© SI Malmedy
Malmundarium is the local history museum of Malmedy. To call it just a museum would be a bit of injustice. It is a cultural centre, a Malmedy discovery centre & more. The place is humongous covering an area of 3000 sqm split across 3 floors.
We explored the ground floor first and our first stop was the Carnaval Studio. Cwarmê is the Malmedian Mardi Gras festival. The Carnaval Studio is dedicated to the history of the festival, the traditional carnival characters, their masks & costume, the food eaten and the games played during the carnival days etc. In fact, it is even possible to try out some of these masks & costumes. A workshop is conducted here from time to time to make those as well.
Next to the Carnaval Studio, is the Leather Studio. Both Malmedy and Stavelot are known for their exceptional quality leather varieties; an industry that has been existing here for several centuries, since at least 16th C. It reached its heights under Napoleon. However, by the end of 20th C, all the tanneries here were closed. The studio is very interactive with various types of leather which are not only for seeing, but also to touch, to smell etc. Next is the Paper Studio. Paper has been manufactured in Belgium since 15th C CE and here in the display are historic paper-making equipment. Just like Carnaval Studio, here too, workshops happen from time to time in making paper from the scratch.
The next room on the ground floor is the Cathedral Treasury. The monumental cathedral is one of the unmissable places in Malmedy. With its rich history, it is no wonder that it has some very valuable things which belong in the treasury and that has been set up here in Malmundarium. Right from exquisite hand-embroidered robes & screens of 18th C CE, through historical liturgical objects like Ciboria, Shrines, Relics, Crowns, Chalice etc to sculptures of the original architecture are safe here.
The top floor is dedicated to the Historium, dedicated to the history of the town, right from its beginning with Saint Remacle in 7th C CE, through the various centuries, through the World Wars till date.
MALMUNDARIUM TOP TIP: There are 2 major halls in Malmundarium which host an array of exhibitions. Currently, there are 2 exhibitions happening here - one of Beetle cars & another of the Wood Industry in Malmedy.
- Malmundarium Location: Pl. du Châtelet 10, 4960 Malmedy
- Buy your Malmundarium tickets here
HISTORIC TOWN CENTRE WALKING TOUR
© RSI Malmedy
When a town is so deeply soaked in history, it is only expected that I would go on a walking tour through the town. Our first stop was obviously the Malmedy Cathedral which is just beside Malmundarium. Historically this was the Benedictine Abbey. Though the abbey was originally built in 10th C CE, the current architecture belongs to 18th C CE. Much later in 20th C it was raised to the level of a Cathedral. This is called the Cathedral of St.Peter, Paul and Quirin. It is huge but was very simple and relatively plain.
The next stop was the Calvary on Livremont Hill. In the 17th C a series of 14 crosses were placed to reach the highest point of the hill where a huge wooden cross was placed. In 20th C, these stations were replaced with neoclassical relief sculptures by Carl Burger and atop, a little chapel and a new large cross. It takes a short hike through the woods to reach atop. It was pouring down when we went and the greenery was actually so beautiful, drenched in rain. The view from atop is definitely impeccable. At the base of this hill is the Gratedar Hall which once served as a gate and was a part of the medieval fortification wall. Today it houses an office.
Then we headed towards the historic quarters of Malmedy and the first stop was at the Chapel de la Resurrection that dates back to 18th C CE. In this street are quite a few old houses with slated roofs. At the end of this street is the Vinette House. This is one of the oldest houses of Malmedy with timber construction & slated roof dating back to 17th C CE.
We headed back to the town centre and on the way we spotted this little niche to Virgin Mary at Bodet House. This was commemorated in the memory of a young girl who saved the town from a fire. We walked further to the Church of the Capuchins that was built in 17th C CE. Only 2 paintings of the original church still survive, the rest all were destroyed during the French revolution and then rebuilt. After spotting the Obelisk at the Place Albert 1er, our next stop was the Villers House which is a part of the Malmundarium. Right there, are also the Town Hall, Lang Villa and Steisel Villa which are all old palatial buildings that currently house various public offices.
While the rest of the walking route doesn’t take much time, the hike atop the Calvary takes quite a bit of time, both for climbing as well as, for taking a pause, to enjoy the beauty of the nature & the view from atop.
MEMORIAL TOURISM - BATTLE OF BULGE
© Fondation Baugnez 44
One of the main reasons that I visited Malmedy was for Memorial Tourism. Malmedy is the spot where one of the gruesome battles of the Second World War happened - the Battle of Bulge. Unlike other spots where soldiers died in combat, here, very unfortunately, soldiers who were captured as prisoners of war, were shot to death! At the very spot where this horrid incident happened, today stands a memorial - Malmedy Massacre Memorial. The memorial is just steps-away from Baugnez 44 Historical Centre. During WWII, on 17th Dec 1944, here at Malmedy, US army troops were captured by German army troops under Officer Joachim Peiper. About 84 PoW were then just shot to death! The names of the fallen soldiers have been inscribed here in a memorial.
From there we went to the Baugnez 44 Historical Centre, a museum dedicated to the Battle of Bulge. Right from original equipment to original photographs the museum is on 2 floors filled with so many war-related things. There’s an audio guide to help walk through this museum and you can do this at your own pace. There were several life-sized mannequins that depicts how the life of soldiers was at that time, both during normal times & in combat. There were scenes of soldiers playing the piano as well as soldiers preparing to jump out of an aeroplane with a parachute. There was a room with a light & sound effect to recreate the combat zone. There’s also a 15 minutes movie explaining the Battle of Bulge.
