Our April-May trip has us spending 3 days in Brussels. It's our first time to the area and we want to include a visit to Waterloo. We're not much on visiting every gun emplacement and monument, but do want a good overview of the battlefield, strategies and interesting events. Will a one-half day visit (3 to 4 hours) be sufficient?
I'm a pretty avid military historian: an hour will do nicely.
We stopped by Waterloo on our way to Bastogne. They happened to be having reenactments that day, and it was crowded. But I think you could easily see what you want in less than a half day.
Can I assume you are going to Waterloo by car or are you taking the bus from the train station in Brussels? If you have a car---and I hope you do--I would say a half day visit of at least 6-7 hours is needed. In the town of Waterloo itself, there are a number of museums, either showing the battle from the British or French side. Numerous monuments dot the place when you will see as tour the field.
It all depends how much in detail you want to see this site---an hour won't even scratch the surface of your tour. Usually what is recommended for seeing Waterloo is two full days by car, if want to see the battle from not only the British and the French perspective but also from that of the Prussians.
I guess it depends on your interest.
For a half-day, it would be good to start in the town of Waterloo itself at the Wellington Museum. This is the actual bldg. where Wellington made his HQ. Parking is easy in the side streets behind the church across the street. Give yourself an hour or so in this museum. Then, head for the lion monument at the battlefield itself. The panoramic view in the round bldg. gives a very neat overview as does the multimedia show in the museum. The climb up the hill is not too bad as long as you take your time. (I'm 50 years old and half lame!). It is well worth the effort to see the land much as it was nearly 200 years ago. The two farms, Le Haye Sainte and Hougoumont give the scene a dramatic authenticity that really puts the battle into perpspective. Spend a little time in the gift shop. I don't think Le Haye Sainte is open to the public, but if you can find your way around (drive back over the highway, turn left and another left back over and you can make your way to the Hougomount Farm. I was able to walk into the compound and see the plaques and chapel a few years ago, but I'm not sure it's officially open to the public.
Anyway, I've been there twice over the past few years and 3-4 hours is sufficient for a good overview.
One last thing: A good book to read before you go: The Waterloo Companion, by Adkin.
Thanks for all the suggestions and opinions. I live near many U.S. Civil War battle sites and because of the proximity can make frequent short visits. Waterloo will be a one shot (no pun intended) deal. Presently, we are not renting a car, limiting our ability to navigate the battlefield region. We may rethink the car rental. Thanks again.
If you want to get a good understanding of the battle, it is essential to have a car in order to cover all the important and essential sites such La Haye Sainte, Hougomount and Plancenoit.
Depending on how much time you spend looking through the many museums, and they are a must-see, I would think that even with a car you will end up spending 5-6 hours covering all the sites related to the battle.