Enjoy a walk through Flanders’ parks and gardens
The botanical spectacles in Flanders are some of the finest and most colourful you’ll see anywhere in the world. Some are made by nature such as Zwin and the Hallerbos, while others have been carefully cultivated and nurtured over many years: Floralia, the Royal Greenhouses of Laeken and the National Botanic Garden of Belgium in Meise. Now is the time to get out and visit as many of these places as you can, as they aren’t open all year round.
Where the magic happens …
Is it ‘just’ another walk in the park? No … not in the Hallerbos. Every year there’s a magic purple carpet of bluebells that bursts across the forest floor. It’s a sight that you have to see at least once in your life. Download the free walking map or enjoy one of the many free walks with a nature guide. The forest itself is only about 9.3 miles (15 km) from the centre of Brussels and is easy to get to either by public transport or in a car.
A royal visit
It was the architect Alphonse Balat who designed the Royal Greenhouse complex in Laeken for King Leopold II’s impressive collection of rare and valuable plants. The largest building is the so-called ‘Iron Church’, which is a domed greenhouse that originally served as the royal chapel on the Laeken estate. Built between 1874 and 1895, the Royal Greenhouses – a short distance from the centre of Brussels – are open to the public for just three weeks in the year, from mid April to early May. A visit you won’t want to miss.
Floralia Brussels, in the park and greenhouses of the impressive castle of Groot-Bijgaarden, is a must-see for every nature and flower lover. Gaze in awe at the more than one million blooming bulbs that have been lovingly planted by the castle’s gardeners, and end your visit in style on the roof terrace where you’ll enjoy magnificent views of the Atomium and the city of Brussels. Only 6.2 miles (10 km) away from the city centre, Floralia Brussels is an unforgettable flower experience.
From orchid to oak
Another floral gem is the National Botanic Garden of Belgium in Meise, about 7.5 miles (12 km) from the Brussels city centre. This lush attraction is one of the largest botanical gardens in the world with a treasure trove of plants – more than 18,000 species – from all over the world. Every day you’ll see a new species flowering or bearing fruit, from orchids to oaks. Open from 27th March onwards.
An international bird airport
An all-weather location, the Zwin is a beautiful nature reserve at Knokke-Heist, on the Belgian coast. Thanks to the permanent influence of the salty water, Zwin is home to many species of migratory birds such as oystercatchers, herons and storks – so many in fact that the area is dubbed an ‘international bird airport’. The new landmark Visitor Centre features a stunning 360˚ panoramic view of the park. Visit the area on foot or by bike. Access is free to more than 540 acres (220 hectares) of dunes, lakes and meadows.
Flowering magnolias and cherries
The Arboretum in Kalmthout (about 18.6 miles (30 km) from Antwerp) is a unique site with over 7,000 different varieties of plants from all over the world. Enjoy the site of flowering magnolias and cherries in spring or come back in autumn to see the maples ablaze with colour. Open from January onwards.
Story created on 24 April 2017