Traveling in your own country has gained a lot of popularity during the past few years, not under the best circumstances. But discovering your own country can always suprise you. So secretly I hope that this travel trend is not a passing one. Most people, when they think of traveling in Belgium, usually instantly think of the Belgian Coast, the Ardennes or some popular cities like Bruges, Brussels and Ghent. That’s why I want to highlight some lesser known places in this blog post. Even though our country is not that big, there are so many beautiful regions for a unique staycation in Belgium.
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7 lesser known places for a unique staycation in Belgium
The first region I am highlighting is the Westhoek. I recently moved to De Panne which is part of the West Coast of Belgium, and thus adjacent to the beautiful, rural region of the Westhoek. Because of the renovations I haven’t been able to explore so much yet, but from what I’ve already seen, already got me super excited.
The Westhoek is situated around Diksmuide, Ypres, Poperinge and Veurne. Between these impressive, historic cities you will find many small, charming, traditional Flemish villages and especially beautiful agricultural landscapes. In the summer the countryside turn completely green by the blossoming hop fields. And this is very impressive to see.
Things to do in the Westhoek?
The Westhoek is of course best known for its turbulent war history during the First World War. Cultural trips should therefore certainly not be missed during a weekend getaway in the Westhoek.
In Diksmuide you can visit the Museum on the Iron (river) in the monumental iron tower. There you will learn more about WWI in the Westhoek. For a lasting experience you should absolutely walk through the death gallery in Diksmuide. This is the only preserved Belgian trench system.
In Poperinge you can relive history with a visit to the Talbot House, a former British soldiers club at the time of WWI.
In the Westhoek you can also visit many military cemeteries. The most famous is the Tyne Cot Cementery in Passchendaele.
Something you have to attend during your staycation in the Westhoek is the daily military commemoration ‘The last post’. This traditional tune is blown under the Menin Gate in Ypres every day at 20h00. Please note that due to the corona measures no public is currently allowed at this ceremony.
Also in Ypres you can visit the In Flanders Fields museum which is housed in the impressive cloth hall. This huge building dates from the 13th century. In addition to the many traces of WWI, the Westhoek has many other beautiful historical monuments.
More Middle Ages? Then be sure to visit the hidden gem of the Westhoek, namely the Castle of Beauvoorde.
Nature and entertainment
The landscape of the Westhoek lends itself perfectly to beautiful cycling and walking trails. How about a beautiful bicycle ride along the Ijzer (river)? Rather admire the environment on the water? Then opt for a kayak. Or what about a lovely hike among the hop fields? There is something for everyone here. Don’t forget to enjoy a delicious local beer as well. In the Westhoek you can taste the Trappist of Westvleteren which has already been crowned the best beer in the world several times. You can also visit the hop museum in Poperinge.
Also the provincial domain Kemmelberg in Heuvelland is the place to be for hiking and cycling. Heuvelland can also be admired from the sky via the Cordoba cable car. There you have a wonderful view of the hilly landscape of the Westhoek.
And of course the Westhoek is the ideal base for a trip to the Westerrn Coast. Enjoy a day of water fun at sea or build sandcastles on the vast beach of De Panne. And explore the beautiful dunes along the French border via the Westhoek hiking trail. Or opt for a day out in a theme park, Plopsaland.
Where to stay in the Westhoek?
B&B ‘t Kasteel & ‘t Koetshuys – Veurne
Choose to stay in a picturesque castle in the centre of Veurne. You will not only stay in a beautiful setting, but in this unique bed and breakfast you can also relax in the wellness.
Guesthouse Gatsby – Ieper
Having an authentic stay in the heart of Ypres is definitely possible in this cozy Guesthouse. The atmospheric interior makes you travel back in time.
Glamping Aan de Vleterbeke – Oostvleteren
Camping in the beautiful countryside of the Westhoek with all comfort is possible in one of luxury safari tents at ‘Glamping aan de Vleterbeke’. You can also rent vacation homes for up to 10 people. In short, the ideal destination for an unforgettable family trip.
