Belgium’s Best Gardens and Parks

Due to high amounts or rain the grass is lush and has this deep, bright green color and the rich dirt allows the most beautiful flowers to grow. Being in a Belgian park or garden is an unforgettable experience.

Keizerinnendreef, Keizerinnedreef, 3080 Tervuren, Belgium
Head outside the city centre, to the commune of Tervuren, for one of the most beautiful parks near Brussels. Just behind the Royal Museum for Central Africa (pictured here) is a large garden. Joggers and walkers frequent the network of paths through the forest and lakes are populated with fishermen on weekends. The park is home to Flanders largest Giant Redwood tree and there is a good deal of wildlife inhabiting the lake and trees. It is particularly lovely in autumn, as the leaves are changing colour, and in early spring, as the sunshine filters through the newly sprouted leaves.
Rue Brederode 16, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
The Belgian Royal Palace sits proudly in front of Parc Royal in Brussels. You can’t stop by for tea with the royals here unfortunately. They live at the Royal Residence in Laeken. However, you can have a look inside the Royal Palace during the summer months and wander through the rooms where official royal business is conducted. Throughout August, the palace is open to the public and can be visited free of charge. You can see the hall of mirrors (a downscaled version of Versailles) with a very quirky ceiling. The ceiling is actually an artwork, by Jan Fabre, called “Heaven of Delight” and is made up of the shiny wings of 1.4 million Thai jewel beetles and took three months to create.
Kon. Astridlaan 6048, 8400 Oostende, Belgium
You’ll be hard pressed to find it in any of the tourism literature, but just off Oostende’s bustling beach promenade is a tiny oasis of tranquillity. In the middle of the Konings Park is a beautiful Japanese Garden. The garden was created in the ‘Kaiyusschiki’ style and includes water features, bamboo, statues and a rock garden. Wander the winding paths or simply relax and enjoy the peace and quiet with your own personal moment of zen. The garden is free to the public but is only open on weekends. It’s well worth tearing yourself away from the beach to enjoy.
1000 Brussels, Belgium
Parc Leopold is a little hidden gem near the EU Commission buildings in Brussels. There are plenty of shady benches surrounding a duck pond and it’s generally a quiet, family-friendly green space. Recently, the best thing about Parc Leopold is the appearance of an old-school ice-cream cart, selling organic, artisanal gelato. Le Petit Nuage (the little cloud) serves around six different varieties of ice-cream and sorbet, all hand-made from organic ingredients, by owner Yoan. The mango sorbet was so flavourful and refreshing on a hot summer day, I had to go back for more. You can spot Le Petit Nuage’s blue and white cart parked in various spots around the Parc Leopold (just follow the long line of smiling customers) or listen for the jingle of the bells as Yoan slowly peddles around the pond and flag him down. You’ll be glad you did!
Rue Vandenbussche 54, 1030 Bruxelles, Belgium
Brussels has plenty of green spaces to choose from. One of my favourites is in a neighbourhood often overlooked by tourists, but is well worth a visit. Parc Josaphat, in the commune of Schaerbeek, is 20 hectares of green parkland, filled with plants, people, art, and bunny rabbits. The park was created in 1904 and is all that remains of the Linthout forest. Legend says it was named by a pilgrim who had just returned from Palestine. He was struck by the resemblance of Schaerbeek’s Roodebeek valley with that of the Josaphat valley, in the Holy Land. These days Parc Josaphat is a multicultural meeting ground, due to Schaerbeek’s large Middle Eastern community. Throughout the park, you’ll find works of art, from historic statues to modern sculpture. There is a mini-golf park, a playground, and areas for archery, football, petanque, and tennis. If you visit early in the morning or at dusk, you’re sure to see the park’s other inhabitants – dozens of wild rabbits who have made Parc Josaphat their home.
