Chimay (pop. 10,000) is famous worldwide for its Trappist beer. The town lies at the southern end of the province of Hainaut, 10km from the French border.
Castle of the Princes of Chimay
A castle was already mentioned in Chimay 1000 years ago, but it is not until the 15th century that the present grey-stone castle was built, on a rocky outcrop above the Eau Blanche River. The castle was damaged by a fire in 1935, but was restored to its original state.
In 1486, Emperor Maximillian of Austria elevate the Earldom of Chimay to a Princedom. Charles V and Philip II of Habsburg both visited Chimay. In the 17th century, Prince Charles III of Croÿ dies childless and the castle passes to his sister, married to the Prince of Alexandre Ligne Arenberg. The Ligne Arenberg family remained the occupants of the castle until 1686, when the lack of male heir brought it to the Alsace d’Henin Liètard family. Thomas of Alsace, 13th Prince of Chimay dies in 1759 and his wife Madeleine-Charlotte, lady-in-waiting of Queen Marie-Anoinette of France, is guillotined in 1794. After the French Revolution, Anne-Gabrielle d’Alsace, Princess of Chimay, marries Marquess Victor Maurice de Caraman, whose descendants still own the castle. The present and 22nd Prince of Chimay is Philippe de Riquet, Prince de Caraman.
The adjoining Rococo-style theatre was built in 1863 in replacement of a former theatre. It was entirely restored with the help of the Wallonia Region in 1991 and is now used for Chimay's summer festival of music.
Guided tours by Princess Elisabeth of Chimay start daily from Easter to 30 September from 10:00 am to 11:00 am and 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm. Admission is 7 € (5 € for groups of at least 20 persons). The castle will be closed in 2012.
The Collegiate St Peter & St Paul is a 16th century grey-stone church. Many Princes of Chimay are buried here. Note the 26-bell carillon.
Our Lady of Scroumont's Abbey, 9km outside Chimay, is the Trappist beers and cheeses of Chimay were made since 1862. The beer and cheese are now made in a plant 5km from Chimay on the road to Couvin. Beer and cheese lovers will appreciate the 90min guided tour around the brewery and cheese dairy.
How to get there
The easiest way to access Chimay is by car, The nearest train station is Couvin (about 2 hours away from Brussels via Charleroi). Bus 60/1 runs between Chimay and Couvin about 10 times a day.
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