On June 18, 2015, a field near the city of Waterloo in Belgium will flood with men dressed in historical costumes. They will be there to reenact the Battle of Waterloo, that day exactly 200 years ago.
It was during the Battle of Waterloo that a multinational army led by the Duke of Wellington and a Prussian army under the command of Bülcher defeated Napoleon. You can read more about this battle on Wikipedia. What I wanted to find out for you is whether it's worth it visiting the site of the battle today.
The Battle of Waterloo: tourism sites
There are some smaller monuments related to the battle scattered around the region of Waterloo, but the three main sites that can be visited are:
- Wellington's Headquarters
- The Lion's Mound Hamlet
- Napoleon's Headquarters
Napoleon's Headquarters are currently closed (check the website of Tourism Waterloo for updated information on prices and opening times), so I couldn't visit that, but I did go to the Wellington Museum and the Lion's Mound.
Wellington's Museum is where the Duke of Wellington spent the night on June 17 and June 18, 1815. You can still visit the room where he slept and the desk on which he wrote his report on the victory.
When buying your ticket, you get an audio guide that tells you all about the battle in a chronological order, which is also the way the museum is laid out, aside from some rooms dedicated to specific themes.
The museum is housed in a rather old building but is much bigger than you'd suspect at first. A lot of original items are on display, as well as detailed maps of the movements during the battle that summer day in June 1815.
The Lion's Mound Hamlet
The Lion's Mound
The Lion's Mound was inaugurated in 1826 on the spot where William II of the Netherlands was knocked off his horse during the Battle of Waterloo. It's a 41-meter high mountain made from the earth of the battlefield, with a cast-iron lion statue weighing 28 tons on top of it. You can climb the 226 steps up the Lion's Mound to get a great view on the former battlefield. If it's not foggy, that is.
For someone with a fear of heights, 41 meters is pretty high, but I hadn't really thought of that until I'd already started climbing. Even when I felt that famous fear creeping up on me, I didn't return. I was in Waterloo and climbing the Lion's Mound is just something you need to do here. I rushed up the stairs, eyes fixed on the steps and definitely not taking any photos or filming. When I arrived at the top I was exhausted. I'd completely lost my breath and my legs were shaking. Partly because I'd practically ran up the steps, but partly, I think, also because I'd been so afraid while going up.
Luckily you can sit on top of the mound as there are a couple of “steps” around the lion as well. So that's what I did. After a while, I dared to look behind me and up, but I couldn't even see the lion from there. The top isn't that wide and because the lion is standing on an extra pedestal, it's too high to see.
I also tried getting a view shots from the view (from the steps I was sitting on, no way that I was going to stand by the railing!) but it was too foggy that day to properly see far.
While I was sitting there, catching my breath but still trembling, some people were having their aperitifs at the Lion's Mound. They were drinking, laughing and talking and I couldn't help but feel a bit jealous of their fearlessness.
When I walked back down though, two little girls walked behind me with their father following them and almost all the way down the father was “teasing” one of his girls, obviously pretending to push her and make her fall. I didn't see what exactly he was doing as I kept my eyes on the steps again, but I could clearly tell from her reactions, and she was scared.
Honestly, I felt like turning around and yelling at him. Of course, I didn't, but I felt so bad for that girl, feeling my own fear and knowing how much I'd hate it if someone were to “tease” me like that.
After I'd gotten safely back down, it was time for some movies. You need a special ticket to see these unless you have the Pass 1815 (see practical information below). The first movie is very modern and a well-made summary of the events that had lead to the Battle of Waterloo and the battle itself.
The second movie took place in another room and I remember thinking it was funny that that second room seemed older, with two or so broken seats, while the movie shown consisted of fragments from the older movie “Waterloo” (1970), which tells the story of the battle.
The last thing to see at the battlefield site is the Panorama, a round building which shows a 110 meters round, 12 meters high, 360° fresco of the battle. It was painted in 1912 to celebrate the first centenary of the battle and restored in 2008.
Chaussée de Bruxelles 147
- by bus: from Brussels, take line W or line 365 and stop at Waterloo Église
- by train: take the train to Waterloo station, then follow Rue de la Station for 1 km
- by car: only 20 minutes from Brussels. Park for free behind the church and tourism office (across the street from the museum)
The Lion's Mound Hamlet with films and Panorama
Route du Lion 315
- by bus: take line W from Brain-l'Alleud, Waterloo or Brussels. Coming from Brussels you can also first take bus 365 to Waterloo and then line W
- by train: from Brussels, take the train to Brain-l'Alleud and then bus W to the site
- by car: only 20 minutes from Brussels. There's free parking available on site
Pass 1815: the Pass 1815 is a special pass giving you access to the Wellington Museum, the Lion's Hamlet (including the two films and the Panorama) and Napoleon's Headquarters. It's €13,5 for adults. In comparison: Wellington's Museum alone costs €6,5 and the Lion's Hamlet €9, so even if you only visit those two, a pass is cheaper.
Hotels close to the battleground:
- in Waterloo, a bit more fancy: Le Côté Vert
Check the latest prices on Booking.com
- in Waterloo, more budget: Ibis Brussels Waterloo
Check the latest prices
- in La Hulpe, a bit more fancy: Hotel Dolce La Hulpe Brussels
Check the latest prices
- in Uccle, more budget: Best Western Hotel Brussels South
Check the latest prices
For more information and to purchase a Pass 1815, you can also always visit the Tourist Information Center or “Maison du Tourisme” of Waterloo, which is located right across the Wellington Museum.
Pin for later
I received a Pass 1815 from the Tourism Office of Waterloo to be able to write about the sites of the battle. Partnerships like this allow me to travel more and gather new content for this blog. They will never affect my opinion of the places I visit.