Rue de la Haie Himbe 1, 6940 Durbuy, Belgium
Durbuy, Belgium, claims the title of the “World’s Smallest Town,” (or sometimes city, depending which translation you use from the French). This dubious honor dates from 1331, when the town was elevated to the rank of city by John I, Count of Luxemburg, and King of Bohemia. Even though the population dropped to a few hundred residents, Durbuy kept its designation. However, the moniker doesn’t exactly hold true anymore. In 1977, Durbuy amalgamated with 40 surrounding villages. Either way, it’s a lovely place to visit in Wallonia, and a great way to pass an hour is by taking a stroll through the topiary garden. There are more than 250 topiaries in the garden, some of which are over 120 years old. And, being Belgium, the topiaries go beyond the typical animals and geometric shapes to include a dash of quirkiness. You can admire a green Manneken Pis (Belgium’s famous peeing boy), kayakers, and even an homage to Pamela Anderson at the beach. For more information on Durbuy:
Lingsforterweg 26, 5944 BE Arcen, Netherlands
Most people have heard of the Kuekenhof tulip gardens of the Netherlands, but few know about the even larger Arcen Gardens in the south of the country, near Venlo. This massive, 42 hectare, garden complex is on the grounds of the 17th century Arcen Castle. The gardens begin in a traditional formal style, with roses, hedges and statuary. But it doesn’t end there. As you wander through, you encounter gardens designed to resemble Japan, Italy, Thailand and more. There are woodland gardens and tropical gardens (inside an enormous greenhouse). There is a small on-site zoo featuring ring-tailed lemurs, plenty of children’s activities, mini-golf and a large cafeteria. In fact, you could easily spend an entire day and still not see everything. Arcen opens for the 2013 season on April 26th.
Sint-Pieters-Leeuw, Belgium
You could easily walk right by the entrance to the International Rose Garden of Coloma, without a hint to the beauty that waits inside. The small town of Sint-Pieters-Leeuw, not far from Brussels, is home to one of Europe’s largest rose gardens, with more than 30,000 bushes and 3000 varieties of roses. Tucked behind a stately castle, this vast garden has over 200,000 roses in bloom throughout the season, organised by country of origin. On weekends, there are often bridal parties competing for photos under one of the many rose draped trellises. Bring sunscreen, as there isn’t much shade, a macro lens for your camera, and a picnic to eat on the castle grounds.
Freyr 12, 5540 Hastière, Belgium
With hundreds of castles and chateaux in Belgium, open to the public, it’s hard to know which ones to visit. The castle of Freÿr, in Wallonia, is a great place to start. This grand building has remained in the same family for 20 generations and one wing is still home to the current owners. Exploring the interior of the castle is a must, as you’ll be visiting some of the same rooms as Louis XIV and the Archduchess Maria-Christina. The best place to take in the scope of the castle and its grand formal gardens, however, is across the river. You’ll need a good GPS or map to find the 2 unmarked lookout points. You’ll be rewarded for your diligence by this spectacular view.
36 Gouverneur Verwilghensingel
It may look like Japan, but this beautiful garden is in the Flemish city of Hasselt, Belgium. It is the largest Japanese Garden in Europe and was constructed with the help of Hasset’s sister city in Japan, Itami. While the garden is a tranquil place to visit year-round, spring is particularly magical. In April, the garden’s 250 cherry trees burst into bloom, showering the ground with pink and white petals.
Groot-Bijgaarden, 1702 Dilbeek, Belgium
Most garden-lovers have heard of the Dutch tulip garden, Keukenhof, a few hours north of Belgium. Few, however, have heard of Belgium’s own wonderful spring tulip garden at Groot-Bijgaarden Castle. Also called Grand Bigard (in French), the castle gardens are home to 1.5 million spring bulbs, including tulips, hyacinths, crocus and daffodils. Parts of the castle are open to the public, during this time, and each room hosts a different flower display, such as an orchid exhibit in the chapel. Two large greenhouses, on the grounds, host exhibitions by local flower growers ranging from roses to lilies and even rare tropical blooms. It’s a paradise for garden-lovers and photographers alike. You can even purchase bulbs to take home and plant for yourself.
Mons, Belgium
When we moved to Belgium we lived, for three weeks, right next to the Waux-Hall park in downtown Mons. Designed by landscape architect Louis Fuchs, the park Waux-Hall hosts a remarkable plant collection and massive old trees, it features lawns where 100,000 bulbs bloom in the spring to provide an enchanting spectacle. Five acres of beautifully landscaped grounds, Waux Hall is populated with outdoor sculptures (from the XIX and XX centuries) which gives it a unique romantic look. It’s the perfect place for a walk, for a rest, for reading a book, have a picnic and unwinding from the day to day life. There is a large pond inside where Canadian geese and swans live. And yes, it’s allowed to feed them. Across form the pond, it the center of the park, there is a large patch of grass with a massive playground on it. It’s really the perfect family place.
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AFAR Journeys
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
National Parks