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Belgium’s Top Ten Spring Sights for Garden and Nature Lovers | Update

By alison - March 30, 2012 (Updated: February 22, 2016)

Belgium's Top Ten Spring Gardens

Spring has sprung in Belgium and flowers and gardens are on the to-do list for many visitors in Belgium. This is one of our most popular posts each year so I thought it was about time I updated it. You can find my new comments written in red below.

Millions of tourists flock to the Netherlands each spring to take in the beauty of the tulips fields. Most have no idea that further south, Belgium is a garden lover’s paradise.

The following list contains 10 of my favourite spring garden and nature destinations in Belgium. Some, I have written about before, in depth, and I have linked back to those earlier articles. Others, I have kept to myself until now. I hope you find one that inspires you to enjoy Belgium’s natural beauty.

Vredehof Tulip Garden

Vredehof Tulip Garden

Vredehof Tulip Garden

While definitely not as large as the Keukenhof Bulb Gardens in Lisse, The Netherlands, The Vredehof is no less special. This garden, in Kessel, was started by one man, Fernand Geyselings, when he retired in 1987, as a tribute to his late wife. Geyselings planted over 200,000 different bulbs, by himself. There are 200 different varieties of tulip and 185 other spring blooms, from daffodils to hyacinths. There are also a number of flowering trees and garden decorations.

Sadly this beautiful garden is no longer open as Mr. Geyselings has passed away. We were very sorry to learn this. 

Address: Torenvenstraat 28, Kessel

Groot-Bijgaarden

Groot-Bijgaarden

Groot-Bijgaarden Castle and Gardens

The Groot-Bijgaarden is another must-see for tulip and spring bulb lovers. The grounds of this castle are open to the public for a month in the spring. As well as the stunning castle grounds, there are also indoor displays by local growers. For more information visit my photography blog to read about my visit to Groot-Bijgaarden, last spring and check out the Groot-Bijgaarden photo gallery.

This year the garden will feature more bulbs than ever, with 400 varieties of tulips, 35 types of hyacinth, 60 varieties of narcissus and  60 other bulb varieties. The Garden is open this year from from 6 April until 6 May.

Address: Is. Van Beverenstraat, 5 – 1702 Groot-Bijgaarden

Japanese Garden, Hasselt

Japanese Garden, Hasselt

The Japanese Garden of Hasselt

Although you wouldn’t expect it, the largest Japanese Garden in Europe is in Belgium. The Japanese Garden of Hasselt is magical in the spring as its 250 cherry trees burst into bloom. The garden is based on 17th Japanese Garden architecture and was constructed with the help of Hasset’s sister city in Japan, Itami. For more information read the CheeseWeb post on my visit to the Japanese Garden.

If you’ve always wanted to visit this gem of a garden, now is the time. This year marks the garden’s 20th anniversary and plenty of festivities are planned. The Japanese Garden opens on the 1st of April. 

Address: Gouverneur Verwilghensingel – 3500 Hasselt

Cherry Blossoms

Cherry Blossoms

Cherry Blossoms in Brussels

If you can’t make it all the way to Hasselt to admire the Japanese Gardens, you can enjoy the cherry blossoms right here in Brussels. Although there are cherry trees in bloom at various locations around the city centre, one of the best places to view them is in Park Leopold, near the European Parliament. There are various spring blooms in this little park, which is also a hop skip and jump from the larger Parc du Cinquantenaire which is also in full bloom in the spring.

Address: Park Leopold, 1040 Brussels (ETTERBEEK)

Belgian Royal Greenhouses

Belgian Royal Greenhouses

Royal Greenhouse at Laeken

One of the most anticipated spring garden events in Brussels is the opening of the Royal Greenhouses at the Palace in Laeken Belgium. The palace is the main residence of the Belgian Royal family and their private grounds are only open to the public for several weeks in the spring. The Greenhouse complex was built between 1874 and 1895 and is 2.5 hectares. The plant collection includes giant palms and ferns from Africa, azaleas, geraniums, orchids and bleeding hearts among many others. For photos and information please visit my Royal Greenhouse gallery.

This year the greenhouses are open from the 13th of April to the 6th of May.

Address: Domaine Royal de Laeken , Avenue du Parc Royal, Brussels

National Botanic Garden of Belgium

National Botanic Garden of Belgium

National Botanic Garden of Belgium

The National Botanic Garden of Belgium is located just outside of Brussels in the town of Meise.  The garden is 92 hectares and holds 18,000 varieties of plants from magnolias and rhododendrons to medicinal plants and wild roses. There is also a large glass house with tropical and dessert plants, a traditional farm house and garden and a garden shop. At the centre of the Botanic Garden sits Bouchout Castle which is often open to the public and is available for receptions.

