Bruges & Brussels
Matonge, Ixelles & st-Gilles
Grand Place & Ilôt Sacré
Royal Quarter Museums
South of Brussels
Forêt de Soignes
This vast suburban forest is a botanical cathedral of glorious towering beech trees. Many were planted by proto-Belgium’s 18th-century Austrian rulers with oaks added by the French to provide timber for future naval ships. By the time those trees had matured, however, shipbuilders preferred metal, so the trees went uncut.
Southwest of Brussels
North of Brussels
One of the finest rural castles within striking distance of the capital is the Kasteel van Gaasbeek, set in an extensive 17th-century park 14km southwest of central Brussels. Originally built to guard the medieval Brabant–Flanders border, this was the castle that angry Brussels folk burnt down in response to the 1388 murder of Everard ‘t Serclaes.
The 1310 Kasteel van Beersel is the closest medieval castle to the capital. And from outside it’s a beauty. The picture-perfect brick towers, rebuilt in 1498, are topped off with 17th-century roofs and rise proudly above a tree-ringed moat. However, it’s an empty shell, the building having been used as a cotton factory in the 19th century.
Nationale Plantentuin Van België
Belgium’s National Botanic Garden is a 93-hectare park located in the village of Meise, 12km north of downtown Brussels. It’s based around two lakes and includes the Kasteel van Boechout, a photogenic moated castle that Léopold II gave to his sister, Princess Charlotte, after her own at Tervuren burnt down in 1879.