The best places in Belgium to take your pet

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Belgium, like the rest of Europe really, is a nation of pet lovers. So why not take your four-legged friend with you on your next holiday?

Here in the UK, it’s safe to say that we are a nation of pet lovers. So, it’s important to know that when we take our pets on holiday with us, we’re going somewhere equally welcoming to our cats and dogs. Fortunately, just over the Channel, Europe is full of pet lovers, too, and nowhere more so than Belgium.

Enjoy dog-friendly beaches in Knokke-Heist
Where in Belgium: West Flanders
Drive from Calais: 1h 30m / 135km

There’s plenty of open space for your dog to run free on the beach at Knokke-Heist
There’s plenty of open space for your dog to run free on the beach at Knokke-Heist

If your pooch loves nothing more than diving into the sea in hot pursuit of their favourite tennis ball, or kicking up the sand behind them as they race down the beach, you’ll find yourself in luck in Belgium. Many of the beaches along the coast of the North Sea are open to your four-legged friend. Generally, during the off-season months from October to May, you’re welcome to bring your dog any time of day, but in the summer, it’s often restricted to morning and evening walks only.

One of the best beaches along the coast is Knokke-Heist, where you’re not only allowed to visit at any point during the day between October and March, but the whole beach is leash-free! And as well as hours of fun on the beach for the dogs, the charming little seaside town has plenty to keep you and the rest of the family entertained. There are some particularly lovely little art galleries to wander around, as well as local boutiques and shops selling everything from high-end goods to novelty souvenirs.

Walkies in the High Fens
Where in Belgium: Liège
Drive from Calais: 2h 50m / 296km

Wooden boardwalks lead you through the beautiful marshes of the High Fens
Wooden boardwalks lead you through the beautiful marshes of the High Fens

The Hautes Fagnes, or High Fens as we call them in English, are Belgium’s largest protected nature reserve. There are a number of trails and walks you can set out on for the day, varying in length and difficulty, however, you should check beforehand which areas you’re allowed to walk your dog. Environmentally, the High Fens are incredibly diverse, with the landscape ranging from dense woodland to beautiful heathland, via swampy peat bogs. Which route you choose will depend on your own levels of experience and fitness, as well as your dog’s!

As you’d expect in any nature reserve, the High Fens are divided up into different zones in order to preserve the delicate ecosystems, so dogs aren’t allowed everywhere. The zones are always clearly marked, though, to help you. Zone D is forbidden to everyone, in Zone C only people accompanied by an authorised guide can enter, and in Zone B there are no dogs or bicycles allowed. That said, anywhere that isn’t specifically marked off is free to roam for you and your pooch. The High Fens offer a treasure trove of new scents and sights for your dog to explore, with an adventure just waiting to be sniffed out around every corner.

A day out in Rivierenhof Park
Where in Belgium: Antwerp
Drive from Calais: 2h 5m / 204km

Sterckshof castle looks particularly magical in the winter months
Sterckshof castle looks particularly magical in the winter months credit: Torsade de Pointes 

On a visit to Antwerp, you’ll no doubt notice that there is a distinct shortage of green space in the city centre. And although dogs are more than happy to pootle around town with you, and relax outside coffee shops, they really love nothing better than letting loose in a great big outdoor space. The good news for you and your pooch is that there are a couple of stunning public parks a little further out in the suburbs of Antwerp. One of the loveliest of which is Rivierenhof Park.

Rivierenhof is the largest park in Antwerp, covering a massive 132 hectares, which for comparison is not much smaller than Hyde Park in London. That’s plenty of space for your pet to have a run around and stretch their legs. There are a number of canals running through the park, as well as a few larger ponds and a river, so watch out if your dog is a fan of swimming!

As you and your dog explore the park, you’ll no doubt discover that it’s also home to a couple of castles. There’s the 16th-century Rivierenhof castle, which looks out over a pretty pond that stretches out in front of the grand house. And also Sterckshof castle, which is actually a 20th-century ‘replica’ of an older castle!

Has all this talk of exploring the great outdoors got your pet’s tail wagging? Book your tickets with us to explore all that Belgium has to offer – and the earlier you book, the better your fare!