The Kingdom of Belgium has more to offer visitors than beer and chocolate. Historically this patch of land was fought over up until the mid-19th century. The strategic importance is evident by the more than 3000 castles and forts dotted around the country. This guide takes you to 10 of the most beautiful castles near Brussels.
Belgium is one of the youngest countries to be formed in Western Europe, having declared its independence from The Netherlands as late as 1831. While it might have a less illustrious history than let’s say France or Italy, by no way does this mean the country was a tranquil oasis.
On the contrary, ever since Julius Cesar tried (and failed) to conquer the “Belgae Tribe”, locals have been wielding swordes and protecting their lands – admittedly to varying degrees of success. Bruised egos aside, the result is an extraordinary array of fortified Belgian castles.
Useful resources for exploring castles in Belgium
The Belgian castles have an uncanny habit of choosing locations that are ever so slightly hard to get to. If you are visiting Belgium and do not have a car, there are a few options for you to get to the castles.
- Public Transportation: Google maps does a great job of explaining exactely which bus/train/tram to take, the time tables are usually a little off though. Check timetables and book the required tickets online.
- Rent a Car: If you are short on time and want to squeeze in some additional Belgian attractions, consider renting a car. You will need an international drivers liscence and be 18+.
STAY IN A CASTLE HOTEL
Spend the night in one of the Belgian Castle Hotels. Kasteel van Ordingen is a boutique castle hotel with spa facilities and a breakfast spread befitting of royalty.
A brief history of Belgian Castles
If we take a step back and look at the Middle Ages, current-day Belgium was part of the Low Countries a geographically fragmented country existing of 17 provinces. Plundering and power struggles were rampant, the best line of defense being a strong fortification or castle. Many of the castles near Brussels were built around the 12th century for this purpose.
As prosperity & wealth grew – particularly in the Flemish county- the castles were transformed from sturdy defensive forts into beautiful residential castles. The 3000 castles in Belgium that are still around to tell their story today are comprised of medieval forts, ruins, palaces, mansions and even renovated castles complete with sweeping entrance halls and beautiful turrets.
The highest concentration of medieval-type castles can be found near Liège and Namur, built to protect the strategic location along the River Meuse. Castles in Flanders were built later or extensively renovated during the 18th and 19th centuries at the height of Romanticism so they look like ‘real’ Disney-esque castles.
The castles around Brussels are an eclectic mix of both medieval forts and fairy-tale-like castles. This article explores ten of the most beautiful castles and delves into their interesting history.
All the castles in this article can be visited as
day trips from Brussels. Don’t feel like going out of the city then perhaps these hidden gems in Brussels are more for you.
10 Castles near Brussels to visit
Château de la Hulp – De la Hulp Castle
De la Hulpe castle and the beautiful Solvay domain are a popular day trip from Brussels for many locals. It is very likely that if you ever saw a photograph of castles in Belgium, one of them would be the Chateau de la Hulpe.
A beautiful domain is part and parcel of any self-respecting castle and the Solvay domain does not disappoint. The castle itself was built in the 19th century for Marquis Maximilien de Béthun in a Flemish Neo-Classical Style.
The love affair was short-lived and the castle soon changed hands, becoming the summer home of the rich industrialist Ernest Solvay – to whom the domain owes its name. The interior of the castle was redesigned by none other than Art Nouveau master Victor Horta.
Castle and grounds were eventually gifted to the Belgian state with the caveat they be used as a location for culture projects. To this day, the venue is popular for cultural events. The iconic green pillars on either side of the castle (covered in mother nature’s finest) make this one of the prettiest castles near Brussels to visit.
Tip: There are various different walks (ranging between 4-6 km) that you can partake in around the domain, offering you enchanting views of this castle.
