It’s hard to imagine a place like this exists that close to the overpopulated capital of Belgium, Brussels. This makes the perfect place to get away from the crowds, a place where nature can teach us a lesson in serenity.
Given the fact that the global pandemic is still raging strong, I was still forced to explore new places within the borders of our little country. Nevertheless, it’s amazing to find places like this, places that can give you the exact same holiday feeling. At the end of the day, I was almost looking forward to spending the evening by the pool with an ice-cold beer. If I had a pool that is.
Park Solvay is big enough to stay away from other people. Even dozens of bird species find this the perfect hideout to build their nests. During my stroll around the lake, I had the company of chipmunks and the dozens of ducks and geese that populate the waters. Around the lake are plenty of benches to take a little rest and absorb all the sounds of nature. At some point, I was relaxing at one of them and was able to hear two woodpeckers drum against the trees.
In the heart of the compound, there is Chateau de la Hulpe. Formerly owned by count Solvay, this French-inspired castle is now mainly used to hold gatherings. It’s not open to the main public, but that wasn’t so bad. The castle itself is still pretty enough from the outside. And if that isn’t enough, there is a little French garden that will almost instantly catch you under its spell.
For the more adventurous types, there is a small walkway you can use that runs right next to a little river. Nature has built many obstacles along the way, like fallen trees, that brought out my inner child. Some parts were hard to crawl under if you’re almost 6ft3, but in the end I managed to walk the entire path. Why go under them if you can climb over them? This little pathway wasn’t easy to find, but when I did, I was able to enjoy all of its beauty alone. Most people would walk the regular walkways, which give you an amazing view of the chateau and its grounds. My advice would be to start with the regular walkways until you reach the castle, and then look for the obstacle course to end your visit.
The longest walk in parc Solvay takes about an hour and a half, but there’s plenty of other things to do nearby. The park is right next to the Sonian Forest and the biggest nature reserve in Walloon Brabant, Nysdam. In springtime, the park really comes alive with all the trees and flowers. The Sonian Forest in particular is at its prettiest this time of year, when all the hyacinths are in bloom and the forest is transformed into a purple wonderland. So put on Purple Rain and take a little detour from the lively city that is Brussels.