It’s World Environment Day and this year’s theme is about connecting with nature. Lucky for us, the city we live in provides countless opportunities to do just that. There are approximately eight thousand hectares of green space in the Brussels-Capital Region of which 70 percent are in the outer suburbs and a smaller percentage in the city centre. So, where do you usually go nature-tripping in Brussels? If you’re looking for some suggestions, we’ve rounded up our own list of the best nature spots in the city. This time we’re taking a break from the familiar parks and bringing you straight into the woods where you can rediscover nature in all its pristine wildness.
1. Bois du Wilder/Wilderbos, Berchem-Sainte-Agathe
Wildflowers of various species are among the first to greet you at Wilder Woods. They add a charming assortment of colors to the usual greens and browns of the area’s flora. For exercise buffs tired of doing the same old jogging routine, the woods propose the parcours santé, a fitness trail with a series of challenging obstacles to test the endurance and stamina. If all you want is a relaxing and sweatless walk, there are wood bridges and stairs that will guide you along the way. On one side of the woods, you will find the restored church of Sainte Agathe which is the oldest standing structure in the municipality.
2. Bois de Dieleghem/Dieleghembos
Jette Rabbits are the welcoming party at Dieleghem Woods. You will see a lot of them scurrying around, and good luck trying to steal a shot. They’re much too fast for your fingers. Aside from a soul-enriching walk among the trees, the woods also offer a playground with more than just the ordinary swings. Kids and kids-at-heart can get a doze of action-packed fun taking turns on the gigantic tube slide and the jungle net bridge among others. You can cap off your family excursion with a meal and a drink at the Chalet du Laerbeek located near the entrance to the woods.
3. Bois du Laerbeek/Laerbeekbos, Jette
This haven of nature is about five minutes away from Dieleghem Woods and quite close to the Atomium. If you’re lucky, you may even catch a view of the famous Brussels icon through the thicket. At Laerbeek Woods, the strong, delicious smell of garlic will follow you around especially in spring and summer. A thick growth of wild garlic or ail des ours marks the woods and its scent can be a real treat for the nostrils. It’s like walking through a forest and a kitchen at the same time. The only possible drawback is it may leave you feeling hungry or craving some deep garlic-fried dish. Not cool especially if you just finished an intense calorie-burning jog.
4. Bois de Verrewinkel/Verrewinkebos
Uccle Verrewinkel Woods is part of Brussels’ Promenade Verte or the green route, a 63-kilometer trail designed to guide hikers and cyclists to the city’s top nature spots. You wouldn’t get lost in this neck of the woods even if you tried. The path is strewn with signposts to make sure you don’t stray from the green route. Tread carefully though as you come across the gaping ravines that add character to Verrewinkel Woods.
5. Bois de La Cambre/Ter Kamerenbos, Brussels City
If New York City has Central Park, Brussels has La Cambre Woods. This green paradise has the combined aspects of a park and a forest. If you’re after the park experience, head for the central section of the woods where you can sit on the grass, have a picnic, soak up the sun, and enjoy the view of the lake which runs in the middle of the fields. You can also ride a boat and interact with the ducks, geese, and swans that roam the water. The centrepiece of the lake is a 3-story cabin-style restaurant that provides a romantic setting for dates. Dining at Le Chalet Robinson is an experience in itself which starts with a boat ride to the restaurant followed by a fine meal as you bask in the surrounding beauty. The park also features an open air gym with several exercise equipment and a running/biking trail around the lake. Those who prefer some peace and quiet in the company of trees will find refuge in the forest area of La Cambre Woods.
6. Forêt de Soignes/Zoniënwoud
The Sonian Forest is the mother of woods in Brussels. It extends over several municipalities and towns within Flanders, Wallonia, and the Brussels-Capital Region. It’s not only a place for trekking, jogging, or biking, but also for fishing, horseback-riding and more. You can learn all about the forest’s flora and fauna at the museum situated in the central area of the forest. And if you feel like nature-tripping and foodtripping at the same time, the forest will lead you to several choices of restaurants. One of the highlights of the Sonian Forest is the memorial dedicated to the 32 victims of the Brussels attacks on March 22, 2016. The structure designed by landscape architect Bas Smets consists of a circular bench made of Belgian blue stones and surrounded by 32 birch trees.
So why connect with nature at all? For one, it can do wonders for your health and wellbeing. Numerous studies have shown that spending time in nature can lower our stress levels and improve our mental and physical health. Most of all, it’s a way of paying homage to Mother Nature. Let’s celebrate World Environment Day by heeding the global call to reconnect with her. We wish you a happy nature-tripping and don’t forget to share your favorite outdoor spots with us.