Most tourists who intend to travel or backpack through Europe have plans to visit France, Italy, Spain, Greece, or even the Netherlands or the UK, but they often overlook a true jewel of Western Europe: Belgium. I may be biased (just a little), but I believe Belgium is definitely worth adding to your bucket list. With hundreds of castles, gorgeous cities, and natural wonders, this tiny country barely the size of Maryland is a true gem of the Old Continent. Here’s what you will find in this guide to the very best of Belgium!
- Where is Belgium?
- How to Get There?
- When to Visit?
- What to Eat?
- What to See?
- Walzin Castle
- Vêves Castle
- Marnix Ste Aldegonde Castle
- Wissekerke Castle
- Cleydael Castle
- Villers-la-Ville Abbey
- Belgian Coast
Where is Belgium?
One of Belgium’s greatest feature is its convenient location in Central Europe, a great anchor point for anyone wishing to explore neighboring countries. Brussels, the Belgian capital, is also the capital of the EU and home to the European Parliament and European Commission. The city was the geographic center of the original Euro block before the addition of 10 new nations in 2004, shifting its central point toward the east. The Comic City has remained the European capital nonetheless.
Bordered by France, Luxembourg, Germany, and the Netherlands, Belgium is within a 12-hour drive of 13 Western European countries including Spain, Switzerland, and Italy.
How to Get There?
Belgium is home to two international airports: Brussels (BRU) and Brussels South Charleroi (CRL). Brussels International Airport welcomes travelers from everywhere in the world while Charleroi offers travel to and from the European continent, Northern Africa, and Eurasia. A well developed railroad network also allows you to connect every major city in the country. Brussels International Airport is also equipped with its very own train station, making it very easy for travelers to depart from Brussels Airport without worrying about parking their vehicle for an extended period of times.
When to Visit?
Belgium has something to offer during every season but is especially beautiful in the spring and summer. These seasons offer more lush green nature, wildflowers, and warmer weather. Fall, on the other hand, offers wonderful views of the Ardennes Forest while winter brings along the magic of Christmas markets. But, of course, any season is perfect to enjoy some Belgian comfort foods, which brings us to my next point.
What to Eat?
Belgium is known for its many delicacies: chocolates, beers, and waffles are enjoyed by taste buds worldwide. As a tourist, you may feel overwhelmed by the amount of products available, so I compiled a list of the best Belgian staples by brand and/ or location.
Chocolate is my downfall. I can already be seen feasting and smearing it all over my face by the age of one. Belgians’ favorite chocolate brand and mine as well is Côte d’Or. Their chocolates are rich, smooth, and flavourful and come in many different sizes and flavors. They offer multiple formats from the regular and smaller barks to the sampling mignonettes, or the tiny bouchées, often called ‘mice’ though they actually represent the Côte d’Or elephant, symbol of the brand. The list of flavors is endless from plain milk and dark chocolate to nutty fillings, whole nuts, or fruits. My personal favorites are Milk Chocolate with Caramelized Almonds and a Dash of Salt, and Double Lait, milk chocolate with a cashew nut filling. French citizens have been known to cross the border in order to fill up on Côte d’Or chocolates, which can be difficult to find outside of Belgium.
What differentiates Belgian chocolates like Côte d’Or from American brands like Hershey’s is the quality of the cacao beans used in the recipe. The name Côte d’Or refers to the Golden Coast of Ghana where the cacao beans are harvested.
Pralines are also a popular gift from Belgium. Unlike American pralines, they are tiny chocolates filled with a variety of fillings, many made from nuts, but also caramel, tea infusion, cookie crumbles and many more. My favorite luxury praline brands are Neuhaus (love their speculoos pralines so much!) and Pierre Marcolini, the Ferrari of chocolates. They supply the Royal Court of Belgium if that means anything. I was once gifted a discovery box of about 30 Pierre Marcolini chocolates. The gustative experience was unlike anything I had ever tasted before. If you can afford it, I highly recommend getting a box of Marcolini chocolates. Click here for a complete list of all Pierre Marcolini stores worldwide.
