Belgium was my home for over six years and is one of the most accessible countries in Europe for Americans as almost everyone speaks English (as well as French, German, Dutch, and Flemish). Nestled between France, Germany, and the Netherlands, Belgium has a unique culture all its own. It’s a mix of influences from the surrounding nations. Over the centuries, this tiny kingdom has developed some of the finest architecture in Europe. What many people don’t know is that Belgium’s natural scenery is incredibly attractive, too.
The Sonian Forest, or Sonian Wood, is one example. This 10,920-acre wooded area is just southeast of Brussels. Brussels is an important city globally as it’s home to the European Union and NATO. The Sonian Forest is unique in that while it’s close to a highly developed city, it’s been preserved as a beech forest with great natural water features. This forest is also special because it touches all three regions of Belgium: the Brussels Capital Region, the Flemish Region, and the Walloon Region. Since 2017, the Sonian Forest has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Another great outdoor attraction to visit in Belgium is Minnewater Lake. This lake is unique for being located inside the center of the city of Bruges. It’s surrounded by a park, which was built in the 1970s. Researchers know that the lake itself is not natural. However, over the centuries, it has become a fixture in Bruges, and the surrounding environment has adapted to the lake. It’s speculated that the lake first came into being in the 1200s, meaning that it’s been there for almost 800 years. The bridge at Minnewater offers excellent views of the scenic city of Bruges.
Finally, La Grotte de Han is a cave system. There are guided tours available at this site, which can be reached by a vintage tramway. La Grotte de Han is one of the most extensive cave systems in all of Europe. It was formed by the River Lesse cutting through limestone over many centuries. Archeologists have found evidence that these caves have been known to humans since the Bronze Age. However, modern exploration only started in the late 18th century. The caves are cold and damp. Visitors should be prepared to navigate stairs in the caves. La Grotte de Han is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Belgium.
Finally (and most importantly…at least to me), Belgians invented fries! So stroll down to the Grand Place in Brussels, load yourself with fries, Belgian waffles and Beligian beer. They FAR surpass the famous Manneken Pis (nothing against the cute kid) and worth every single calorie!