Battle of the Bulge was Hitler’s last offense, his last attempt at dominating Europe. The fate of the war was decided along this front. This battle was documented intensely in the popular HBO series “Band of Brothers” due to its importance. Any traveler visiting Belgium, or any traveler visiting WW2 sites in Europe, should make a point to visit Bastogne, Belgium. Here’s how to make your own Battle of the Bulge tour.
Main Stops on a Battle of the Bulge Tour
There are two main stops on any Battle of the Bulge tour: the Bastogne War Museum and the Bois Jacques Foxholes.
Bastogne War Museum
The Bastogne War Museum is the signature museum covering the Battle of the Bulge and Belgium in WW2 in the region. The museum begins with how the war began and how the war got to the pivotal moment that was the Battle of the Bulge.
You follow–via an audio guide–four people throughout the museum and hear their stories from WW2. The people include a young Belgium boy, a Belgium school teacher who carries coded messages for the resistance, a German military officer, and an American Soldier in Belgium.
The audio guides are automatic, meaning they sense where you are in the museum and tell you the story accordingly. While this seemed like a cool feature at first, I would prefer a system where I indicate what to listen to and when. I quickly became annoyed because I couldn’t control the audio system. I would walk into a room and listen to the audio guide. Then, I’d start walking around the room to read the signs. However, the audio system would sense me walking around the room and start picking up the next audio story or replay the one I had just listened to.
Tip: I suggest listening to all the audio guides in a room first, then taking off your headphones to focus on reading the signs.
Nonetheless, this museum is excellent. It is a must on any Battle of the Bulge tour. The museum’s signage explained the facts concisely and easily. The audio guide’s personal narratives helped add emotion in a war that’s easy to focus on numbers and tactics. The museum carried an excellent balance of history and storytelling.
Know Before You Go: Bastogne War museum
How much does a ticket cost?
Adult tickets cost 20 euros each, as of August 2022. The audio guides are included in the price of a ticket and come in several languages. Tickets also include entry to the Bois Jacques Foxholes.
How much time do I need at the museum?
I suggest scheduling two hours to tour this museum, plus an additional 30 minutes to walk around the memorial located to the side of the museum.
Tell me more about the memorial.
There is no ticket control at the memorial, so you could opt to only visit that if you are on a budget. It was under scaffolding in August 2022 and I’m unsure of when the repairs will be complete. You can walk around and on top of the memorial. I recommend walking on top of the memorial for its beautiful views of the Belgium countryside.
Is there a restaurant at the museum?
Bring a snack and water with you inside the exhibit, if you think you’ll need it, because there are no cafes once you’re inside the exhibit. There are plenty of restrooms inside the exhibits.
There is a café outside the exhibit inside of the museum but, as per usual with museum cafes, it’s more expensive than buying elsewhere. They serve pre-made sandwiches and salads, a couple of dessert options, and beverages.
Where do I park?
The parking lot is located immediately in front of the museum and costs 5 euros per vehicle. It’s large, so there’s plenty of parking availability. You pay the parking fee inside the museum at the same time you pay for your museum ticket.
When should I visit?
The first time I visited this museum, a Saturday in May 2021, there was no line at the museum and maybe five other groups in the museum with me. The second time I visited this museum, a Friday in August 2022, I waited 30 minutes in line to buy tickets because there were numerous groups. The museum didn’t feel packed on this visit, but it certainly felt full.
Perhaps it’s a hit or miss of when the museum is full or empty. Or perhaps my first visit is a remnant of low-tourism during COVID times in Europe.
I guess the museum will be busy during the summer season and less busy during winter.
Be sure to check the museum’s website for holiday closings and seasonal hours.
Can I pre-order tickets?
If you don’t want to wait in line, you can buy your ticket online at the museum’s website.
Bois Jacques Foxholes: Band of Brothers’ Location
These foxholes are where Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division built their battle positions. Yes, that’s the same company from Band of Brothers!
They’re still in pretty good condition and you can obviously see where the boundaries of their patrol base were. You can see the town of Foy off in the near distance and the great opening between trees where the troops cheered at the arrival of clear skies and supplies.
There is an equal sense of sorrow and pride as you wander the foxholes. The Soldiers’ lives at Bois Jacques included so much hunger, cold, fear, and pain in this defense. There was also a lot of heroism, brotherhood, and pride in successfully defending Bastogne and, ultimately, bringing the war in Europe to an end.
While the Bastogne War Museum is interactive, the Bois Jacques Foxholes are a site for contemplation and remembrance. These foxholes are a must for any Battle of the Bulge tour.
The Bois Jacques foxholes have recently undergone a transition. The foxholes were completely open for my first two visits–in May 2021 and December 2021.
However, in my last visit in August 2022, the area is now gated, there’s a paved parking area, and there are signs for an interactive experience. While it’s unfortunate in some ways that the foxholes are no longer an open space, the increased funding to preserve the history of this area is undoubtedly beneficial for the long term. Additionally, the land now has smooth dirt paths that make the site more accessible to wheelchairs. Since I don’t have experience with a wheelchair, I can’t say for sure that the site is more accessible, but that was the intent of smoothing the pathways.
