Belgium’s 93-hectare national botanic garden is located in the village of Meise, 12km north of Brussels. Home to 18,000 plant species, it’s based around two lakes and includes the Kasteel van Boechout, a moated castle that Léopold II gave to his sister, Princess Charlotte, after her own at Tervuren burnt down in 1879. The park’s most prized orchids, carnivorous plants and famous giant Amazonian water lilies are housed in the Plantenpaleis (Plant Palace), a series of 13 connecting greenhouses.
Other highlights include the outdoor medicinal garden and a small 1864 greenhouse shaped like a king’s crown; the latter was built by Alphonse Balat, the designer of the Serres Royales and whose student, Victor Horta, would become the preeminent architect of the art nouveau period. The garden's 18th-century orangery has been converted into a cafe and shop.
From May to September, a free tourist 'train' (of the motor-vehicular type) makes a regular loop of the expansive gardens. Allocate the best part of a day here.
DeLijn buses 250/251 run every 15 minutes from Bruxelles-Nord (35 minutes) via Bockstael metro station (20 minutes).