2. Hinterland of Bruges
The second region that lends itself perfectly to a unique staycation in Belgium is the hinterland of Bruges. The name already gives it away a bit. It is the region around the beautiful, historic city of Bruges. You will find a varied landscape consisting of meadows, canals, forests, castles and polders with picturesque polder villages including one of my all time favorite villages in Belgium, Damme.
Wat kan je doen in het Brugse Ommeland?
Hinterland of Bruges
To admire the beautiful diversity of landscapes in the hinterland of Bruges, it is best to go cycling or hiking. There is an extensive network of cycling and hiking trails here. One route that should definitely not be missed on your weekend getaway in the in the hinterland of Bruges is the Damse Vaart hiking trail.
During this hiking trail you’ll pass to the picturesque, medieval village of Damme, which is also an ideal base for further exploring the hinterland of Bruges. Don’t forget to schedule a boat trip with the Lamme Goedzak on the Damse Vaart.
Besides Damme there are many other charming villages such as the medieval Oostkerke, Lissewege, better known as the white village and the polder villages of Zuienkerke.
Go on a castle hunt and discover some of the hundred castles located in this region. The best known are the Castle of Wijnendale in Torhout, the Castle of Loppem, Castle Bulskampveld in Beernem, Castle Ravenhof in Torhout and Castle Ryckevlede in Assebroek. There is even a mapped out castle cycling trail.
Are you an animal lover? Then be sure to go bird watching in the Zwin nature park and immerse yourself in the life of migratory birds. If you want to see more animals, then the petting zoo ‘De zeven torentjes’ is also a good idea and it’s completely free. Or do something extraordinary and take a walk with an alpaca.
Trips in the neighborhood
From the hinterland of Bruges you can easily plan a day of water fun on the Eastern Coast, with famous coastal towns such as worthly Knokke and vibrant Blankenberge.
Where to stay in the hinterland of Bruges?
Rosy Garden – Lichtervelde
Glamorous camping in a beautiful piece of nature, that is possible at Rosy Garden in Lichtervelde. A Romantic getaway or a family trip, both are possible here!
B&B Pronkenstuk – Lissewege
In B&B Pronkenstuk located in Lissewege you can spend the night in a rustic 18th century country house. The rooms have been recently renovated while maintaining the authentic rural character. The large garden offers many possibilities for relaxation.
De grote Wateringe – Damme
Unwinding along the beautiful Damse Vaart is possible in hotel De Grote Wateringe. In this hotel the focus is on slowing down and that is perfectly possible in this beautifully renovated farmhouse.
3. Flemish Ardennes
The hills of the Flemish Ardennes are perhaps less known than those of the Belgian Ardennes, but certainly not less beautiful. This varied region is especially known among cycling enthusiasts, but hikers and nature lovers will also find something to their liking. In short, the perfect area for an unforgettable staycation in Belgium.
Things to do in the Flemish Ardennes?
The Flemish Ardennes contains a real cycling and hiking network. There are tough and hilly trails, such as cycling the Tour of Flanders. For those of us who prefer to take it easy, there are the slow-down hiking trails. My personal favorite is the panoramic route that starts in the picturesque village of Kwaremont. If you visit this town, make sure to stop at the authentic café D’Oude Hoeve for a short break.
Another beautiful piece of nature in the Flemish Ardennes is nature reserve ‘Het Burreken’. There you will find a wide variety of fauna and flora. Nearby you can admire the charming villages of Maarkedal and Schorisse.
The Flemish Ardennes have many forests. The most known are the Kluisbos and Brakelbos, where you can spot the blue forest hyacinths in spring.
But the Muziekbos is also highly recommended. At the highest point you can admire the Geuzentoren. The Ijsmolenhoeve is a petting zoo near the Muziekbos where you can do an incredible number of activities. From watching and caring for the animals to archery and even experiencing a real adrenaline rush in the impressive adventure park.
If you just can’t get enough of beautiful walking or cycling routes, then definitely go to the Zwalm region along the Schelde.
Don’t forget to visit the pearl of the Flemish Ardennes, Oudenaarde. Once this place was one of the most famous cities in Europe thanks to the local tapestry production. Nowadays you can still see the pageantry of this flourishing period in Oudenaarde through the impressive historic buildings such as the town hall and the cloth hall. In addition, Oudenaarde is also known for its tasty brown beers such as Ename, Roman, Liefmans, …
Besides Oudenaarde, Ronse is also well worth a visit. Do you want to visit more authentic villages? Then choose Ename and Mullem.
