On our four-day roadtrip around the Wallonia region through southern Belgium, in an effort to see as many fairytale castles and quaint towns as possible, we stopped in at Villers Abbey to visit the ruins from when it was abandoned in 1796. It was founded in the 12th century under the aegis of Saint Bernard and was a bustling monastery for monks of the Cistercian Order.
Entrance to Villers Abbey comes in at €9 per adult, which we felt was much too high for what you get. While the ruins themselves are stunning - you can wander freely through much of the grounds and envision what it may have looked like in its heyday - the information provided is very limited. A few panels are nailed to the wall here and there, but mostly, we learned nothing about what is likely a rich and vibrant history.
The grounds are sprawling, and many old buildings are all around for exploring. We stepped inside the old cathedral (we think), as well as the jail and the Abbot's Palace. The rest, while exquisite, was not identified.
Unfortunately, the ongoing restorations to maintain the safety and structure of the ruins seem to be lacking in love and care; beautiful carvings are propped up against walls with no reason or protection.
On the panels, archives are mentioned a few times, but these seem to be not available to the public to view. A museum with some of the artefacts from the ruins would be a wonderful addition.
I think Villers Abbey is full of potential to be a truly fascinating historical spot, but at the moment, aside from being a place to get some cool photos, it's a bit of a rip-off.