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Park life: Brussels' parks are overflowing with activities this summer
With more than 8,000 hectares of green space, Brussels is one of the greenest capitals in Europe. The city’s many parks range from well-kept, fenced green oases such as Tenbosch to the wilder Sonian forest, where you can even spot the occasional deer. Sometimes organised by the city and its communes, sometimes by motivated citizens themselves, all of them are brought to life by concerts, food festivals, yoga classes and more, making for a great escape from the concrete jungle during the sunny season. We selected our favourite things to do in the city’s parks this summer.
Nobody wants to spend warm summer nights in a stuffy club. Luckily, the concert programme in Brussels’ parks couldn’t be more varied. The Royal Park in the city centre, the home of community radio Kiosk, welcomes party series from Electronic Garden and Piknik Electronik to Brüxsel Jardin, which also regularly take over other parks in the city. A definite highlight is the Feeërieën festival organised by renowned local venue Ancienne Belgique.
Brussels’ green oases are always a great spot for a stroll away from the hustle and bustle of the city. If you want to discover more than just the park around the corner, download the Brussels Gardens app, which lets you easily explore all of the capital’s parks and green spaces. Those who prefer the old-school way can book a guided tour provided by the Eco Advice Service, which from March to October offers two-hour walks through parks, allowing participants to get to know the richness of their biodiversity as well as their historic heritage.
Eat & drink
In the past you had to make sure to pack a picnic when making a trip to the park. But with guinguette culture having taken the city by storm in recent years, this is no longer the case. Brussels’ green spaces now teem with the little wooden stalls offering not only refreshments and snacks but also copious brunches, like at Woodpecker Royal in the Royal Park. Another great way to satisfy your taste buds surrounded by lush greenery are a number of one-off events such as the Indian festival at Cinquantenaire (27-28 July) and the Galinette food market run by Parckfarm non-profit at Tour & Taxis.
Theatre & cinema
For the 17th summer running, Théâtre Royal Les Coeurs de Bois is setting up an outdoor puppet theatre in the Royal Park, with marionettes handcrafted in Brussels workshops. The shows for both kids and parents following the adventures of Guignolet run from Wednesdays to Sundays. In the city centre, theatre fans can enjoy the Nomad theatre festival, which over the course of four days in August will be a veritable village of tents, caravans and open-air stages.
With its more than 5,000 hectares of green space, the Sonian forest is ideal for cycling. While those who want to ride on their own can download cycling routes through the woods via RouteYou, bikers with a preference for group activities can join the tours provided by Pro Velo from April to October. The forest is also a perfect practice ground for mountain biking; the Forest Gym in La Hulpe offers guided tours.
Traditionally, yoga and tai chi have always been practised under the open sky. What better place to learn how to balance mind, body and the world around us than in nature? Accordingly, the increasingly popular healing and stress-relieving practices are being taught in parks all around Brussels this summer. Every Tuesday evening and Sunday morning, for instance, Slovakian yoga lover Eva teaches Vinyasa flow yoga in Forest Park near the local guinguette. Classes are open to everyone without registration and focus on relaxation after a busy day. Regular outdoor yoga classes are also taught in Cinquantenaire, every Tuesday nd Thursday, with updates posted on the Yoga at the Park Facebook page.
Whether you’re alone or in a group, the capital’s parks are full of possibilities for sports activities. For informal meetings with friends, the beach volleyball field in Forest Park is a great choice, as is the petanque court in Ixelles’ Tenbosch for a bit of French savoir-vivre. Additionally, the city has installed fitness machines along recreational trails in various parks, from Bois de la Cambre to Verregat in Laeken and t’Oogenblik in Haren. Bois de la Cambre is fantastic for joggers, which is why the Run for Fit group meets there, as well as in Cinquantenaire. Those who prefer to train alone should check out the Belgium Running app, which finds you personalised running routes, counts burnt calories and more. And Friskis & Svettis, a non-profit exercise organisation of Swedish origin hosts free fitness sessions in Cinquantenaire in July and August.
La Guinguette du Parc de Forest regularly hosts events tailored to children, and the giant sandpit in front makes it a great kid-friendly place to hang out. Summer is also a great time to visit the Maximilien nature and animal park, a pleasant surprise in the middle of the city centre. Here, children can learn about animals, agriculture and nature all at the same time.
This article first appeared in ING Expat Time