Would you like to know more about the history of the Flemish Ardennes? You can! In the Provincial Archeocentrum Velzeke you will learn more about prehistory, the Gallo-Roman era and the early Middle Ages in East Flanders. And in the Provincial Archeologic Museum te Ename you will find everything about the Flemish Ardennes during the High Middle Ages.
While you are in the Flemish Ardennes, don’t forget to visit Geraardsbergen for a delicious mattentaart, a traditional pastry in the area.
Where to stay in the Flemish Ardennes?
Ijsmolenhoeve – Ronse
On the domain of the Ijsmolenhoeve you can spend the night in luxurious tents and enjoy everything the domain has to offer. In short, the perfect place for an adventurous family trip.
B&B Clementine – Kruishoutem
In the heart of Kruishouten you will find B&B Clementine. This authentic accommodation takes you back in time to the dazzling Belle Époque period with its beautiful interior.
Interlude Spa, reserve Naturelle – Horebeke
Do you want to withdraw in nature? Then the bungalows on the lush domain of Interlude Spa, reserve Naturelle in Horebeke are the perfect place for you. Completely unwind in this beautiful setting.
4. Pajottenland and Senne Valley
The Pajottenland is located in the province of Flemish Brabant near the capital Brussels. It’s part of the green belt and thus also has a wide variety of landscapes. This region is also called the Tuscany of the Lowlands. And with such a nickname, this cannot be anything other than a top destination for a staycation in Belgium.
You can also take beautiful walks in the Pajottenland and the Zenne valley. I still vividly remember a yought movement camp when I was little that took place in Tollembeek. Every day we went out in search of the house of our hero Urbanus (comedian/ comic book figure). We never found it, but we did make the most beautiful walks.
Highly recommended is the Windmill Walk that passes the impressive Zeppos Mill, the last mill in the Pajottenland that can still grind.
Hallerbos is also located within the Pajottenland. This forest is best known for its beautiful carpet of bluebells during spring. Note: the bloom period attracts many visitors every year. Then you can do a bluebell walking route which is definitely one of the most epic hikes in Belgium.
More flowers? During the summer you can also admire beautiful roses in the Rose Garden of Sint-Pieters-Leeuw.
Besides the Tuscany of the Lowlands, Pajottenland has another nickname, namely the land of Bruegel. This well-known painter would often escape busy Brussels in search of peace and quiet in the Pajottenland. There he was inspired by rural life for his well known masterpieces.
In Dilbeek, more specifically Sint-Anna-Pede, you can visit an open-air Bruegel museum. There you can admire some of his most famous works during a walking or cycling tour.
The Belgian draft horse also plays an important role in the agricultural history of the Pajottenland. You can learn all about it in the museum of the Belgian Draft Horse in Vollezele.
The Pajottenland is also home to some beautiful castles such as the Castle of Gaasbeek and the Castle Ter Rijst with surrounding park in Heikruis, but the beautiful castle domain of Kruikenburg in Ternat is also worth a visit.
In the Pajottenland you can also enjoy tasty regional beers such as the Geuze van Lambiek. But the Lambiek’s fruit beers can also taste refreshing on a warm spring or summer day.
Where to stay in Pajottenland?
Holiday home Brokantie – Pamel
You can spend the night in the ecological holiday home Brokantie between the hills of the beautiful Pajottenland. There you can not only enjoy the retro interior, but also the terrace with a view of the garden and a mill. Moreover, you can also rent a scooter here to discover the Pajottenland in an original way.
Cosy Lodge – Dilbeek
Enjoy a cozy stay in the extremely charming Cozy Lodge. In good weather you can also enjoy the beautifully landscaped garden with swimming pool.
B&B T’rest – Heikruis
Feel like a king or queen for a day and stay at B&B T’rest on the Ter Rijst castle domain. Not only the breathtaking domain, but also the beautiful interior ensures an unforgettable stay.
