Belgium might not be the place you think of first when you plan to go hiking. It’s not the hilliest of countries, but there still has a fair amount of options for hikes in Belgium. From the dunes of the North Sea coastline to the valleys of the Ardennes in the South East, to the ancient forests in between, this post covers some great trails for when you want to go walking in Belgium.
Listed below are the best trails for walking in Belgium.
- Napoleon’s nose walk. Napoleon’s nose walk is a scenic 6km loop hike in the Warche Valley that offers valley views and sights like Reinhardstein Castle. The trail has steep sections and is best for experienced hikers seeking Ardennes scenery.
- Ladder walk. Ladder walk is located in Rochehaut. It is a challenging 5 km (3.1 miles) loop hike uses ladders to ascend and descend from scenic overlooks above the Semois River Valley. Thrilling for adventurous hikers.
- Kordaal walk. Kordaal walk is an easy 6 km (7.5 miles) trail near Geraardsbergen that passes through charming villages, forests and by two castles perfect for novice hikers.
- Zwin nature reserve walk. Zwin nature reserve walk is a flat 12km loop near Knokke-Heist goes through coastal wetlands where you can observe birds and wildlife. Accessible for all.
- The Sonian Forest walk. The 7km Groenendaal loop in the Sonian Forest features ponds and streams set amidst the ancient beech forest south of Brussels, walkable for all skill levels.
- Westhoek walk. Westhoek walk is located in De Panne. It is a 10 km (6.2 miles) dune and beach landscape trail offers scenic coastal views yet requires decent fitness to handle the sandy terrain.
- 1. Napoleon's nose walk (Robertville)
- 2. Ladder walk
- 3. Kordaal walk
- 4. Zwin nature reserve walk
- 5. The Sonian Forest walk
- 6. Westhoek
- Which are the best walks for kids and families in Belgium?
- Which are the best walks for beginners in Belgium?
- What do you need to know about Belgium as a tourist?
- What are the best things to do in Belgium?
1. Napoleon's nose walk (Robertville)
Napoleon's Nose Walk is a scenic 6 km (3.7 miles) walking trail located in the Warche Valley near the town of Robertville in Belgium's Ardennes region. The nearest major city is Malmedy, about 15 km away. The starting point for the Napoleon's Nose Walk hike is the parking lot next to the Robertville Dam, and the hike ends back at the same parking lot, making it a loop route. The total duration of the hike is around 2 hours. You can extend the walking path by continuing to walk along the regional GR 56 route across the Bayehon valley to the Signal de Botrange, which is the highest point in Belgium. There’s also the option of leaving the path briefly to go and see the highest waterfall in the country which tumbles 60 m / 197 ft into the Warche valley just next to Reinhardstein castle.
The Napoleon's Nose Walk trail is considered moderately difficult, with some steep sections and uneven terrain, so it is better suited for more experienced hikers rather than beginners. The hike would also likely be too challenging for young children. Along the Napoleon's Nose Walk route, hikers can take in sights such as Reinhardstein Castle, views overlooking the Warche Valley, and the Nez Napoleon rock formation that gives the trail its name. There are also opportunities to see Belgium's highest waterfall.
The Napoleon's Nose Walk does not require an entry fee and is free to access. Key highlights along the trail include the viewpoint at Nez Napoleon, the imposing Reinhardstein Castle (or Metternich castle), crossing over the Warche river, and taking in the landscape of the Warche Valley which features woodlands, rock formations, and waterfalls. In summary, the Napoleon's Nose Walk is a rewarding hike offering beautiful scenery, historical sites, and panoramic valley views in Belgium's scenic Ardennes region.
Napoleon's Nose Walk is one of the best hikes in Belgium to do during summer, because it runs mostly in between the trees.
2. Ladder walk
The Ladder Walk is a famous hiking trail located in Rochehaut, Belgium. Rochehaut is a small village in the province of Luxembourg near the French border. The hike starts in the village of Rochehaut at the Eglise Saint-Firmin church. It ends back in Rochehaut after completing a loop. The Ladder Walk takes around 2-3 hours to complete the entire 5 km (3.1 miles) route. Ladder Walk is also known as Promenade des Echelles or it's official name, Walk 84.
