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Summer staycation in Belgium: Malmedy and the Hautes Fagnes
The pretty Liège province town of Malmedy in East Belgium is surrounded by undulating countryside, dotted with attractive stone towns and villages. The terrain lends itself to biking and hiking and electric bikes can be rented from the town’s tourist office. Local gourmet specialities include cordials, jams, liqueurs, cheese and game.
It’s an ideal stepping off point for the Hautes Fagnes, the oldest nature park in the country. Straddling the border with Germany, the unique reserve is filled with diverse landscapes, from hilly woodlands to open areas of peatland, and includes the highest point in Belgium, the Signal de Botrange at 694 metres. Historically, the area was an important commercial route, and it has been ruled by various countries over the centuries. Today, it is ideal for walking, biking and skiing, with nearby areas of interest including the towns of Eupen and Stavelot, as well as the Robertville lake and castle at Reinhardstein.
Malmedy boasts an elegant cathedral and the beautiful Malmundarium (pictured, above) a former Benedictine monastery that is now home to an interactive folk and craft museum. Reinhardstein castle, towering over the residents of tiny Ovifat, was built in the 14th century and completely renovated in the 1960s. Guided tours offer a glimpse of history. In nearby Stavelot, the unique spaces of a renovated abbey are home to a historical museum, the Spa-Francorchamps Racetrack Museum and a museum dedicated to French poet Guillaume Apollinaire, who spent many a summer here in his youth.
A walk through the Hautes Fagnes-Eifel Nature Park is made easy with wooden boardwalks that criss-cross the boggy terrain. Get started at the Botrange visitor centre in Waimes, which can help you out with maps and information (pictured, above). It also hosts a permanent exhibition on the park, rents bicycles and scooters and is home to a massive circular fireplace for warming up in the winter. But visitors can also just head out on their own on one of many signposted walks. Ranging from 3 to 25km, there are dozens to choose from, with some that cross the German border and some recommended for children. For those who like to move a little faster, there are a number of cycle paths, and there’s no better place to ski in Belgium with centres at Malmedy, Eupen and Waimes.
Sleep & eat
Highly recommended is the Hotel des Bains & Wellness (pictured, above) on Lake Robertville at the foot of the nature park. And when in Eupen, don’t hesitate to have lunch or dinner at Arti’Choc, known for its upscale handling of traditional Belgian dishes. The boutique spa hotel Daft in Malmedy offers exceptional valley views and for those who prefer a closer to nature experience, tents are set up in the large garden.