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Nature and culture adventures in Brussels and Wallonia

July 17, 2013
Lenka

The French-speaking region of Belgium includes Brussels, in the centre of the country, and Wallonia to the south. There are many interesting sights that await you; whether you’re an art and culture lover or prefer nature and being out in the great outdoors. Read on for our suggested journey through Belgium….Starting in the cosmopolitan city of Brussels, the capital of Belgium, and also of Europe, you will find a great selection of museums, the famous Grand-Place, the magnificent Atomium and the famous Manneken-Pis, which remains the emblem of the rebellious spirit of the City of Brussels. There are two HI Hostels in Brussels, located close to the city centre, which happily wait to welcome you through their doors: Jacques Brel and Génération Europe.

From Brussels, travel east to Liége. As one of the largest cities in Wallonia, Liège has a reputation for being the place where the party never stops. A district of the city, known as “Le Carré”, is full of bars, clubs and food joints, and becomes the most vibrant place in Belgium when playing host to folk gatherings and football matches involving the local team. The George Simenon hostel provides great accommodation for guests who like to party the night away. If you are passing through Liège, we suggest leaving from Guillemins railway station, which cannot fail to impress with its impressive structure.

Alternatively, from Brussels, travel west to Tournai and Mons. As the primary residence of the Merovingian Kings, Tournai is an important city for Art and History. With its belfry and cathedral with five steeples, which are both listed as UNESCO world heritage sites, it cannot fail to seduce with its charm and lack of pretention. The Tournai hostel, itself a former academy of music and decorated with many tapestries, is located 5 minutes walk from the historic centre.

The town of Mons has a wealth of important architectural and cultural heritage. As the European capital of culture in 2015, it is notably famous for the “Doudou”, which are the annual folk festivities that include a parade of giants and dragons, which are sure to get the atmosphere in full swing! The Mons Youth Hostel is located at the foot of the belfry and is only a few strides from the Grand Place. Outside of town, make the most of Pairi Daiza Park, an immense estate hosting numerous gardens and animals from around the world.

From here you could travel east across to Namur, which is directly south of Brussels and the capital of the Wallonia region. As the crossroad between the cities of art and the forests of the Ardennes, watered by the Meuse River, it’s an ideal base for combining cultural visits and sporting activities. The city is dominated by its splendid citadel, one of the largest and oldest fortresses still standing in Europe, which is a great source of pride for the city. Namur youth hostel is located on the banks of the river Meuse in an old manor that was once the workshop of the famous painter Félicien Rops.

Further south you’ll reach the Ardennes. This region of extensive forests and rolling hills is unsurprisingly famous for its nature, greenery and wilderness. It is a true paradise for walkers, sports enthusiasts of all types and those seeking tranquillity, or even those who love quaint little villages far from the bustle of the cities. We have four Youth Hostels in the Ardennes, which are scattered throughout the region and suitable for all types of travellers.

Firstly, the Champlon hostel invites you to take time out to relax and discover nature, with activities like beaver watching and listening to the calls of the deer rut. Its close proximity to the Caves of Han also provides a great opportunity to visit this subterranean labyrinth hollowed out through erosion, decorated by nature with countless stalactites.

The ‘Sur la Hauteur’ hostel is located in the town of Bouillon, which got its name from Godfrey Bouillon; one of the famous knights of the Crusades. The castle with its impressive fortress, which belonged to Godfrey Bouillon, still dominates the town today, as a major tourist attraction for this little town close to the French border. Our hostel “Sur la Hauteur” (On top of the Hill) rather deserves its name, as it offers a splendid view of the town and surrounding area.

In the north of the Ardennes, the region of Hautes Fagnes can be found with its vast expanses of peat-bogs, heath land and forests, which offer exceptional habitat for flora and fauna alike. This plateau also includes the highest point in Belgium, le Signal de Botrange, which stands at an impressive 694 metres. The Malmedy Youth Hostel is ideally located to take trips out to discover the splendour of the region.

Finally, our hostel in Tilff, close to Liège and at the gateway into the Ardennes, is in actual fact a gîte (holiday home that is available for rent), which welcomes independent groups and is rented out in its entirety. A picturesque and cosy fortified farm dating back to the 18th century is the perfect location for walkers to make a stop. Although this hostel cannot be booked directly via hihostels.com you can visit HI Belgium’s national website for more details.

To experience all that Belgium has to offer check out our full list of hostels in Belgium and make your hostel booking today!

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