Waterloo Visitor Guide 2023: Everything you need to know
Waterloo in central Belgium is a small town that has had an outsized impact on history. Only 20 miles from the national capital of Brussels, this town of 30,000 people might have stayed an obscure suburb of the largest city if it wasn't for the events of 1815. But it was in Waterloo when Napoleon was finally defeated by a coalition of European nations, changing the course of history forever.
The site of this crucial battle remains a big tourist draw to this day. But visitors to Waterloo soon discover the charm of this small Belgian town. On the edge of the Sonian Forest, Waterloo combines the tranquility of the countryside with the vibrancy of a large city not far away. It's a great place to get a taste of the more rural side of Belgium. Drop off your bags at a luggage locker in Waterloo and explore the town for yourself.
A weekend in Waterloo
Waterloo isn't a big city full of world-famous attractions. So a weekend is a good length of time to see much of what the town has to offer. Many visitors to Waterloo make it a day trip from Brussels, but you'll find enough activities to keep you busy for at least a couple of days.
- You can't really come to Waterloo and not visit the famous battlefield. An underground memorial tells the story of this crucial battle in European history through artifacts from the time and a 3D movie. It's a fascinating experience to be in a place where history was made.
- Napoleon Bonaparte and the Duke of Wellington led the armies that clashed at the battle of Waterloo. You can visit both the Bodenghian Inn where Wellington stayed on the night of the battle and the last headquarters of Napoleon in a farmhouse outside town. Both sites are memorials to the men who fought at Waterloo and the opposing generals who led them.
- The Sonian forest covers over 10,000 acres and has been dedicated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Home to dozens of walking trails, the forest also houses a museum where you can learn more about the plants and animals of this ancient European woodland.
As a small city, Waterloo is ideal for exploring on foot. You'll enjoy your trip a lot more if you don't carry more than you need to. Drop your heavy bags off at a Waterloo suitcase storage – travel light as you experience a quieter side of Belgium.
Off the beaten path in Waterloo
Waterloo itself is a little bit off the beaten path. This isn’t a place where you’ll be forced to battle tourist crowds. But if you find yourself with time on your hands, the city has lots of lesser-known attractions that are worth visiting.
- Waterloo's Fine Arts Museum is home to over 20,000 works of art. Focusing on the work of Belgian artists, it's an interesting place to learn more about the cultural heritage of the area.
- See the spiritual heart of the town at the church of St. Joseph. This 18th-century church houses memorial plaques to officers who fell in the famous battle, and is a peaceful place to visit as you learn more about the history of the town.
- Despite its small size, Waterloo is home to not one but two castles. In fact, there used to be three, but one burned down in 1847. The two castles of Argenteuil that survive once belonged to the Belgian monarchy, with the newest one built in 1929. The castles and their sprawling estate is a great place to visit to see how Belgian nobility lived.
What to do alone in Waterloo
Waterloo is a great place to explore by yourself. This small town is extremely safe, and its compact size makes it easy to navigate on your own. Drop off your bags at a luggage storage locker in Waterloo and set out on your own to discover more about this unique town.
- Check out the Waterloo flea market to shop for unique items or just immerse yourself in the culture of the town. Over 300 merchants sell local produce and handicrafts, making this the perfect place to experience what this part of Belgium has to offer.
- Try your luck at the Golden Palace Casino. Located in the center of town, the casino is open 24 hours a day and offers slot machines and table games where you can win big or just have some fun.
- Belgium is known for waffles, chocolate, and beer — not necessarily in that order. But there’s more to Belgian cuisine than these familiar favorites. Treat yourself to a meal at Max & Moi to sample some of the best cooking in Waterloo.
The best souvenirs in Waterloo
As the biggest tourist attraction in town, the Waterloo battlefield and Memorial is the place to pick up Napoleonic-themed souvenirs. You can also try Brussels Corner for some high-quality Belgian souvenirs. Avoiding the usual tourist items, this family-owned store focuses on their own unique designs, so a bag or T-shirt from here is a unique souvenir you can take away with you.