A camera, a pair of walking shoes and a generous helping of wonderment. You don’t need any more than that to discover Flanders because this region is packed with unique sights, many of them breathtakingly beautiful. Curious? Check out our suggestions for where to find some of the best views of Flanders.
The port city of Antwerp is a cool and edgy metropolis, a city that lives at a hundred miles an hour. Fortunately, there’s also room for a bit of rest and relaxation. For this, it’s best to make your way to the Linkeroever, with a camera or smartphone at the ready. At the city’s Saint Anna Beach, you’ll come across die-hard sun-worshippers, with the phenomenal skyline of Antwerp in the background. The Cathedral of Our Lady and the Boerentoren or Farmers’ Tower – Europe’s very first skyscrapers – are the eye-catching sights in that view. You can reach the Linkeroever via the magnificent St Anna’s Tunnel for cyclists and pedestrians which runs under the Scheldt river. The tunnel itself, with its rustic porcelain tiles and authentic wooden escalators from 1933, is also well worth a photograph.
Flanders is home to a nature park nicknamed the international airport for migratory birds. Het Zwin is a must-see for every photographer (whether amateur or professional) and/or ornithologist. In addition to the above-mentioned birds, experienced nature lovers can also spot tree frogs, marsh rabbits and other animals. The stork breeding station is another perfect location for nature photography. Even without animals, Het Zwin is more than worth the effort: the rolling dunes, mud flats and salt marshes, the coastline and especially the focal point where the horizon and the North Sea merge.
You’ll find paradise on earth in the Hallerbos, which is located about 12.5 miles (20 km) away from Brussels. Every year in April, a myriad of bluebells bloom in this magical forest, creating a violet and periwinkle flower carpet. When the sun sets between the trees, the magic becomes even more magnificent. What’s more, you can only experience this unique spectacle in the Hallerbos, and only for three weeks every year. Nowhere else in the world does the wood hyacinth bloom as exuberantly. It’s a spectacle that deserves to be on every photographer’s bucket list.
A tribute to Limburg’s mining past and the main gateway to the Hoge Kempen National Park. That’s Connecterra. The nature park offers you and your camera a dazzling landscape of mountains and lakes, mind-blowing panoramas that are worth writing home about. On top of that, there are the mining spoil piles and headframes that look like spacecraft have fallen onto the rolling plains of Limburg. Indeed, 30 years ago, Connecterra was a coal mining site. After it closed, the soil was decontaminated and nature was left to its own devices. For action photographers, the terrain is blessed with a spectacular downhill route perfect for mountain biking.
Cyclists shiver and shake when they think of the bone rattling cobbled climb known as the Koppenberg – but photographers drool. From the top of this iconic location, you can take one stunning panorama after another. The Koppenberg gives you an fantastic view of the Flemish Ardennes, where every year the Tour of Flanders is fought: rolling fields, vast meadows, a picturesque forest and – in the distance – charming Flemish villages. It’s a unique sight, and with a little luck, a panting cyclist might come tearing past and make your photo picture perfect.
In the middle of a large, bright green pine forest, you suddenly find yourself in the heart of a desert landscape: this is the Lommel Sahara. This is a unique phenomenon, and remarkably enough it’s thanks to pollution. In bygone days, there was a zinc factory here, which caused the vegetation around it to disappear in one fell swoop. The result is a barren landscape covered by a layer of white sand. To prevent that surface from expanding, a brand-new pine forest was planted. Today, Limburgers would have it no other way. And just to give it more of a fairy-tale character, you’ll also find a small azure blue lake there (no, it’s not a mirage)!
Brussels is the beating heart of Europe. While it’s fantastic to walk through it, it’s just as beautiful to look at from afar. So, be sure to make your way to Forest Park. The S-shaped, undulating park is the size of about 26 football pitches, and was laid out in 1882 for the very reason of giving a beautiful view of the city – something it has definitely achieved. If you’re dreaming of the perfect panorama of Brussels there’s only one place you need to visit.
Parc du Cinquantenaire
From one urban park to another: the Parc du Cinquantenaire in Brussels. Here, it is mainly the park itself that is worth the effort. For well over a century it has been an exhibition park filled with museums and a host of cultural pearls. For example, you’ll find the Royal Museums of Art and History there, with thousands of works of art and historical objects. You’ll also find the Great Mosque of Brussels there, and throughout the park you will come across numerous pavilions, sculptures and works of art, such as the pavilion of Human Passions, built to a design by the famous architect Victor Horta.
Discover nature in Flanders
It starts with 67 kilometres of sandy beaches along the North Sea coast with its Zwin nature reserve, a paradise for migratory bird. 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.