Vielsalm - Location, history and significance


Situated in the heart of the Belgian Ardennes, the commune of Vielsalm welcomes you in the heart of a generous and diversified nature, it is a region with many curiosities and tourist possibilities. The commune was born from the regrouping of several former communes: Vielsalm, Grand-Halleux, Petit-Thier and Bihain, some parts of Lierneux, Beho and Arbrefontaine are joined to it.
Land of wood, stone and water, Vielsalm has its highest point at the Baraque de Fraiture (652 m), well known for its numerous ski slopes. But Vielsalm is also a place of magnificent landscapes and varied nature: take a walk in the Fagnes of the Plateau des Tailles, discover the Grand Bois de Bêchefa, the Commanster marshes or the splendid view from the crow's beak. Stroll along the Doyards lake or in the villages of the commune. The country of Salm is a geologically rich region. It is home to a stone that is unique in the world: the natural whetstone, also known as the "Coticule". The schist stone is also a geological richness of the region, often worked in the chapels and various crosses that you will cross on your way.
In addition to its wide open spaces, Vielsalm offers you sports and relaxation facilities, popular and festive events and a warm welcome.

Close to two motorways, the commune of Vielsalm is located in the Province of Luxembourg and borders on the Province of Liège, not far from the Luxembourg and German borders.

Some numbers...

Surface areas : 
  • Total area : 13.976 ha
  • Agricultural area: 3100 ha
  • Forest area: about 8200 ha
  • Maximum : Baraque de Fraiture : 652 meters (3rd highest peak in Belgium)
  • Minimum: Vallée du Glain (Salm) to Grand-Halleux: 300 metres
Population : 
  • Number of inhabitants (03.12.2012) : 7621
  • Density: about 52.9 inhabitants/km².


Vielsalm, which looks like a small town, has long been the capital of the commune and the canton.
In the old part of town, near the church, you can see the lake created upstream of a dike blocking the course of the Glain. In this respect, it is good to know that, most often, this torrential river is called "la Salm". Why this double name? It's quite simple, the Glain passes to Salm la vieille (it's the old name of Vielsalm) it's therefore ... the water (or river) of Salm. From there to calling it Salm, there is only one step, crossed by mistake in the l9th century...
Vielsalm was born on the heights of the Roulette pit (today a former quarry located south-east of Vielsalm), above Salmchâteau. Traces of a Celtic settlement in the shape of a horseshoe were discovered there. As the region is gold-bearing, the population exploited the deposits using the gold panning method.
In the past, the local population also lived from the extraction of coticule, a stone used to sharpen razor blades and slate. There is a coticule museum in Vielsalm.
The town almost disappeared during the Ardennes offensive in the winter of 1944-1945. An American tank recalls the suffering it endured on that occasion.

Meaning of "Vielsalm"

The village, like that of Salmchâteau, owes part of its name to a small river, as said above, the "Salm" (the region is also called the Val de la Salm or Pays de Salm). The word Salm comes from the Celtic word "salwa" (black, scrambled).
It is also in Salmchâteau that the Counts of Salm erected a fortress in the 14th century from an earlier dungeon. In time, the village moved to what is now Vielsalm (Viye Såm in Walloon (pronounced Li Viye Såm) would literally mean "Old Salm"), and became the new centre of the village (then called "New Salm"). Even later, the Counts of Salm moved elsewhere and Vielsalm regained its name of "Old Salm" ("New Salm" now called Salmchâteau).
A popular etymology also explains Salm and Vielsalm by the German Salm "salmon". The coat of arms of the former house of Salm as well as those of the current commune are based on this interpretation.