Castles Route

Kastelenroute Pajottenland (c) Kris Jacobs
Cycle through the hilly Pajottenland in the green belt around Brussels. This route takes you past stately castles such as Gaasbeek Castle. A bonus for beer lovers: this region is the cradle of lambic and geuze.

Castles Route



Kastelenroute Pajottenland (c) Kris Jacobs

Start: Pepingen

For lovers of Belgium’s famous beers, the Pajottenland is bound to sound familiar. This region in the green belt around Brussels is the cradle of lambic and geuze beers. Made only here, these slightly sour, complex and eternally effervescent beers are world-class. But this rolling region has more aces up its sleeve. Scattered across the landscape, there are a number of beautiful castles. 

We look for them today, starting out from the town of Pepingen. Via a pleasant road through the greenery, we survive the first calf attack of the day. From there, we weave our way to our first stop of this adventure: Ter Rijst Castle. Built in around 1775, this classicist gem is set in a beautiful, wooded domain of 50 hectares. The castle park is modelled on English garden architecture. There is a long footpath that takes you through the greenery. 

Kastelenroute Pajottenland (c) Kris Jacobs

The contours of the Pajottenland

After this beautiful first beautiful stop, we move on. We cycle through the rolling countryside with fields and greenery. Here and there, the road narrows and rises treacherously. Then it meanders erratically downhill again. ‘It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best,’ Ernest Hemingway once said. Anyone cycling through Pajottenland would agree with that.  

Near Oetingen, we cycle past Heetvelde Castle, a moated castle on the border with East Flanders. A short climb further, we reach our second stop: the white Desert Chapel. This historic Chapel of the Holy Cross lies on the pilgrimage route to Compostella. It is also an idyllic spot to take a rest. Those who already feel a bit thirsty can quench it at Den Haas. This authentic people’s pub has been around since 1871 and is just a stone’s throw from here. A place definitely worth a visit, but too soon for us. We continue to pedal on. 

Kastelenroute Pajottenland (c) Kris Jacobs

Highlights in Gaasbeek

At about the halfway point of our journey, we pass Saffelberg Castle. This handsome château has a certain eclectic style, the form it took after a renovation in the early 20th century. Today, this castle is privately owned. You can only admire it from a distance. 

But we will not let that get to us. We cycle on happily to the next highlight. Ten relatively quiet kilometres later, we reach it. We arrive at Gaasbeek Castle, a place that holds eight centuries of history. A castle was first built here in the early 1200s. Over the centuries, it was destroyed and then rebuilt on numerous occasions. And so the castle has had an almost organic evolution. From a medieval defensive castle to the romantic residence it is today. 

By the way, you can visit this gem and that is certainly worthwhile. Inside the castle walls, discover the beautiful interior and an enormous art collection: exquisite paintings and precious metalwork, furniture and carpets, stained-glass windows, sculptures and so much more. The castle is surrounded by a beautiful park with a 17th entry pleasure pavilion and a triumphal arch in honour of Napoleon. On the other side of the road, you can then admire Groenenberg castle and park. Or perhaps just enjoy an ice cream at Gaasbeek’s Krijmerie

Kastelenroute Pajottenland (c) Kris Jacobs

Finish: Pepingen

After this imposing stop, we hit the road again. A nice undulating course and a final heritage stop await us. And that goes by the name Coloma, a grand castle with an impressive domain that first saw the light of day in the 16th century. In the shadow of the castle, we come across an even more impressive scene, if that is possible: the largest rose garden in Europe. It covers 15 hectares, within which you can find as many as 3,000 varieties of rose.. 

After this romantic scene, we come to the finale of our cycling adventure. For a little while longer, we pedal on through the beautiful vistas of the Pajottenland. Tired but satisfied, we arrive at our finishing point in Pepingen. Here, we lock our bikes and set out in search of a pub terrace. We deserve a delicious glass of geuze.  



Practical information

  • Parken:
    Parking town hall Pepingen (Ninoofsesteenweg 116 - 1670 Pepingen) 
    Gaasbeek Castle car park 
  • Public transport: 
    Halle railway station (about 7 km from the starting point) 
    Lot railway station (about 2.5 km from Coloma Castle) 
  • Bicycles for hire:  
    Cycling ‘De Spaak’, Rustinneke 
  • Nodes: 
    65 – 64 – 90 – 54 – 28 – 56 – 57 – 58 – 59 – 52 – 49 – 51 – 61 – 37 – 38 – 83 – 82 – 63 – 62 – 67 – 65