The Battle of the Bulge re-enactment weekend in Bastogne, Belgium has quite a few things going on, this year they celebrated the 70th anniversary. This weekend happens once a year in December you can check the website for the dates (use Google Chrome). There is also a program of the scheduled events but with that said it is hard to find the events in the town!
One of the most popular events you can do is to participate in the march, they are 8k, 12k, and 20k. You have to pre-register and pay €6 and you get a patch and a certificate…well if you can find them. Our friends were able to get the patch but could not locate where to pick up the certificate. We had other friends arrive at 9 am and the patches were already gone so plan on being early if you want one. We did not do the walk because I knew our 14 yr old & 11 year old wouldn’t be a fan of getting up early to walk outside in the mud & snow. It was very muddy for those who did it so make sure you take appropriate foot ware if you want to go, also dress warmly!
It literally snowed the whole time we were there from 12:30 pm to 7 pm, probably a good 4-5 inches. It was pretty cold so make sure you plan appropriately if your planning on going and staying awhile. I took our snow pants but we didn’t end up using them. We did however use our snow boots, hand warmers, coats, gloves, hats, etc.
Of course it wouldn’t be an adventure without a little misadventure right? As we were walking Mr. B was trying to figure out what a weird sound was, he discovered that his snow boot had broke and was literally falling apart while he walked! I looked down and realized mine were too! They pretty much stayed waterproof until the last few hours but now we need to buy new boots. Also I thought Bea’s snow boots were waterproof and we found out that they were not the hard way when she had soaking cold feet! We walked back to the car and were able to dry her feet & change her into new warm socks that Mr. B was smart enough to bring and then I shoved her feet into gallon sized ziplock bags before putting them back in the boots. Her feet stayed warm for the rest of the night! So glad we had those ziplock bags!
Parking for this weekend’s activities is crazy! It is free but it’s a hot mess. You just have to troll the streets looking for a spot to park, we lucked out and got on on a side street near the Barracks. I think there are some further out parking areas where you can park & take a bus back to the city center but we did not use one of them.
Also know that while there is a schedule of events available finding information prior to arrival (online) and even after arrival is difficult to say the least! We knew there was going to be a parade but we were not sure where, when we asked a local he told us it was a village over, which was not right. So be prepared to be flexible and I’ll share here what I learned.
First off we parked near the Barracks but chose not to do the free tour because it’s 1.5-2 hours. I’ve heard great things about it BUT I want to go back when it’s less crowded and without the kids so that Mr. B can really enjoy the tour. If looking at the Barracks you go right to walk down to the city center. You’ll see a church on the corner, this is the main street, where several of the activities take place. You’ll notice that the streets are blocked off with metal gates, this is for the parade later on. The above statue is in front of the church.
Keep your eyes peeled as you walk around, while there will be quite a few of re-enactors dressed up you many also run into a surprise! We stumbled upon a 101st Airborne Vet and Mr. B was able to get a picture with him! At the time I was clueless and thought it was a re-enactor (I didn’t look closely) but Mr. B quickly figured out he was the real deal, although it was as we were walking away, I wish we would’ve chatted with him! How awesome that he was able to get a photo with someone who was AT the Battle of the Bulge 70 years ago! Highlight of the trip for sure!
We first decided to look for something to eat because we knew the parade wasn’t going to start until 2:15 pm. We went down and found the restaurant Le Nuts but it was crowded and the prices were a bit steep (€15 for a hamburger) so we decided to skip it this time. We also found that the Christmas Market is located here but it was not open yet at 1:30 pm.
Also keep your eyes peeled when you first get onto the main street on the right for a little grocery shop. This gentleman sells the Belgium beers that Americans so covet for only €1,30! Compared to the €4-5 they are at the bazars. You can also get 101st Airborne themed beer here as well. He also has some great mugs, we were able to get a 70th Anniversary Battle of the Bulge one! It was only €6. There were also helmet ones as well, which we did not get this time, they were €10,50.
We walked back down the main street (towards the church) and found Il Canto, a pizzeria, that Mr. B thought would be cheaper. While it was delicious it was not much cheaper. We spent €52 for 2 medium pizzas, 1 pasta, & 4 drinks. The staff was great though with getting everyone seated despite the constant stream of people.
The pasta was amazing and enough for Bea & I to split.
