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Get your green fix at our favourite parks, woodlands and gardens

Doode Bemde (c) Lander Loeckx
00:40 01/05/2021
Take a restorative stroll around these green spaces, from urban oasis to horticultural splendour to remote nature reserve

The Doode Bemde in Huldenberg (pictured above) is one of the more accessible nature reserves in Flemish Brabant, with 9km of hiking trails that include wooden walkways. The Dijle river valley site, with ponds and canals, is loved for the biodiversity of its poplar woods, meadows, shrubs and reed beds.

Tenbosch park in Ixelles was created by a veritable lover of botany and features more than 70 tree species, some unique in Belgium. The playground in the centre of the park protected by high-reaching bamboo plants is a favourite with families. Plus, there’s a waffle truck parked at the main entrance almost every day.

Zwin nature park (c) Provincie West Vlaanderen

Summer is a fantastic time to explore Zwin nature park in Knokke-Heist. The 158-hectare protected marshland is home to a unique ecosystem thanks to the daily ebb and flow of seawater. Wooden paths lead visitors among colourful native plants, rippled sands emerging from sparkling water and an enormous number of migrating birds. The visitor centre alone offers hours of informative fun for the whole family.

Arboretum Tervuren, on the northern border of the Sonian Forest, boasts hundreds of tree species from around the world, covering a total of 120 hectares. You don’t always have to travel to the US to marvel at a giant sequoia! Six colour-coded hiking trails lead tree lovers through the impressive woodlands.

Josaphat park, the green lung of Brussels’ Schaerbeek neighbourhood, offers 20 hectares of open lawns, mature trees and ponds with swans and ducks. With its petting zoo for children and a mini golf course, it’s a great place to while away a summer day.

Parc de Furfooz (c) WBT/Denis Closon

The Lesse valley nature reserve Parc de Furfooz near Dinant is a 50-hectare domain offering a 4km walk in varied terrain. Rock faces, caverns, riverbanks, meadows, forest and ancient roman baths reveal how the area has been inhabited since prehistoric times.

The buildings of Gaasbeek castle may be closed for renovation, but the lush surrounding park and remarkable fruit and vegetable gardens are very much open for exploration. Don’t miss the dairy opposite for the creamiest ice cream in town. De Lijn bus 142 from Brussels stops right at the door.

Parc de la Boverie (c) Isabelle Harsin

Liège’s Parc de la Boverie offers an urban escape: a riverside green space within the city. Ideal for families, it’s also home to art museum La Boverie. From the city’s Guillemins railway station, the park is easily accessible via the Belle Liégeoise cycle and walkway that crosses the Meuse.

The Kauwberg, unknown even to many Brussels natives, is a rather wild park, comprising an old sand quarry, meadows, woods and marshes. The locals have been fighting for decades against plans for golf courses and the like, successfully protecting its vegetable gardens, hilly paths and access to a great view over Brussels.

Meise (c) Plantentuin Meise

The Meise botanical gardens are not only home to millions of plant species, they’re also the place for cutting-edge biodiversity research, open-air art exhibitions, a barefoot experience trail, treasure hunt and “forest bathing” mindfulness sessions. Bring a picnic or refuel at the Orangery. Buses 250 and 251 from Brussels North stop right outside.

There’s an official “silent area” in countryside near Galmaarden, Geraardsbergen and Ninove (Flemish Brabant). Stiltegebied is defined as an area where the natural ambient noise of local fauna forms a distinctive soundscape. Explore the area and its resonant backdrop via various signposted routes.

Arboretum Wespelaar

Magnolias are but one of the horticultural jewels at Haacht’s Arboretum Wespelaar, one of the world’s finest gardens. The extensive parks and woods contain an exceptional collection of trees and shrubs. The site includes a visitor centre, cafe and terrace.

The area around Spa teems with woods and forests, ideal for walking and immersion in nature. Just 5km from the town is Domaine de Berinzenne, a parkland area with a museum devoted to the region’s local treasures: woodland and water.

Japanese Garden (c) Toerisme Hasselt

Hasselt’s sister city Itami, in Japan, is largely responsible for the largest Japanese garden in Europe. Its 2.5 hectares is just outside the city centre. Japanese cherry trees, a lake of koi, footbridges and many species of plants indigenous to the country await. It’s a wonderful way to while away a summer afternoon. There are guided tours every Sunday.

The Bon-Secours forest straddles the French border in Peruwelz, close to Tournai. The Maison du Parc visitor centre near the town’s basilica is a good starting point for exploring the ancient woodland, including a 16m raised walkway through treetops. The centre has information on signposted trails for walkers and a multimedia tour of wildlife and plants.

Leuven Botanical Garden

Many people don’t realise that Leuven is home to a spectacular botanical garden. In fact, it’s Belgium’s oldest, established in 1738. There’s a neoclassical orangery, tropical greenhouse, Japanese garden and herb garden. It’s just outside the historic city centre but feels a world away.

Den Battelaer is a flood plain between the Zenne and the Leuven-Dijle canal and is home to many plants and animals, including the bluethroat, reed warbler, gadwall and forget-me-nots. The freshwater mud flat called Zennegat is fed twice a day through a sluice in the dyke along the Dijle river, creating salt marshes, so the diversity of flora and fauna here is impressive. Take to the walking or cycling paths to see them, including migratory birds.

More from The Bulletin's summer travel guide

  1. Walk this way: Discover Belgium on foot
  2. Get your green fix at our favourite parks, woodlands and gardens
  3. Top spots for spectacular scenery
  4. The best culture this summer is outside
  5. Monuments and memorials to remember the fallen
  6. Delve into Belgium’s rich industrial past
  7. Local food at its finest
  8. Come on in, the water’s lovely
  9. The finest spots for a summer apero
  10. Big days out for all the family
  11. Seven cycling experiences to discover
  12. Top heritage sites for a fine day out
  13. Don't miss out this summer thanks to our agenda of events in Belgium
Written by The Bulletin