Just recently I had the chance to spend one full weekend in Houffalize, and I loved every minute of it! Because you might wonder what to do in this village in the Belgian Ardennes, you’ll find an itinerary below of a perfect weekend trip to Houffalize and Achouffe.
As you might know, Houffalize is located close to the border of Luxembourg (the country) in the province Luxembourg in Belgium. Its wonderful location in the Belgian Ardennes makes this the ideal place for outdoor activities such as hiking, kayaking, horse-riding and so much more!
In what follows I’m giving you the exact itinerary for a weekend full of outdoor wonders and good food!
Let’s dive into it!
What to do in Houffalize
In my opinion, Houffalize is full of hidden gems that want to be discovered by you, especially outdoors. Therefore, you might want to pray for good weather when you explore the places below!
Hiking Les Deux Ourthes
Starting at the Barrage of Nisramont, you’ll find a hike of about 13 km that will keep you occupied for at least 4 hours and takes you around the lake of Nisramont, all the way through the forests on the shore!
This hike is definitely a challenge, as you’ll start with a steep climb which is just a little teaser of the rest of the hike with regular ups and downs. Its natural paths that can become muddy when it has rained, are better to explore with decent hiking shoes.
For me, it was one of my favourite hikes in Belgium so far and I loved the purity of the woods and the calmness of the water. When doing this hike in December, most of the time, there was no one else in sight!
However, I would not recommend this hike when you have physical problems that could trouble you, plus, it might be too heavy for children as well. Moreover, taking children on this hike is discouraged by the instructions at the start!
Luckily, there’s a shorter alternative. If you want to see the Lake of Nisramont with the entire family, you can take a walk of just over a km, which is definitely the easier option.
Visiting the La Chouffe Brewery
Achouffe (Houffalize) might not be large, but it definitely attracts an enormous number of visitors each year to visit the La Chouffe Brewery.
Never heard of La Chouffe beer? Their bottles have a funny looking gnome on them and you’ll recognize their brewery because of the silo with a gnome’s hat!
For €12 per person, you can join one of their tours and tastings in either French, Dutch or English. The first part of the visit will take you inside the brewery where a guide will tell you a bit more about the history of the brewery and how exactly their beer is made.
After this short tour (approximately 30 minutes), you’ll get to taste 3 of their beers as well! During my visit, this was the regular Chouffe blonde, the N’Ice Chouffe (winter beer) and a beer of choice.
Everything in total will take at least 1 hour, but I would calculate 1.5h to be sure. During your tasting, you can even send a postcard completely for free to any address in the world! Plus, you’ll get a little souvenir in the form of a small Chouffe glass.
I personally was a huge fan of this visit and tasting so I would highly recommend it if you’re in the region! After the tasting, you’ll be able to get sober again through one of the many hikes that start in the center of Achouffe!
TIP: book online at least 2 weeks beforehand (reservations close fast with a maximum of 24 people per tour), if you’re lucky you might be able to join last minute if there are still empty places. Go to the Chouffe info point or call to see if there’s a place left.
Climbing Le Hérou
One of the must-sees in the region besides the Barrage of Nisramont and visiting the Chouffe Brewery is definitely Le Hérou. This viewpoint is without a doubt one of the most impressive ones you can find in Belgium and part of my hidden gems list!
Park your car at Parking Belvédère and within 5 minutes you’ll be able to enjoy this wonderful view! But be careful, to enjoy this view you should climb some rocks with a steep cliff. Therefore, it is recommended to be very careful when taking children on this hike.
Alongside viewpoint Le Hérou run two different hikes. The first one is called Promenade du Hérou (hike of Hérou), starts in Nadrin (although you can also start from the top if you want) and runs for 5,4 km. As you can imagine it requires some steep climbing so this won’t be the easiest hike in the region!
The second hike is called Promenade de Francois Rémy which also starts at Nadrin but is a bit shorter, only 4.4 km. Just like the first hike, this one requires some climbing and decent footwear!
