Waterloo Tourist Attractions
Waterloo BattlefieldThe little town of Waterloo in Brabant, 18km/11miles south of Brussels, has become world famous through the historic battle of June 18, 1815.
This decided not only the fate of France and its emperor Napoleon I but also the future of Europe, when the French army met the united armies of Britain, Hanover, the Netherlands and Prussia. While the British general Wellington spoke of the "Battle of Waterloo", to the Prussian field marshal it was the "Battle of Belle-Alliance" since both generals met after the successful victory at the farm of this name. Every year about June 15 the battles are re-enacted.A number of minor encounters had preceded the decisive engagement of the two armies. In order to confront the allies, who were advancing towards France, the French army made a forced march to the north where on July 16, 1815 they defeated the Prussians at Ligny and Marshal Ney did battle with the British. On the evening of June 17 Napoleon set up his headquarters in the Ferme du Caillou, while Wellington established his headquarters in Waterloo and bivouacked his troops in the Ferme Mont-Saint-Jean. The battle began on Sunday June 11 at about 11:30am with drawn-out fighting around the Ferme de Hougoumont which lasted until evening. After each side had made infantry and cavalry attacks - in the notorious "Chemin Creux" (sunken road) to Ohain, near the Ferme de la Haie Sainte and the Ferme de la Papelotte, which had no decisive result but where the British got into some difficulty - the first Prussians appeared at 4:30 p.m. on the right wing of the French and provided some relief. About 6 p.m. the Prussians made a massive attack on Plancenoit so that Napoleon was compelled to send the Imperial guard into the battle, but they could not stave off defeat. About 9 o'clock the battle was over and 49,000 dead men remained on the battlefield.
The battlefield is situated to the south of Waterloo mainly in the parish of Braine-l'Alleud and now appears a peaceful scene of pastures and fields of cereals. In summer a tourist train runs from Waterloo station to the Butte de Lion, west of the trunk road to Charleroi.
The Butte du Lion, lion hill, rises above the former battlefield and is visible from afar. It was constructed between 1823 and 1826 on the place where the Prince of Orange received his fatal wounds. The hill was built up with 32,000cu.m/42,000cu.yd of earth from the battlefield to a height of 40m/131ft and a circumference of 520m/1,706ft on a supporting brick base. On the summit was placed the sculpture of a lion by Arthur-Louis van Geel which weighs 28 tons and is more than 4m/13ft long. The lion stands with its right paw on a globe and looks to the south from where the French came. From the platform beneath the monument (over 226 steps to climb) there is a panoramic view of the battlefield.
Lion Hill Visitors' Center
At the foot of Lion Hill lies the visitors' center, where by means of diagrams and computer screens details of the historic events can be studied. From here there is an entrance to Lion Hill.
Near the visitors' center stands a circular building which contains a 12m/39ft-high and 110m/330ft-long panorama of the battle. This is a work by the French military painter Louis Dumoulin and dates from 1913/1914.
On the extensive area of the former battlefield there are commemorative monuments of the bloody fighting including three around the crossing of the main road with the road to the Lion Hill.These are: a monument erected in 1914 for the fallen of Belgium in the form of a stone column with bronze standards bearing an inscription in French "To those Belgians who fell on June 18, 1815 in the battle for the defense of their standard and the honor of the armies"; a monument surrounded by a railing for the men of Hanover with the inscription "In memory of their brothers in arms who fell on June 18, 1815" and the monument for Lt. Col. Gordon, Wellington's adjutant, who was killed here. Both the last named monuments stand on the level of the former battlefield, the surrounding area was removed for the erection of the Lion Hill. A path to the Lion Hill which passes the monuments corresponds to the course of the sunken road of Ohain. Other interesting monuments can be found further to the south: in Plancenoit is one to the fallen Prussians, a work of Karl Friedrich Schinkel dating from 1819; still further south on the right of the main road the fallen French imperial eagle at the spot where the guard made its last stand and where the saying "the guard dies but does not yield" is reputed to have arisen.
Napoleon's Last Headquarters
Further south of the battlefield on the left of the main road is the Ferme du Caillou in which Napoleon set up his headquarters. It is now furnished as a museum with four rooms and includes among other things the emperor's tent.
Address: Chaussee de Bruxelles 66, B-1472 Vieux-Genappe, Belgium
On the opposite side of the road from the visitors' center in a hotel which dates from 1818 is a waxworks museum, where not only the chief figures of the battle but also ordinary soldiers are exhibited in life size.
Address: Route du Lion 252-254, B-1410 Waterloo, Belgium
Opposite the museum rises the domed building of the Chapelle royale, built in 1690 and originally dedicated to the Spanish king Charles II. In 1817 the chapel was declared a memorial for the battle and was provided with burial plaques of the Allied soldiers who had died. These can now be seen in the adjoining church of Saint-Joseph.
In Waterloo itself a visit should be paid to the former headquarters of the Duke of Wellington on the main road to Brussels. Here there is more documentation about the battle and personal possessions of the British commander.
Address: Chaussée de Bruxelles 147, B-1410 Waterloo, Belgium