When one thinks of Belgian foods, waffles probably first come to mind. What many ignore is that Belgian waffles actually come in two variants: Liège and Brussels waffles. Liège waffles are best enjoyed warm and contain sugar pearls. The best ones can be found at street food carts or train stations where they are freshly cooked on an iron right in front of you. Just the thought of it transports me back to my high school days when I’d arrive starved at the train station after a full day of class and a long walk. It was nearly impossible to resist the delicious smell that drowned the entire building.
Brussels waffles are a lot more similar to the idea Americans have of Belgian waffles, though they aren’t eaten at breakfast and don’t taste anything like Eggo’s (Ew). The best Belgian waffles can be found at the Belgian coast in one of the many seaside cafes and are best served with fresh strawberries, powdered sugar, and whipped cream. So yummy!
I do not drink carbonated drinks and know nothing about beer, but my husband is a fine beer amateur and never turned down my uncles’ offer to try out a new one. A few of his favorites include Chimay Bleue, Jupiler, and Orval.
Belgium claims 6 of the 14 trappist beers available worldwide: Chimay, Westmalle, La Trappe, Rochefort, Orval, Achel, and St Sixtus Westvleteren. Trappist beers are traditionally brewed by monks in monasteries.
What to order at a restaurant?
I ALWAYS recommend trying out local specialties, so wherever you are in Belgium, ask the waiter about regional dishes. Some typical Belgian dishes include:
- Mussels – I could not start this list without mentioning the typical mussels and French fries, the most typical of Belgian dishes. I recommend eating them fresh on the Belgian coast, preferably with a nice view of the North Sea and served with fries.
- Boudin Blanc – A large white sausage made from ground poultry or pork, cream and bread crumbs. This boudin tastes nothing like its Louisiana counterpart; the creole recipe contains rice and is much spicier.
- Carbonnade – Carbonnade is a flemish stew made with large chunks of beef and cooked with carrots, onions, and potatoes in a thick beer-flavored brown sauce.
- Américain Préparé – Ok, I may lose a few readers with this one, but stick with me and why not give it a try if you’re an adventurous foodie? I have to be honest: I did not use to like Américain; the rawness of it was too much for my young palate, but I grew to like it with age. Same thing goes for mussels. Américain is a mix of raw ground beef, capers, mayonnaise, ketchup, shallots, egg, some parsley, and Worcestershire sauce served with a salad and fries.
- Pêches au Thon – Perfect for a hot summer day, this simple dish is exactly what it sounds like: tuna salad (canned tuna mixed with mayonnaise and parsley) in a halved canned peach. So refreshing!
- Boulets Liégeois – You guessed it, these meatballs are a specialty of Liège! Cooked in a sweet onion brown sauce, they are served with fries and a side salad.
- Vol-au-Vent – Also called Bouchées à la Reine, this dish consists of chunks of chicken and mushroom bathing in a thick white broth bouillon and served in a hollow cylinder of puff pastry.
- Chicons au Gratin – Very unpopular among children, this Belgian dish requires an acquired taste. Endives, the central ingredient in this dish, are indeed very bitter. To soften the bitterness of this chicory plant, it is cooked in butter and garlic then wrapped in ham and covered in a white sauce and thick layer of cheese. The dish is then stuck in the oven to turn the cheesy top layer into a crunchy golden gratin.
- Fries – I felt that fries deserved their own category as they are such a central part of Belgian cuisine. The best fries are found in friteries or fritkot, street food carts serving a variety of deep-fried meats and a large choice of sauces. The most popular accompanying meat for fries is frikandellen, a thin deep-fried sausage whose ingredients resemble that of a hot dog and are often left undiscussed. Popular sauces for fries include mayonnaise (don’t knock it ’til you try it, Belgian mayonnaise is entirely different and my favorite condiment by far), aioli, cocktail, samourai, or andalouse.
- Speculoos – this crunchy spicy cookie is now famous worldwide for being the airline cookie. Also called Biscoff in the United States, speculoos can be enjoyed plain or with a chocolate layer, in praline, in a spread (also known as cookie butter), or even in ice cream. Speculoos variants are as endless as peanut butter’s are state side.
