Parks in Belgium !
Here’s a small selection of what’s available around Brussels. All of these places can be reached in an hour or less, yet they couldn’t feel further away from the capital’s bustle and grime. Don’t forget to pack enough changes of clothes, picnics and snacks (although refreshments can usually be bought on site) and – yes! – hats and sun cream.
Located near Beersel on the edge of Flemish Brabant, the Provinciedomein Huizingen is a rolling estate spread out around a castle and attendant pond on which small row boats can be hired. There’s also an outdoor pool, inviting footpaths, a lovely picnic meadow surrounded by trees, friendly goats and ostriches and more eateries and playgrounds than you might wish for.
Kessel-Lo, outside Leuven, is very similar and possibly a little less crowded, with swimming and boating facilities, elaborate wooden structures for wannabe acrobats to climb on, and a small army of cute farm animals.
Clean air and birdsong beckon at the Domaine de Chevetogne, an uncluttered and beautifully-landscaped park that’s well worth the drive into Namur province. Make a day of it, starting with a stroll in the forest, then stopping at one of the many playgrounds and taking a dip in the renovated pool. Reward tired limbs with a leisurely tour in a horse-dawn carriage. Overnight stays are possible in pretty wooden huts or a hotel.
Those after bigger thrills should head towards Wavre to Walibi, Belgium’s modest but fun-packed answer to Disneyland, which has dozens of attractions and rides for all ages. Over near the Flemish coast, Plopsaland, has giant floating ducks, spinning teacups, head-spinning roller-coasters and an old-fashioned carrousel.
For a vicarious trip to distant lands, try one of Belgium’s three zoos. The oldest of these, in Antwerp, boasts grand colonial architecture and is conveniently located a stone’s throw from the Central Station (www.zooantwerpen.be). Lions and elephants roam around in semi-freedom at Planckendael, near Mechelen, while Pairi Daiza, close to the French border, spans the five continents, complete with temples, pyramids and a Japanese zen garden.
Still, we at Little Explorer believe that there’s no family outing like an old-fashioned walk in the woods. The ones near Halle in Flemish Brabant look particularly magical from late April to early May when the bluebells are out. It’s one of Belgium’s best-kept secrets – don’t tell anyone!