9 weekend retreats to do in Belgium

Like your time away to have some sort of unifying thread? Like to give your escapes a purpose? Fear no more, we’ve compiled a selection of nine getaways that’ll leave you feeling like you’ve done something a little more meaningful than lounging by the pool sipping exotically-named cocktails with little plastic umbrellas in them.

Best for family fun: Château de la Poste

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The drive to Château de la Poste, located just south of Namur, takes you on a narrow and winding road through typically-picturesque Walloon villages. Surrounded by nature, the hotel, housed in a splendid castle, is a favoured getaway for the urban type, especially so for families with children. Indeed, although the stately demeanour of the castle and its lavish interiors might at first leave you wondering if you’ve reached the right address, closer inspection will reveal that, really, kids running amok is not only tolerated, but actively encouraged. “You can even go eat in the restaurant with your dirty hiking boots on,” says hotel manager Laurent Marée. The former home of Clémentine, wife of Victor Napoleon Bonaparte, Château de la Poste today boasts 42 hectares of freewheeling fun for all: you have tennis and basketball courts, hiking trails, mountain bikes to borrow, a playroom (complete with pool table, table football and, wait for it, a Wii) and, our personal favourite, a mini-golf course.

25 Ronchinne, 5330 Maillen
chateaudelaposte.com

Best for bicycling: The Chain Stay

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When Texas native Gregg Germer (34) came to Belgium as a professional race cyclist, he often found it difficult to find appropriate accommodation. And so, in true entrepreneurial fashion, he took it upon himself, once his biking career ended, to open a guesthouse together with his Belgian-Canadian wife Holly (30). Centered and pretty much custom-made to cater to each and every need of cyclists, both professional and recreational, The Chain Stay includes, as its owners reveals, “everything from laundry facilities and a workshop with the right tools to a place to wash and secure your bike, and a van to get to races.” The Chain Stay (a pun on a bicycle part, if you haven’t noticed) opened its doors in 2008 in an unassuming area of Oudenaarde, deep in the country’s cycling heartland. Not only is the city the finishing line of the infamous Tour of Flanders, the region surrounding it is well-known for its many different cycling routes. So if day-long cycling trips are your thing, The Chain Stay’s the perfect spot for you. And, if you play your cards right, you might even get treated to one of the Germer family’s garden barbecues.

44 Doornikse Heerweg, 9700 Oudenaarde
thechainstay.com

Best for spa: Manoir de Lébioles

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It’s no secret that the picture-perfect town of Spa is a haven for all things wellness. But a two-minute drive from the centre of town, up the hills, will lead you to the Manoir de Lébioles, a magnificent castle surrounded by the most pristine grounds and what is surely one of the best views in the country. The hotel, owned by a German couple and their adorable dog Chico, includes a spa center (complete with all the massages you’d expect, an infinity pool as well as sauna and steam bath) as well as an exquisite restaurant. Its joker, as far as we’re concerned at least, is the promenade that extends behind the castle, into the depths of the valley and right up to the stream that runs throughout the region. The perfect escape for lovebirds. Make sure to drop by Spa’s flea market on the Sunday to hear the region’s best accents.

5 Domaine de Lébioles, 4900 Spa (Creppe)
manoirdelebioles.com

Best for art: Druum

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Before the building housing Druum became a B&B in July of last year, it was home to a large number of artist studios and workspaces, turning it into a meeting point for creatives of all kinds. Druum founder Karine wants to keep this spirit alive, and multi-use rooms rented out by musicians, theatre groups or galleries as well as non- profit art project Artists Club Coffre Fort, which organises exhibitions in the former jewellery vault in the basement, do a great job at ensuring the vibrancy of its past life remains present. Fittingly, the interiors of all six rooms were thought up by six different Belgian artists who all had complete carte blanche. Art takes the leading role here, which is why guests shouldn’t expect none of the usual hotel comfort: no room has a TV, for instance. Instead, you can discover the video art of Lore Stessel, whose nostalgic films explore the history of the building, where Jews hid during WWII, through contemporary dance. Day-to-day duties are taken care of by musicians Jo and Joris from Brussels band Jacle Bow, who welcome guests, make breakfast, and more. “We don’t just give people their keys. Many come back here for the personal approach and familiar atmosphere,” Jo explains. That, and the art on show.