The fifth destination for a unique staycation in Belgium is Hageland. I was first introduced to this region last year and was immediately enchanted. This beautiful rural area surrounding the historic university city of Leuven may be less known, but oh-so-beautiful! Here too you can still absorb the primal Flemish history. Just think of the masterpiece of writer Ernest Claes “De Witte” that took place in the Hageland.
Things to do in Hageland?
Within Hageland you can find many historic towns besides Leuven such as Diest, Aarschot, Tienen, Halen, Zoutleeuw and Scherpenheuvel. The latter probably sounds familiar. Scherpenheuvel is the most famous pilgrimage site in Belgium. What once started with a wooden cross ended in the construction of a beautiful basilica. The day after All Saints’ Day, the ‘candlestick procession’ is still held here, a tradition that dates back to 1628.
Castle van Horst
You can soak up history in the impressive Castle of Horst. The castle is currently closed for renovation works, but a walk through the surrounding park is still possible. A pleasant place to relax on a sunny day. Or bring a visit to the Abbey of Averbode and taste some tasty local products afterwards.
Abbey van Averbode
Nature and entertainment
Speaking of regional products, did you know that Hageland is also a wine region? The grapes are still cultivated on the flanks of the Wijngaardberg in Wezenmaal, as they were during the Middle Ages. There you can not only taste the Hagenland wine, but also take a beautiful vineyard mountain hike. You pass impressive vineyards, fruit orchards and nature reserves and above all that you will be surprised by spectacular views.
The most famous attraction within the Hageland is of course the Vlooybergtoren AKA ‘floating staircase’, which won a lot of fame after its appearance in the Flemish series “call boys”. It’s a bit of a strange sight in the middle of the countryside. But after a small climb of 57 steps you reach the top where you have a great view of the stunning surrounding region. You can also make beautiful cycling and walking tours in this region.
Want to cool down? Then go for a swim in the brand new plopsaqua in Landen.
Where to stay in Hageland?
B&B Villa Gerhagen – Tessenderlo
This beautiful B&B surrounded by an oasis of green will immediately bring you to rest. Surrender to a blissful zen moment right here.
B&B Nokernote – Tienen
Enjoy a rustic stay in B&B Nokernote in Tienen. Surprisingly, each room is designed according a specific destination somewhere in the world. Which these are? You’ll have to find out for yourself. Here you can also enjoy an extensive garden with an orchard.
Craywinckelhof Streekbelevingscentrum – Lubbeek
Do you like beer? Then a stay at Craywinckelhof Regional Experience Center might be something for you. You spend the night in a renovated farm brewery. Beer is still brewed here today and who knows, maybe you can taste one?
6. The campine
The Campine is a large and versatile region that mainly extends over the province of Antwerp, but also covers a part of Limburg and Flemish Brabant. An impressive region, where you can enjoy beautiful pieces of nature and treasures from the past to your heart’s desires. The ultimate staycation destination for nature lovers in Belgium.
Things to do in the Campine?
The Campine contains some of the most beautiful nature reserves in Belgium. One of these is even the only National Park in Belgium, namely Hoge Kempen National Park. Via the hiking area Terhills (former Connectera), the main entrance to the Hoge Kempen National Park, you can reach Flanders’ most beautiful panoramas.
The unique character of the sandy dunes in the Lommel Sahara is not exactly what you would expect in the Campine. But the sand and the lakes are the ideal combination for an unforgettable summer day. You can cool down under the many coniferous trees around the dune landscape. There is also a lot to experience here during other seasons. Walk one of the various hiking trails, climb the watchtower for a phenomenal view or go cycling among the trees in the surrounding Bosland.
Then there is also the famous nature park Kalmthoutse Heide. This beautiful piece of nature is located on the border with the Netherlands. Here too you can walk and cycle to your heart’s desire. The Kalmthoutse heide is at its best when it is in full bloom between mid-August and September.
Culture and entertainment
In the Campine you can admire many gems from the past. Be sure to visit the historic city of Lier. The most beautiful sights here are the Zimmer Tower, the Belfry, the Saint Gumaris Church and the beguinage.
