Back to business: Unique meetings and team-building on Brussels’ doorstep
Business meetings, conferences and team building have been elusive over the last 18 months, but now that most of the corona measures have fallen away in Flanders, it’s time to think about rewarding your employees for all that time they spent working at the dining room table with their kids running around. Or maybe you need to remind your clients what your company and your team is doing – or can do – for them.
While fancy hotels are available in any city, the countryside surrounding Brussels has some much more creative options for meetings, conferences or seminars. How about a day of presentations in a castle, followed by a reception in an English garden? Or maybe you’d like to follow your business conference with dinner in the loft of a 19th-century barn with exposed brick and open beams. Would your staff be interested in spending the day tooling around rural lanes on a Vespa?
Flemish Brabant has put together a website in English with an overview of unique event venues. It’s incredibly handy, with an ability to search by region (the green belt or Hageland), how many people will attend and what kind of set up you need – theatre, boardroom, dining, etc.
Naturally, we have a few favourites. As we are fond of castles (who isn’t?), we would not hesitate to invite our business contacts to Huizingen, just 15 minutes from Brussels. They will already be impressed at the first glimpse of the 19th-century Neo-Renaissance castle (pictured above), with its 55 hectares of grounds, and will not be disappointed by the beautifully appointed halls and meeting rooms once they get inside. Some of the spaces have views over the lake or the magnificent fountain.
The grounds of Huizingen also serves as a recreational domain, so if you are more interested in, say, a family day for employees, it’s also worth a look. There are playgrounds, an open-air swimming pool, an animal park, a tourist train, minigolf and water activities on the lake.
Then there’s the Bouchout Castle, which might appeal more to the imagination, with its 12th-century turrets and moat, not to mention its backstory: It was the final home of Charlotte of Belgium, Leopold II’s sister.
Charlotte had been Empress of Mexico through her marriage to Maximilian of Austria and travelled back to Europe in the 1860s to try to convince Napoleon to abandon his plans to withdraw his troops from the country. She was refused, and Maximilian was eventually executed. Charlotte suffered from bouts of mental illness forever after and did not leave the castle and its grounds until her death, nearly 50 years later.
Today Bouchout (pictured above) is a grand place to host a conference or symposium, surrounded by the Meise Botanic Garden. With rooms with names like the Empress Salon, the Gothic Hall and the Weapon Hall, you’ll find plenty of atmosphere at Bouchout, inside and out.
Aside from castles, the green belt around Brussels opens up former churches, farmhouses and beer breweries to business executives looking for spaces for any kind of event. It also offers a section on its website of budget-friendly options.
While team-building was put on hold during the corona crisis, employees are now not only happy to return to the office, they realise how valuable time spent with colleagues can be. Get them out of the meeting room and into the great outdoors with a number of team-building options in Flemish Brabant.
These options can also be found on the dedicated website, and there are certainly activities you’ve never considered. Imagine your staff teaming up to canoe down the Dijle river or getting the hang of SUP (stand-up paddling). You might be surprised who dares go the fastest on a mountain bike or who takes to a kickbike like they’ve been doing it all their lives. But they can also simply go on a hike with a guide or on a boat trip from Brussels to Vilvoorde or Halle.
The number of options for big or small business-oriented events just over the border with Brussels is actually quite surprising. Just be sure to reserve as early as possible because your office is not the only one itching to get back to business – in person.
Photos courtesy Meeting Vlaams Brabant