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Flower power: Beautiful parks and gardens are much closer than you think

21:12 24/05/2020
In association with Tourism Flemish Brabant

It’s official: The exit plan for the coronavirus period allows people to drive short distances to enjoy outdoor areas in Belgium. Fortunately, trips to the green belt surrounding Brussels are indeed short. There are a great many gorgeous parks and gardens in this area of Flemish Brabant that can be reached by bicycle, public transport or car in less than 30 minutes.

Perhaps the best known because of its proximity to Brussels is Tervuren Park. And yet many expats don’t hop on the tram (a lovely ride through forested outskirts) that will take you directly to this enormous and endlessly picturesque green space.

Tervuren

Tervuren Park is associated with the Africa Museum, but visitors can access the park anytime. Right now is the best time to visit, when many late spring flowers are in full bloom. Developed as a royal garden in the 19th century, Tervuren Park is dotted with lakes, fountains, sculptured shrubbery in the French style and century-old traces of the dukes’ hunting grounds.

Again quite close to Brussels is the Meise Botanic Garden in Meise. It is currently open to visitors, though a ticket with a specific time slot purchased in advance online. While the Botanic Garden is intriguing any time of the year, as the foliage changes with the seasons, late spring and early summer are when it really comes into its own.

Those who have never visited can’t fully realise the expanse and diversity of this 92-hectare space that serves as both a paradise for visitors and a scientific research institute. With thousands of species of plants, flowers and trees, Meise Botanic Garden is a never-ending exercise in exploration and discovery.

Meise

Walkways in the park take visitors through areas devoted to specific species, such as orchids, conifers or plants of the Mediterranean. Meise also has historical buildings and greenhouses from the garden’s 18th-century origins as well as a 12th-century castle. Its botanical library contains more than 200,000 books dating back to the 15th century, and its herbarium archive holds a whopping four million specimens.

Gaasbeek Castle, meanwhile, is situated inside a 49-hectare park with walking paths criss-crossing it. You’ll come  upon lovely historical buildings connected with the castle, including a chapel, pavilion and triumphal arch, as well as monolithic beech trees and three lakes. It’s freely accessible from 8.00 to 20.00 every day.

A bit more hidden is the Museum Garden, which must be accessed through the castle. Previously open only by appointment, it’s now open to the public, so anyone can stroll like a dignitary along the paths, strikingly laid out in geometrical shapes among fruit, vegetable and ornamental gardens. A visit to both the park and the garden makes for a magnificent day out.

Getting there

Tervuren Park is easily accessed by Tram 44, which runs from Montgomery through Auderghem and all the way to Tervuren Station, right in front of the park. There are also several parking areas around the park, some free.

Meise Botanic Garden is served by De Lijn buses 250 or 251, both of which leave from North Station. They stop directly in front of the garden. There is also a free parking area at the entrance

Gaasbeek Castle is just a 30-minute bus ride away. Hop on De Lijn bus 142, which leaves from Brussels South Station. It also has ample free parking.

Photos: Lander Loeckx

Written by The Bulletin with Tourism Flemish Brabant