The ‘Pajottenland’ is a region in Flemish Brabant, southwest of Brussels. The region mainly consists out of farmland, with gently rolling hills and authentic village centers. Because of this characteristics, the Pajottenland region is sometimes called “Tuscany of the Low Countries“. The region is traditionally known for its beers, but also the winegrowing is reviving. Moreover, there are some beautiful castles located in the area, perfect for a day of ‘castle chasing’ in green surroundings. This could be a refreshing getaway from the busy capital, while you’re only at short distance.
Gaasbeek Castle is an imposing castle that has been destroyed and rebuilt several times throughout history. In the past, the castle was inhabited by a number of noble families. The last owner of the castle was the Marquise Arconati Visconti. She gave the castle a ‘make-over’ and handed it over to the Belgian state in 1921. It was opened as a museum. The castle is currently closed for extensive renovation works. It will be closed until 2023. The surrounding park remains open.
HIKING TIP. I can recommend the castles walk in Gaasbeek, a walking route of 7 kilometers along Gaasbeek Castle and Groenenberg Castle. The starting point is at the church of Gaasbeek, from where you have to follow some numbered junctions. You can download the map from the website of the tourist office.
Just across the castle grounds of Gaasbeek is the domain of Groenenberg Castle. This castle is way smaller than it’s impressive neighbor and is the youngest in this list: it was built at the end of the 19th century. Groenenberg Castle is not open to visitors, but the surrounding park is.
Kruikenburg Castle, built in the 12th century, is located in the village of Ternat. In the Middle Ages, the castle was inhabited by Everard ‘t Serclaes, a knight who was considered as a hero at that period of time after his reconquest of the city of Brussels. He was murdered in a horrific way: his tongue and one of his feet were cut off. Fortunately, The Pajottenland is a peaceful region nowadays. The castle itself is not open to public, but the surrounding castle park is the place to be for a relaxing family walk. The driveway of the castle is connected with the Dreef, a quiet road which leads to the church of Ternat. It’s the scenery for the popular tv-series ‘Thuis’, broadcasted in Belgium.
HIKING TIP. Those who want to see more of the region can do the castle walk in Ternat (not to be confused with the castle walk in Gaasbeek). This is a signposted walking route of 12 kilometers, starting from the cultural center De Ploter.
La Motte Castle
La Motte castle is located in Sint-Ulriks-Kapelle, which is part of Dilbeek. It’s not an imposing castle, but a stylish country house surrounded by a canal. The country house is part of the cultural center of the municipality.
HIKING TIP. The church of Sint-Ulriks-Kapelle is the starting point of a signposted walk of 11 kilometers, taking you along a brewery and La Motte Castle.
The castle of Groot-Bijgaarden dates back to the 17th century. The stone bridge leading to the entrance gate is guarded by two lions. From the entrance gate, you can take a look at the courtyard and the surrounding park. The castle park is only open to visitors during the period of Floralia Brussels, a flower exhibition which is a must-see in Belgium every spring! Private events can also be organized in the castle.
De Viron Castle
De Viron Castle is located at the highest point of the municipal park in Dilbeek. On the island in front of the castle, you can see a remnant of the 13th-century water castle that was once located there. The noble family ‘de Viron’ took the old castle down in the 19th century and built a new castle. It could be an enchanted castle on the cover of a fairytale book, but in reality, De Viron Castle serves as town hall. A funny fact is that there is an annual calendar “hidden” in the design of the castle: the castle counts 365 windows, 52 doors, 12 towers and 7 stairwells.
HIKING TIP. Behind the cultural center Westrand, which is located at walking distance from De Viron Castle, stretches a nature reserve. It is a pleasure to walk in the ‘Wolfsputten’, with well maintained walking trails and a rich diversity of fauna and flora.