With the sun shining over Brussels, you’re probably feeling the irresistible urge to get outside and enjoy the beauty of nature. With over 8000 hectares of parkland in the city and the stunning Belgian countryside easily accessible outside the city limits, Brussels is a great place for nature lovers wanting to feel the sun on their skin.
To inspire you to head into the great outdoors this summer, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best places for hiking, cycling, and enjoying a picnic in Brussels and the surrounding area. What better way to enjoy the glorious sunshine before Autumn rolls in?
A taste of nature within the city
Just because you live in the city doesn’t mean there’s no nature on your doorstep. Brussels is home to several wonderful parks, suitable for walking, cycling, or just hanging out with your friends in the sunshine. From the wild paths of the Bois de la Cambre to the gorgeous landscaping of Laeken Park, Brussels has open spaces for any mood.
Bois de la Cambre
In any conversation about the best nature in Brussels, the Bois de la Cambre is sure to come up sooner or later. Brussels’ biggest park is a picturesque escape from the hustle and bustle of the city, with enough to do and explore to fill a whole day in the sunshine. You can’t go wrong on a chilled-out afternoon with a walk through the forest followed by a picnic. Maybe throw in some boating on the lake or horse riding at the Centre Equestre de la Cambre if you want to take your day out in nature to the next level.
What really sets the Bois de la Cambre apart is its dining options. Tucked away among the forests and manicured gardens you’ll find plenty of brilliant outdoor eateries, including the Le Flore tapas bar and Woodpecker burger restaurant. But for one of Brussels’ most beloved summer dining experiences, take a short boat ride to Chalet Robinson: a cozy brasserie on a lush, forested island.
Where the Bois de la Cambre was natural and cozy, Laeken Park brings a bougie element to your outdoor activities. This spacious park is part of the Royal Estate, and features florist’s gardens, winding walkways, and grand monuments fit for a king. This is the perfect place for a day out walking or cycling followed by a photoshoot in some of the most stunning scenery in the city. And if you’re still checking off some of Brussels’ most famous sites from your bucket list, Laeken Park is just a stone’s throw from the Atomium, The Royal Greenhouses, Mini-Europe, Planetarium, and Japanese Tower. If we were to describe it in one work, it would be ‘iconic.’
Ok, this one’s not technically in Brussels. As the name suggests, you’ll find Tervuren Park is the leafy town of Tervuren, just outside the limits of the city. A former royal park, a stroll through these landscaped grounds evokes a sense of grandeur and opulence. It’s home to the 17th-century Saint Hubert Chapel, as well as the Africa Museum and Africa Palace, which are a great choice for anyone interested in learning about Belgium’s colonial history.
As one of the key gateways to the Sonian Forest, Tervuren Park is the bridge between the city and the countryside. For a full day in the sun, begin the morning in the park with a brunch picnic or a trip to the museum, followed by an afternoon hike in the natural beauty of one of the most ancient woodlands in Belgium.
Head out to the countryside
City parks are great, but sometimes you need to head out into the great outdoors to really enjoy everything that nature has to offer. Luckily, the countryside that surrounds Brussels is rich in natural beauty, including great places to hike, cycle, and swim. And given the excellent public transport available in Belgium, you can easily escape the city even if you don’t have a car.
Escape from the clutches of the city to the tranquillity of a majestic forest when you take a day trip to Hallerbos. This splendid national forest just south of Brussels can be accessed in just over an hour from Central Station. Sometimes called the ‘blue forest,’ it’s known for the enchanting carpets of bluebells that take over the forest floor in April and May. Even though the flowers don’t last through the summer, there’s still plenty to enjoy at this time of year. This is one of the best natural escapes near Brussels for an extensive hike or bike ride. If you’ve always dreamed of getting lost in a magical forest, Hallerbos is the place for you.
You don’t have to go all the way to Oostende to enjoy a Belgian beach. Head over to Hofstede Strand, just 30 minutes from Brussels Central, to enjoy the sun and the sand beside a glistening forest lake. The water in Hofstedemeer is frequently checked to keep it clean and healthy, allowing beachgoers to swim in the lake year-round. And it’s not just swimming on offer. Take full advantage of the glorious sunshine with windsurfing, kayaking, and more. Just make sure you reserve your place online because the beach can get a bit busy.
Kasteelpark van Gaasbeek
With just a 50-minute train journey from Brussels Central, you can transport yourself back in time. Take a trip to the Kasteelpark van Gaasbeek: 50 hectares of beautiful woodland and gardens surrounding a medieval fortress. The grounds make the ideal day out for a sunny day, offering plenty of trails to walk, run or cycle, and gorgeous open lawns to enjoy a picnic. The 13th-century castle is also open to the public, meaning that you can pair your outdoor activities with a stroll through the Renaissance corridors and elegant salons.
The best way to experience Brussels this summer
Brussels is a city of contrasts, offering both grand city attractions and gorgeous natural spaces. For urbanites who enjoy an active outdoor lifestyle, this city offers everything that you could possibly need.
Don’t have a place to stay in Brussels yet? Cohabs offers stunning, furnished rooms in some of the best neighborhoods in the city. If you’re looking for a base to explore this fascinating city, as well as a vibrant international community to join, check out our available rooms here.