- Daily & Weekly newsletters
- Buy & download The Bulletin
- Comment on our articles
Peace and quiet: Last-minute winter getaways in Belgium
For those who yearn for a back-to-basics experience with no compromise on comfort, there’s a huge choice of wilderness cabins at the woodland Cabanes de Rensiwez in Houffalize by the river Ourthe in the Belgian Ardennes. The secluded log hideouts feature rustic interiors, wood burners, hot tubs and some even a sauna or Nordic bath. If the riverside or hillside options don’t appeal, there’s a stylish hotel and gîtes in the main building, a former waterside mill. Visitors appreciate the natural setting and outdoor adventure, from hikes and fishing to cycling and kayaking. Hibernate to your heart’s desire thanks to a breakfast service and meal hampers.
As its name suggests, the Ne5t hotel is a peaceful hideaway, in a prime residential area neighbouring Namur’s citadel. This lovingly restored farmhouse has been transformed into a luxury hotel and spa by a local restaurateur and his wife. The four suites and two duplexes are individually decorated, with a living room, restaurant, indoor and outdoor pools and spa completing the accommodation. Explore the 2,000-year-old historic fortress and its numerous tourist activities, while basking at night in its brand-new, high-tech lighting system. Alternatively, descend into town; the picturesque pedestrian centre never fails to charm.
Dreaming of Africa? Escape to La Cabane du Bois Dormant, a tree house resembling an African hut, for an authentic back-to-nature experience in Spa. Climb a wooden ladder to the spacious forest retreat, where the only sound is the rustle of leaves and the trilling of birdsong. The accommodation consists of a combined living and bedroom, bathroom and terrace, while modern comforts stretch to a TV and wifi. No need to abandon your eyrie in the morning, as breakfast is hoisted up in a basket. In addition to squirrel-watching, there are plenty of activities in the area, including hiking in the High Fens national park, golf, cross-country skiing and cycling.
Winter or summer, the gorgeous Pronkenburg B&B in the West Flemish countryside is a winner. There’s a lovely garden with a hot tub and stable of horses, but the rooms are so captivating, you’ll be perfectly happy lounging around indoors. Each of the four rooms has a theme – the Indian Room bathes Eastern-inspired furniture in rich reds and oranges, while the sea-blue Moroccan room offers tea sets and hookahs. Opt for Under the Roof for the most privacy and impressive beams. Your friendly hosts speak perfect English, serve a hearty breakfast and keep the fireplace in the main sitting room roaring. And you’re on the outskirts of Lissewege, an adorable village with whitewashed houses, a 13th-century church and superb eateries.
One is quite literally forced to relax in Boetfort, a sauna incorporated into castle grounds, in Melsbroek just outside Brussels. It’s complete with a hotel and restaurant in the 400-year-old castle and a little woodland for taking the air. There are several themed saunas of differing temperatures, a warm outdoor swimming pool, infrared lights, a steam room and jacuzzis – one in the centre of the pool. A path through the forest leads to the relaxation room, where futons and blankets await. For those a bit too shy for the, erm, full sauna experience, Boetfort is one of the few saunas in Flanders to offer full separate facilities to people wearing bathing suits.
Antwerp’s waterfront is your terrace when you stay on the Marjorie II, an elegant three-masted sailing ship docked right in front of the striking MAS museum. Run by a fifth-generation seafaring family, it only sails down the river for events, but you can book one of its 12 rooms anytime. They are, as you might expect, ship-shape, and overnight stays come with breakfast. For extra luxury, ask for the one with the jacuzzi. Head to the deck for enviable views of the river and Antwerp’s historical dock area. You’re also a stone’s throw from a number of restaurants, bars and shops.
Dharma City in Namur province is an unexpected rural gem. Opened in 2007, the Tibetan Buddhist centre is a renovated farmhouse that has been transformed into a multi-purpose space, including a garden and terrace. It houses an international study and retreat area and hosts numerous activities as well as a thriving B&B, organic food store, vegetarian restaurant and tea house. Tempting treats range from Tibetan specialities, to home-made pasta and desserts, plus an extensive menu of exotic teas. Situated in the little-known region between the Sambre and Meuse rivers (half-way between Namur and Charleroi), Dharma is staffed by a multilingual and friendly team. A varied clientele includes racing enthusiasts from the nearby Mettet motor track. Rooms from €55.
Hidden away in a forested valley, the Moulin Hideux is a historic hotel boasting a one-Michelin-star restaurant. Since 1947, the 17th-century manor house and former mill, has been a family-run business. Located in the province of Luxembourg, near the ancient town on Bouillon, an indoor swimming pool and spa facilities have transformed it into a luxury retreat. Switch off from the outside world as the remote setting means there is no mobile telephone service and wifi is only available in the reception and lounge area. Keen anglers can fish trout in the river Semois, while hikers have immediate access to the surrounding hills from the hotel’s beautifully tended gardens. At the first Relais & Chateau property in Belgium, you can enjoy regional cuisine and local game in particular under the stewardship of chef-owner Julien Lahir. Luxury rooms from €205; packages available.