Tradition lies at the heart of Wallonia, from its Renaissance-style architecture right down to its rich local produce. The French-speaking region of Belgium may not be a well-known holiday destination, but with a range of activities on offer, it’s a true hidden gem that oozes old world charm. With multiple museums, historic sites and more than 1,500 castles to explore, you’ll find plenty to pack in, and all in a picturesque countryside setting.
History in Waterloo
Two centuries ago, Wallonia witnessed a momentous event, with French and British forces colliding in the famous Battle of Waterloo. While you tour the battlefield, take the 226 steps up to Lion Mound, where a massive bronze lion statue sits more than 40 metres high, built to mark the spot where Prince William II of the Netherlands was wounded. A trip to the site’s Wellington Museum provides an immersive learning experience, and visiting Hougoumont Farm – where the fighting began – will bring history to life, especially if you take part in its immersive audio tour.
Cycling in Wallonia
With varying inclines and wonderful scenery, Wallonia is a cyclist’s paradise. Cars are a rare sight on many of the region’s roads, which can often lead to scenic hidden gems. While summer offers warmer weather, you can actually cycle all year round, and the region can be especially beautiful in the snow. Just be sure to bring the right equipment, and take care on icy days. The 22km Roc d’Ardenne is one of the biggest pro cycling events in Belgium, and offers some serious tests for competitors. Riders can expect plenty of altitude changes and bone-shaking terrain along the way.
Wellness escape in Spa
After touring the region’s historical landmarks and exploring the scenery on two wheels, why not reward your efforts with a rejuvenating health retreat? As you might expect from the name, Spa is said to be the birthplace of the wellbeing escape, and this small Walloon town boasts Belgium’s only naturally warm, mineral-rich water spring. The 16th century brought a flurry of Europeans seeking solace in the town’s valleys and natural pools, and that led to the creation of Les Thermes de Spa – a relaxing bath house which still stands today. For a more exhilarating experience, this peaceful town is also home to the prestigious Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, and has hosted the Formula One Belgian Grand Prix since 1924.
Explore Wallonia’s sensational landscapes by fitting in a round at one of the province’s fantastic golf courses. The region’s lush rolling hills make it ideal for the sport, and it’s little wonder that it’s become home to some of the oldest and finest courses around today. Pioneering golf architect Tom Simpson – who turned his hand to some of the best courses in Europe – designed the harmonious Royal Golf Club des Fagnes near Spa, which is nestled between pleasingly photogenic rows of trees. Nearby, head to the well-respected Château de la Tournette, which gives golfers the choice of two courses – each with the the stunning Ittre and Nivelles countryside as a backdrop.
Featured image by Eric Huybrechts.
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