The small and tranquil town of STAVELOT rambles up the hill from the River Amblève. It grew up around its abbey, which ran the area as an independent principality until the French revolutionary army ended its privileges at the end of the eighteenth century. The town was also the scene of fierce fighting during the Ardennes campaign of the last war, and some of the Nazis’ worst atrocities in Belgium were committed here.

These days it’s a pleasant old place, the pretty streets of its tiny centre flanked by a battery of half-timbered houses that mostly date from the eighteenth century. The best time to be here is for its renowned annual carnival, the Laetare, first celebrated here in 1502 and held on the third weekend before Easter, from Saturday to Monday evening; the main protagonists are the Blancs Moussis, figures of which you’ll see adorning various Stavelot houses. There are also festivals of theatre and music in July and August respectively, with performances in the abbey buildings.

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