Top 10 Best things to do near Brussels in Flemish Brabant (Flanders - Belgium)

This article first appeared in My Travelogue by Bhushavali

WHERE IS FLEMISH BRABANT IN BELGIUM?
Flemish Brabant is unique, in the way that this province completely surrounds Brussels Capital region. You may know that Belgium has 2 regions - Flanders, the Dutch speaking northern half & Wallonia, the French speaking southern half. Even through Brussels is in the middle, it is not actually along the Flanders-Wallonia border. Brussels is completely inside Flanders and surrounded completely by the province of Flemish Brabant! So every time, you step out of Brussels, you're literally stepping only into Flemish Brabant! Only when you reach as far as Waterloo or Domaine Solvay from Brussels, you're into Wallonia. Places to visit in Flemish Brabant are technically the places to see near Brussels!
The centre of Flemish Brabant is Leuven and to its east is Hageland and west is Groene Gordel. Flemish Brabant is not just a day trip to Leuven, there are so many more places to see in Vlaams Brabant other than Leuven! So here are the top 10 things to do in Flemish Brabant!

TOP 10 BEST THINGS TO DO NEAR BRUSSELS IN FLEMISH BRABANT PROVINCE
(Wat te doen in Vlaams Brabant...)


Best Brussels City Skyline view Heirbaan
Photo clicked by Ms.Kristien Petrlic of Toerisme Vlaams Brabant 

From where can you see the best view of Brussels? From atop Grand Place? From atop the Giant Wheel in Louiza? From atop Atomium? Well, maybe!!! But all the more unique view of Brussels is from this point near Meise Plantentuin in Flemish Brabant. It is from this tiny little lane, off-Heirbaan, a dirt-track in the midst of corn & brussels sprouts plantation, that you see a unique view of Atomium far away! The experience is complete with some benches to just sit and be mesmerized by the greenery & the iconic building of Brussels!

Where is Heirbaan (on Google Maps): viewpoint of Brussels
How to reach Heirbaan: Car can be driven on street of Heirbaan. Nearest bus-stop is Meise Klepperstraat which is about 1km from the viewpoint. This bus-stop is served by bus routes 250 & 251 from Brussels
Heirbaan opening hours & prices: Free

Autumn in Brussels - Sonian Forest Groenendaal trail

BEST WALKING TRAIL (also BEST THING TO DO IN AUTUMN) - GROENENDAAL TRAIL in SONIAN FOREST
Groenendaal trail in Sonian Forest is hands down, the best ever where place I've experienced Autumn. Sonian Forest is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Belgium and after asking a few locals, I was suggested the Groenendaal trail and I was mesmerized is an understatement. There were hardly any people in the whole trail and the with all the fallen autumn leaves, I couldn't even see the earth. I have been on a couple more trails on Sonian Forest but still nothing would beat the good old Groenendaal Trail. Read my article on Groenendaal trail and decide for yourselves. 

Where is Groenendaal (on Google Maps): Groenendaal railway station
How to reach Groenendaal: Groenendaal railway station has regular trains from Brussels Schuman & Luxembourg (S8 line) 
Groenendaal opening hours & prices: Free

Cycling in Belgium - Castle route Flemish Brabant
Photo clicked by Ms.Kristien Petrlic of Toerisme Vlaams Brabant 

BEST CYCLING TRAIL - DIY CASTLES CYCLE ROUTE
Cycling in Belgium is awesome and there's this concept of node to node cycling network (fiets knooppuntenroute) in Flanders where you go node to node and don't need internet or GPS. There are these points called node-points for cycling and all you have to do is to plan your node point network. At every node point there's a board that directs you the other node points. This connectivity makes it super easy to go cycling without getting lost!
What is the best cycling trail in Flemish Brabant? It obviously has to involve castles! There are about 3000 castles in Belgium and Belgium is a very small country. That makes Belgium the top of the countries with highest density of castles, the maximum number of castles per sqm! There are 60+ castles in Flemish Brabant alone! Here's the cycle node point network of the Castles Cycle Route of Flemish Brabant, that I'm planning to do next - begin at Beersel railway station, and then 63, 62, 67, 66, 70, 72, 71, 23. This 16km route begins at Beersel Castle and touches Coloma Castle, Gaasbeek Castle and ends at Castle & Domain Groenenberg. Apart from the castles, the route goes along the Charleroi-Brussels Canal for some time, and through the greenery of Zuunvallei natural reserve. After 23 continue on 22-21-20 (6km) to reach Erasme Metro station and get back to Brussels. If you have a folding bike, you can just get the DeLijn bus from Groenenberg or Gaasbeek.

