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Escape the city: Seven summer getaways in Belgium
Billed as Belgium’s most child-friendly bungalow park, eco-friendly Molenheide in Houthalen gets its energy from a biogas plant. Nature lovers can walk for miles in its pine forest surroundings, while children can enjoy the indoor play centre or water park Aquapolis. Sporting facilities include football, basketball and an indoor mini-golf course. Eating options abound if you don’t want to cook in your bungalow or at the campsite, and there’s an on-site mini supermarket. Bungalow prices start from €400 Friday-Monday or €700 a week, with caravanning and camping also possible. Alternative and more classic ‘activity-on-site’ family holidays are offered by Center Parcs and its slightly cheaper cousin, Sunparks, with centres throughout Belgium.
Logis de Crystelle
Perfect for families who don’t want to drive, this gorgeous apartment with sun terrace for four people is in the heart of Dinant, gateway to the Belgian Ardennes. Attractions include exploring stalactites and stalagmites in the local caves, boat trips, and kayaking down the Meuse. Children will love the Adventure Park with its tree and rope climbing opportunities. And Dinant’s citadel, built in 1815 and accessible by stairs or ski-lift, is a must-see. From €195 for a weekend to €395 for a week in high season.
La Balade des Gnomes
For total enchantment in a relaxed environment, look no further than La Balade des Gnomes, a set of 10 woodland accommodation options, each more enticing than the last. The names – The Legend of Trolls, On the Side of the Moon or The Island of Monkeys – say it all. Most of the stunningly furnished spaces are for couples (from €125 a night including breakfast), but the wonderful wooden Trojan Horse (€300 a night with breakfast) is perfect for a family of four. The complex is set in woods near beautiful Durbuy, which offers a giant labyrinth (with nine sections to discover/get lost in), an adventure park, river walks and cycle rides.
La Ferme d’a Yaaz
You’re spoilt for accommodation choice in this eco-farm in rolling Belgian Luxembourg countryside, not far from Arlon. From standard camping to eight- or nine-person luxury gîte, Yaaz also offers tepee living with your own survival kit. It costs €50 a night for the all-wood Family Pod, €20 per adult and €15 per child each night for the tepee, or €700 a week in the gîte. Children will get to meet all the animals (each of them named), including alpacas, horses, goats, cows and guinea pigs, or take part in various farm activities and workshops. Adults can indulge in a round of farm golf.
If you fancy holidaying with friends or relations, the Hoevehotel Warandehof in Oetingen, west of Brussels, sleeps 10 people. This holiday home comes with an open-air swimming pool and garden. Children’s activities include go-karting, trampolines, pony and tractor rides and just helping out on the farm. Or why not venture out into the beautiful Pajottenland with its many hiking and cycling trails – with fairy-tale Gasbeek Castle just 20 minutes away? Prices are €780 for a weekend or mid-week stay and €47 per person/night.
Domains – beautiful green areas offering endless recreational activities – are one of Belgium’s best inventions (check out the domains in each province). Just 15 minutes outside Brussels, Huizingen, a former castle and grounds, is another world. For just €3 (€1.50 for children), you can enjoy a full day of woodland walks, endless playgrounds and a mini-zoo. Children will love the rowing boat rides, mini electric cars, trampolines and the little train ride through the grounds. Or jump into the open-air swimming pool, open from May to September. Other sporting options include tennis, mini-golf or fishing – or just relax in the brasserie beside the lake. Icing on the cake – you can stay here for up to three nights in a four-person log cabin for €40 a night.
How about a romantic night or two in your very own bubble on a lake? Give it a try at Aquascope on lake Virelles near Chimay. It’s €200 a night including a healthy breakfast on a wooden terrace looking over the water. If you want to bring the family to enjoy the nature reserve, bird watching or pond life, there are myriad gîtes, B&Bs and a youth hostel in the area. Aquascope also has a huge playground and cafe/restaurant.