Rochefort – the city of beer and caves

Rochefort Travel Blog

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When I arrived to Rochefort it had stated to rain and like every other city it was not showing its full beauty under these conditions.

Rochefort is a small town situated on the Lomme, a tributary of the Lesse, in the S.E. of the province of Namur close to the Ardennes. It is of ancient origin, its position at the point where the route to St Hubert crossed that from Liege to Bouillon having made it at all times a place of some importance.

The ruins of the old castle, which gave the place its name and a title to a long line of counts that had the right of coining their own money, still exist. This castle underwent many sieges and suffered much in the earlier wars, especially at the hands of Marshal de Chatillon in 1636. The castle ruins watches today over the city and it is possible to walk up there. If you pass the castle and follow the road to the end you will find a fantastic view over the city.

Rochefort is well-known for its caves and they are very easy to find because there are signs to almost everyone from the city centre. The "grotto" of Rochefort, within the town contains six chambers, the largest and highest of which was called the Sabbat. It was swept clear of its prehistoric remains before electric lighting was installed. The cave has recently been given the more Christian name of "Lorette" after a Madonna of Loreto chapel nearby.

No legendary Loreto or Madonna connections have yet developed.

The more famous local caves are at Han-sur-Lesse, one of Rochefort's constituent towns, where the river Lesse disappears at what is called the gap or hole of Belvaux and passes by subterranean passages under the hill called Boeme or Boine. The endeavour to trace the course of the river led to the discovery of the grottoes, which consist of fifteen separate connected "halls" that emerge in a bay of the river from a dark and extensive cavern forming a sort of side creek or bay. Except in flood-time, when the exit has to be used, the entrance is near the point where the river disappears at what is called the gap or hole of Belvaux, and the exit is made by boat from the cavern last described, which leads out to the open river. A beautiful effect for tourists in boats is afforded by emerging from the complete darkness of this cavern into the light.

The finest stalactites are in the three halls called the Mysterieuses, the Vigneron and the Draperies where is "the tomb," which looks as if chiselled out of white marble. The central hall called the Salle d'Armes ("the Armory") is immense, and one of the river channels flows through it.


The Abbey of St-Remy, in the southern part of Belgium, was founded in 1230, and the monks began to brew beer sometime around 1595. The beautiful small brewery in the abbey, Rochefort Trappistes, is one of only seven Trappist breweries in the world and makes full-bodied, deeply flavoured dark ales. They are bottle-conditioned and among the world's most highly-respected beverages. They are now brewing 3 different beers; 6, 8 and 10. The 6 which also is named “the middle one” was introduced in 1953 and it is only brewed twice a year and is only 10 percent total volume produced – this beer has 7,5 percent alcohol. The 10 – or the “Mirveille” was also introduced in 1953 and it is 30 percent of the total production of the brewery – this beer has 11,3 percent alcohol. The largest part of the production 60 percent is the Special or the 8 which first saw daylight in 1955– this beer has 9,3 percent alcohol.

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photo by: maplefanta