Belgium is home to over 3000 castles and chateaus and the Château de Beloeil is one of the most famous. Because we love a good castle, here at CheeseWeb, last week, we headed for Wallonia to see what the Château de Beloeil had to offer.
Located in the municipality of Belœil in the province of Hainaut, Belgium, the Château de Beloeil is an imposing building but it is hidden from view of the main road. Luckily, as we passed through the village, a large sign directed us to the spacious, free parking lot for the castle.
We walked up the sidewalk a few meters and discovered the front gate. From there we headed up the long cobbled drive to the main entrance. This front entrance, although symmetrical, is not the most famous view of the castle. The picture-postcard view is from the end of the long garden, but we’ll get to that in a moment.
The Château de Beloeil has been the residence of the Princes de Ligne, one of Belgium’s highest-ranking noble families, since 1394. It was founded even earlier, in the 13th century, as a medieval fortress. Its present appearance comes from its transformation to a palatial residence in the 17th and 18th centuries.
After purchasing our tickets, our tour began up the impressive staircase, to the first floor. There are only about seven rooms open to the public, in the château, and our exploration of the castle’s interior took under an hour.
The rooms are fully furnished with period furniture, paintings, china and chandeliers. We were particularly impressed by the beautiful bed in the Amblise room and the decoration of the Marshal’s sitting room.
Of course, our favourite room was the library. The warm, golden, wood interior almost glows and the book bindings of the 20,000 titles are very well preserved. In fact, it reminded us of a small version of the Trinity College library in Dublin.
However, compared to some of the other castles we’ve visited, both in Belgium and abroad, the Château de Beloeil feels a bit run-down. The carpets are faded and wrinkled and the paint is peeling; the entire castle interior could use a bit of TLC.
The experience got us wondering about the difficulty of maintaining these magnificent old buildings. In a country with the highest density of castles per square km in the world, over 400 of which are open to the public, how do we preserve them all? It’s an unanswerable question.
After our tour of the interior, we headed to the garden to take in that postcard view. It certainly is an impressive sight.
Behind the Château de Beloeil (or in front of it, depending on your perspective) is a long man-made pond. When it is calm, it offers a beautiful reflection of the castle. From the top of the pond, you can see far into the distance what was once all land belonging to the château.
In addition to our admission, we had purchased tickets to ride the “train” around the garden. We had wrongly assumed this trip would involve some sort of commentary about the gardens. In fact, all it did was take us on a circuit of the outside of the grounds and pause briefly for photos at the end of the lake. We would recommend passing on this unless you have difficulty walking or the weather is particularly bad.
After our “train tour,” we decided to wander through the gardens. Once again, we were left somewhat disappointed. First, there wasn’t a flower to be found, even in the area called “the rose meadow.” Second, the pools were in need of a good cleaning and the hedges were desperate for a trimming. With 55000 square meters of clipped hedges, it is no small undertaking. By far, the best part of the garden is the view it offers of the château.
At the far end of the long pond is the Neptune statue. It must have been an impressive sight when it was built in the late 1700s, but today, poor Neptune is starting to crumble. Still, from this vantage point, you can really admire the beautiful, symmetrical architecture of the castle.
Visiting the Château de Beloeil
Overall, the Château de Beloeil is certainly worth a visit, but it is best to combine it with another attraction in the area, if you are coming from a distance away. Our tour of the castle and grounds took us under two hours and could be easily completed in an hour, if you forgo exploring the entire garden.
- Weekends and public holidays in April, May, June and September 2012.
- Every day from 1st July until 31th August 2012.
- Opening hours: 1 pm to 6 pm.
- Closed Sept. 23 2012
- Castle and Gardens 8€
- Garden only 4€
- Train (weekends only) 2€
- Castle and Gardens 4€
- Gardens Only 2€
- Train 2€
The Château de Beloeil is only about a 10-minute drive from the Pairi Daiza animal park and botanical garden. Our day-trip suggestion would be to visit Pairi Daiza, first thing in the morning, and then finish your day at the Château de Beloeil.
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