- Malmedy Massacre Mémorial location : Rte de Luxembourg 11, 4960 Malmedy
- Baugnez 44 Historical Centre location : Rte de Luxembourg 10, 4960 Malmedy
- Buy your Baugnez 44 Historical Centre tickets here
CHATEAU DE RHEINHARTSTEIN
One of the most surprising castles I’ve been to, in Belgium, is Chateau de Rheinhartstein. The car park is located about 500m away from the castle and the last bit has to be walked and while walking in the middle of the woods, suddenly the castle appears in the middle of nowhere! Chateau de Rheinhartstein is surrounded by woods on all sides and is one of the very picturesque, instagrammable castles in Wallonia.
Castles are always too attractive for little girls and my daughter went berserk when she spotted the guides in medieval costumes. She actually thought they are princesses!!!
Chateau de Rheinhartstein dates back to 14th C CE when Duke of Wenceslas of Luxembourg built it. It passed several hands and by 19th C it had fallen into ruins. In 1965, Jean Overloop, a teacher from Brussels saw this and fell at love with the castle. As I said earlier, it is one of the most surprising castles and it’s no wonder that he fell in love in first sight! He then rebuilt the castle, brought it back to its original glory all by himself!
The guided tour took us through the interiors of the castle from the armory room, hunting room, chapel and I got to see the old portraits, historic tapestries and more. The earliest part of the castle is its staircase close to the tower. After the short tour, we came out and there are 2 major hiking routes that begin in front of the castle - one towards the Rheinhartstein waterfalls and another towards the viewpoint that lends an exceptional view of the Barrage de Robertville.
- Château de Rheinhartstein location : Chem. du Cheneux 50, 4950 Ovifat
- Buy your Château de Rheinhartstein tickets here
ALSO VISIT: When you’re visiting Chateau de Rheinharstein, you might most probably go across Barrage de Robertville. Stop by to see this magnificent construction of modern era!
BIKEPARK FERME LIBERT
© Bike Park Ferme Libert
Whether you’re looking for some adventure or you’re a complete adrenaline junkie, a place that you shouldn’t miss in Malmedy is the Bikepark Ferme Libert. This is the largest bikepark in not just Belgium, but all of Benelux. This is the best place to visit in Malmedy for every mountain bike enthusiast. With several downhill tracks and a four-cross track. The best part is, it is possible to hire a bike here, so I didn’t have to bring a bike all the way from Brussels. Being a complete novice, I just tried a couple of short & shallow downhill tracks and ramps, but to ‘fly’ with my bike is something I’m not ready for yet!!!
- Biekpark Ferme Libert location : Rte de la Frm Libert, 4960 Malmedy
- Buy your Bikepark Ferme Libert tickets here
LOCAL DISHES TO TRY IN MALMEDY
© Coralie Grassin
BRASSERIE DE BELLEVAUX
As I always say, every little town in Belgium has its own craft beer and here in Malmedy, the local microbrewery is Brasserie de Bellevaux. It is very much possible to visit the microbrewery. Otherwise, the beers are available to purchase at the Malmedy Tourism Office.
BAISERS DE MALMEDY & PRODUCTS OF FRAMBOISERIE DE MALMEDY
This is the traditional Malmedy version of something like an icecream sandwich. Baisers de Malmedy has 2 meringues with buttercream sandwiched in between! Framboiserie de Malmedy makes a variety of preserves. Both of these are available to buy at the Malmedy Tourism Office.
PLACES TO VISIT NEAR MALMEDY
© Abbaye de Stavelot
© MT Spa Hautes Fagnes
- STAVELOT: One of the historic abbeys of Belgium, today Stavelot Abbey is in ruins and is the home to the 3 museums.
- COO: The home to the highest waterfalls in Belgium! Apart from the waterfalls, there are some stunning hiking trails around Coo. For some active holiday, there’s Coo Adventure for adults and the kids, there’s the PlopsaCoo.
- SPA: A recent addition to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list, Spa is one of the traditional Spa towns of Europe. Apart from soaking in the thermal springs of Spa, don’t forget a visit to the Spa Francorchamps F1 track, do some hiking as well as tandem skydiving.
1 DAY IN MALMEDY: Malmundarium, Walk around Historic Town Centre of Malmedy, Chateau de Rheinharstein (OR) Malmundarium, Historic Town Centre, Baugnez 44 Historical Centre, Malmedy Massacre Memorial
2 DAYS IN MALMEDY:
- Day 1 - Malmundarium, Walk around Historic Town Centre of Malmedy, Baugnez 44 Historical Centre, Malmedy Massacre Memorial
- Day 2 - Chateau de Rheinharstein guided tour of castle, hiking to waterfalls & Barrage de Robertville viewpoint OR Chateau de Rheinharstein guided tour of castle & Bikepark Ferme Libert
3 DAYS IN MALMEDY:
- Day 1 & 2 - As above
- Day 3 - Day trip to Stavelot & Coo or Spa
SEE MALMEDY, STAVELOT, COO & SPA IN LESS THAN A MINUTE!
On a very different note, if you are a super adventurous person, you can see Barrage de Robertville, Stavelot Abbey, Spa Francorchamps, Coo waterfalls & more in about 45 seconds and that’s not online, but for real. Tandem skydive at SkydiveSpa would lend an impressive view of all these places from the sky while your heart races and adrenaline rush as you freefall from 4000ft above the ground!
About the Author: Bhushavali is an Indian travel blogger, currently living in Belgium. Her background in art-history gives her the interest and insight to explore the historic & heritage sites in Belgium. Her primary interest is UNESCO Sites and she has visited 14 of the 15 Belgian UNESCO World Heritage Sites as well as the UNESCO Global Geopark. Visit her blog here: My Travelogue by Bhushavali.