While we were sitting down I noticed what looked like a parade out in the street so I walked outside to see it. There were several groups walking up towards the tank end of the street but it was not really a ‘parade.’ I was next to 2 guys who were talking English so I asked them if they had any info about it. Turns out they were PA guys from Spang and were just as confused about the schedule & activities as I was! For someone who is a planner this day was a bit stretch for me 😉 They thought it was the pre-parade of people walking up to get ready for the parade. I snapped a few photos, and I’m glad I did…more about why in a bit.
The gentleman in the wheelchair is a 101st Airborne vet.
We had talked with a very nice lady who could speak English and she told us the parade would be in the street and that the walnut throwing would be from the Hotel de Ville balcony and showed us where. It took place at 3:15 pm but at 1:15 pm people were already lining up along the gates in front of the balcony.
After our lunch we had some time to kill until 3:15 pm so we walked down to a bakery and got some treats and then bought hot chocolate from a vendor as well. I have to say that I’m not a Macaroon fan, I didn’t think I would be but trying them here confirmed it for me.
By 2:45 pm the area in the front of the hotel was getting very crowded. Let me just say that Europeans are crazy and could care less if your already standing there. They will shove themselves right in front you and drag their whole family with them. They are very rude compared to us Americans who respect personal space. We stood in the cold and waited for them to start throwing the nuts. Around 3:15 pm we heard what sounded like the parade coming down the street but it was so crowded we could’t see a thing! Thankfully I had snapped a few photos earlier.
After the parade was through they took down the gates and the ‘sardine smash’ begins as everyone starts shoving their way to the get closer to the balcony. Around 3:25 pm they finally started to throw the nuts. They were walnuts in bags. While we were still a good ways back someone with an arm lobbed one our way and it hit Bea in the leg and she was able to grab it!
We then walked back to the car to get the GPS and put it in pedestrian mode so we could find the museum and get out of cold for a bit since the re-enactment part didn’t start until after 5 pm. At the car we learned that Bea’s boots were not waterproof and her poor feet were wet & cold! Thankfully Mr. B had extra socks so we put those on her and put her feet in ziplock bags with foot warmers, that did the job!
We walked back to the 101st Airborne Museum, it’s about 15 minutes from the Barracks area. On the walk we seen this huge screen that was projecting images onto the side of a house, Bub thought that was pretty neat.
The 101st Airborne Museum was pretty neat, there will be a post all about it soon, so check back to hear how we sat in a simulated bomb shelter!
After the museum we walked back down to the main area and stopped at the little Christmas Market. We got some hot chocolate for €1 and some pasta.
The tourist information center is also located here (by Le Nuts) which would’ve been good to know earlier when we were trying to figure out where everything was!
Then we walked through the re-enactors as we headed back to the car. It was around 7 pm when we were getting ready to leave and there was many more parking spots available than there were earlier in the day.
We had a great time and there is SO much history and stuff to see in Bastogne! I look forward to going back and checking out the Barracks tour, which is free, and I’ve heard great things about as well as many other things! I will say that if your going in the winter make sure you bring cold weather clothes, its cold here! It makes you appreciate even more what our military had to go through 70 years ago as they camped out in the foxholes! A friend recently told me “The 2 coldest places I’ve been in Europe were Bastogne & Bastogne” and that my friends I believe! I think I’ll save our next visit for when it’s a bit warmer.
Know Before You Go:
What: Battle of the Bulge Re-enactment in Bastogne, Belgium
How To Get There: It’s about 1 hour 22 mins from Spangdahlem, about 2 hours 12 mins from Ramstein. GPS address: We just used city center for Bastogne on our GPS.
Parking: Parking is free but it’s a hot mess. You just have to troll the streets looking for a spot to park, we lucked out and got on on a side street near the Barracks.
Cost: There is no fee to attend the reenactment weekend. However if you’d like to do one of the marches (8k, 12k, or 20k) there is a €6 fee for that and you’ll get a patch & certificate.
Dogs: Dogs are allowed in the town, not sure if they are allowed in some of the museums so check that ahead of time if you plan to visit them and bring your dog.
Traveling with little kids: Some parts of this weekend are not stroller friendly, like the throwing of the nuts, my friends successfully took a double stroller on the 8k march and only had trouble with one part where it was muddy and off road.
How long: Plan on at least 2 hours, longer if you want to check out several of the events as they are spaced out over the day.