pedestrian bridge, and there are plenty of meadows for picnics.
15. Centre d’animation Permanente Du Rail Et de la Pierre
In the past Jemelle town hall, a few minutes to the east, in the city of Rochefort, is a small museum dedicated to the history and geology of the railways of the region.
These have long been two important sources of income for Jemelle.
Kids will love model railways, and there is a huge selection of train memorabilia including tools, uniforms, posters, photos, signs, train consoles and tickets, and dioramas.
You’ll also learn about the heroic resistance of Belgian railway workers during World War II.
The museum has two rooms with local geology and the history of Lhoist, which has been here since 1924. Jemelle is home to the mining company Lhoist, the town’s quarries for the Belgian steel industry and Luxembourg.
Where to Stay: Best Hotels in Rochefort, Belgium
Lowest Price Guarantee