Baby photoshoot Brussels Meise Giant waterlily leaves
Pic Courtesy: Meise Botanic Gardens (used here with permission)

Baby photography in Brussels Belgium

Meise Plantetuin places to visit near Brussels

BEST THINGS TO DO WITH BABIES NEAR BRUSSELS - PHOTOSHOOT AT MEISE PLANTENTUIN
Meise Plantentuin is the Belgian version of England's Kew Gardens. Meise Plantentuin is Belgium's Botanical Garden. Its an impressive, vast green area, complete with a castle in its centre, the green-house called Plant Palace with various climatic regions and more. I will write all about it soon (Update: Here's my article on Meise Botanic Garden), but for now here's the highlight of the place - the Plant Palace has a tropical setting where the giant water-lillies (Victoria Amazonica) are in full bloom once a year. The magic is not the flowers, but its leaves - it is so huge and it can withstand several kilograms of weight without sinking! What's the best you can do with that? Why not let a baby be afloat?! The best baby photography in Belgium happens here in Meise Plantentuin with the baby floating on water over a the leaf of a giant water lily! However it happens only for 3 days in June every year and only babies younger than 1yr of age are allowed. We didn't know about it when Atyudarini was that young and yeah, we missed it! They also tend to get sold-out as soon as the slots open. So, keep an eye on their website from beginning of May even if you're only pregnant!!!

Where is Meise Plantentuin(on Google Maps): Meise Botanic Garden
How to reach Meise Plantentuin: Has regular bus service from Brussels. Bus routes 250 & 251. 10km from Brussels Noord & 5km from Atomium.
Meise Plantentuin Tickets:  €7 (included in Museumpassmusees)
Meise Plantentuin Opening Hours: 9:30AM to 05:00PM/06:30PM in winter & summer respectively

Belgian Draught Horses
Photo clicked by Ms.Kristien Petrlic of Toerisme Vlaams Brabant 

Diepensteyn Castle Palm breweries
Photo clicked by Ms.Kristien Petrlic of Toerisme Vlaams Brabant 

BEST THINGS TO DO WITH KIDS NEAR BRUSSELS - PET A BRABANT DRAUGHT HORSE
There are horses; there are ponies; then there are Belgian draught horses! The Belgian draught horses known across the world are originally Brabant horses. I had never seen a Belgian horse till then and it was surprise - they are heavier and thick bodied when compared to Arabian horses I had seen so far. Brabant horses are working animals which are capable of carrying and pulling very heavy weights - used not only in farming and carts but also horse mills.
There are several farms all over Flemish Brabant where these Brabant horses are bred. A cycling trip around around the villages would lend you a view of many farms where you can spot the Brabant draft horses grazing away. Some of these farms also entertain visitors. The best place is Castle Diepensteyn, where you could not only pet the horses, but also see a castle as well as a brewery - yes, this is the home of Palm breweries! Booking a tour of the Palm brewery would enable you to see the horses up & close and pet them too. Horse-riding could also be included in the tour.

Where is Castle Diepensteyn (on Google Maps): Castle Diepensteyn
How to reach Castle Diepensteyn (Palm Breweries): 17km from Mechelen. Nearest bus-stop is Steenhuffel Kerk served by bus route 251. Bikes can be hired at Mechelen railway station as well.
Palm Breweries tour incl. stud farm: Only group tours (upto 50 people) which begins at €260 (€210+€50). Must be pre-booked on the website of Palm Breweries
Palm Breweries Tour Timings: Mon-Thu 9:00AM to 08:00PM; Fri 09:00AM to 11:00AM; Closed on Sat & Sun

Hallerbos Blue Bells Carpet

Floralia Brussels Belgian Tulip Festival

While Autumn is my favourite season, Spring follows it closely behind. The magic of Spring can be perfectly experienced at Hallerbos - the blossoming of blue bells in the Halle forest. It is magical to see the entire soil of the forest to be covered with a gorgeous purple tint! Read my post on Hallerbos to see it for yourself!
Apart from Hallerbos the next topmost of things to do in spring in Flemish Brabant is to see the incredibly colorful tulips in Floralia Brussels. While this is not so extensive as Keukenhof Gardens, this is the best of tulip blossoms that Belgium has to offer.  Head over to my post on my visit to the Belgian Tulip Festival of Floralia Brussels.

