Castles and Gardens

Kasteel Gaasbeek
Opulent palaces, sturdy fortresses, historic castles and country estates, located along Flemish waterways, looking out over green nature reserves or guarding our cultural city centres: when you visit Flanders, you simply can’t miss its wealth of castle estates. Every visit to these places, bursting with history and tales of venerable families, historical places and thriving communities, is unique and speaks to the imagination. Many of these castles also have stunning gardens that you can roam about in to your heart’s content.

Castles along the River Scheldt

Few regions can boast such a density of castle estates as Flanders. They are easy to reach from the Flemish cities by following the region’s innumerable hiking trails and cycling routes run along or through the castle estates of Flanders.

A prime example of this is Ghent’s Castle of the Counts: a stately base camp for exploring the Scheldt Valley and discovering the unique network of castles along the River Scheldt between Ghent and Antwerp.

Gravensteen Ghent

Inspiration for our Flemish Masters

Castles and their often fairy-tale surroundings appeal to our imagination, and actually have for centuries. Their surroundings and spirit of the times were a source of inspiration to their inhabitants and visitors – and also to our Flemish Masters. Across castle moats, behind thick walls, in elegant tower rooms or dusky dungeons you will find many hidden artistic gems. These places were perfect incubators for the arts to flourish.

  • In the 15th century, the wealthy merchant Joos Vijd and his wife Elisabeth Borluut were the distinguished inhabitants of Cortewalle Castle, a moated castle situated in the heart of Beveren, in between Ghent and Antwerp. The couple were the patrons of the Ghent Altarpiece, the world-famous painting by the Van Eyck brothers. The original castle was once visible on the polyptych, but unfortunately disappeared during a restoration.
  • Arenberg Castle in Leuven is currently owned by KU Leuven. It harbours the valuable art collection of the Arenberg family, including a work by the Antwerp portrait painter Anthony van Dyck. His teacher? Peter Paul Rubens.
  • The history of the Bornem castle estate dates back to more than 1,000 years. Its current owner, Count John II de Marnix de Sainte Aldegonde, has opened the castle to the public. Here, you can marvel at historic paintings, opulently painted ceilings and a unique collection of engravings by Flemish Master Pieter Bruegel the Elder.
Bornem castle

Unique castle experiences

Quite a few Flemish castles offer unique experiences. How about spending the night in a castle, or its carriage house? Or sleeping in a tent perched in a tree, offering phenomenal views of the castle grounds? Why not enjoy a sumptuous meal within the castle walls, or in the gardens? Experience the castle. Breathe in its atmosphere.

Let yourself be intrigued by the soul of the place and the elusive essence of an extraordinary location.

  • The d’Ursel Castle in Hingene offers overnight accommodations in the former painting studio of the Duchess d’Ursel. The castle’s country estate is located just a little farther away: the De Notelaer Pavilion, where you can dig into a slice of the famous Notelaere pie. During the summer months you can also spend the night in the trees, as it were, of the beautiful park domain. A unique experience!  
  • The Castle of Ordingen is a 19th-century country estate with a world-class hotel. It was even awarded five stars, making it the fourth hotel in Flanders that can boast such an accomplishment.
  • A mere stone’s throw from Ghent lies the elegant, stately Castle Ooidonk. You can spend the night here in one of the deluxe guest rooms of this fairy-tale oasis of tranquillity. You will be welcomed there by the count himself and you can stay overnight in one of the luxurious guest rooms.
The Castle of Ordingen

Nature with a crown

The largest number by far of all Flemish castle estates are situated in a rural, wooded environment and often have beautiful parks. Several of these literally open the gates to stunning nature reserves. Some castles are surrounded by elegant botanical gardens. Many of them open their estates to the public during special garden days, to celebrate the beauty of their flowers.

  • The Meise Botanic Garden is an expansive garden located just outside Brussels. Nestled in a 92-hectare estate with 18,000 varieties of plants and trees from all corners of the globe, you will find Bouchout Castle. Apart from exhibitions, the castle has a roof garden with stunning views over the estate. Don’t forget to visit the castle gardens, which offer a contemporary take on the classic French style.
  • The Grand Commandery of Alden Biesen is situated in the heart of hilly Haspengouw. Eight centuries ago, it was founded by the knights of the German Order, a religious order of armed knights whose calling was to protect pilgrims on their way to the Holy Land. The Commandery later became a meeting place for noblemen and diplomats. Today, Alden Biesen is one of the largest castle estates, featuring historic buildings and beautiful parks, gardens and orchards.
  • Every year, Groot-Bijgaarden Castle opens its gates for Floralia Brussels. More than a million flower bulbs of no less than 400 varieties are planted by hand for this open-air flower exhibition.
Botanic Garden Meise Kasteel van Bouchout ©Plantentuin Meise

Brochure: Visit the most beautiful castles in Flanders

When you visit the Flemish countryside, you simply can’t miss the numerous castle domains. These estates, many of which are centuries old, have an abundance of stories to tell: about venerable families, historic places and flourishing communities. In this brochure you will find a great deal of inspiration for your next visit to one of Flanders’ castle domains. It also provides information about hiking and cycling routes in the vicinity. 

Flanders Naturally

It starts with 67 kilometres of sandy beaches along the North Sea coast with its Zwin nature reserve, a paradise for migratory birds, and continues across the broad Kalmthout Heath right by Antwerp, along Hoge Kempen National Park in Limburg, through the natural desert landscape of the Lommel Sahara to the primeval Sonian Forest’s UNESCO-recognised protected areas just outside Brussels. And there’s even more in between.

Nationaal_Park_Hoge_Kempen © Peter Baas