– Castle only open for visits during an event. Grounds are open yearlong (free)
– Location: Chaussée de Bruxelles 111, 1310 La Hulpe
Practical details for visiting Château de la Hulpe from Brussels
Bus: From Brussels take busses 366 or 57 direction La Hulpe (stops: La Hulpe Etange Solvay, La Hulpe Bois Jacob or La Hulpe Nysdam)
Train: Take the train to Bosvoorde and from there hop on of the busses mentioned above
Car: Takes around 35 minutes – There is plenty of parking, although the parking in front of the park is usually full. Follow the signs to the big parking that is 5 minutes away from the main entrance.
The most romantic of all the castles near Brussels – I guarantee you. Think fairy-tale castle complete with turrets, a moat, a stately entrance hall, and a vast domain to explore. Cinderella would most definitely approve of holding a ball here!
The first castle built on this very spot dates back to the 13th century, with the sole purpose of defense. Over the centuries the castles went through the typical cycles of flourishing, expansion, ransacking and reconstruction – depending on who owned it and if they had the ear of the ruling party at the time.
Finally, the castle found its purpose – a summer residence for a Belgian noble family who renovated the property in the 19th century adding a touch of Romance to the outside of the castle and a strong Renaissance Revival architecture to the inside – as was all the rage at the time.
– Castle itself closed for renovations until 2023 – Domain around the castle remains open (free)
– Location: Kasteelstraat 40, 1750 Lennik
Practical details for visiting the Gaasbeek Castle from Brussels
Tram + Bus: 1 hour combined transportation time.
There is no direct public transportation from Brussels Central Station; count on taking a mixture of tram (line 5 Erasme – stop La Roue) and bus (line 142 Anderlecht Het Rad- stop Gaasbeek Onderstraat) for a total transportation time of roughly one hour.
Car: 30 min drive from Brussels, park right outside the castle domain (free)
Groot Bijgaarden Castle
The Groot Bijgaarden Castle is a prime example of a Flemish Renaissance-style castle near Brussels – think plenty of lush red bricks and an understated slate roof. The original building on this location was built in the 12th century as a comfortable castle for the first lord of Bigard.
The oldest parts of the current day Groot-Bijgaarden castle date back to the 14th century. Over the centuries the castle was remodeled and enlarged, however, as is the case with many castles in Belgium it changed hands one too many times and ended up in a state of disarray.
Enter Raymond Pelgrims Bigard in 1902, who spent a reported 30 years renovating this beautiful castle.
Tip: Check out the official website to see when the castle grounds open are open for visits
– Privately owned – Gardens open during select festivals
– Location: Isidoor Van Beverenstraat 5,1702 Groot-Bijgaarden
Practical details for visiting the Groot Bijgaarden Castle from Brussels
Bus: Take line 136 from Brussels South Station or 355 from Brussels North Station
Train: Take the train to Groot-Bijgaarden Station
Car: Take exit 11 (Groot-Bijgaarden) from the West Ring of Brussels (R0)
Royal Palace of Laeken
The palace is the spot the residing Belgian Monarchy calls home. It is one of those castles near Brussels you might have driven by a hundred times and secretly entertained the thought of Royal balls and other fanciful activities the Monarchy gets up to.
At the behest of the Governor Generals of the Netherlands, the first castle was built in the 18th century. Following the French Revolution, the Archdukes fled, selling the castle to Napoleon– who spared the castle from demolition turning it into a cozy residence for his beloved wife Joséphine de Beauharnais.
After the establishment of the Kingdom of Belgium, the newly appointed King Leopold I moved into the estate. Leopold I left the castle largely untouched however he had the J
apanese Tower and the Chinese Pavilion built as well as the majestic Art-Nouveau-inspired greenhouses.
– Visits to the gardens possible three weeks out of the year (€2,5) check official website for exact dates
– Location: Avenue du Parc Royal, 1020 Laeken
Practical details for visiting the Palace of Laeken from Brussels
Bus: Take line 230, 231 or 232 (De Lijn), or 53 (STIB) – Stop ‘Serres Royales/Koninklijke Serres’.
