As nature comes back to life, so does my obsession with flowers. It is usually around this time of the year that I go back to the 'Plantentuin Meise' located just outside of Brussels. With its 18 000 plant species, Belgium's botanical garden is one of world class. It lies on the Bouchout Domain that is 94 hectares big so you can easily spend an entire day walking the trails, soaking up the floral fragrances and relaxing next to the water. The perfect plan on a sunny Sunday if you ask me!
I usually come here beginning of April to enjoy the blooming of the magnolia trees (there are about 40 of them concentrated in the West part of the domain). These flowers are among the first to bloom in Spring and I just love them. But a visit to the botanical garden is always a good idea as it is open all year long and every period has something different to offer. For example, in November they organize 'Florimundi', a spectacular orchid festival!
I'm a big fan of everything tropical so it will come as no surprise that the greenhouses are a mandatory stop during my visit. But actually it should be for all visitors as this greenhouse complex (called 'Plantenpaleis') is one of the biggest in Europe. Banana trees, bird of paradise flowers, cactuses, ... you'll encounter them all as you walk through the 13 different chambers.
Other architectural highlights of the domain include the 'Balatkas', the prettiest greenhouse that looks as if it came right out of a fairy tale. It's a design from the architect Alphonse Balat who also designed the Royal Greenhouses of Laeken. And of course the Castle of Bouchout, the centerpiece of the domain, where you can climb the stairs up to the roof to enjoy panoramic views.
I suggest coming in the morning because there tends to be crowds arriving in the afternoon. Of course, you'll be in need of refreshments if you spend so much time inside but I've got you covered. In the East part of the domain you'll find the 'Oranjerie' that houses a self-service restaurant with decent food (and sufficient vegetarian options). The interior has been redecorated beautifully so you might consider sitting there, but if the sun is shining you'll most probably take place on the terrace.
The botanical garden is located at 12 km North of the center of Brussels and at 3 km of the Atomium (address: Nieuwelaan 38, 1860 Meise). You can park for free on the street. If you come by public transport, the bus is your best option. Entrance fee is €7,00 and doors open at 09:30.