The Ladder Walk is considered a difficult hike due to the steep ascents and descents on the trail. Four ladders allow hikers to climb up and down rocky areas along the route. The Ladder Walk first descends over 300 feet to the Semois River before climbing back up to the starting point in Rochehaut. Due to the challenging terrain, this hike is better suited for experienced hikers rather than beginners. The ladders and steep drops also make it unsuitable for young children.
The main sight along the Ladder Walk is the viewpoint overlooking the Semois River Valley. Hikers can take in panoramic views of the river and surrounding forested hills from scenic outlooks. The trail's high vantage points offer some of the most dramatic scenery in the Ardennes region.
The Ladder Walk hike does not require an admission fee. However, proper footwear like hiking boots is recommended due to the steep and rocky conditions. The trail is marked with signs showing the number 43. Following the correct route direction is important on this loop hike. With scenic views and a sense of accomplishment, the Ladder Walk in Rochehaut provides an adventurous hiking experience for fit outdoor enthusiasts.
Visitors say this is the most spectacular hiking route in Belgium because you get staggering views over the Semois river. Walk 43 is an alternative route that you can also follow, with very similar features.
3. Kordaal walk
The Kordaal walk is a 6.3 km (3.7 miles) marked hiking trail located in Nokere, Belgium, near the city of Geraardsbergen in the Flemish Ardennes region. The walk starts and ends in the village center of Nokere at the Saint Ursmarus Church. It takes around 1 hour and 15 minutes to complete the circular route. The Kordaal walk is rated as an easy hiking trail, suitable for beginner hikers and families with kids. It features both paved roads and unpaved forest paths with some minor climbs but no major ascents or descents.
Highlights along the Kordaal walk route include passing by two castles – the 18th century Castle Casier and 19th century Castle Ruffo de Bonneval. The trail also goes through Kordaalbos, a small protected forest with meadows and streams where wildflowers like daffodils can be spotted in spring. The walk goes over the cobbled Nokereberg, considered the boundary between Low and Central Belgium. After completing the hike, refreshments are available in the cafes and restaurants around the village square in Nokere.
The Kordaal walk trail is free to access and open year-round. It is waymarked with hexagonal signs and a map is available to pick up from the Nokere tourist office. The Kordaal walk offers a nice short hike that mixes culture, nature and village charm in the Flemish Ardennes region of Belgium. Its easy grading makes it suitable for most hikers looking to explore the area.
4. Zwin nature reserve walk
The Zwin nature reserve walk is a hiking trail located in the Zwin Nature Reserve near the city of Knokke-Heist in Belgium. The starting point for the Zwin nature reserve walk is at the visitor center of the nature reserve. From here, the walk follows a circular loop trail that takes about 2-3 hours to complete and covers around 12 km (7.5 miles). The walk starts and ends at the visitor center.
The Zwin nature reserve walk is considered an easy hiking trail suitable for beginners and families with kids. The terrain is mostly flat and the trail is well-marked and maintained. Along the way, hikers can enjoy sights such as bird observation huts, a barefoot path, and panoramic views over the tidal landscapes and saltmarshes that make up the nature reserve. Some of the unique flora found in the reserve, like sea lavender, can also be observed along the trail during summer.
The Zwin nature reserve walk does not require registration and is free for visitors who have purchased an entrance ticket to the nature reserve. The reserve is open year-round, with the best times to take the walk being spring through fall when migratory birds stop over and plants are in bloom. The walk provides an accessible way to explore and experience the biodiversity of this internationally recognized wetland habitat along the Belgian coast.
5. The Sonian Forest walk
The Sonian Forest walk is a popular hiking trail located in the Sonian Forest southeast of Brussels, Belgium. The forest is also called Forêt de Soignes and it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.The Sonian Forest is an ancient deciduous forest contains hiking paths of varying difficulty. A recommended Sonian Forest walk for beginners and families is the 7 km Groenendaal circular trail. Starting and ending at Groenendaal Station, it takes 2-3 hours to complete. The trail is mostly flat and passes scenic ponds and streams. Sights include the medieval Rouge-Cloître Abbey and ruins of a 14th century priory. For more advanced hikers, there is a 23 km trail from Groenendaal Station to Halle Station. This route takes you deep into the forest interior. Along the way are 200 year old beech trees forming a cathedral-like canopy overhead.
