Date: Sunday, September 5th, 2021
Path: RB-BXL01 + Own route
Distance: 20,2 km
Based on circuit 1 in the French topoguide "Randonnées en Boucle à Bruxelles et dans sa périphérie", I created an almost identical route for a hike I organised for the Facebook group Hiking in Belgium. As a bonus, it was a route along the house where I grew up in my youth, so there were many recognizable places for me.
The start of the hike is situated at the metro station Stuyvenbergh, from where we immediately enter the Sobieski Park via the Clementina Square and its fishpond. This park used to be the private property of King Leopold II and thus not accessible to the public. The name of the park, like the street in front of it, is a tribute to the hero of Vienna. Jan Sobieski was the Polish king who, as leader of a Christian coalition, defeated the Ottomans in the Battle of Vienna in 1683. While Sobieski Park is beautiful in itself and invites you to a moment of rest, the subsequent Jardins du Fleuriste are a delight. Plants, flowers and ponds, interspersed with nicely laid out paths, a watchtower and benches. A wonderful place!
The next eye-catcher is St. Anne's Chapel and the fountain of the same name. As we walk past, a small orthodox mass is being celebrated in the chapel. Through the Park of Laeken, you go to the Monument of the Dynasty from where you can have a nice view on a part of Brussels. The monument, which is hidden behind a fence since many years, was inaugurated in 1880 as a memorial for the first king of the Belgians, Leopold I (1831-1865).
One of the most famous relics of the 1958 World Fair is undoubtedly the Atomium. There are also a few pavilions left, in poor condition or not. One of the better known is the American Theatre. After Expo 58, the then BRT, later VRT, used the building as a TV studio. In 2012, however, the VRT moved out because of high maintenance costs.
Two other eye-catchers are the Chinese Pavilion and the Japanese Tower, both part of the Royal Museums of Art and History and built at the request of King Leopold II. The pavilion is in a sorry state and has been closed since 2013. Full renovation would only start in 2024. The gardens of the pavilion can still be visited.
We continue along Avenue Van Praet until a small path branches off from the pedestrian and cycling path. We pass by the basins where watercress is cultivated. Behind them lies the entrance to the tunnel leading to the underground train station of the Royal Palace. However, the railway was never finished.
Now follows a section through Neder-Over-Heembeek (NOH). Often through the built-up area, but also through green areas, such as the Craetbos or the wild Meudonpark. We pass by the former church of St. Nicholas (18th century), the tower of St. Peter's (11th century) and also the Kluis, a hospital dating back to the 15th century where the elderly found shelter.
I pass a few metres from my parental home, before following the course of the Tweebeek and its ponds via the sports fields of Heembeek. Via a duckboard, we reach a forest without a name, separated by the Trassersweg. Suddenly you can still see the old rural character of NOH, with its fields and overgrown wasteland. 500 metres through the industrial area of Neder-Over-Heembeek take us under the Ring highway with the tunnel that leads to the Drie Fonteinen Park. There we look for a picnic spot and we find it at the pond, next to the famous "blood caves".
After more than 45 minutes, we set off again. First we walk back the same way, under the Brussels Ring and along the industrial area. But a bit further on, when leaving the first forest, we turn right and follow a path that leads us to the Ferme Nos Pilifs. This farm is well-known in Brussels and the surrounding area and certainly deserves a visit. More than a hundred people with disabilities are employed on the farm to look after the animals, or to work in the vegetable garden, the restaurant, the grocery shop or the garden centre. This way, they also get a real chance to show their skills and work independently.
We stop again. Some of the group opt for a drink on the restaurant terrace. The others look for refreshments in the shop. After half an hour we start the last kilometres through the fields on the edge of the Brussels and Flanders regions. Not much later we stop at the pop-up café in Laeken Park for a last refreshment. The starting point of the hike, which is also our finish, is not far away anymore.
Do you also want to try this beautiful walk? Download the GPX of it here:
By public transport: Start and finish at metro stop Stuyvenbergh