If you’d like a sneak peek at the beautiful collections, check out our photo story on the National Botanic Garden of Belgium

Address: Domein van Bouchout, Nieuwelaan 38, Meise

Grand Béguinage, Leuven

Grand Béguinage, Leuven

The Grand Béguinage of Leuven

The Grand Béguinage (Groot Begijnhof van Leuven in Dutch) is not specifically a garden destination; however it is a quiet oasis in the centre of the Flemish city of Leuven. The Béguinage is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It dates from the 13th century and was a refuge for unmarried semi-religious women. These days the Béguinage is owned by the university and houses visiting students and professors. You can wander through the quiet cobbled streets and admire the small gardens and climbing roses that decorate the living quarters.

Address: Schapenstraat, Leuven

Hallerbos, Bois de Halle, Belgium

The stunning Hallerbos, or Bois de Halle

Hallerbos

Hallerbos is a beech forest near the town of Halle. Throughout the year it is a haven for walkers, cyclists and horseback riders. In spring however, the forest acquires a magical carpet of blue, created by millions of Bluebell flowers covering the forest floor. For more information and photos visit my article on Hallerbos – Belgium’s Blue Forest.

Address: Near Halle in Flemish Brabant

Villers Abbey Medicinal Garden

Villers Abbey Medicinal Garden

Villers Abbey

Belgium is famous for its many Abbeys (where do you think all of that wonderful beer comes from?). Because the monks were often the area’s physicians, many of them had medicinal gardens. One great example can be seen at the Villers Abbey (abbaye de Villers) in Wallonia. In addition to the garden there is a working vineyard as well as the ruins of the Abbey which are stunning to wander through.

Address: Rue de l’Abbaye, 55, B-1495 Villers-la-Ville

Belgian Fields as seen from the Ronquières inclined plane

Belgian Fields as seen from the Ronquières inclined plane

Ronquières Inclined Plane Boat Lift

I admit that a boat lift may seem like an odd choice for a post on gardens and nature. You can’t however discuss gardens in Belgium without a nod to the country’s agricultural heritage. Farming remains a mainstay in this country and what better place to admire the fields of Belgium than 70 metres in the air. The observation deck at the boat lift offers panoramic view of the countryside as well as the Brussels-Charleroi canal.

Address: Ronquières, 7090 Braine-le-Comte

If you have any other must-see spring garden or nature sites in Belgium, leave them in the comments below.

For more great castle articles, be sure to visit our Castles in Belgium page where you’ll find links to all of the castles in our little country.

Read more from Cheeseweb.eu
Alison

Alison

Big Cheese at CheeseWeb
Alison Cornford-Matheson is a Canadian freelance writer and travel photographer and the founder of Cheeseweb.eu. She is the author of The Foodie Guide to Brussels: Local Tips for Restaurants, Shops, Hotels, and Activities. Alison landed in Belgium in 2005 and, over the years, has become passionate about slow and sustainable travel, in Europe and beyond. She loves to discover hidden gems - be they museums, shops, restaurants, castles, gardens or landscapes, and share them through her words and photos. She has visited 45 countries and is currently slow travelling through North America in an RV, with her husband, Andrew, and two well-travelled cats. You can also follow her work on Google+
Alison
Cheese + Goats = My personal heaven. We discover an oasis in the cheese desert. https://t.co/Os8U86UEiX - 2 hours ago

23 comments

  1. Comment by Inese

    Inese February 22, 2010 at 10:42

    Thank you for the great ideas! Some places I’ve laready seen but there were several which I wrote down and will make my boyfriend take me there. As we both ar into photography I think he’ll appreciate it as well.
    Cheers!

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison

      Alison February 22, 2010 at 11:33

      Great! I’m glad this helped. I’ll be adding more Belgian sights besides gardens in the future so stay tuned!

  2. Comment by Louise

    Louise February 24, 2010 at 10:11

    Oh, what a wonderful post. I almost forgot that we are still having winter. I want spring and flowers now!! Can’t I come with you on a flower trip once? I think it will make so much more sense than to go with my husband who barely sees the flowers I put on the table in front of him 🙂

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison

      Alison February 24, 2010 at 12:37

      You can absolutely come with me! As long as you don’t mind waiting for ages while I photograph everything. It can get rather boring. I just got a book called Gardens of The Netherlands and Belgium and I have marked tons of places I want to go. If you’re up for it let me know!

      • Comment by Mirka

        Mirka February 24, 2010 at 14:18

        Nice post, I did not know about the gardens in Vredehof, I have to check that out. Well, if I manage timewise, as always. Where did you buy the book you mention? That might be good investment 🙂

  3. Comment by Lydia

    Lydia March 1, 2010 at 16:55

    Thank-you for this post. We visited the Groot-Bijgaarden last year and it was beautiful. I am adding these places to my calendar.