Where are Hallerbos & Groot-Bijgaarden (on Google Maps): Hallerbos, Groot-Bijgaarden
How to reach Hallerbos: 3.5km from Halle railway station. Buses are available.
How to reach Groot Bijgaarden: Trains, buses, trams are available from Brussels
Hallerbos opening hours & prices: Free (flowers are in bloom only in Mar-Apr)
Groot Bijgaarden opening hours & prices: €14 (Open only in Apr-May in during Floralia Brussels event)

Tommenmolen Grimbergen

Tommenmolen Water mill Museum of Old Techniques

Tommenmolen Water mill Museum of Old Techniques

BEST RESTAURANT IN FLEMISH BRABANT - TOMMENMOLEN RESTAURANT, GRIMBERGEN
Well, there are very many restaurants with all cuisine types, in the province and it would be weird to select one. But here's my pick - Tommenmolen in Grimbergen. Here's the worst disclaimer - I haven't yet eaten in this restaurant but judging by the Google review of 4.3 stars with 600 reviews, I guess the food is excellent too. So why am I talking about Tommenmolen restaurant when I haven't even eaten here?  - that's coz of its ambience!!! 
Tommenmolen Cafe-Restaurant is a restored historic building. As the name suggests, it was a miller's house in 16th C CE. It was a watermill, thanks to the Maalbeek canal that runs here and bread-making was the main local industry here. It is named Tommenmolen after its first owners, the lords of 'Ter Tommen'. Everything here is preserved as it was in 16th C, but renovated in 19th C CE. The historic watermill itself is still here for us to see. This is not just a restaurant but a part of the Museum of Old Techniques, an active museum where several activities & workshops happen. Just beside the watermill, is also an horse-mill, which would have been pulled by the draught horses.
P.S: Tommenmolen was full when I visited and we headed to the nearby restaurant of Lammekeshoeve for lunch, where the food was definitely yummy!

Where is Tommenmolen restaurant(on Google Maps): Tommenmolen, Lammekeshoeve 
How to reach Tommenmolen restaurant: Located 800m (10mins walk) from Grimbergen town centre, which is well connected by DeLijn buses from Brussels Noord. 6km from Vilvoorde railway station.
Tommenmolen Museum Tickets:  €6
Tommenmolen Museum Opening Hours: 10:00AM to 05:00PM. Open only in weekends & holidays
Tommenmolen Restaurant Opening Hours: 11:00AM to 12:30PM; 6:00PM to 09:30PM All days except Thursday

Hops plantation for beer manufacture

Microbrewery Den Triest Vlaams Brabant

BEST LOCAL CRAFT BEER IN BELGIUM - MICROBREWERY DEN TRIEST 
Belgian beer is world famous and is infact listed as an UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage. There are so so so so so many breweries all over Belgium and many of those are micro-breweries that make craft beers. The production is very small and is mostly managed by just 1 family! Every batch is different from the other, making every batch a limited edition!!! 
One such awesome brewery is Microbrewery Den Triest founded in 2009. The brewery has its own hop plantation (one of the core elements of brewing) and hop-picking here is a mega annual event where general public pour in to pick hops and drink beer and make merry!!! There is an adorable tasting room here in the filled with unique vintage stuff. I got to sit here and taste one of their awesome limited edition beers - de neus (the nose)! This is a 7.5% tripel beer made with both American & Belgian hops. Nose signifies pride as in 'having the nose up in the air'!

Where is Microbrewery  Den Triest (on Google Maps): Microbrouwerij Den Triest 
How to reach Microbrewery Den Triest: 10km from Mechelen by road. Nearest railway station is Kapelle-op-den-Bos connected to Mechelen railway station by L line. Bikes can be hired at Mechelen railway station as well.
Microbrewery  Den Triest Opening Hours: Currently open only in the first Sunday of every month 11:00AM to 06:00PM

Vandeurzen Wijnkasteel Castle Wineries Vineyard

Vandeurzen Wijnkasteel Pure White Albarino

BEST BELGIAN WINEVANDEURZEN WIJNKASTEEL
While Belgium is known for its beer, wine is also produced locally! One of the best Belgian wines and the most beautiful of the wineries here in Flemish Brabant is Vandeurzen Wijnkasteel (Vandeurzen Castle Wineries). First thing that you'll notice about it, is the long vineyard and the stunning white castle on the other side. This is the Linden Kasteel de Beauffort, built in 1661 CE which was taken over by Vandeurzen Winery recently. 
Today this is not only a vineyard and winery but also De Victorie restaurant & wijnbistro. Linden's best winery Wijnkasteel Vandeurzen produces 8 types of wines, all red, rose & white. The best wine produced here is hands-down, Pure White Albarino - a sparkling white wine which can give Champagne a run for its money. Literally it has won the Gold Medal VVS 2019. The best of its red-wines is Pure Red Tempranillo Prestige. Walking through the vineyard, feeling the lusciousness of the grapes, and finally wine-tasting was a completely relaxing experience.