You technically need a ticket to visit the Bois Jacques Foxholes now, which you scan at the entrance. However, in my visit in August 2022, anyone could enter freely as long as they entered through the gate. I don’t this free entrance will last for much longer, though, since the museum system introduced a ticket system for the Bois Jacques foxholes. Plus, as a Belgium tourist exclaimed when I told him he doesn’t actually need his ticket to enter, “Free? In Belgium? Impossible!”
Know Before You Go: Bois Jacques Foxholes
How much does a ticket cost?
The ticket is included in the cost of the Bastogne War Museum. At the time of writing this, you can not purchase a Bois Jacques Foxholes ticket separately.
At the time of my latest visit, you could enter the gated park without a ticket. Tickets are a new requirement for the park, so I believe this is why the entrance was free during my last visit. I believe tickets will be enforced in the future.
Do I need the app?
Short answer–no. It will add to the experience though.
The app is free to download and will make your visit to Bois Jacques Foxholes more interactive. Although downloading the app is free, you need the QR Code on your Bois Jacques ticket to access the interactive platform.
Unfortunately, I did not have cell service during my last visit and could not download the app while I was at the site. I recommend downloading the app while at the Bastogne War Museum and connected to their WiFi.
How much time do I need at the foxholes?
I suggest scheduling approximately 30 minutes for your visit to the Bois Jacques Foxholes, whether you want to utilize the interactive app experience or just walk around the foxholes. If you’d like to walk the entire perimeter of the defense, schedule more time.
Where do I park?
There is a small paved parking area immediately in front of the entrance to the foxholes. However, it is the quintessential small and tight European parking lot. If the lot runs out of space, or your vehicle won’t fit, you can park on the side of the road.
Parking is free.
Is there a restaurant at the site?
There are no facilities at the Bois Jacques Foxholes. No café, restaurant, or restrooms.
Please respect the historical site and ensure you pack out any trash you bring along and use the restroom before visiting the site.
When should I visit?
Summer is the busier season, but even my visit in August 2022 wasn’t crowded.
If you visit during winter, you’ll get a more realistic experience to when Easy Company was at Bois Jacques. It was -15 degrees Celsisus (5 degrees Fahrenheit) when Easy Company was there. I visited in December 2021 and it was significantly warmer than what the Soldiers experienced in 1944/45, but still added to the experience. There were only a few other small groups visiting at this time, as well.
Additional Battle of the Bulge Tour Sites
Bastogne War Museum and the Bois Jacques Foxholes are the main sites on a Battle of the Bulge tour. However, there are a couple more key sites in the region that you can add onto your itinerary.
Malmedy Massacre Memorial
The 1st SS Panzer Division came across a company of U.S. troops from the 7th Armored Division during the Battle of the Bulge on December 17, 1944. Their Commander realized their efforts against a significantly greater force (in terms of manpower) was useless and surrendered.
The Nazi troops searched all the Soldiers. A few of the American Soldiers tried to flee and the order was given to shoot. The Nazi military proceeded to massacre the Soldiers. Some fled. 43 men survived. 84 died.
Now there’s a memorial, about 100m from where the actual massacre took place, commemorating those Soldiers who died.
If you have additional time on your Battle of the Bulge tour, and are greatly interested in WW2 history, you may appreciate a quick stop at this memorial to commemorate the lives lost.
Luxembourg American Military Cemetery
When you enter the grounds, two pillars stand tall. One displays the movements for the Battle of the Bulge. The other one has the 371 Soldiers missing in action inscribed. Twenty three bronze rosettes are by some of the names, indicating they were found and properly buried.
In total, 5,070 Service Members rest at the Luxembourg American Cemetery. Most of them died during the Battle of the Bulge.
The cemetery is also the final resting ground for General Patton. He is the only four-start General laid to rest at a American Battle Monuments Commission ceremony. He requested to be laid to rest next to his Soldiers. General Patton was initially laid in a plot like every other Soldier’s, per his request. However, the increased traffic to his resting place caused significant damage to the cemetery grounds so he was later moved to the front of the cemetery.
Ensure to check the website for the most updated hours as the hours change by season and holidays.
Where to Sleep and Eat in Bastogne, Belgium
Bastogne is the most famous town in Europe, and it is definitely a town.
There’s one main square in the town, exactly where the four main roads meet. The majority of restaurants are on this square, or near it. Most of the restaurants on the square turn into pubs at night. There is free parking in the square.
I’ve eaten at an Italian restaurant in the town square called Giorgi three times now and they haven’t disappointed me. Their pizzas remind me of pizza in Naples, Italy and they have a flexible and interesting assortment of pastas.
Definitely try Belgium beers while you’re visiting. Belgium beer is the best in Europe! I love the Cherry Choufe.
My friends and I stayed at this AirBnB in Bastogne. The couple who owns it are lovely and super helpful. There’s also parking immediately in front of the apartment. The apartment is located by a park and near the town square, which is convenient for food and drinks.
DIY Battle of the Bulge Tour
You could make an entire an entire week out of your Battle of the Bulge tour if you wanted. If you are short on time, or only want a general visit for your Battle of the Bulge tour, this is what you need to see.
Let me know what other Battle of the Bulge sites you want to visit or comment below if you have any questions!
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