If you like adventure and you like castles the Flemish province of Brabant, at the gateway to Brussels, will astonish you with its exquisitely preserved natural beauty and historic cities.
The forêt de Soignes (Sonian Forest)
When we learn that the Sonian Forest covers almost 5,000 hectares, it’s understandable why it’s nicknamed the green heart of Brussels. On the edge of the city, it is easily accessible to residents and tourists alike who want to escape for a few hours into nature.
The Forêt de Soignes owes its allure to the majestic beech trees that populate it. Upon entering the ‘beech cathedral’, you can follow a number of meandering walks.
If you feel you have the courage, try, for example, the "green walk" – coming in at over 60 km! At the heart of the forest, it is not unusual to see walkers, cyclists, horse riders and even fishermen.
You may also have the chance to meet one of the 46 species of mammals which inhabit the forest. The Arboretum in Tervueren is also a marvellous place for a stroll and you can, when tired of green, visit the Musée Royale de l'Afrique Central (Royal Museum for Central Africa).
So, you like castles? Make sure you head to the south of Brussels…
The Castle of Beersel
One of the rare examples of military architecture of the Middle Ages. Built in 1300, it was considered a defense post in the bid to protect Brussels.
Since 1948, the castle has been owned by the Royal Association of Historic Houses and Gardens of Belgium. Work has been started by the municipality of Beersel to safely accommodate the many visitors.
Don’t forget a photo on the drawbridge!
Details: E19 Brussels-Mons, exit number 14-Beersel-Lot.
The Castle of Gasbeek
This is the last vestige of the old manor of Gaasbeek founded by the Duke of Brabant in 1236. It was not until the 13th century the first fortress was built to protect the invaders from Brabant in Flanders and Hainaut. It was destroyed in 1388 and it took two centuries before its reconstruction.
The last occupant of the Castle, the Marquise Arconati Visconti, undertook major restoration work and decided to turn this castle a museum. In 1921, having no heirs, she donated the castle and its contents to the Belgian State.
The museum opened its doors to the public in 1924. Since 2004, a new wing was opened to show the bathroom, the bedroom and the red room of the Marquise.
Details: from Ghent, Antwerp, Brussels, on the outside Brussels Ring, take exit 15A, towards Vlezenbeek
If you enjoy historic cities, a visit to Leuven is a must!
The capital district of the province of Flemish Brabant offers a multitude of possibilities. Did you know that it is primarily a university town?
In 1425, Pope Martin V authorized the establishment of a new university which now enables the Catholic University of Leuven to claim the status of one of the oldest Catholic universities in the world (including the oldest of Flanders and the Netherlands).
If you prefer something more relaxed, you can visit museums, churches and abbeys, but also take a stroll in the heart of beautiful parks and gardens of this lovely city.
Good to know: when visiting the city, do not miss the Grote Markt, City Hall, the Naamsesstraat and the Grand Beguinage.