Flanders: where art and nature meet

Beaufort © Westtoer

Some have an insatiable appetite for contemporary art, while others long to experience unspoilt nature. But in Flanders you don’t have to choose, because they both go hand in hand: artistic gems in a beautiful natural setting.

Animalinas - (c) Stad Mechelen

Creatures of all kinds

The Natuurpark Rivierenland nature park on the outskirts of Mechelen has a great deal to offer. This 1,500-hectare domain is a prime example of unspoilt nature. Together with a charming network of babbling brooks in valleys, the Dijle, Zenne, Rupel and Nete rivers form an impressive and varied river landscape. And there is room for art as well. Street artist Dzia paints the various inhabitants of Rivierenland. The graffiti wizard paints portraits of storks, kingfishers, Galloway cattle, beavers and other creatures on the walls of this domain, under the name Animalinas. This makes Rivierenland a dream backdrop for a picturesque cycling tour of nature and art, some 35 kilometres long.

Fietsen door de bomen

Cycling, but not as you know it

The province of Limburg has a wealth of nature that is like no other: glorious green everywhere you look. The very environment feels like a work of art. And on top of that, there are two more unique, innovative experiences. Cycling through the Trees feels like being part of an artistic performance. This stunning cycle bridge takes you to the tops of the trees in Bosland. A breath-taking view that has an equal approximately 30 kilometres further on, in Cycling through Water. This unique cycle path takes you straight through an enormous pond. In the centre of the path, the water comes up to eye level on both sides, and you feel as though you have become part of the pond. It’s a work of art in itself.

Reading between the lines

A food plain that will move you

The Polders in Kruibeke, just a stone’s throw from the trendy metropolis of Antwerp, is the largest flood plain in Flanders. But not to worry; only rarely do you get really wet feet. In the midst of all these fauna and flora, you will also encounter two beautiful and very moving works of art. “Cosmogolem”, for example, a creation by the conceptual artist Koen Vanmechelen. This metres-high wooden giant symbolises hope and belief in the future. Through a hatch at the heart of these giants, children can express their wishes and dreams. And then there is “Arcade” by the art and architecture collective Gijs Van Vaerenbergh. This stylised series of arches depicts the old connection between village and polders. A subtle masterpiece that has a second cousin elsewhere in Flanders: this collective also created Reading Between the Lines, a see-through church in the fields in Limburg that will give you goosebumps at sunset.


Art on the coast

Flanders has a coast of unrivalled beauty that is 67 kilometres in length. And ever since the first edition of the Beaufort Triennial in 2003, that beauty has increased even further. Every three years, this contemporary art event takes place there. Fascinating works of art appear everywhere along dykes, beaches and dunes. After each edition, a handful of works are given a permanent place along the coast. Today, the Beaufort Sculpture Park permanently displays 30 works of art from previous Beaufort editions. A wonderful heritage that gives the coast that extra little cachet.

There’s an old Flemish saying: “kiezen is verliezen” (choosing is losing). Well, there’s no need to make a choice here. Instead of choosing between artistic highlights and unspoilt nature, why not have both? Come to Flanders and let yourself be overwhelmed by a heady blend of the two.

Beaufort © Westtoer

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