You cannot visit the current Orval Abbey but for a small fee you can visit the Orval Abbey ruins.
By the 12th century, this Cistercian abbey isolated in the Gaume Forest had become one of the most famous and richest in Europe. After a film on monastic life, the tour takes visitors round the ruins of the 14th century cloister and 18th century cellar. Note the medicinal herb garden in front of the Monks' Pharmacy Museum. The ruined late 12th century Notre Dame Church stands near the Mathilda Fountain in green surroundings. Note the north transept rose window and Romanesque, Gothic or Renaissance capitals adorning the pillars. The tomb of Wenceslas, first Duke of Luxembourg, is in the chancel. The apse dates from the 17th century.
It's a wonderful place to visit. The restaurant offers a wide selection of dinner options, starting at 6pm. Until then you can enjoy Orval beer, sandwiches made with local ham and Orval cheese also made at the Abbey. Beer and cheese can also be purchase at the Abbey's store and other food items like local fruit jams. Religious art objects can also be purchased there.
There is the possibility of staying the night in the guesthouse next to the Abbey. It is open to young and old, men and women, single travelers, families or groups.
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Go for the beer, stay for the food
Many times we have been to Orval Abbey to get some of what the beer critic, Michael Jackson, called the best beer in the world. The Abbey is not open to the general public. The process of making beer and cheese is not available for anyone to observe. You can however participate at prayer with the monks, upon special approval. Also the Abbey ruins can be visited and they are really worth it. They make great beer and three types of cheeses that are equally amazing.
Even though we've been many times we never got the chance to eat at the restaurant right outside the Abbey due to the fact that they only start serving dinner at six in the afternoon. Yesterday however we went there just for the purpose of having dinner there. The reason I wanted so bad to eat there is that they use the beer and the cheese to cook their food. We chose the tagliatelle a la creme d'Orval and the steak cooked in beer and served with Orval cheese sauce. Both were amazing. The Orval cheese is very creamy and mild, a great choice to make a sauce from it.
Do not miss the Abbey when visiting Ardennes region.
What is better than visiting Orval Abbey? Visiting Orval Abbey during fall. Not only you get to enjoy what was said to be the best beer in the world, great cheeses and delicious food at their restaurant, but you also get to enjoy a wonderful spectacle of color.
The ruins at the Abbey are even nicer now, surrounded with soft tones of orange and red. The weather is rainy now so get a rain coat and you're good to go.
There is nothing I like better than a hot creamy soup during the cold months. The area around Orval Abbey is cool in summer due to the vast forest so in winter it feels even colder and damp. The soups of the day at the Orval restaurant are just what the doctor ordered during the cold days we are having. The soup is served steaming and fresh and made with all local ingredients. Do not miss having dinner at the restaurant when visiting the Abbey. It's available starting 6pm.
Orval Brewery is a Belgian Trappist brewery located within the walls of the Abbaye Notre-Dame d'Orval in the Gaume region of Belgium. The brewery produces two beers, which are marketed as Trappist beer, Orval and Petite Orval.
Unfortunately the access to the monastery is restricted but you can get a glimpse of it through a small opening. Even though you cannot get in you can still enjoy a nice walk through the ruins of an old church located right next to the abbey and of course enjoy a nice meal at their restaurant.
I have visited the abbey on two occasions and a tour of the brewery is always a highlight of each trip to Belgium. Although normally closed to visitors, special tours are sometimes available through private tour groups. Even if you don't get to tour the abbey, the ruins, the visitor's center and the museum make a visit worthwhile. After a visit, just walk down the road and have lunch and taste the unique beer brewed at the abbey. Although the abbey is off the beaten path, the surrounding area is beautiful and make the trek a special experience.