Southern Belgium offers some great rural scenery, especially in the Ardennes forest. Go here for hiking, camping, or fun weekend getaways. Be sure to visit the Waterloo battlefield and museum (especially the reenactment in June if you can time it right).
Dinant: The city that invented the saxophone– and they make sure you know it! Every roundabout, convenience store, bakery, etc., seems to have something with a saxophone theme… this city’s got serious sax appeal : ) It’s a scenic town along a river (boat cruises are available), with a castle and cathedral worth visiting. Also be sure to try the Coque de Dinant– a rooster-shaped cookie made from flour and honey. Watch out– it’s super tough! You need to break off a small piece and let it dissolve in your mouth. Any attempt to bite it will be met with regret. Note: If you’re not a rooster fan, they also have other shapes available: serious fish, cat-in-shoe, you name it…
Chimay and Orval: Two famous Trappist breweries — both delicious and in scenic parts of southern Belgium. Take a tour of the Orval Monastery and try some local cheese. The nearby Guardian Angel cafe is really good!
Hallerboos (Blue Bell flowers)
Hallerboos: Just south of Brussels is the Bois de la Cambre forest. In the springtime (April), the Hallerboos (blue bell) flowers bloom throughout the woods, making for an enchanted forest feel. Best to go on a weekday however, because in the age of mass tourism, folks are bused in by the hundreds on the weekend to take Hallerboos glamour shot selfies…
Abbey Villers: If you’re feeling up for some off-the-beaten path excitement, go explore the ruins of this abandoned abbey. It’s got a bit of a post-apocalyptic feel, but is beautifully enmeshed with the surrounding nature. The ruins of the abbey are maintained nowadays and it hosts festivals, concerts, and tour groups. I highly recommend visiting this spot — it deserves to be featured on the cover of “Abbey Enthusiast.”
Binche: A city famous for its Carnival festivities in mid-February — including several parades with various masked people and mushroom-topped costumes (“Gilles”). On Mardi Gras (the day before Ash Wednesday), they start the day with oysters and champagne. Later in the day, crews toss oranges out to the crowds, which signifies good luck. There are processions of various costumed guilds and the night is capped off with fireworks. Young and old alike cram into makeshift bars or party on the streets day and night — it’s awesome!
Southern Ardennes – Frahan
Mrs. Yakpacker and I went hiking around the village of Frahan in early June 2020. The surrounding area is filled with woods and rolling hills, along with extensive hiking trails. The town of Frahan is inviting and small, with only a few B&Bs and restaurants. We parked by the Semois bridge, which turns into hiking trails on the other side. We spent the afternoon hiking the scenic, well-marked trails, which made for a perfect day trip. On the way back, we stopped at the Point de Vue restaurant at the Rochehaut brewery, which is modern and pleasant.
Southern Ardennes – Bouillon
I’ve heard great things about the southern town of Bouillon— which seems to be a bit larger and more accessible version of Frahan– but I haven’t had the chance to visit. Hopefully one day soon!