The 10 most beautiful castles near Brussels

 In Belgium, Blog, Europe, Go exploring, Uncategorized

Belgium is one of the youngest countries to be formed in Western-Europe, having declared their independence from The Netherlands as late as 1831. That does not mean however that nothing interesting was taking place before 1831. The 3000 something castles in Belgium that still stand to this day are a true testament to the contrary.

A brief history of the castles in Belgium

If we take a step back and have a look at the Middle Ages, the site that contains current day Belgium was part of the Low Countries a geographically fragmented country existing of no less than 17 provinces. Plundering and power struggles were rampant back in the day before Netflix, and the best line of defence was a strong fortification or castle. Many of the castles near Brussels were originally built around the 12th century with this one purpose in mind.

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 century 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 than perhaps these hidden gems in Brussels are more for you.

Castles near Brussels to visit

Gaasbeek Castle

Day trip from Brussels: Gaasbeek Castle
Gaasbeek Castle from above credit Gaasbeek castle

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! This castle is government owned and was one of the first castles to be opened to the public way back in 1927. has actually been open to the public since 1927.

The first castle that was built on this very spot back in the 13th century when castles were used as a primary defence in the fight for Brussels. 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 it’s purpose of being a summer residence of 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.

At the time of writing, the castle is closed for renovation. It set to open up again in 2023 – you might want to note that down in your agenda because as far as castles in Belgium go this one is pretty popular! You can wander through the beautiful castle domain – free of charge – or pay €5 to check out the traditional 18th century Museum gardens.

Practical details for visiting Gaasbeek Castle:

Getting there: 17 km outside of the city centre of Brussels. Count on 30 minutes by car, there is a small car park right outside of the castle domain. 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.
Can I visit the castle: Closed for renovation until 2023
Opening hours of the Castle Domain:
Summer hours: April 1 – October 31: 08.00 – 20.00
Winter hours: November 1 – March 31: 08.00 – 17.00

Groot Bijgaarden Castle

Castles around Brussels - Groot Bijgaarden
The entrance to the Groot Bijgaarden Castle

Another 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 – the tower next to the gatehouse – and were designed as dungeons. Over the centuries the castle was remodelled 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 and to this day the castle is still privately owned and thus visits are not possible. You can rent it for events though. If curiosity gets the better of you, walk across the moat and peek at the inside through the impressive wrought iron gate.

For those of you that are more inquisitive and happen to be looking for a cool day trip from Brussels during Spring you can visit the 14-hectar castle park in spring during the international flower exhibition. Make sure to check out the official website for the dates and the times.

Practical details for visiting Groot Bijgaarden Castle:

Getting there:  Isidoor Van Beverenstraat 5,1702 Groot-Bijgaarden
Train: Take the train to Groot-Bijgaarden Station
Bus: Take nr 136 from Brussels South Station or 355 from Brussels North Station
Car: Take exit 11 (Groot-Bijgaarden) from the West Ring of Brussels (R0)
Can I visit the castle: No, but you can visit the gardens during the Floralia flower show 

De la Hulpe Castle

Castles near Brussels - Chateau de la Hulpe
De la Hulpe 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 – and with good reason one might add.

A beautiful domain is part and parcel of any self-respecting castle and the Solvay domain does not disappoint. Originally it was a part of the Sonian Forest and was a mammoth of a domain coming in at 341 ha. The castle itself was built in 1833 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 as redesigned by none other than Art Nouveau master Victor Horta. The domain was further expanded to encompass a “mere” 490 hectares.

After his death, the domain and castle were split up amongst his two sons. Due to growing concerns that the estate would become too fragmented, the building was listed as a protected building in 1963 by Ernest-John (one of Ernest Solvay’s sons) and eventually – after Ernest John died – was gifted to the Belgian state on the condition that it would not be divided and it would serve as a location for culture projects.

To this day, the venue still hosts a number of culture project each year. It is also available to be rented out for events or simply to be admired when walking through the Solvay domain or the French gardens in front of the castle. 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.

There are various different walks (ranging between 4 and 6 kilometres) that you can partake in around the domain, offering you enchanting views of this castle.

Practical details for visiting La Hulpe Castle:

Getting there:  Chaussée de Bruxelles 111, 1310 La Hulpe
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.
Can I visit the castle: No, unless you attend one of the events. You can visit the domain and go for a walk around the castle + visit the beautiful French inspired garden
Opening hours of the castle domain:
Summer Hours: Daily 08.00 – 21.00 (01/04 to 30/09)
Winter Hours: Daily  08.00 – 18.00 (01/10 to 31/03)

Royal Palace of Laeken

A weekend in Brussels
The Art Nouveau Greenhouses Credit @alexrvasey

The palace the current day 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.

