Points of interest

Away from the crowds in The Sonian Forest

Take a walk amongst the trees in one of Belgium’s best beauty spots.

Belgium is a wonderful place to visit, with plenty of quieter places, away from crowds, to explore. Perhaps one of its most beautiful natural spaces is the Sonian Forest, an ancient gathering of trees, some of which are more than 200 year’s old.

UNESCO protects three large regions of the forest for wildlife conservation, so this is a great place to spot deer, boars, foxes, and more. Or, simply wander the many paths through the trees and soak up a little peace and quiet.

Where is the Sonian Forest?

The Sonian Forest lies to the southeast of Brussels. It stretches over three Belgian regions; Flanders, the Brussels-Capital Region, and Wallonia.

A forest early in the morning, on a sunny and cold winter day with light coming through the trees

Driving to the Sonian Forest from Calais

Driving from Calais to the Sonian Forest will take around 2 hours and 30 minutes, so you can plan some stops if you wish, you drive past the cities of Bruges and Ghent before the route arcs around the city of Brussels and to the forest itself.

Of course, because it is such a large area, there are numerous entrance points, but if you are going by car look for parking at Red Cloister in the Brussels municipality of Auderghem, and the Hippodrome in the Watermael-Boitsfort municipality.

If you are staying in Brussels, a drive to the Sonian Forest only takes around 28 minutes.

Getting around the forest

The Sonian Forest has over 5,000 hectares to explore and a variety of ways to do so. Each will give you a unique view of your beautiful surroundings.

On foot

Pack your good walking shoes as you have plenty of ground to cover. There are marked trails with various difficulty levels, some are hillier than others so make sure you go prepared.

By bicycle

You will cover more of the forest this way than on foot, especially handy if you want to visit points of interest in far apart sections of the wood. There are several Villo stations (self-service bike rentals) near the Ter Kameren Park on the edge of the city of Brussels and the Sonian Forest itself, most notably Villo Ceres and Villo Legrand. Of course, you can also bring your own bike.

Horse riding

There are designated equestrian trails and bridleways through the forest. You can also try Lord Newcastle Stables just outside Brussels for a riding school and beginners trails, which are often led in parts of the Sonian Forest as it’s so close by.

small striped chipmunk on a tree branch in a forest

Things to see and do in and around the Sonian Forest

As well as enjoying the flora and fauna, there are some points of interest and activities in the forest for all ages and abilities.

Visit the Ernest Solvay Monument

Ernest Solvay was an inventor and important political figure who lived in Brussels/Woluwe. The monument consists of a marble statue of a pensive Solvay on a granite pedestal. It’s free to visit.

Ter Kameren Gate and park

We mentioned Ter Kameren is a great place to hire a bike for riding through the forest, but it’s also well worth stopping to enjoy the park too. Right on the edge of the woodland, this urban park has a small lake with an island in the centre, called Robinson's Island. There are places to eat and relax as well as plenty of flora and fauna to relax among.

stone structure in the middle of a forest with autumn leaves

Forester's monument

This ancient Neolithic monument, dating back to the times of the Druids, is a memorial to Belgian forestry workers who died during the First World War. It was designed by artist Richard Viandier, who was inspired by the burial rites of the Celts. Each stone has the name of a forester inscribed on it. It’s a poignant site, made all the more special by the surrounding forest.

Visit the archaeological reserve at Boitfort Lakes

One of two archaeological reserves in the forest, this is the largest at 90,000 square metres. It dates back over 6,000 years but was only discovered in 1888 when local children discovered spear and arrow points. After numerous excavations finds included flint artefacts, knife points, pottery, and many other relics that point towards a Neolithic civilisation.

The Englishmen’s Lawn

A marvellous piece of history, in 1815, on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo, English soldiers played a cricket match in this area. The British Ambassador in Belgium planted an oak tree on the lawn and unveiled a bronze plaque to commemorate the 150th anniversary of this historical event in 1965. Today it’s free to visit to anyone exploring the forest.

White building set amongst trees next to a lake under a blue sky

The Red Monastery

This Augustinian priory, founded in 1367, sits on the edge of the forest surrounded by lakes through which the  stream passes. It was used for hunting in the 16th and 17th centuries but today holds an art centre celebrating and supporting Belgian artists.

Jean Massaert botanical gardens

Founded by Belgian botanist Jean Massart in 1922, the garden cultivates over 2,000 different plants in a variety of wild and domesticated species, ranging from flowers such as magnolia up to complete orchards of apple, pear, plum, peach, and cherry trees. Admission is free year-round.

man in red jacket carrying walking sticks walks through a forest on a marked path in the sunshine

Visit the Sonian Forest with Eurotunnel Le Shuttle

The Sonian Forest awaits. Book your tickets to Belgium with Eurotunnel for a safe trip into Europe.

Driving from Calais into Belgium is just a 40-minute drive along the E40, the route follows the beautiful coast of northern France. Just an hour’s drive from Calais lies Poperinge, Flanders' hidden gem.

Travelling a little further? Don’t forget to read our guide to some of the amazing cities and natural beauty spots you can visit, filled with fun things to do.

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