What about regional items on a kids menu you may ask? My go-to comfort food meal is sausage, mashed potatoes, and applesauce. If I ever had to choose a last meal, that would be it! I had not realized how typically Belgian this dish was until my trip to Bavaria when I saw the overly surprised look of our Austrian waitress when I asked for applesauce with my schnitzel!
What to See?
When I moved to the US, I learned to appreciate the centuries-old architecture I had grown up taking for granted. Imposing churches, cobblestone streets, fairytale castles, rustic countryside farmhouses and many more were among the sights I missed when I moved abroad. I realized that field trips to the Versailles Castle, Roman ruins, or a WWII concentration camps were extraordinary gifts that many students worldwide would be dying to experience.
I recently found out that Belgium boasts the highest castle density in the world, and come to think of it, there were many times I came across gorgeous, secretly hidden castles on my way to see a distant relative or on a new train route. Below you will find a non-exhaustive list of some of my favorites castles in Belgium.
Walzin Castle is perhaps the most picturesque castle in all of Belgium. Standing atop a sheer cliff and overlooking the river Lesse, it will transport you instantly into your very own fairytale. Though the castle itself is private property and cannot be visited, there are several viewpoints from which to admire it. The first viewpoint is located in the pasture below the castle on the other side of the bank. From there, you will enjoy close-up views and great picture opportunities. The second viewpoint is my favorite! It takes a little bit of exploring to find it, but the views are worth it! To reach this viewpoint, you will have to take a dirt road into the woods until you come across the ruins of a small tower; the viewpoint is located behind it. Though you may have seen many glamourous Instagram shots taken on the rocks of the cliff overlooking Walzin, you must understand that reaching this famous photo spot requires a lot of agility and is very dangerous for those afraid of heights. If you decide to go beyond the observation point, you do so at your own risk, knowing that a fall from such height would mean certain death.
What to do near Walzin?
If you are looking for other activities in the area, consider renting kayaks to float the river Lesse or going on one of the many beautiful hikes in nearby Furfooz Park. Keep in mind that the Lesse gets very crowded during the summer months (July and August), so you might prefer visiting during the off-season. Walzin castle is located just 15 minutes from the beautiful city of Dinant and many more fairytale castles such as the one below.
Located only 20 minutes from Walzin Castle and 12 minutes from Dinant, this Château famous for its 6 towers and unbelievable woodwork is definitely worth a stop. Dating back to the 7th century, it suffered destruction through war and raging fires before being rebuilt into its current form during the Renaissance.
Though Vêves Castle isn’t open every day, you can always admire its magnificence from outside the premises. If you would like to visit the ornate rooms of the castle, you can click here to find the complete visiting schedule. It is also possible to host large gatherings such as weddings or parties on the castle’s premises. More information regarding reservations can be found by clicking the link above.
Marnix Ste Aldegonde Castle
Also known as Bornem Castle, this castle is actually not accessible to the public as it is located on private property. The only way to access the premises is by booking a guided tour. Getting a nice view of this castle can get tricky as the banks of the Oude Schelde across from the castle are also private property. In order to access the boat docks sprinkled in a see of flowering lily pads, you must rent fishing huts along Binnendijkstraat. For more information, call +32 3 889 90 09 on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons.
If you plan to visit this castle, you might also want to stop at Wissekerke Castle, Cleydael Castle, or explore De Schorre Domain, all located near Antwerp. Keep reading to find out more about these locations.
Another beautiful castle near Antwerp is Wissekerke’s Castle. I was really disappointed by the distant, obstructed views at Bornem Castle. My favorite thing about the Wissekerke Castle was its accessibility. It is located inside a park in the village of Bazel, entirely free to access and such a beautiful place to go for a walk. The castle is so photogenic that there isn’t a bad angle to photograph it. We walked all around it on a breezy afternoon before enjoying a short break on the bank. The castle is usually open every day from 1pm-5pm and closed on Mondays and Saturdays but will remain closed until July 5th 2022 due to extensive renovation work.
