Drie Fonteinen Park – Grimbergen Castle Ruins – Grimbergen Abbey Basilica – Meise Botanic Garden

Discover the city and its unique canal industry from a whole new angle – on the water!
If you’re dreaming of leaving Brussels behind to explore its verdant surroundings, nothing beats a summer ride on the water bus.
After a peaceful 50-minute boat trip, you’ll find yourself in the lovely Drie Fonteinen Park. From there, you can either head out on foot or by bike and enjoy exploring the cosy town of Grimbergen, where you’ll find the Norbertine abbey and the impressive ruins of Grimbergen Castle. Whatever you do, don’t forget to stop and try a Grimbergen beer (there are nine to choose from!) in Grimbergen.
Sail on a bit further and it’s time to immerse yourself in the Meise Botanic Garden, one of the region’s international gems. Nearby, the grand Boechout Castle, its stalwart Donjon Tower, and the gorgeous Victorian Balat greenhouse beg to be explored amidst the floral splendour.


ROUTE 

Your journey begins at Brussels-North station.

From there, make your way to the water bus boarding point to start your nautical voyage to Vilvoorde. This traffic-free ‘bus route’ gives you a glimpse of the city and its surroundings from a whole new angle. Boarding is at Sainctelette, near the KBC building, with departure at 10 a.m. After 50 minutes of taking in the views from the water, disembark at the Drie Fonteinen Park stop.

Don’t forget! - when boarding, you should inform a crew officer that you would like to get off at the Drie Fonteinen Park stop.

Please keep in mind – this boat only sails from May to October, and weekend passage is only possible during the summer.
Interested in a day out, but the water bus isn’t running? No problem! Just follow the bike path along the canal to Drie Fonteinen Park (30 min.) or reach it from Vilvoorde Station (you could even hire a bike from the bike rental point there).

Address: Sainctelette stop – Havenlaan 6
Route: click here for the short route (2 km) between the station and boarding point.
Price: 3 euro, for an extra euro you can take your bike along.
For more info, visit the Waterbus website. 

For the second half of your trip, you can either head out on foot, hop on a bike, or take public transport. The first half is by boat, moving on past Grimbergen, and lastly, ending up at Meise Botanic Garden.
Naturally, you could also start your trip at Meise Botanic Garden and work your way back. The last boat to Vilvoorde Centre – Steenkaai departs at 4 p.m.

By bike

There are several options for getting your bike to your destination:

  1. Take your bike along on the train (this requires a small surcharge and an extra ticket) or with your car.
  2. Get a cheap Bluebike subscription and pick up your rental bike at the station for a day out.

Hop on your bike and follow the nodes below. The first point of interest is Grimbergen, followed by an exploration of Meise Botanic Garden.

Nodes: 76 – 72 – 38 – 39 – 40 – 41 – 42 - 82.
Node 76 is at Brusselsesteenweg 63 (north of Drie Fonteinen Park).
Node 82 is the last signed node of the journey. Wind your way back to the station via Bicycle highway Asse-Brussel (F212), King Baudouin Park, and the heritage buildings and park of Tour & Taxis on the virtual nodes below.
Virtual nodes: 83 – 15 – 13 – 2 – 1
Distance: 25 km
Print or download the route here


By public transport and on foot

A 9-km walk from Drie Fonteinen Park takes you past Grimbergen to Meise Botanic Garden. The virtual nodes below guide you along the way.
Please keep in mind that only virtual nodes are available for this route; no physical signposts are available. You can either use the Wandelknooppunt app’s (Walking Nodes app) navigation mode, a map or simply download a GPX file for your GPS Walking app to find your way.

Virtual nodes: 9 – 99 – 98 – 97 – 96 – 623 – 624 – 60 – 6 – 601 – 600 – 50
Distance: 9km 

After you visit the Botanic Garden, take bus 250 or bus 251 (Meise Plantentuin stop) back to Brussels-North (30 min., every half hour).


MUST-SEE SIGHTS

STOP Drie Fonteinen Park

Cycle node 76 and virtual walking node 9

Park Drie Fonteinen

The park owes its name to a fountain created in 1561 to provide mariners with drinking water after the Brussels-Rupel Maritime Canal was constructed.
The castle is ensconced by a beautifully and meticulously landscaped park and its 50 hectares exhibit all the refined charm you would expect of an English landscape garden. The current French garden is neatly nestled between the orangery and the location of the former castle.
These days, kids can let their imagination run wild on a fantastic playground, you can grab a bite to eat at the brasserie, and there are a few sports clubs in the area.