The Sonian Forest walk trails wind through diverse wildlife habitats. Deer, foxes, bats, birds and other animals can be spotted. Dogs are allowed on leash. The trails are open year-round and free to the public. No permit or fee is required to hike The Sonian Forest walk. The forest is located just south of Brussels and offers an easily accessible nature escape from the city.
There are a number of car parks dotted throughout the forest (you can get a map of these if you search online) including several that are accessible for those with disabilities. There’s also a special hiking trail in the Arboretum of Groenendael for the visually impaired to use, marked out with Braille.
Whether you want a short stroll or a day long trek, The Sonian Forest walk has something for everyone. Its proximity to Brussels makes it a popular recreation spot for both residents and visitors looking to enjoy the outdoors.
Westhoek is a nature reserve located in the far west of Belgium near the border with France. The nearest major city is Ypres, about 20 km to the east. Westhoek covers an area of 450 hectares and is considered one of the most important natural areas in Flanders.
The Westhoek hiking trail starts at the visitor center Duinpanne in the town of De Panne. It leads through varied landscapes including beaches, dunes, forests, and marshes before ending back at the visitor center, making it a circular route. The full Westhoek trail is approximately 10 km (6.2 miles) long and takes 2-3 hours to complete at an easy pace.
The Westhoek hike is rated as moderately difficult overall. The sandy terrain and some elevation changes when going up and over the dunes make it more challenging than a flat woodland walk. Parts of the trail through loose beach sand can be tiring. So Westhoek is better suited for more experienced hikers who have decent fitness levels. Beginners may want to try a shorter walk first.
Kids are able to complete shorter versions of the Westhoek hike. But the full 10 km trail would likely be too much for most children. Families with kids could consider just doing a portion of the route around the nature center.
Along the way, hikers can enjoy scenic views of the coastline and spot local wildlife like birds and deer. There are also World War I bunkers and memorials to see.
Access to hike the Westhoek nature reserve is free. The only cost is parking near the visitor center if you drive. The trails can be followed year-round from sunrise to sunset.
Which are the best walks for kids and families in Belgium?
Listed below are the best walks for kids and families in Belgium.
- Kordaal walk. This easy-rated 6km hike located near Geraardsbergen in the Flemish Ardennes region of Belgium is suitable for families traveling with children. It features only minor climbs along paved roads and forest paths. The trail passes by two historic castles and through the scenic Kordaalbos forest where kids can spot wildflowers in springtime. With its easy terrain and kid-friendly sights, the Kordaal walk offers an accessible hike for families looking to explore the area.
- Zwin nature reserve walk. The Zwin nature reserve walk is a 12km loop trail located along the coast near Knokke-Heist, Belgium. This flat and well-maintained trail through diverse wetland habitats makes it an ideal hike for families and beginners. Kid-friendly sights include bird observation huts for spotting migratory species and a barefoot path. With minimal elevation changes, the hike can be completed at an easy pace by most ages and abilities. The affordable entrance fee also makes it family-budget friendly. Overall, the Zwin nature reserve walk provides families an accessible coastal nature experience.
- Sonian Forest walk. The 7km Groenendaal loop trail in the Sonian Forest starts and ends at Groenendaal train station, providing easy access for families near Brussels. The hike features scenic ponds, streams, and wildlife that appeal to kids. With mostly flat terrain and no permit requirements, this hike suits families of all hiking abilities looking to explore the ancient forest. Historic sights like the medieval Rouge-Cloître Abbey provide an educational aspect as well. Given its proximity to Brussels and friendly features, the Sonian Forest walk makes for an enjoyable family outing.
Which are the best walks for beginners in Belgium?
Listed below are the best walks for beginners in Belgium.
- Kordaal walk. With its easy 6 km distance and minor climbs between paved roads and forest paths, the Kordaal walk near Geraardsbergen is an ideal beginner hike in Belgium's Flemish Ardennes region. Rated easy, it passes through the peaceful Kordaalbos forest and by historic castles without major ascents or descents. Novices can complete the hike at a comfortable pace with opportunities to observe charming sights. The circular route and straightforward terrain make navigation easy for first-time hikers. Given its accessibility, the Kordaal walk is a great introductory hike.