After visiting Bornem and Wissekerke Castle, we headed to Cleydael. This castle is once again located on private property near the Cleydael Country Club and golf course. We parked across the road and walked over to admire the castle. There is just something so magical about watching ducks glide on the water surrounding the towers of a medieval castle. We felt like true princesses as we posed in our flowy dresses on the wall leading to the castle.
I know this isn’t really a castle, but it is so majestic in so many ways that I am making it an honorary castle. The Abbey was built in the 12th century and later abandoned. It housed Cistercian monks for 600 years before being left to decay around the same time the French Revolution began. I highly recommend visiting Villers Abbey in the spring to admire its gorgeous rose gardens. It is the perfect place to visit for families with children as the visit includes a Clue-like scavenger hunt murder mystery with hints scattered throughout the site.
If I had to choose one reason to visit Belgium, it would be to admire the unbelievably gorgeous medieval architecture of our cities. All while enjoying some delicious food of course! Here are a few of the most gorgeous cities in the country.
I’m extremely partial to Mons because it’s my city! I walked through its tiny pedestrian streets every morning and every night on my way to and from school, but they never fail to amaze me. It is highly likely you’ll meet (fellow) Americans if you visit Mons as it is located just minutes away from the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers of Europe (SHAPE) base, a subdivision of NATO where many foreigners (both military and civilian) are employed.
Mons in Latin means mountain as the city was built on a hill and surrounded by ramparts to protect it from invaders. Unfortunately there is very little left of the old city ramparts save one or two towers. To help you make the best of your visit to the Doudou City, here are the must-see locations:
Best Things to See in Mons
- The Belfry and its gardens – Towering over the city is the Belfroy, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1999. You can admire its gorgeous tower from a distance, or you can climb up to its garden to enjoy a picnic with breathtaking views of the surrounding area. But no matter where you are in the city, you will hear its 47-bell carillon remind you of the passage of time twice every hour.
- Grand Place – Every summer, I meet up with friends on the Grand Place to enjoy a drink or dinner. The views of the city hall and surrounding building is simply magical on a sunny summer day. The terraces are filled with epicureans enjoying the summer breeze and the blooming ephemeral gardens that populate the space in July.
- Ste Waudru Collegial – It is one of the greatest jewels of architecture in the city. Dating back to the 15th century, this Brabantine Gothic style church features gorgeous stained glass and intricate stone work. A must-see for anyone visiting the beautiful capital city of the Hainaut Province.
- Street Art – Mons was nominated as the European Cultural Capital in 2015. Ever since, city officials have invested in the arts in the form of eccentric and ephemeral decor. An enormous aluminum statue of a little girl kneeling was erected in the park of St Waudru. A knitted octopus covered the top of a fountain on the Grand Place. Zigzagging lanterns hung above the streets, and pavers were painted a multitude of color to bring life to the shopping quarters downtown. During the summer, it is not rare for artists to perform in the heart of the city: magicians, actors, singers… they all bring vibrant life to the city.
Where to Eat?
The Rue de la Coupe, perpendicular to the Grand Place, is the best place to go for quick eats during the summer. Just make sure to call ahead as lunch and dinner reservations fill up quickly. The street is lined with the best tiny restaurants in the city! The MoMa Coffee (standing for Mons Manhattan) is the greatest coffee shop. They offer delicious, fresh homemade pastries, gourmet coffees and teas. Sushi à la Vie near the Place du Marché aux Herbes has amazing sushis. Mémé Tartine makes the best toasts in the world, heavily garnished with fresh, delicious ingredients. If you’re in the mood for pizzas, head to La Primavera near the Grand Place for authentic Italian cuisine. You’ll find countless pizzerias in the Borinage area as it is the cradle of the Italian diaspora (immigration of Italian countrymen to Mons’s coal countryside) that took place during the Industrial Revolution.
Bruges is possibly my favorite city in Belgium. Its staircase homes, countless chocolateries, and romantic canals make it the quaintest city in Belgium. I have visited Bruges more than once, both in winter and summer, but I never grow tired of it. The Christmas Markets turn the city into a winter wonderland, but the vibrant colors of summer make the Venice of the North ever more beautiful.
When to visit?