What might catch your eye on the parking lot is the decaying Hotel Belvédère. This used to be a popular place to enjoy a magnificent view over the region, but for several years has been closed and is now waiting for a renovation.
- Europalia monument – stone artwork symboling the openess of Europe
- hike of the fairy valley – starting at Achouffe village
- Panther war monument – Houffalize village
- Celtic fortress – archeological site close to Nisramont
- supping or kayaking on the Lake of Nisramont
Where to stay in Houffalize
During my stay, I could not have found a greater place to stay than Hotel L’Espine! This family-run hotel has a unique concept combining a warm place to stay with excellent food and horse-riding!
So if you’re looking for a cosy little hotel with an extensive breakfast and outstanding 3-course dinner included you might be in the right place. For me, staying at L’Espine was pure relaxation as I didn’t have to worry about anything – we even got a lunch package to take on our hikes!
Plus, the personal touch of the family makes you feel very welcome, just like the cooking skills of father and daughter made me leave with a bit more weight than I originally arrived ;).
I even got the chance to ride one of their horses for a moment, which I haven’t done since I was 15 years old. You can imagine how enthusiastic I was! Luckily, Alyssa and Alana are great teachers and made me feel instantly comfortable.
Hotel L’Espine has been founded 16 years ago when Anja and Ivo decided to move away from Flanders to Achouffe. For the full 16 years they’ve run the hotel with a lot of passion, and now their 2 daughters Alyssa and Alana joined their parents in making this hotel a warm welcome for travelers looking to explore the region.
So don’t worry if your French isn’t exactly on point, they will happily welcome you in Dutch!
What you can expect
As you probably know, there are many B&Bs and rental properties to be found in the region, but none of them delivers such a full service as L’Espine! Their offering of breakfast, dinner and even lunch packages makes your vacation truly worry-free.
When checking in at L’Espine, you can expect a charming environment with rooms that have everything you need, from tea and an extra pillow to a special place to put your dirty hiking boots.
But it’s not the room that makes L’Espine stand out, what really surprised me was their delicious meals. Ivo and Alana know how to turn simple ingredients into a special menu with appetiser, starter, main dish and dessert, including surprising combinations of ingredients. You’re lucky if you get to try their special tiramisu!
Breakfast is not in a buffet format but you’ll get to choose and select individually what you like (and yes, the list contains everything you could think of!). My favourite choices were the pancakes, freshly-made smoothie and scrambled eggs! If you’re planning to go on a day trip, make sure to ask for a lunch package the day before!
As you’ll see, in front of the wonderful view of Achouffe, they recently constructed an equestrian area. Although L’Espine does not offer horse-riding classes yet, you can actually take your own horse with you to ride and take walks in the region! Which other hotel can offer you this?!
Is L’Espine the right fit for you?
No hotel is the right fit for everyone and the same goes for L’Espine. There are several reasons why you should not want to choose this hotel – for example when you’re on a tight budget. In that case, a rental unit might be a better choice for you.
You might also not like the design of the hotel because their rooms are not exactly the highly modern, sleek spaces you might expect from other types of hotels. On the contrary, the hotel likes to work with wood in their rooms, making them a bit warmer and more authentic.
It goes without saying that this is not the ideal place to go on vacation if you’re scared of horses, chances are high that you see them walk by or train multiple times a day. Of course, always under supervision or behind a fence.
Plus, as the hotel really values rest and relaxation, this is definitely not the place to take your small children or come in large groups. Loud noises might not be appreciated by the other guests and walls can be thin. On the other hand, this is the perfect place to enjoy the Belgian Ardennes as a couple!
Ready to plan your trip to Houffalize? I’m definitely going to return! Probably somewhere in summer when I can see nature blooming again! I hope that with this post, I gave you enough recommendations on how to spend your weekend in Houffalize in the best way possible.
Feel free to suggest any other activities or places to see in the region that other readers cannot miss on their trip!
If you’re looking to explore more places in Belgium, you might be interested in a collection of day trip destinations you can visit by train in Belgium!