- Zwin nature reserve walk. Zwin nature reserve walk is located along the Belgian coast near Knokke-Heist, the 12 km Zwin nature reserve loop trail provides an optimal hiking experience for beginners. The well-marked flat terrain through diverse wetland habitats allows hikers to complete the trail at an easy, relaxed pace. With minimal elevation changes and no tricky navigation, the hike enables beginners to enjoy the scenic tidal landscapes and wildlife viewing without difficulty. The trail's accessibility also makes it doable for novices looking to explore the protected coastal habitats.
- Sonian Forest Walk. The 7km Groenendaal loop in the Sonian Forest near Brussels is a beginner-friendly hike, with its short distance, predominantly flat terrain, and railway access. Most of the trail follows unchallenging dirt paths and paved sections around scenic ponds and streams. Without steep climbs or confusing navigation, novice hikers can comfortably complete the hike at their own pace. The ancient beech forest also provides pleasant scenery that appeals to first-time hikers seeking an easy forest walk. With accessible features, the Sonian Forest trail serves as an ideal starter hike near Brussels.
Are there any gorges to hike in Belgium?
Yes, there are several beautiful gorges that are great for hiking in Belgium.
- Fondry des Chiens. Fondry des Chiens is a limestone gorge near Nismes. It was created by thousands of years of erosion. It has cliffs, caves, and an abandoned quarry to explore on a 6 km hike.
- Gorges du Viroin. Gorges du Viroin is located in Viroinval. It is considered a nature reserve and has idyllic gorges with trails past caves, Roman ruins, and rock formations. It offers hikes ranging from 4-9 km.
- Ninglinspo Gorge. In Ninglinspo Gorge, along the Ninglinspo River, you can hike 6 km through this gorge in Aywaille with small waterfalls and adventurous river crossings on logs.
- Gorges de la Lesse. Gorges de la Lesse is a 25 km gorge that has caves, meanders and lush vegetation near Dinant. Multiple trails follow the dramatic gorge landscape.
- Amblève Gorge. Amblève Gorge is a rocky gorge near Coo. It has trails overlooking the Amblève River and waterfalls and offers hikes from 4 to 25 km in length through the stunning river valley.
What is the ideal time to walk or hike in Belgium?
The best months for walking or hiking in Belgium are April through October. The peak hiking season in Belgium runs from April to October when the weather is mildest and trails are accessible. Summer months bring warmer weather for hiking, but also more crowds on popular trails. Shoulder seasons of spring and fall offer pleasant temperatures with less tourists. Some trails may be inaccessible in winter due to snow or muddy conditions. The high season offers the most ideal weather, but visiting in shoulder seasons provides greater solitude on Belgium's scenic hiking paths.
What do you need to know about Belgium as a tourist?
Listed below are the most important things to know about Belgium:
- Language: Belgium has three official languages: Dutch, French, and German. While English is widely spoken, especially in tourist areas, it's always helpful to learn a few basic phrases in the local language.
- Opening Hours: Many shops and businesses in Belgium close on Sundays, so it's important to plan accordingly. Additionally, some museums and attractions may have specific closing days or limited hours, so it's advisable to check their schedules in advance.
- Safety: Belgium is generally a safe country to visit, but it's always wise to take common precautions. Keep an eye on your belongings, especially in crowded areas, and be aware of your surroundings.
These are just a few key things to know before visiting Belgium. It's always a good idea to do some research and plan ahead to make the most of your trip.
What are the best things to do in Belgium?
Listed below are the best things to do in Belgium.
- Taste a Waffle: Belgium is renowned for its waffles. Notably, there's no single “Belgian waffle”. Instead, there are regional varieties like Liège and Brussels waffles.
- Explore a Castle: Belgium has the highest density of castles per square kilometer. A prominent one is the Gravensteen in Ghent.
- Experience the Beer Culture: Belgium boasts between 800 to 1,000 different beers. The nation's beer scene is so esteemed it's a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Halve Maan in Bruges is a notable brewery.