Bruges has become an increasingly popular destination for tourists from around the world. To avoid the crowds, consider visiting in June or September during weekdays.
Most Instagrammable Places in Bruges
There is so much to see in Bruges that we walked nearly 15km (9 miles) the day we visited and saw little of what the city had to offer. To help you best map out your visit, I compiled a list of the most beautiful locations in the city! This is a non-exhaustive list, and I recommend getting lost in the cobblestone streets as you’ll find hidden gems almost everywhere you look.
- Markt – The Markt is undoubtedly the most photographed location in Bruges. Its series of colorful staircase-roofed building are one of the most photogenic location in the city.
- Belfry – Located right across from the row of red-tinted restaurants is the Belfry, towering proudly over the city. This 13th century tower is over 80 meters (270 ft) tall and offers amazing views of the city after climbing as many steps as there are days in the year.
- Courthouse – Also located on the Markt is the Provincial Courthouse of West Flanders. To be honest, there is not a bad view from the Markt. You will get a great shot no matter what angle you choose.
- Canals – It goes without saying that some of the greatest views of the city are of its flower-bordered canals. You can either follow the water or meander back and forth through the tiny cobblestone streets that line the Dijver River.
- Rozenhoedkaai – One of the most popular locations in Bruges, you’ll find it hidden in a nook and facing a row of beautiful staircase homes and shops. It is also a perfect starting point for a boat tour of Bruges’s beautiful canals.
- De Vlaamsche Pot – This quaint little restaurant is hidden in a small street perpendicular to the busy Noordzanstraat shopping street.
- Begijnhof – I love visiting the Beguinage (Begijnhof) in the spring, for it is covered in a blanket of vibrant daffodils. The complex, dating back to the 13th century, is now the home of St Benedict nuns making it a very peaceful and quiet location away from the hustle and bustle of the busy city center.
- Windmills – There are multiple windmills located along the northern ramparts of the city.
- Dumon Chocolatier – A hobbit-sized chocolate shop located on Eiermarkt (Egg Market in Dutch), it offers fine artisan delicacies.
I thought the beauty of Bruges could not be matched until I visited Ghent and fell in love with my own country all over again. I had never visited the Medieval Manhattan until last year. We took a train to Gent Sint Pieters and spent our morning exploring the city center before heading to Bruges in the afternoon. Both cities are close by, and I highly recommend taking the time to visit both for a perfect romantic weekend getaway or family vacation. Walk up the Leie River into the heart of Ghent to experience the magic of Europe’s best kept secret.
Top 3 views in Ghent
I visited Dinant for the first time when I was in the 3rd grade. We toured the citadel and learned about its history and the central role it played during WWI. We had walked its narrow streets and brought home some sweet Couques of Dinant, large chewy and spicy cookies made from flour and honey. But as much as I enjoyed my visit then, I loved rediscovering the city nearly 2 decades later. The view of the citadel from across the Meuse is simply unbeatable and is the perfect picnic spot. It is also possible for visitors to go on sightseeing cruises, privatize boats, or rent kayaks and paddle on the Meuse with Dinant Evasion.
Dinant is also the home of Adolphe Sax, the inventor of the saxophone. 60 saxophones of all colors and sizes are scattered throughout the city. Twelve of these saxophones are located on the Charles de Gaulle Bridge and represent countries from around the world. Tourists can also learn more about the history of the saxophone at Mr Sax’s House downtown.
What to see near Dinant?
How could I write about Belgium and its gorgeous cities without mentioning its majestic capital? Brussels is a cultural melting pot, a mix of cobblestone streets and gothic buildings that meet state-of-the-art skyscrapers in the European headquarters. It is the home of many artists and to the plus belle place du monde (the most beautiful marketplace in the world).
Most Instagrammable Places in Brussels
There is so much to see and do in Brussels. The city center alone counts more than 100 museums among which the Museum of Musical Instruments (MIM), Magritte Museum, Comic Strip Museum, Train World, and even Mini Europe, an interactive museum depicting miniature replicas of the greatest European monuments. Listed below are the best and most picturesque locations in the capital:
- Atomium – The Atomium technically counts as a museum as well as it was originally built for the 1958 Universal Exposition and only meant to last for the event. However, more than half a century later, it is still standing and has become the most popular attraction in the European capital. Combo passes are available for both the Atomium and Mini Europe, making it a perfect family-friendly outing.