The Rivieren castle started off as a defense tower in the 12th century, in fact, it is one of the only medieval feudal castles near Brussels left today. As is the case with pretty much all the castles in Belgium the purpose of the structure changed over the centuries from defense to residential and the grounds were expanded to a respectable 10 hectares.
The castle changed hands many times, and with it underwent significant changes and extensions.
The majority of the current castles date back to the 16th century and the farm on the property dates back to the 17th century. To this day, the castle is privately owned yet, during WWII it served as a youth hostel yet sadly today it is uninhabited.
– Grounds can be visited. Castle open for events & expositions only
– Location: Ganshoren, Brussels, Belgium
Practical details for visiting Rivieren Castle from Brussels
Bike: The castle is located 7 km from Brussels, so why not try and take the bike
Bus: Line 13 – Stop: CPAS Ganshoren
Tram: Number 9 (direction Arbre Ballon) – Stop: Eewfeestsquare
Car: An easy 17-minute drive, park outside the domain gates
The Karreveld Castle is a 16th-century castle and one of the castles closest to Brussels. As is the case with many castles in Belgium, the name of the castle refers to the origins of the domain. In this case – from the 13th century onwards – the site was used to collect clay for making bricks.
The current castle was built around the 16th century and was owned by various notable families. In the 19th century as the city of Brussels was in the midst of a large urban expansion, new plans were made for a boulevard which was to cut straight through the castle.
After WWI it was clear that the intended expansion would not take place and the commune of Molenbeek bought the – now largely derelict – castle. The commune conducted large-scale restoration on the building and turned the domain into a public park. To this day it is a perfect place for a leisurely picnic during a
weekend in Brussels.
– Grounds can be visited (free)
– Location: Avenue Jean de la Hoese 32, 1080 Molenbeek-Saint-Jean (Brussels)
Practical details for visiting Karreveld Castle from Brussels
Bus: 20 et 49 – Stop Bastogne
Tram: 82 – Stop Karreveld
Metro: 2 and 6 – Stop Osseghem
Château de Bouchout – Bouchout Castle
Now this is a castle in Belgium you are going to want to visit. You see – aside from the fact it is a castle, which by definition makes it a little more intriguing than the average building- it is located in the biggest botanical garden of Belgium.
This exquisite medieval castle near Brussels was first erected in the 12th century. Between the 15th and 19th century the castle underwent a major transformation and finally came into the hands of the Belgian Monarchy after financial troubles plague the current owners.
Charlotte of Belgium (the sister of King Leopold II) took up residence in the castle until her death of pneumonia in 1927 inside the castle. The Belgian state purchased the domain soon after to establish the National Botanical Gardens.
Tip: Visit the grounds and botanical gardens in spring when all the flowers are in bloom.
Practical details for visiting Bouchout Castle from Brussels
Bus: Line 250 or 251 from Brussels North Sation (stop – Meise: Bouchout Kasteel)
Car: Take the A12 highway between Brussels and Antwerp. Meise is 1 km outside the Ring of Brussels (R0).
De Viron Castle
For those of you who are familiar with Brussels, you might be surprised to know that the town hall of Dilbeek was actually a privately owned castle in a previous life. This beautiful, typical Tudor-style castle near Brussels was built in the late 19th century for baron Théodore de Viron de Diéval.
Although very much Tudor in building style, the prevailing trend of the time – Romanticism- is clearly reflected in the details of the building. Did you know for example that it was built to house a secret calendar: 365 windows; 52 doors; 12 towers and 7 steps.
Tip: Even if you have zero business to do in the town hall of Dilbeek, it is still worth a little day trip from Brussels to come and see the De Viron Castle and take a stroll in the park surrounding the castle. There are various different walks you can do ranging from 2km to 11 km.