What’s more, it’s not far from Vilvoorde centre, where you’ll find a few choice spots to quench your thirst or still your hunger. Have you got time to spare? Take a stroll on the convivial Grote Markt and pass the late-Gothic Our Lady of Consolation Basilica [Onze-Lieve-Vrouw-van-Troostkerk] on Leuvensestraat.

Address: between Beneluxlaan (32) and Brusselsesteenweg, 1800 Vilvoorde
For more info, visit this page


STOP Grimbergen 

Just before cycle node 38, at virtual walking node 6

Prinsenkasteel

Grimbergen is renowned for the abbey-brewed beer that shares the town’s name. Grimbergen Abbey, the world’s oldest Norbertine abbey still in use, was most likely founded between 1124 and 1128 by Saint Norbert of Xanten. However, in 1798, the fires of the French Revolution razed the abbey to the ground; only the church, rectory, part of the farm, and the old entrance gate were left standing.
While the abbey itself remains closed to the public, its basilica welcomes visitors. The Grimbergen Abbey Basilica interior features rich paintings, majestic stone scrollwork and other beautiful architectural and religious art; it should come as no surprise then that this is also the site of regular (organ) concerts.

A short 10-minute jaunt from the Abbey, the prinsenbos [Grimbergen Forest] awaits, a charming park that is home to the ruins of the 14th century Grimbergen Castle. Fancy some hands-on history? Drop by The MOT for a visit. It’s a truly interactive museum, where you can learn all about old techniques that rely on the force of muscle power, wind, and water.

Feel like more green? Why not take a mini detour and a relaxing stroll or bike ride along the Maalbeek’s green nodes? There are several water mills along the way. A few have been converted into brasseries, and the Tommenmolen is a grand example. It’s impossible not to take a break here for a fresh pint of abbey beer – a Grimbergen in Grimbergen, of course! You can’t enjoy a unique treat like that just anywhere!

Address: Grimbergen Abbey Basilica - Kerkplein 1, 1850 Grimbergen
Grimbergen Castle Ruins and MOT - Guldendal 20, 1850 Grimbergen
For more info on MOT visit the website 


STOP Meise Botanic Garden

Cycle node 40 and virtual walking node 50

Plantentuin Meise

Meise Botanic Garden is one of the largest botanical gardens in the world, housing an impressive 18,000 plant species. It’s no wonder then that you can easily spend two hours blissfully lost among the abundant foliage, exotic blossoms, and majestic trees of this garden of international appeal.
Nestled at the heart of this area lies Boechout Castle, built in the 19th century. However, not only does it have a Castle, but you can visit the one hectare large greenhouse complex with its Victoria Balat greenhouse, one of the most beautiful in all Europe, and home to hundreds of giant water lilies.
Starving and thirsty after all that cycling and walking? Drop by the Oranjerie (at the weekend), or if you have a packed lunch along, have a seat at one of the picnic tables in the Pachthof courtyard.

Address: Nieuwelaan 38, 1860 Meise
Opening hours: Summer (15/03 - 14/10): 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., last admission at 5:30 p.m.
Winter (15/10 – 14/03): 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., last admission at 4:30 p.m.
Admission: Standard rate: 9 euro, kids, student, senior discounts, etc.
More info is available on the website


GOOD EATS & THIRST QUENCHERS EN ROUTE

Brasserie drie fonteinen (Park 3 fonteinen, Vilvoorde)

Near cycle node 76 and virtual walking node 9
Address: Beneluxlaan 32, 1800 Vilvoorde. Tel. 02 251 95 73
Opening hours: Open every day at noon

Tommenmolen (Grimbergen)

900 m from the Grimbergen Abbey Basilica, between virtual walking nodes 601 and 628
Address: Tommenmolenstraat 18, 1850 Grimbergen. +32 (0)2 269 70 84
Opening hours: Open every day except Thursday from 11 a.m.

Gravenmolen (Grimbergen)

At cycle node 39 and virtual walking node 69
Address: ‘s Gravenmolenstraat 70, 1850 Grimbergen. +32 (0)2 269 11 65
Opening hours: Every day except Wednesday from noon (11 a.m. Fridays and at the weekends)

Oranjerie (Meise Botanic Garden)

Opening hours: Only open at the weekends and during school holidays, from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Vending machine or hot drinks are always available from the garden shop (Pachthof courtyard)