Green Belt - day 1: from Grimbergen to Lennik

Grimbergen - Bier - toost

The Basilica of Saint Servatius towers over the centre of Grimbergen like a historic beacon. Just follow the tower and you come to the Norbertine Abbey, where the fathers have taken up brewing again. For their Grimbergen Magnum Opus, the Ignis Quadruple and the Astrum Pale Ale, they use an old, medieval variety of hops from their own hop field. A stop in the Fenikshof at the abbey is immediately something to look forward to as the finale to this three-day experience! Take a sneak peek at the new experience centre and wander through the history of the Grimbergen abbey beer.



Grimbergen - Bier - toost - close
Sint-Anna-Pede - Parabel van de blinden
Sint-Servaas basiliek Grimbergen

Beyond the villa neighbourhoods of Meise, the landscape changes. You pedal through open, rolling fields and woods. Villages such as Brussegem, Kobbegem and Bekkerzeel follow one another. The copper brewing kettles of Brewery Girardin in Sint-Ulriks-Kapelle announce the land of Geuze and Bruegel: the Pajottenland. In the 16th century, Pieter Bruegel wandered through the landscape here with his easel under his arm and immortalised the churches, villages and water mills. The proud people of the Pajottenland placed 19 reproductions of Bruegel’s finest paintings in those places where he found his inspiration. Do you recognise the church of Sint-Anna-Pede on “The Blind Leading the Blind” from 1568?

Plantentuin Meise
Plantentuin Meise - Kasteel van Boechout


The world in one plant palace

After fifteen minutes of cycling, you arrive at the Botanical Garden of Meise. With its 92 hectares and 18,000 different species, this is the largest botanical garden in the world.

Take your time walking from one climate zone to another in the Plant Palace. You will discover plants from the desert, the savannah, the rainforest and from more bizarre worlds. The design of the Cloud Forest greenhouse and the Mediterranean greenhouse are the culmination of a whole new landscaping. In the Cloud Forest Greenhouse, waterfalls flow from the rocks, orchids bloom and you can admire plants that grow where the tropical rainforest, high up in the mountains, turns into a cloud forest. The Mediterranean Greenhouse treats you to a fragrant plant wealth on terraces of yellow limestone straight from the southern French Burgundy region.

Also new is the Island Garden in the pond of Bouchout Castle. Along a 400-metre-long meandering path just above water level, you stroll through an archipelago of islands with an array of aquatic, waterside and marsh plants and trees from all over the world.

And if all this does not overwhelm you, then the extraordinary history of the castle will. Leopold II purchased the retreat for his sister Charlotte. She had become Empress of Mexico in 1864, but three years later her husband, Maximilian of Austria, lost his life before a firing squad of Mexican Republicans. Charlotte lived in the castle in Meise for almost sixty years, quietly going mad, talking to a doll that she christened Max.