Social Distancing Holidays

Places to visit in Belgium to avoid crowds

If you are seeking a quiet holiday in Belgium, away from the crowds, we have prepared some of the best locations for you to try.

Belgium offers great traditional cuisine, history, and culture. It’s a wonderful place to take a holiday, especially if you are looking to avoid busier places and enjoy some relaxing scenery. Here are some of our top picks for quieter destinations.  

The Sonian Forest

This ancient forest has some trees that are more than 200 year’s old. With over 5,000 hectares to explore, you’ll be able to enjoy a range of activities, from hiking to picnicking. There are three lakes, which allow carp fishing (check ahead for seasonality and licencing) and many also cycle the well-signposted routes around the forest to take it all in.

Playgrounds are available for families with children up to 12, but many simply take advantage of the natural spaces to run and play. You may well spot deer, boars, and foxes, as UNESCO protects three large regions of the forest for wildlife conservation.

You can reach the forest by metro and tram from central Brussels, just one of Belgium’s great cities, but the easiest way is to drive, which is only 28 minutes and car parking is available.

Siberian chipmunk on tree branch in Foret de Soignes (Sonian Forest), Brussels, Belgium

Hohes Venn-Eifel Nature Park

Another fantastic outdoor space and one of the oldest nature reserves in Belgium, this park has rivers, forest, moors, and mountains to enjoy. Bordering an even larger space (Eifel National Park), Hoes Venn-Eifel has unique flora and fauna to spot, including the most beautiful wild daffodils that pop up in spring in the valets of the Olef, Perlenbach and Fuhrtsbach rivers.

Hike, cycle, or simply stroll through this tranquil place to spot wild animals like the beavers that build their dams and lodges on the riverbanks. Guided treks and tours are available to book, too to help you make the most of your trip.

Spa

Spa is nestled in a valley close to where the Ardennes massif meets the Hautes Fagnes plateau and is a place richly associated with the supposed healing properties of its waters.

In the 18th century The Parc de Sept Heures (Seven O’clock Park) was a favourite spot for Spa’s many high-class (and even royal) visitors. Take a turn along its promenade by the Wayai stream and enjoy the beautiful elm trees and monuments that are dotted throughout.

Elsewhere in the town you will find 16th and 17th Century churches, Spa forest, and The Château de Franchimont, thought to have been built in the 11th century by the Prince-Bishopric of Liège. Bring your camera for the stunning views from this medieval castle ruin.

Thermes de Spa

Spa’s modern hydrotherapy centre (the original building is set to become a hotel) sits atop a hill overlooking the town.

The waters have been claimed to increase circulation, increase metabolism and benefit the skin for centuries, but regardless of your belief, this is a wonderful place to visit to relax.

Try any of the extensive range of wellness and beauty treatments, centred on the spring water, but including massage, facials, saunas, steam rooms, and even meditation.

Lac de Warfaaz

After a series of floods in the 19th century the Wayai stream was dammed to the northeast of Spa in 1892, creating a 6.5-hectare lake.

Lac de Warfaaz is just outside Spa with paved banks lined with horse chestnut trees. It’s a gorgeous retreat that attracts walkers, cyclists and lovers of the great outdoors. Head to the south short for cafes and restaurants, or why not stroll to the jetty and hire a pedalo for a paddle?

Castle ruins set into a lush, green hillside

Ardennes

The Ardennes start in France, but stretch across three Belgian provinces, Namur, Luxemburg, and Liege. The perfect escape from busier cities, here you can immerse yourself in nature, visit traditional towns, or explore caverns and caves.

Han-sur-Lesse

Visit this pretty village for some of the most magical cave systems in Belgium. The river Lesse plunges into a sinkhole nearby (called the gouffre de Belvaux) and has carved out caves into the surrounding limestone hills. A vintage streetcar from the old tramway system takes you from the centre of the village into the caves, featuring a sound and light show.

Bouillon

A real treat for history lovers, Bouillon is like a miniature city, with a magnificent castle dating back to the 8th Century. While visiting the castle, take in a falconry show, or step into the Scriptura Exhibition – all about how writing and printing developed in Bouillon. Take the road down to the gothic bridge from 1935 on the Semois river to get the best view of the castle in all its beauty.

The town centre of Bouillon is also worth spending time in, with restaurants and cafes to enjoy as well as a museum dedicated to the architectural development of the castle.

A stretch of golden beach with grass dunes and blue sky overhead

Château de la hulpe

This stunning building, flanked by four ivy-clad turrets, is surrounded by beautiful peaceful gardens. Built for the Marquis Maximilien de Béthune in the 1840s, it sits on the outskirts of Brussels, atop a hill overlooking a lake.

As well as trees and ponds, the gardens are filled with over 1,000 rhododendrons, a spectacular sight when they bloom from March to May. Although you are unable to go inside the Château itself, there are three 5 km walks available to explore making for a peaceful place to relax and take some time out.

Hoge Kempen National Park

We’ve already mentioned this fantastic space in our article See Belgium from high to low, but it’s the perfect place for a quieter break thanks to its expanse of forest and heathland.

Set in the Belgian province of Limburg, the nature reserve is protected to allow unique flora and fauna to thrive and it has six different gated entrances, each with its own nearby experiences from walks to cycled paths, playgrounds to vintage train rides.

Knokke-Heist

Offering one of the best dog-friendly beaches near West Flanders, Knokke-Heist beach allows you to visit at any point during the day with your pooch between October and March, plus the whole beach is leash-free. This stretch of North Sea coastline also has a charming seaside town you can stay in, with art galleries and local boutiques to check out during your relaxing stay. Knokke-Heist is conveniently only 1 hour 30 minutes from Calais by car.

water and hillside under blue skies with white birds settled on the banks of a river

The Zwin

Not far from the beach lies The Zwin walking route and Zwin Nature Park, both naturally beautiful. You can walk through dunes, woodland, and get magnificent views of the Zwin Plain, not to mention spot cattle and other wildlife along your way. Zwin walk is around 12 km of a circular route, so you can park at the Nature Park and return to your car once you are done.

Vallee du Ninglinspo

This walk through a valley in the heritage area of Wallonia is dotted with unique little bridges that criss-cross the Ninglinspo river. Perfect for adventurers of all ages, you can park at various points along the route and follow coloured signs to take either the red or blue diamond paths. It’s around 14 km of sometimes tricky walking (pack your hiking shoes) but you are heavily rewarded with waterfalls and wildlife.

Nearby, you can also visit traditional Belgian hamlets and villages such as Chefna or the fairytale-like caves at Remouchamps, dating back 8,000 years.

Flanders Fields

From 1914 to 1918, Flanders Fields was a major battle site on the Western Front during the First World War. An emotive place to visit, you can immerse yourself in history here, often in places with smaller crowds. The In Flanders Fields Museum, Ypres is, however, a popular stop for visitors, but only an hours' drive from Eurotunnel Le Shuttle's Calais terminal. Follow the A16 towards Dunkirk across the border into Belgium. Continue onto the E40, before joining the N8 towards the Menin Gate Memorial.

There are numerous memorials to visit, but also plenty of places to eat and enjoy local Belgian cuisine during your stay.

A memorial to the missing in WW1 on a stone plinth that reads their names liveth for evermore with poppy wreaths below

Start your journey with Eurotunnel Le Shuttle

Driving to Belgium could not be simpler with Eurotunnel Le Shuttle. We take you from Folkestone to Calais in just 35 minutes, then it’s just a short 40-minute drive along the E40 into Belgium (the route follows the beautiful coast of Northern France). You only need to stay on the road a little longer to reach Bruges, too.

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