Halte Royal d'Ardenne - Atlas Obscura

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Halte Royal d'Ardenne

Houyet, Belgium

The private train station King Leopold II built for the Belgian royal family now lies abandoned. 


The Halte Royal d’Ardennes (the Royal Train Stop of the Ardennes) was a private train stop built for King Leopold II of Belgium and linked to the royal family’s summer residence, Château royal d’Ardenne. Court architect Alphonse Balat designed the opulent residence, which was completed in 1891. Guests and royalty would use the private train stop to visit the château, which also featured extensive gardens designed by the Paris-based landscape architect Elie Lainé.

Within a few years, Leopold II decided to repurpose the residence into a luxury hotel. Wealthy guests from Belgian, French, and English began to visit the hotel via the train. The hotel featured every luxury amenity of the time: running water, bathrooms, electrical lights, and even a telephone. 

Both the train station and the hotel were shuttered during World War I after sustaining some damage. 

The hotel and train stop briefly reopened after being restored and expanded after the war. But then, during World War II, both suffered further damage. Finally, in 1968, the hotel burned down and the train stop was abandoned. (It’s not the only abandoned royal Belgian train station, either.)

Despite this, the train stop is still an impressive ruin with its watch tower and stone walls. Surrounded by the River Lesse on one side and the woods and hills of the Belgian Ardennes on the other, the dilapidated station looks more like something out of a fairytale.

A special architectural feature is the cobblestone driveway, spiraling out from the platform and around a central courtyard. You don’t need much imagination to see the coaches lined up, waiting to pick up the VIPs of their time.

Know Before You Go

The location is not wheelchair accessible and requires a bit of a hike to reach the station. A GPS is recommended since the station is hidden in the woods (50.19989, 4.99955).

The easiest access point is via the golf club: Follow the road towards the golf club, but right before entering the driveway of the golf club (you will see a "Private" sign) turn left.

You will pass the former house of the terrainkeeper. Follow the road until you see a gate (beyond the gate is also private land). On your left, you will find a path going down. Be careful, the first yards of this path can look very overgrown, and you might have to look in the bushes.

Follow the path down, and within about 15 minutes you will find the train stop. Google Maps labels the abandoned train station as "Ruïne van kasteel."

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September 20, 2023

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