- Visit a Beguinage: Unique to Belgium and the Netherlands, Belgium's beguinages are UNESCO World Heritage sites. The Grand Beguinage in Leuven stands out for its serenity.
- Commemorate the World Wars: Belgium's history is marked by both World Wars. Tourists often visit sites like Flanders Fields and Breendonk Fortress to remember these events.
- Visit a Christmas Market: Belgium is known for its charming Christmas markets, offering festive atmosphere, delicious treats, and unique gifts.
- Climb the Lion's Mound in Waterloo: History enthusiasts can climb the Lion's Mound in Waterloo, marking Napoleon's defeat.
These are just a few of the many wonderful things to do in Belgium. Whether you're a foodie, history buff, or simply seeking unique experiences, Belgium has something to offer.
What are the best castles to visit in Belgium?
Listed below are the best castles to visit in Belgium.
- Castle of Gaasbeek: Castle of Gaasbeek is a medieval castle near Brussels, Belgium. It has been restored in a romantic neo-Gothic style and contains rich decor and artifacts.
- Gravensteen: Gravensteen is a well-preserved medieval castle in Ghent, Belgium. It served as the residence of the Counts of Flanders and now functions as a museum displaying medieval arms, torture devices, and offering panoramic views from the ramparts.
- Alden Biesen Castle: Alden Biesen Castle is a 16th-century moated castle in Limburg, Belgium. It has been carefully restored and is now used as a cultural center. Visitors can explore the grounds, visit the museum, and attend events at the castle.
- Groot-Bijgaarden Castle: Groot-Bijgaarden Castle is a 12th-century moated castle near Brussels. It showcases architecture blending medieval and Renaissance styles.
What are the best cities in Belgium?
Listed below are the best cities in Belgium.
- Brussels: Brussels is the capital and largest city of Belgium, known for its cosmopolitan culture, vibrant nightlife, and being the headquarters of the EU. Brussels offers a mix of historical landmarks, modern architecture, and a diverse culinary scene.
- Bruges: Bruges is a remarkably well-preserved medieval city, with picturesque canals and stone buildings that will transport you to a fairytale setting. Bruges is definitely a historic highlight and offers a mix of historical landmarks, cultural experiences, and culinary delights.
- Ghent: Ghent is a historic city with winding canals, Ghent also boasts a youthful vibe due to its large student population. It is known as the “vegetarian capital of Europe” and offers a blend of medieval architecture, vibrant street life, and a thriving arts scene.
- Antwerp: Antwerp is a major port city renowned for its fashion scene, trendy boutiques, clubs, and bars. Antwerp is a vibrant city with a rich cultural heritage, stunning architecture, and a bustling diamond district.
What is the best food to try in Belgium?
Listed below are the best Belgian food to try.
- Mussels (Moules-frites): A classic Belgian dish of mussels and fries. The mussels are commonly steamed in white wine with ingredients like shallots and parsley. It's a true delight for seafood lovers.
- Belgian Fries: Belgian fries are a point of national pride. They are uniquely double-fried for a soft inside and crispy exterior. The best place to enjoy them is at genuine “friteries” or “frietkots”.
- Waffles (Gauffres): Belgian waffles are a must-try treat. They come in two types: Brussels waffles (light and crispy) and Liege waffles (dense and sweet). You can enjoy them plain or with a variety of toppings like chocolate, fruit, or whipped cream.
- Chocolate: Belgium is famous for its exquisite chocolates. Indulge in a wide range of pralines, truffles, and chocolate bars from renowned chocolatiers. It's a paradise for chocolate enthusiasts.
- Speculoos: These spiced shortcrust biscuits are a beloved Belgian treat. They have a distinct flavor of cinnamon and other spices, making them a perfect accompaniment to a cup of coffee or tea.
Do you need a map to hike in Belgium?
No, a map is not needed to hike in Belgium. The hiking trails in Belgium are very well marked and indicated, making them easy to navigate without a map. The trails use colored shapes, signs, or route numbers as markers along the path. Even lesser known trails often have some form of signage directing hikers. Using a map can still be helpful to see an overview of the area and plan your hike.
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