The castle of Schonenberg has passed through some pretty notorious hands before the Belgian Monarchy took it as their primary residence. A castle was built in the 18th century at the behest of the Governor Generals of the Netherlands. The Archdukes fled following the French Revolution and sold the property to none other than Napoleon himself – who spared the castle from demolition to turn it into a cozy residence for his beloved wife Joséphine de Beauharnais

After the expulsion of Napoleon, the residence was gifted to the Kingdom of the Netherlands and Willem I took it as his residence.  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 Japanese Tower and the Chinese Pavilion built as well as the majestic Art-Nouveau inspired greenhouses.

The castle itself cannot be visited, but once a year – for a period of three weeks – the greenhouses are open to the public and are one of those lesser known hidden gems to see while visiting Brussels in spring.

Practical details for visiting Royal Palace of Laeken:

Getting there:  Avenue du Parc Royal, 1020 Laeken
Bus: 230, 231 or 232 (De Lijn), or  53 (STIB) – Stop  ‘Serres Royales/Koninklijke Serres’.
Can I visit the castle:
No, but you can visit the impressive royal greenhouses for three weeks a year for a mere €2,5. Make sure to look at the official website to check when the gardens are open this year.

Rivieren Castle

Castles near Brussels - Rivieren Castle Ganshoorn
Rivieren Castle - Copyright

The Rivieren castle started off as a defence 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 defence 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 dates back 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. It can however be rented for private purposes and expositions.

Practical details for visiting Rivieren Castle:

Getting there:  Ganshoren, Brussels, Belgium
The castle is located 7 kilometres from Brussels, so why not try and take the bike
Car: An easy 17 minute drive
Bus: Busnumber 13  (stop: CPAS Ganshoren)
Tram: Number 9 (direction Arbre Ballon – stop: Eewfeestsquare)
Can I visit the castle: No, unless you rent the space for a specific event. You can visit the domain of the castle.

Karreveld Castle

Castles in Belgium - Karreveld Castle
Karreveld Castle - © Olivier Moerens/WikiCommons

The Karreveld Castle is a 16th century castle and one of the castles closest to Brussels. In fact it is in the commune of Molenbeek-Saint-Jean and is known to hold part of the Brussels Christmas market inside the main square. It is also a favourite location for the theatre festival Bruxellons! and a popular location for weddings.

As is the case with many castles in Belgium, the name of 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 somewhere in 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.

The owners of the castle decided to move and allow various activities to take place on their domain like hot air ballooning and even the placement of a wooden cycling track that was used during the 1910 world cycling championship.  A film studio was added in the early nineteen hundreds and many films were made on site.

After the first world war 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 restauration on the building and turned the domain into a public park. The park is around 3 Ha and boast hundreds of species of trees and no less than 30 different species of birds.  This beautiful castle near Brussels cannot be visited but the domains (info in FR & NL) are a perfect spot for a leisurely picnic during your weekend in Brussels.

Practical details for visiting The Karreveld Castle:

Getting there:  Avenue Jean de la Hoese 32, 1080 Molenbeek-Saint-Jean
Metro: 2 et 6 (stop Osseghem)
Tram: 82 (stop Karreveld)
Bus: 20 et 49 (stop Bastogne).
Can I visit the castle: No, but you can visit the domain
Opening hours of the Castle Domain:
Winter hours (November to March): 09.00 – 17.00
Summer hours (April to October): 08.00 – 21.00

Bouchout Castle

Castles in Belgium - Castle of Bouchout
Castle of Bouchout from Above -copyright Wim Robberechts

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 (some sources say one of the gardens with the richest variety of fauna and flora in all of Europe).

This exquisite medieval castle near Brussels was first erected in the 12th century and as was the case for all the other castles in Belgium around that time it’s main purpose was as a strategic defence point. Between the 15th and the 19th century the castle underwent 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. Part of the greenhouses inside the gardens were originally intended for the Zoo of Brussels, but stayed and house mesmerising giant water lilies.

The castle itself is only open for temporary exhibitions and can be rented for private functions.

Practical details for visiting Bouchout Castle

Getting there:  Nieuwelaan 38, 1860 Meise
Bus: Nr 250 and 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).
Can I visit the castle: No, unless for special reception or a temporary exhibition
Opening hours of the Castle Domain/ Botanical Gardens:
General opening hours 09.30 – 16.00 (March to September 18.00)
Entrance Fee: €9 for adults and €8 for kids

De Viron Castle

Castles around Belgium - De Viron Castle
De Viron Castle

For those of you who are familiar with Brussels, you might be surprised to know that the townhall 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 The oldest part of the castle dates back to the 14th century when – you guessed it – there was a fortress built to defend the city on this very site. The fortress is long destroyed save for one single tower, to be seen as you walk around the domain that houses this majestic castle/townhall.

