Bokrijk (Flanders - Belgium)

I've been to Grotte de Han and Pairi Daiza and both are accessible by B-Excursion of Belgian Rail. So I started to look for the rest of the places that can be visited by this option and the next weekend I was at Bokrijk. Similar to Domaine des Grotte de Han and Domaine Chateau de la Hulpe, this too is a Domaine! I recently caught grasp of the concept of 'Domaine' in Belgium (I'm unsure where else in Europe this concept exists)! Its a vast green area with multiple nature related things to do & see, mostly with a castle/chateau in the midst! 


Since we went by train, we were closer to the entrance near Open Air Museum. This is a absolutely fascinating place. This is the bigger & Belgian version of Chennai's Dakshinachitra! There are 120 buildings here, that depict how Flanders was, a couple centuries ago! These are not newly made to depict old, but these are actually old buildings, uprooted from their original locations and brought here and set up here. Each and every building, has a board that tells the information of when & where was it originally built and what was it used for!


The very first house we stumbled upon had roosters, pigs and more! Atyudarini was already super-excited! Yes, the houses are almost functional houses. While no humans 'live' inside those houses, the barn is very much in use! Further ahead another house had ponies, yet another had a batch of several pigs and cows.... Though people aren't living here, staff are dressed to enact household characters of centuries ago!


There were quite a few chapels and pigeon towers. Some of the very interesting, intriguing ones include the windmill. This is the first ever time I saw a windmill from the inside and also got to see how it functioned and spoke to some real millers. See the vertical gear atop? That's the one connected to the wings outside and it rotates when the wings rotate and that in turn sets the horizontal gear in motion which can be connected to the grinding wheels on the sides in the lower floor, as in the 2nd pic! 
It wasn't too windy that day and the mill wasn't running effectively and the milliners were trying to rotate the wings in the direction of the wind...... Did you know that the roof & wings of the traditional windmills could be rotated so as to face the wind? Well, neither did I!!!!! Local millers from all over this region, take turns to come here to operate it, so visitors can actually experience it! Traditional milling to produce flour is a thriving business in whole of Flanders till date!!!!!


Another super interesting one was the watermill! This is currently under restoration. There are several huts, houses, barns, grazing areas, water bodies and more! The whole Open Air Museum is in 4 sections - Sixties, East & West Flanders, Kempen and Haspengouw.


The Sixties is where buildings, rooms, things are, as they were in the 60s is frozen in time - a barber shop, a petrol bunk, a cinema theatre, a general store and more! Close to this is the perfect place for pre-teens & teens - a series of challenge courses, all made of wood & ropes. 

A walk ahead leads to the theatre where currently a drama is currently played for the World of Bruegel, depicting one of his paintings - The Battle between Carnival & Lent. The place also has workshops, games and 'routes' for kids & teens to make the visit all the more interesting for them. Currently the Bruegel game is on for pre-teens. Even otherwise regularly, workshops on making bread, pottery, handling wool, leather & wood etc., happen for pre-teens to teens, that gives an overview of how things were done a couple centuries ago, before complete mechanization of everything happened! 
Pic Credits: ©Luc Daelemans (used with permission from Bokrijk)

One of the most fascinating things here the whole domaine is the 'cycling through the water' experience. This doesn't even require you to buy a ticket! Only the Open Air Museum is ticketed, the rest of the domaine is free of charge to access, enjoy & explore!!! 'Cycling through the water' is a waterbody which has been split at the centre and there's a cycle-able pathway between them. There is water till the brim that's almost 5ft tall on either sides! You're 5ft below the waterlevel on dry ground! Its amazing that they pulled off this construction!!! You 'need' not cycle, you could just walk here too. 
There is a huuuuuuge playground! I mean, its so huge! I mean, I haven't seen a playground of that size! No, its not an amusement park, its a regular outdoor playground. But its so damn huge with dedicated areas for different agegroups with different types of set-ups! There is even a dedicated area for differently-abled children. We didn't spend much time here as it was almost evening when we reached the playground area. Btw, this too is free of charge!
There are quite a few options for lunch. Yes, you can pack your own and do a picnic here! There are few restaurants here and we ate at Bistro Koethuis which is closer to Parking 1. The set up was fantastic, with outdoor seating as well as indoor. Since it was slightly drizzling, we sat inside. The inhouse craftbeer Wildeman is a must try. Unfortunately the vegetarian options were not very yummy. The whole of interiors looks similar to the Open-Air Museum, made of old bricks, naturally fallen trees etc. 

Honestly, the place is vast, so huge that a day-trip is not enough. All we did was to see the most of (note: not 'all' of) Open-Air Museum, watched portion of the Bruegel theatrical play, had lunch and Cycled through the water! We didn't get to see some of the Open-Air Museum, Castle, play games or workshops or spend time in the playground, in one day...... It is that big! 

P.S: I wanted to visit Hasselt last summer! Reason - Hasselt has Belgium's Lavender Fields! I couldn't and I was all geared up to visit this summer! But then, somehow most of the weekends this summer turned out to be rainy! So no, I haven't seen the Limburg Lavendel yet! If you're visiting in June-July don't miss the Lavender fields as well!

To Stay:
Hotels at all price points are available in Hasselt & Genk city centres.
I went there on a day-trip, so I haven't personally experienced any of the hotels.