Where is Vandeurzen Wijnkasteel (on Google Maps): Vandeurzen Wijnkasteel 
How to reach Vandeurzen Wijnkasteel: 4.5km from Leuven. Connected by De-lijn bus routes lines 371 & 485 from Leuven railway station. Bikes can be hired at Leuven as well.
De Victorie restaurant Opening Hours: Thu-Sat: 6:00PM to 10:30PM;  Sun: 12:00Noon to 03:00PM and 6:00PM to 10:30PM
Wijnkasteel Vandeurzen shop: Wines can be bought online from the official website of Vandeurzen
Also Read: Day trips from Leuven to nearby cities & towns - Brussels (ofcourse), HasseltGenkTongeren, BorgloonMechelenAntwerp
BEST ADVENTURE NEAR BRUSSELS - SKYDIVING IN BELGIUM AT DROPZONE SCHAFFEN
What is the best adventure experience for an untrained, regular person? Tandem Skydiving, ofcourse! When I say untrained, regular person, I obviously mean someone who isn't really trained to ride an MTB bike down a cliff or wingsuit flying or underwater cave diving etc which are much more thrilling adventures but pretty much useless unless you've trained for it! For a tandem skydive, you really don't have to do anything except follow the instructions of the instructor who jumps with you! Where is the skydiving nearest to Brussels? Obviously in Flemish Brabant at Dropzone Schaffen. I'm yet to experience this and I really hope this dream comes true soon.

Where is Dropzone Schaffen Skydiving(on Google Maps): Dropzone Schaffen
How to reach Skydive Flanders - Dropzone Schaffen: 2.5km from Diest railway station. Buses are available but not very frequent.
Dropzone Schaffen Skydiving Prices: Begins at  €210

VIDEO PROMO BY TOERISME VLAAMS-BRABANT
This awesome video was shot by the team in Flemish-Brabant tourism that promotes their region among the expats community in Belgium. I've been featured in the video. I speak English but the narrator speaks the local language Flemish (Dutch).


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Top 10 Things to do near Brussels Top 10 Things to do near Brussels

Bhushavali

An ardent traveler by passion. Being an ex - Art History Teacher, my area of interest especially lies in Nature and Heritage. Visited 78 UNESCO World Heritage sites as of Sept 2020. I've been listed among the Top 7 Women Travel Bloggers of India, Top 50 in UK. I have been interviewed in a couple of TV Shows, Radio Channels and Events as well. Read more about me and read the testimonials of different brands

10 comments:

  1. We have never been to Belgium but it is on the list. Good to know there is so much to do around Brussels in the Flemish Brahbant province. Certainly a great spot to visit in the fall for enjoying the Sonian Forest. But I must admit a view of the blossoming blue bells might draw me in spring. So fascinating that there are 60+ castles on the cycling path. A great way to get exercise and see the sights too. Especially since hubby will definitely be checking out the beer!

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  2. Wow, Hallerbos truly looks like a fairytale! In spring, that looks like a must-do. I love all the nature activities that you listed, especially the Meise Plantetuin- at first I thought those lily pads were fake! And to finish it all off with a local brew... yum! Thanks for sharing

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  3. Ooh yes! Belgium is known for its beer, so I am glad that you added a brewery to the list. I can't believe how much there is to do that centers around nature. Such a fun place to go!

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  4. Flemish Brabant province looks so charming that I think it is a perfect place for a weekend gateway. Groenendaal trail in Sonian Forest seems perfect for me. But 60+ castles of the Castles Cycle Route of Flemish Brabant is so impressive that I would try to make this trail on my bike someday.

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  5. Oh I didn't know about Flemish Brabant until today. That brussels sprouts farm looks like my kind of place to hang out at. I've never seen one upclose. In the picture, it looks like a giant green carpet! And I can't believe I visited Brussels without going to any brewery/microbrewery. I think I'll have to revisit.

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  6. I would love to try the best belgian wine. It would be nice to visit Vandeurzen Wijnkasteel. Happy to know that it's also a restaurant. Hope to have the opportunity to visit Flemish Brabant in the future.

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  7. I am in love with Hallerbos - that spring bloom looks so pretty and relaxing. Not a beer drinker but am totally game for the wine. Never tried a Belgian one so that tour sounds perfect to discover it. I wish that I can get to Belgium and explore it the way you have. Truly amazing!

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  8. When I read your blog posts, I always learn something new and unique which is not normally found in famous travel magazines too. Great to know about Flemish Brabant and also Belgium consisting of two regions - Flanders which has Dutch speaking populations and the French speaking southern half. I loved the greenery of Zuunvallei natural reserve and those huge giant lilies. Meise Plantentuin is truly photogenic with greenery, giant lilies, palace and those beautiful horses. Even to visit this area in spring is worth as everything is very colorful.

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  9. My sister lived in Brussels for years and I wasn't able to visit her not even once! Brussels was never in my list to visit and I'm not sure what else is interesting there. I will go through your Belgium blogs and see some inspiration. Thank you so much for sharing this pos, Bhushavali! X

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