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison March 1, 2010 at 17:41

      Glad you found it helpful! I have a batch of new ones on my schedule for this year so hopefully I’ll have some more you can add to your list 🙂

  4. Comment by Yannick

    Yannick June 4, 2011 at 00:11

    I would recommend the agricultural region called Pajottenland in the south-west of brussels (25 min. from the center of Brussels). Its gently rolling hills (the Pajottenland is sometimes called the ‘Tuscany of the low countries’!) make it fun to explode by bike. The pajottenland offers some stunning landscapes, lovely little villages and midieval castles. You should really check out the beautiful gaasbeek castle. The castle and its huge park (50 hectares or 124 acres) are open to the public. The midieval church and marketplace are also worth visiting. Gaasbeek is a village in the municipality of Lennik, and in 2007 it was chosen as one of the 15 most beautiful villages in Flanders! I live near the Coloma park in Sint-Pieters-Leeuw (which you have already visited :D)and on a sunny day I just love to go biking in the nearby Pajottenland.

    P.S. I have noticed that you’re a good photographer, and since you live near Brussels I can recommend the Laeken cemetry (the ‘Père Lachaise’ of Brussels) to you. It sounds a bit macabre (and it is :p), but the atmosphere is very special and you can take some great pictures over there!

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison

      Alison June 4, 2011 at 10:28

      Great tips Yannick. Thanks so much! We’ve had Gaasbeek castle on our ‘to do’ list for some time now so I think we’ll have to get there soon. There are just so many beautiful places to explore!

  5. Comment by Leigh

    Leigh March 30, 2012 at 18:09

    What an inspiring selection of gardens to visit. Perhaps I’ll see some colour in the next month or 6 weeks in Calgary – but spring feels like a long time coming.

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison March 30, 2012 at 18:19

      Thanks Leigh! I’ve heard Eastern Canada has been having some wild weather… 20 degrees and then 2 days later snow. Yikes!

  6. Comment by Georges Bolle'

    Georges Bolle' March 31, 2012 at 02:25

    Wonderful country Belgium. You make supreme articles about it.
    Alison, have U been in Bokrijk ? If not, please go there in spring, it just opened the season now.
    Maybe also look at Sterkshof Palace in Deurne / Antwerpen, and nearby Rivierenhof Park with its fameous open air theatre ?

  7. Comment by Juan

    Juan March 31, 2012 at 12:09

    Wonderful article as usual Alison, keep up the good work! I will try to go to some of the places you propose. Thanks again.

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison

      Alison March 31, 2012 at 12:22

      Thanks Juan! There are really some lovely gardens here to explore!

  8. Comment by Allicia

    Allicia April 1, 2012 at 17:15

    Thanks Alison, after two years in Belgium we visted Hallerboos for the first time. We got lucky and saw the carpet of bluebells. It was a great trip we would not of known about if it was not for you! Took some great pics of our little girl in a sea of blue! Thanks again looking forward to checking out another spot on the list!

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison

      Alison April 1, 2012 at 17:43

      Oh that’s great Allicia! I’m glad you hit it at the right time. It’s such a magical place. Keep us posted if you visit any of the other gardens!

  9. Comment by Sheryar

    Sheryar April 7, 2012 at 13:57

    Hello Alison, great post, and we ‘ll use it as a reference. We are ourselves already living in Belgium for more than 10 years, but we increasingly get family and friends visiting us, and we don’t want to over-repeat the outings and sights we show them.

    I did want to update you on one thing: Vredehof is no longer operational, the phone number listed to get a reservation/information, leads to the widow of the man who started it, as he passed away 3 years ago.

    I have already sent a mail to the newspaper team who posted it on a news site, so that the widow is not contacted anymore. Perhaps you can update your site/page as well.

    Kind regards,
    Sheryar

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison

      Alison April 19, 2012 at 14:28

      Thanks for the update on this Sheryar. It’s a shame he has passed on and the garden is no longer. It was truly lovely.

  10. Comment by Ericka

    Ericka April 29, 2012 at 12:27

    Alison, I recently moved to Belgium and will be here for a few years. Thanks for you your post. It has some great ideas that I will certainly check out. Let me know if you’d like to meet at some point. I am always looking to learn something new and can spend hours taking pictures!

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison

      Alison May 2, 2012 at 19:26

      Hi Ericka and welcome to Belgium and to CheeseWeb! I’m just getting back from a month of travel but once things settle down meeting up would be nice. Cheers!

  11. Comment by Aida

    Aida May 1, 2012 at 08:39

    Hi Alison. All these are fantastic ideas. Thank you so much!
    Has anyone been to the Blue Forest recently? I’ve only managed to get the timing right once or twice since we discovered this forest 15 years ago! It’s a lovely forest even without the bluebell carpet, of course, but thought a Blue Forest visit might be fun today. Anyone know if the flowers are still in bloom?

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison

      Alison May 2, 2012 at 18:16

      I haven’t visited yet this year but the Bluebells are out right now in England so I expect they are here as well.

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