- Parc du Cinquantenaire – Picturesque triple arch located near the Army and Military History Museum
- Grand Place – Nicknamed the most beautiful market place in the world, the gorgeous gothic style buildings of the Grand Place will be sure to leave you mesmerized. Every two years, the market place is covered in carpet of over 500,000 flowers, offering a unique spectacle to visitors from around the world. The next edition of the Flower Carpet will take place August 11th-15th 2022.
- Manneken Pis – The emblematic statue of the little boy who pees is located right down the road from the Grand Place. The Manneken is often dressed up for holidays and celebrations.
- Comic Book Route – Did you know that Belgium boasts the record for most comic strips per square kilometers? Tintin, the Smurfs, or Gaston Lagaffe were all born from the penmanship of Belgian authors. To honor its literary heritage, the city has painted over 60 murals depicting the characters of famous Belgian picture books.
- Queen’s Galeries – The covered shopping alley of Italian style is home to many arcade shops for luxurious fashion brands and fine Belgian chocolates such as Leonidas or Pierre Marcolini.
- Palais Royal – Separated from the Prime Ministers Office by the large Brussels Park and adjacent to the Léopold Quarter, the Royal Palace is not a royal residence but rather the workplace of his Majesty King Philippe I, the 7th Belgian king. The King and Queen of the Belgian and their children reside in the Royal Palace of Laeken on the outskirts of the capital.
- European Quarter – Also called Quartier Léopold after the first Belgian king, it is within walking distance of the Brussels Central train station and home to the European Parliament and Commission.
- Mont des Arts – Most famous for its gardens overlooking a symbolical view of the city, it is currently the poster view of the French-speaking Belgian National Television Network’s (RTBF) daily news report.
Belgium is also home to endless natural wonders. With the beach in the north, and lush green forests in the south, it has something to offer for everyone.
Growing up, I spent every single one of my summers at the beach. My parents would rent a travel trailer at a campsite for a week, and we would swim, build sandcastles, play in the sand dunes, and visit local zoos and amusement parks. It was nothing like the fancy vacations some of my classmates went on, but these memories are among the many things that made my childhood such a happy one. The Belgian Coast extends for 65km (40 miles) across 10 municipalities each unique:
- De Panne – The westernmost beach locality is home to the Plopsaland amusement park, great for families with young children.
- Koksijde – Koksijde municipality also covers the beach resort of Saint-Idesbald to the west and Oostduinkerke to the east.
- Nieuwpoort – Nieuwpoort is famous for its port where the Yser River empties into the North Sea and along which you’ll find many vishandels selling fresh fish. Take a stroll down Albert I Laan for some shopping or through the dunes to reach the beautiful historical Nieuwpoort lighthouse turned bed and breakfast.
- Middelkerke – Also comprising the resort of Lombardsijde, it is home to a dog beach and Sand Sculpture Festival. The 2021 edition of the Sand Sculpture Festival will be held from July 1st-September 12th 2021. Click here for the official Dutch website. Tickets are 12.50 euros per person or 10.50 euros for students, seniors, and those with disabilities. Children under the age of 4 get in free.
- Ostend – The municipality covers Mariakerke Bad and offers leisurely activities for everyone from enjoying a relaxing walk in its Japanese Gardens to the rush of gambling in its casino.
- De Haan – Nature lovers can delight in a peaceful walk through De Haan’s unique sand dune woods.
- Blankenberge – The pictures in the above collage depict the beauty of Blankenberge’s massive pier, port, and beaches.
- Zeebrugge – Large port connected to Bruges through the Bauduin Canal.
- Knokke Heist – Luxurious condos and shopping opportunities can be found in abundance in Knokke. It is also famous for the Zwin Nature Park, a bird and nature reserve covering 333ha (822 acres) of salt marsh and sand dunes across both Belgium and the Netherlands. It is best and most easily explored on a bike, thanks to the many bike lanes available throughout the reserve.
