I write about Westvleteren every now and then. It might be because I see the same questions over and over, thus I see shining opportunities to serve the greater public. Or maybe it's a shameless way to drive up my hit count. You decide.
Just in case you don't know: Westvleteren is a village in West Flanders. It is also the site of a monastery. It is also the name of a beer. That beer is made at the monastery, and thus is a Trappist beer, which is part of what makes it special. The fact that it really is a great beer also helps a lot. But the two things that make it the mostest specialest are (1) it is hard to get, since the monks don't want anyone else selling it, and (2) a lot of people think they have to have it because they heard it's the "the best." Some people will do anything just to have the "best."
Question: Is Westvleteren "the best"?
Answer: No. That would be fresh Saison Dupont.
Now, to the main issue which I intended this post to address: If you are visiting Belgium and don't want to rent a car (nobody should have to drive in beer paradise, should they?), how can you get to Westvleteren?
Here's how: Take the train to nearby Poperinge. Then either bicycle, Belbus or walk.
For those looking to rent bicycles, here are a few options in Poperinge. I've heard it's a pleasant (and flat) ride that becomes a memorable life experience for many who visit Belgium. See the map below.
The Belbus, meanwhile, is a shuttle service run by the Flemish public bus authority. It's very nice if you plan at least three hours ahead. Just call +32 (0)59 56 52 56 and tell them where you'd like to be picked up and dropped off. They will almost definitely speak some English. There's a stop just outside the abbey. The cost is the same as other De Lijn buses... At the moment I think it's €2 per person per ride if you're buying from the driver. For more details, see the late great John White's page here.
Finally, you can have a nice long walk. Google Maps says it would take an hour and 17 minutes to walk the 6.4 km from Poperinge station to Sint-Sixtus.
Remember that you can't get beer from the abbey unless you have a reservation. See this post on how to get one. Otherwise, you have a decent shot at buying a six-pack in the café, In De Vrede, where you can also sit and drink it to your heart's content.
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