63 Rue du Houblon, 1000 Brussels
druum.be

Best for adventure: Kayaking in La Semois

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Chances are most Belgians will have a story to tell about the time they kayaked their way down the Lesse, undoubtedly the country’s most prominent kayak route. Be it on a school trip, with the family, friends, or their hockey team, spending a few hours going down the winding river is pretty much a rite of passage into Belgian living. If you’re looking for something a little less touristic, the enchanting Semois river remains somewhat of a hidden gem. “The nature and forests surrounding it are wilder, and even on busy days the atmosphere is quiet and relaxing,” says Jonathan Leplang, whose mother Martine and father Patrice, a former Formula 3000 champion, opened their kayak rental company back in 1989. The family business operating from the sleepy little village of Alle-sur- Semois has 80 boats in stock and is open every single day from March through to November, no matter the weather conditions. The four different routes ranging from 7 to 20 km are all easy and safe for beginners, and after completion the Leplang family will make sure to get you back to your car with their very own shuttle service.

10 Rue Léon Henrard, 5550 Alle-sur-Semois
kayakslavanne.be

Best for peace & quiet: Les cabanes de Rensiwez

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Olivier (38), hailing from the Namur region, has seen his fair share of the world. As a skipper he travelled the globe for months, an experience that keeps inspiring the business graduate for his current project: Les cabanes de Rensiwez. Amidst a gorgeous area in the Belgian Ardennes that stretches over 6 hectares and includes the Ourthe river, Olivier has created 18 cozy, romantic, and luxurious wooden cabins that embody the ideal city escape. “During my travels I discovered so many different architectural styles. I was especially fascinated by the traditional wooden houses of Japan and Madagascar, and I wanted to make a modern version of that.” The 18 cabins, each with their own atmosphere and standout feature such as a bed with a stunning view or a huge free-standing bathtub, are meant to serve as intimate cocoons that make visitors focus on themselves and the nature around them. Accordingly, TVs and wifi are non-existent, the next village is 5 km away, and the cabins are completely out of sight from each other. The perfect spot to disconnect.

1 Moulin de Rensiwez, 6663 Houffalize
lescabanesderensiwez.be

Best for food: In De Wulf

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The first thing that strikes you about In De Wulf, is how difficult it is to get to the renowned restaurant. Then, once you arrive, it all seems rather typical from the outside. Nothing hints at its status and reputation in the food world and beyond. But step inside and that’s when all the magic happens. First, you’re taken through its immaculate kitchen, where cooks (mostly of the young and good-looking type) introduce themselves and tell you what they do. Then you’re shown around the refrigerated area, the fermenting zone and on to the dining room, set beneath stone vaults. Once seated, the fun begins. A set menu with wine will take you through a three-to-four-hour-long tasting session, with each and every dish presented and brought to you by the person who prepared it. And the focus is clearly on innovation and showmanship, with a steady stream of curious wines served to accompany the fest. After dinner, walk up to one of the restaurant’s few hotel rooms and have yourself a goodnight sleep before waking up to what is surely one of the country’s best breakfasts, complete with bread made on site. With a closing date announced for the end of the year, we strongly urge you to book yourself a table.

Wulvestraat, 8951 Heuvelland
indewulf.be

Best for yoga: Château Frandeux

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Since 2009 Château Frandeux, the majestic former home of a noble family, has been hosting spiritual retreats of all kinds, from yoga and meditation courses to creative classes. Run by Dutch couple Helga (52), a former nurse with decades of yoga experience, and Satya (58), a trained carpenter and founder of his own meditation centre back in the Netherlands. While they also teach a few courses themselves, the gorgeous villa with an adjacent lake (special feature: the sauna with lake access!) mainly gets rented out by yoga schools organising retreats, which conveniently are all linked to Château Frandeux’s own website. The large and bright practice rooms are specially tailored to the needs of these groups, and the buildings can host up to 80 people. “Even when we’re booked out, the atmosphere stays quiet and relaxing,” Helga explains. When guests are not busy perfecting their yoga poses, the 25 hectares of land surrounding the castle offer beautiful sceneries for hikes. Rooms are simple but charming, furnished sustainably with pieces that are either second-hand or self-made from fallen trees. There couldn’t be a better location for this kind of project: next to the main house a small hill erupts with a giant tree on top: a holy spot visited by pilgrims back in 700 AD that later became a sacred Celtic cult site.

4 Rue des Pèlerins, 5580 Frandeux
chateaufrandeux.be

Best for walking: Domaine de L’Ardoisière

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L’Ardoisière, right on the French border, is pretty much a second home for us at The Word Magazine. Manned by Pierre, who owns the estate together with his two brothers, the former slate mine’s barns have been converted into a collection of six successive suites, each with their own theme and stunning views of the Twin Peaks-like valley that extends beyond its front lawn. Surrounded by lush forests and hiking trails that disappear within them, L’Ardoisière is both a good starting block and finishing line, with Pierre’s home-cooked food (brought to your suite no less) the perfect way to start and end the day. Make sure to grab your swimming trunks as the indoor swimming pool (adorned with original artwork by Jean Dernat) comes as the icing on the cake.

2 Rue de Sedan, 5550 Alle-sur-Semois
compagniedesbois.be