To Get There:

On Google Maps: Bokrijk Entrance 1 (infocentre, parking 1, bike rental), Bokrijk Entrance 2 (approach from railway station),  Cycling through waterBistro Koetshuis
Trains are available every hour from Brussels Midi/Central/Nord to Bokrijk directly and the journey time is about 1:45hrs. 
Close to the Bokrijk Railway station is the Entrance 2 (near Parking 2 / Poorthuys restaurant) that directly leads to the Open-Air Museum.
Walk towards Parking 1 for infocentre, playground, workshops, bike rental etc. This is about 2km from the railway station.
If you already have a bike, or choosing to walk, the 'Cycling across water' is to the left from Entrance 2 at 1.7km distance.

Entrance Tickets & Timings:
Playground & Domaine: Free! 9:00AM to 7:00PM/9:00PM in winter & summer respectively
Open Air Museum (incl. Sixties) - €12.5; Apr-Oct 10:00AM to 6:00PM. (Closed in winters except for exclusive events & pre-booked guided tours)
Entry free for holders of Museumpassmusees.
Parking: €5 per day
Workshops: €6 per workshop per person.
Bike rental: €10/day (has to be pre-booked online at Fiets Paradijs Limburg and key is to be collected at infocentre near Parking 1).
If you're depending on public transport, its best to buy a B-Excursion ticket that combines train ticket plus the entry ticket of the park and works out cheaper. However only in the case of Bokrijk, the B-Excursion ticket has to be printed out, unlike other places. Or B-Excursion ticket could be bought at the train ticket counter as well!

P.S: I was invited by Bokrijk & B-Excursion by Belgian Rail to experience the region for review purposes, however the opinions are my own and this post does not to advertise the product/service.

Bhushavali

An ardent traveler by passion. I am a wanderlust.. Read more about me here.

13 comments:

  1. Ooh, I love the idea of Domaine! I haven't been to Belgium, but when I was visiting Romania I could tell they valued the open nature concept as well...and had castles and fortresses to boot! The open air museum looks cool. I visited one in Germany before and loved it! That playground is amazing! I'm definitely not a kid anymore, but I want to play on it!!

    ReplyDelete
  2. This site looks lovely and yes, I would love to have a picknic there. I love country side and slow life experiences and think that place would fit great.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I've yet to get there, but it looks like it lives up the hype. I just love the whole windmill culture, and Belgian food and beer are just amazing.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Well, it would be wonderful to spend the weekend in this beautiful place. Never realized that there is so much to do and see. It would be interesting to see a working windmill up close. Looking forward to enjoy some Belgian food, chocolates and beer.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I'm yet to discover Belgium! And wow, the bike on water sounds fun. But I guess, they should have lowered the walls a bit so the bikers would feel more connected to the water (as long as they won't fall)!

    ReplyDelete
  6. We loved visiting Belgium and your post just introduced me to another charming, off-the-beaten path destination in Belgium that I definitely need to see. I didn’t know what the meaning behind Domaine till I read your post – the fact that there are so many nature related activities to do along with visiting a castle in the middle seems like the perfect family trip. It’s great to know that a visit to Bokrijk would give a historic perspective of what life in Flanders had been like couple of centuries back. We were able to see the workings of the windmills from inside the structure when we were in Zaanse Schans in Netherlands so reading about your visit to the windmill in Bokrijk brought back memories from our trip. Adding to our bucket list!

    ReplyDelete
  7. I have been to Belgium many times before but it still amazes me how charming the country is. Your post was really comprehensive and it will be a good guide for people who are traveling to Belgium for the first time. There are so many interesting things to do in Belgium that it gets a bit tricky to choose the activities but this was a good insight.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I love Bokrijk! We went there for my mom her birthday. She loved the Sixties part. Did you like it? We also dressed up in the clothes from back then. I missed the 'cycling through the water' part. Wish I had known back then!

    ReplyDelete
  9. That is a lovely place for a picnic indeed. The walkway and the cycling way are so attractive as well. It is a place for escaping the the daily chaoes.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I like the concept of Open Air Museum in Bokrijk with staff dressed up and re-enact lives from centuries ago. A fun way to learn history. Bike riding across the water sounds cool, too, and the view looks really pretty. And for visitors to be able to bring their picnic, that's surely a good option.

    ReplyDelete
  11. The cycling through the water excursion looks pretty cool, would love to experience that! Your post made me curious to read about what is B excursion on the Belgian rail, I plan to visit Belgium in winter this year and might make it to Bokrijk from Antwerp if I have enough time, thanks for the info!

    ReplyDelete
  12. I've never been in Belgium but it's pretty high up on my list. It's interesting that Bokrijk reminds me somewhat of Sweden' Sodermaland. The same kind of structure, landscape and peaceful atmosphere. They even have an open air museums like the one in Bokrijk. It seems you had lots of fun visiting this place.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I love how perfect this place is. I've never been any place in Belgium, and this one looks like just a tiny piece of Belgium that has so much to offer. And knowing that there are 120 buildings here in the past was really interesting. It must be really that wide and big. Moreover, I love that there are remnants of the past here as well.

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for visiting...! Why not leave a comment.? And tell your friends..!!!
By commenting you accept to our GDPR Policy.