Zimmer Tower Lier
The Campine also the perfect region for castle hunting. The most impressive castles are Le Paige Castle in Herentals, Renesse Castle in Malle, Westmalle Castle, Turnhout Castle, De Merode Castle in Westerlo and Vosselaar Castle. In Oelegem you can see for yourself an old fort that served during the First World War.
Another great travel tip for the autumn period is that in the month of October there is real pumpkin rage in the town of Kasterlee. The largest pumpkins in Belgium are grown there and at that time there are many fun activities. My favorite is by far the pumpkin regatta where different teams compete in a kayak competition, but in a large hollowed-out pumpkin instead of a kayak.
Where to stay in the Campine?
Biohoeve ‘t Bezige Bieke met privé wellness – Turnhout
In this bio farm you can stay in luxuriously equipped safari tents. Moreover, you can enjoy everything that can be experienced on the domain. This is definitely the ideal destination for a fun weekend getaway with the family.
Chalet Wabi Sabi – Geel
This charming and stylish chalet is located along the water in the Netevallei holiday park. In short, the perfect place to relax and enjoy the peace and the beautiful surroundings.
Glampingresort Hoge Kempen – Zuttendaal
A luxurious overnight stay in nature is possible in the ‘glamping resort of Hoge Kempen’. These contemporary cottages and lodges are located in the Hoge Kempen nature reserve. Perfect if you want to start the day right away with a brisk walk.
Haspengouw is a region that extends over various provinces and is known for its beautiful landscapes with many orchards where mainly fruit and wine are grown. In spring the fruit trees bloom with the most beautiful blossoms, a stunning and unique view and therefore a real attraction for various tourists. But also during the other seasons, Haspengouw is the perfect place for an unforgettable stay in Belgium.
Things to do in Haspengouw?
Borgloon is by far a great base for a weekend getaway in Haspengouw. You can make beautiful walks and bike rides. You have different blossem hiking trails (April), but also other themed trails such as the castle route along the heritage of Borgloon and, “Art with Pit” route along the various artworks of the Pit Project. Among other artworks, the famous see-through church “Reading between the lines” is part of this and is immediately the biggest eye-catcher. You can also take a pleasant walk through the city.
If you choose to stay in Borgloon, then take some time to enjoy the local specialties. Try the Loon wine at one of the local wine estates. Don’t forget to visit the old steam syrup factory where you can discover the story of the Loon syrup. Or immerse yourself in the history of this beautiful village and admire the stunning country houses and castles in the vicinity.
From Borgloon you can map out many day trips within and even outside Haspengouw. Travel back in time with a visit to the oldest city in Belgium, Tongeren. In the city center you can still find many traces of the first inhabitants, namely the Romans. Would you like to delve even more into Roman history? Then be sure to visit the Gallo Roman museum.
Cities such as Sint Truiden and Hasselt are also worth a visit.
Another special place where you can soak up both culture and nature can be found at Genk, the provincial domain of Bokrijk. Here you have an open-air museum where you can immerse yourself in Flemish history. The domain has a large collection of historic houses from different Flemish regions. In this way you can see how people from different time periods lived here. But Bokrijk has a lot more in store. You can also play on the large playground, just go for a walk on a beautiful domain or even cycle through the water.
Where to stay in Haspengouw?
Helshovens wijnvat – Borgloon
Did you ever sleep in a wine barrel? That’s possible in Borgloon. Choose one for 2 or 4 people and enjoy an original weekend in a beautiful region.
Lisa’s weelde – Tongeren
You can also stay in an authentic square farm near Tongeren. Lisa’s weelde is located in an oasis of silence and tranquility. Enjoying and relaxing is the message here.
Glamping – Het goed van Gothem – Heers
From April to September you can stay in a luxury tent at this beautiful location. Are you there out of season? Or do you prefer a bedroom over a tent? No panic, you can also opt for an authtentic farm room. These are available all year round.
I hope that with these tips I was able to give you some inspiration to plan a unique and unforgettable staycation in Belgium.
Are you an avid traveler and do you like to post travel pictures on your social media? Be sure to read the best instagram hashtags for traveling in Belgium.
Where would you like to go for a staycation in Belgium? Let me know in the comments below.
Thanks for reading!