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 is was built to house a secret calendar: 365 windows; 52 doors; 12 towers and 7 steps. De Viron is one of the most fairtyale-esque castles in Belgium with four beautiful turrets and curved domes sitting stately on the towers. The romantic nature of the castle is slightly ironic considering the castle was acquired by the city of Dilbeek in 1923 and turned it into the antithesis of a fairytale – a building which holds hardworking government officials.

Even if you have zero business to do in the townhall of Dilbeek, it is still worth a little day trip from Brussels to come 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.

Each year for one weekend in July, the grounds and the caste form the location of The Vijverfestival – a music festival which focusses on the environment, multiculturalism and of course good music.

Practical details for visiting De Viron Castle:

Getting there:  Gemeenteplein 1, 1700 Dilbeek

Bus: From Brussel North 129 (stop Gemeenteplein)
Train: Stop Dilbeek (3 kilometers from the castle)
Car: 23 minutes from central Brussels. Parking available right opposite the castle or a larger parking available at the cultural centre Westrand (Kamerijklaan 46, 1700 Dilbeek)
Can I visit the castle: Yes, but only guided and in group.
Reservations prior to visit are mandatory. Find all the information on the official website of the city of Dilbeek. The domain is open to the public (Dilbeek Park & Sint Alenapark)

Hoeilaart Castle

Castles near Brussels - Hoeilaart Castle
Hoeilaart Castle Copyright: khk-hoeilaart

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. The construction begun 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 the first WW the upkeep of the castled proved too expensive for the owners and the castle was sold to the city who promptly turned the castle into the Townhall of Hoeilaart. The castle is nestled in the large Jan van Ruusbroek park which also contains the Church of our Lady and the old castle barn. Each year during one weekend in May the park holds the Meifeesten (festivities of May) with plenty of outdoor activities and food stands to make for a really fun day trip from Brussels with the kids.

Practical details for visiting Hoeilaart Castle:

Getting there:  Jan van Ruusbroecpark, 1560 Hoeilaart
Car: Takes around 20 minutes from Brussels. Park on the parking in front of the Castle
Train: Direct trains run hourly between Brussels and Hoeilaart en take around 15 minutes
Bus: Catch bus 343 from Etterbeek (stop Hoeilaart Kerk)
Can I visit the castle: You can pop into the townhall for a peek however a true guided visit is not available. The two Castle Domains are open to visit free of charge all year long.
Opening hours of the Castle Domain: Permanently open

Beersel Castle

Castles in Belgium - Beersel Castle
Beersel Castle from above Copyright-wikimapia

Now this is 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 very few castles in Belgium that was not completely rebuilt in the 18th and 19Th century and sub sequentially has kept the original – more functional – medieval architecture of the 14th century, when it was first constructed.

As you can probably tell from the three very large towers, the main purpose of the castle was to defend the Duchy of Brabant from their warring neighbours 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!

Over the years the castle passed through the hands of many noble families and finally in 1928 it was gifted to the Friends of Beersel Castle association who started with the much needed restauration works. In 1999 the municipality of Beersel has leased the site and has been performing additional ongoing restauration works.

Practical details for visiting Beersel Castle:

Getting there:  Lotsestraat 65, 1650 Beersel
Car: Beersel is right next to the Ring (E19), exit 19 for Beersel.
Train: Direct train which takes 30 minutes (3 stops close to the castle: Lot, Huizingen and Beersel)
Can I visit the castle: Yes
Entrance Fee: €4 for adults (self-guided), groups of 15 people can book a guided tour for €70 per guide
Opening hours of the Castle Domain:
The Castle of Beersel can generally be visited from Tuesday to Sunday. The castle is closed during winter months, from 1 December to the end of February.
Tuesday to Sunday: 10.00 – 12.00 & 14.00 – 18.00 ( March first to November fifteenth)

This article explores but a handful of some of the most beautiful castles around Brussels and represents an even smaller percentage of the whopping 3000 castles in Belgium. But as the dictum states – it’s about quality, not quantity! Speaking of which, Bavaria has some of the most beautiful castles in Europe which are well worth checking out if you are a lover of castles.

If however castles are not your jam, why not try out some other daytrips from Brussels. Perhaps you are looking for the best of the hidden gems the city has to offer? Fear not, there are plenty of activities to partake in and sites to see around Brussels that you will not be bored!

Where to stay in Brussels

Looking to explore more than one castle near Brussels? Why not use Brussels as a hub for all your exploring. Here are some recommendations for hotels you might like.

  • Warwick Brussels: A beautiful 5-star hotel with views of the Grand Place from their rooftop terrace. Located 3 minutes walk from the Grand Place.
  • The Hotel Brussels: A sustainable hotel with the highest public views over the city. The hotel produces green energy and only uses locally sourced food. The location is right on the main shopping artery of the City: Boulevard de Waterloo
  • Stanhope Hotel: A luxury 5-star hotel with a full team dedicated to sustainability. With it’s impeccable location, beautiful building and dedication towards sustainability it is hard to say no to this property.

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