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Winter in Wallonia: Seasonal activities, from fine food and drink to fun outdoors
One of the joys of winter is tucking into warming dishes with friends and families. With such a rich terroir, Wallonia’s generous cuisine never fails to please. When the temperatures drop, nothing beats raclette. One original concept is Le Chariot à fondue, a year-round activity by Ardenne Trait Gourmande in Luxembourg province. For the ultimate in meals on wheels, select a menu from a range of seasonal and local produce and choose your route: beer, wine, storytelling, museum or show and hit the high road in these Ardennes shire horse and cart trips. For more of an alpine experience, enjoy your raclette at Namur winter pop-up restaurant Le Chalet with its log fires and festive decor (pictured below). Open daily, with all-in menus until 19 January, on the outskirts of the city in Erpent for hassle-free parking.
Winter is a perfect time to sample some of the region’s seasonal beers. Wallonia’s breweries serve up a selection for the festive period, specially brewed in August and September. Grab yourself a glass of Christmas cheer with one of these suggestions, flavoured with cinnamon, cloves, orange peel and vanilla. Be warned: they are usually pretty strong at 9-11% ABV. Look out for seasonal offerings from these brewers: Dubuisson, Dupont, Brasserie des Carrières, Lupulus, De Ranke, Saint-Feuillien, l’Abbaye des Rocs, Val de Sambre, Brasserie des Fagnes, Bertinchamps and Minne.
The region’s Christmas villages are an annual attraction with their twinkly lights, vats of mulled wine, chalets plying warming hearty fare and seasonal gifts. The Christmas Village in Liège (pictured above) is the largest in Belgium and has a German flavour, while Durbuy adopts an artisanal theme. The pretty town also features an ice skating rink, as do many of the city markets. Animal park Pairi Daiza opens during the holidays and apart from its star attraction – twin baby pandas – it’s drawing crowds with the largest floating ice skating rink in Europe. From 14 December to 5 January, the 1,500m2 rink gives visitors the chance to take to the lake for a magical winter experience. Made entirely of recycled materials, the eco-friendly facility is one of the park’s many seasonal attractions.
Thanks to its undulating hills, Wallonia has eight ski centres, in the Ardennes and the Hautes Fagnes in East Belgium (pictured above). When snow falls, the downhill resorts include Baraque de Fraiture, which has an altitude of 652m, while the longest is a 1,000m red run at Mont des Brumes, near Francorchamps, with four lifts. Many offer cross-country trails, toboggan descents and plenty of walking possibilities. At Saint-Hubert in Luxembourg province, there are also dog sled tours and snow kite facilities. The Hautes Fagnes nature park, near the German border, is a boggy terrain criss-crossed with boardwalks. As well as signposted walks, it’s possible to rent bikes and scooters. The Botrange visitor centre in Waimes supplies maps and information and there’s a warming circular fireplace.
Escape the cold
Water park Aqualibi – part of the Walibi theme park near Wavre – is a popular year-round destination. Less well-known is the subtropical swimming pool Aqua Mundo at the Center Parcs Les Ardennes site in Vielsalm. A large toboggan, jacuzzi, wave machine and heated outside pool with terrace are additional attractions. The Ice Mountain Adventure Park in Comines-Warneton enables skiers to descend its indoor slopes, whatever the weather. Its other activities include paintballing, laser gaming, aerial climbing and indoor freefall skydiving. There are two restaurants including a rustic wooden chalet with open fires and specialities from the Savoy region of France, open to all. To really warm you up, Wallonia is home to numerous countryside spas and hotel facilities, including Les Thermes de Spa (pictured above) in the town that gave its name to the relaxing and rejuvenating concept. Chaudfontaine’s Château des Thermes is another; a haven for luxury pampering.
More information from wallonibelgiumtourisme.co.uk
This article first appeared in the 2019/2020 winter issue of the Wab magazine