– Castle can be visited but only through a guided tour
– Domain (Dilbeek Park & Saint Alenapark) are open to the public free of charge
– Location: Gemeenteplein 1, 1700 Dilbeek
Practical details for visiting De Viron Castle from Brussels
Bus: Line 129 from Brussels North station – Stop Gemeenteplein Dilbeek
Train: Direct train to Dilbeek Station (3 km from the castle)
Car: 23 minutes from central Brussels. Parking is available right opposite the castle
Way back in the 15th century, a castle named De Heerlijkheid Terheide (literally The Glory Terheiden) was housed on this very site. After it was purchased by a local Baron (who also happened to be the mayor) it was torn down and the current day castle was erected.
Construction began in the 19th century at the height of Romanticism – think beautiful deep red brick and plenty of turrets! You got that right, another one of those picture-perfect storybook castles near Brussels. After WWI the city turned the castle into the Townhall of Hoeilaart.
Each year during one weekend in May the park holds the Meifeesten (festivities of May) with plenty of outdoor activities and food stands, a really fun trip activity to do with kids.
– Castle can be visited but only through a guided tour
– Location: Jan van Ruusbroecpark, 1560 Hoeilaart
Practical details for visiting Hoeilaart Castle from Brussels
Bus: Line 343 from Etterbeek – Stop Hoeilaart Kerk
Train: Direct trains run hourly between Brussels and Hoeilaart en take around 15 minutes
Car: Takes around 20 minutes from Brussels. Park on the parking in front of the castle
Now this is a medieval castle if ever there was one! The castle of Beersel has a moat and is built in the shape of a circle which is not something you will see in any of the other castles near Brussels. From the outside it looks a whole lot more rugged – one half expects knights to burst out of the castle gate at any given moment.
The rugged nature of the castle is due to the fact that the Beersel Castle is one of the very few castles in Belgium that was not completely rebuilt in the 18th and 19th century and subsequentially has kept the original – more functional – medieval architecture.
The main purpose of the castle was to defend the Duchy of Brabant from their warring neighbors the County of Hainaut. This castle was built to defend – none of this romanticism nonsense of fancy turrets and other seemingly useless decorative elements – with thick and sturdy brick walls.
Due to the flat nature of the surroundings, the moat protecting the castle is a lot larger than in other castles in Belgium. You had to be pretty confident you absolutely wanted to invade to get past this moat!
– Castle can be visited Tuesday to Sunday (€4)
– Castle is closed during the Winter
– Location: Lotsestraat 65, 1650 Beersel
Practical details for Beersel Castle from Brussels
Train: Direct train from Brussels Central (3 stops close to the castle: Lot, Huizingen, Beersel)
Car: Beersel is right next to the Ring (E19), exit 19 for Beersel
Where to stay in Brussels
All hotels recommended have a focus on sustainability and minimizing their ecological impact by using locally sourced ingredients and supporting the local economy.
Best Views & Location – ($$) Cocoon Boutique Hotel
Cocoon is a boutique hotel with the best location in town, right on the Grand Place in Brussels. Imagine having a coffee in bed while watching the sunrise over this magnificent square. Run by two passionate locals who love sharing their knowledge of Brussels with you.
Location: On the main square
Most unique design – ($) Art Deco: Le Berger Hotel
For anyone with a love of Art Deco, Le Berger Hotel is the perfect pick. Expertly decorated with vintage furniture and original Art Deco elements, the hotel is a real experience. Enjoy the heated outside pool before stepping out into one of the most upscale neighborhoods of Brussels, Le Sablon.
Location: 10 min walk from the Magritte Museum
A cosmopolitan hotel – ($/$$) Moxy Brussels City Centre
Moxy is a chain of hotels that can be found across the globe. They have a very trendy and modern interior and serve some of the best breakfast in town. Conveniently located in an area surrounded by plenty of bars & restaurants. Great if you are looking for a night out on the town.
Location: In the safest neighborhood of Brussels – Ixelles/Elsene
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