What to do?
Most visitors enjoy the Belgian coast for its beaches where children can swim safely with lifeguards on duty. Large, colorful markers are now located on many beaches and corresponding bracelets are handed out to keep children from getting lost on the crowded sands. I may or may not have been a repeated missing-child offender back in the day no thanks to my useless sense of directions.
Other than swimming and sunbathing on the beach, my favorite beach activities include renting kwistax (go-kart-like bikes fitting up to 10 people) and stopping at a seaside restaurant to enjoy a pot of mussels or a waffle. If you are into fishing, you may enjoy watching the Belgian fishermen collect the highly-prized local grey shrimp on horseback or fishing your own crabs from the rocky breakwater. Click here for this year’s shrimp fishermen schedule in Koksijde and Oostduinkerke.
The Ardennes Forest stretches across Southern Belgium from France to Germany through rough hilly terrain and meandering rivers. It’s also famously known as the site of the Battle of the Bulge, a major German offensive campaign that took place during the winter of 1944-1945. The Ardennes region is popular for its dense, thick forest and stacked-rock homes with slate roofs. You will find innumerable hiking trails in the Ardennes. Below are a few of the best ones. Check the Wallonia Tourism Office for additional information on recreational activities in the Ardennes.
- Le Tombeau du Géant (Take trail #4 to the Moulin du Rivage, stop for a picnic on the Semois before heading back up to Botassart through trail #5)
- Frahan Panorama
- Plateau des Tailles
- Bayehon Waterfall
- Le Hérou – Natural Park of the Two Ourthes
- Ninglinspo Valley
- Rocher de Falize
- Rocher du Hat
- Fondry des Chiens
Han Caves Domain and Wildlife Park
The Domain of Han-sur-Lesse features one of the most beautiful caves in Europe. Count around 1 hour and 30 minutes for the guided tour available in both French and Dutch. The visit also features a sound-and-light show called Origin, taking you back in time in a magical swirl of music and color. A visit to the PrehistoHan museum is complimentary with the purchase of a Cave or PassHan ticket.
I highly recommend getting a PassHan ticket to enjoy a visit of the cave as well as the incredible wildlife park. The price of the double pass is 33 euros per person. The domain can be explored either on foot or by safari-bus. Though the safari-bus is a great option for seniors, families with young children, or those with disabilities, I recommend visiting the park on foot to get closer to the animals and enjoy ample time for photography. There are two routes possible of 3 or 6km/ 2 or 4 miles; we chose the longest route. Pictured above are a few of the animals we encountered on your visit to the wildlife park.
PRO TIPfor an original stay, check out the tree tents and cocoon village rentals in the park.
De Schorre Domain
We had so much fun searching for trolls in the woods of the DeSchorre Domain near Antwerp. No matter the season, it is the perfect activity for families with children or grown ups looking for an fun day out. Even though searching can be amusing, it can also get frustrating, so just in case here is a map indicating the location of each troll.
The Domain is adjacent to the Tomorrowland stage, a world-renowned electronic music festival and features a barefoot path of wood pellets, mud, and gravel to heighten your sensations and bring you closer to nature. Make sure to bring a towel to clean your feet at the end of your journey. The best part about spending the day in DeSchorre? It is entirely FREE!
Late spring and early summer are perfect times to admire gorgeous flower fields in Belgium. Some occur naturally, while others are planted. Among the most popular flowers in Belgium, you’ll find bluebells, poppies, daffodils, and flax. In late spring, bluebells populate the deep woods of Belgium. Though Hallerbos near Brussels is the most famous location to spot bluebells, bluebells and wood hyacinths can be found virtually anywhere there is a wooded area. The deep woods are also home to daffodils that bloom earlier in the season, around March, while poppies and flax paint the landscape with their vibrant colors in June. The European Union recently banned the use of pesticides on roadsides, bringing back hundreds of wild poppies that had disappeared from the landscape. Flax fields are another one of my favorite summer flower to chase – ephemeral but oh so beautiful; they only bloom for a few days and often close up late afternoon.
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