TRAVELLING IN BELGIUM: MY FLEMISH BRABANT BUCKET LIST
Let’s play a travel game, shall we? It’s all about exchanging tips about our experiences but we’ll also get to compare our scores in the end. But first, let me ask you this: How much do you know about Belgium’s Flemish Brabant?
If you live in Brussels, it’s more likely than not that you’ve been to the Flemish Brabant. It’s a province of Flanders, one of the three regions of Belgium and its capital is Leuven. If not, make sure to include the surrounding area of Brussels in your itinerary next time you visit Belgium. You’ll see below why…
A few days ago I discovered the Flemish Brabant’s Bucket List website and thought it would be fun to share with you which activities I have ticked off my list and how much of a local I can claim to be! Overall, I think I did pretty well (if I may say so myself!) but at the same time I realised there are still so many local activities, spots and food I’d love to discover and try. Are you up for a quick challenge? Let’s see how I did!
The Hallerbos one of the most magical places in Belgium. The forest is beautiful throughout the year but from mid-late April to early May millions of bluebells blossom creating a blue carpet, hence the name “Blue Forest”. The whole scenery is out of this world: blue-coloured wild hyacinths cover the ground and spread as far as the eye can see forming a spectacular sea of flowers. Up close the bluebells are delicate yet their density creates a blue-purple haze and fills the air with an intense sweet fragrance that reminded me of lilacs – a truly unique sight that seems like a fairy tale.
There are plenty of castles in the Flemish Brabant region but I’m sharing two of my favourites! The Coloma castle in Sint-Pieters-Leeuw was built around 1515 and although small, it’s really pretty. The castle has been fully restored and serves nowadays as a municipal cultural center. The surrounding area is equally lovely and features a former carriage house where you can have a coffee or have a quick bite, a stair tower and the Coloma Rose Garden, one of the largest of its kind in Europe.
The Gaasbeek Castle is another gem for a relaxing day trip. Head first to the castle to discover its opulent interiors. There are loads of valuable artefacts on display, including a collection of Doornik tapestries, many of which are huge and take up whole walls. Then take a long walk around the surrounding grounds, which include a lake, an old chapel, an arch in honour of Napoleon and a renowned museum garden with indigenous species of fruit and vegetables.
Leuven’s Grand Béguinage is nothing short of impressive. A UNESCO World Heritage site, it dates back to the 13th century when it served as a home to women who had taken temporary vows of chastity and obedience but were nevertheless free to leave any time. Nowadays it belongs to the University of Leuven and houses students and academic staff. Take your time and explore a little bit the little alleyways and cobblestone streets; it won’t take long until you’re transported to a different era.
VISIT A BREWERY
When I first came to Belgium, I was not a major been fan but this has surely changed over the years! Over time I have visited quite a few breweries, including some in the Flemish Brabant region with Brewery 3 Fonteinen, the Hoegaarden brewery and Brewery van Campenhout being amongst my favourites.
TASTE A TRADITIONAL GEUZE BEER
I’ve actually ticked off this item many many times – probably more than I’d like to admit! Belgian beers are second to none and you can enjoy them in different spots in Brussels but why not do so while soaking up the sun in a beautiful garden? This picture brings back great memories – it was taken on such an occasion at the Brasserie 3 Fonteinen.
Now considering I have tried my fair share of local products (hello wine and chocolate!), taken Dutch courses and attempted to speak in Flemish with the locals (who have been very kind and patient with me), I guess I can almost call myself a local, right?!
Have you checked any of those items off your Flemish Brabant bucket list?
If so, what’s your bucket list score?