Brussels is big. I mean, it’s huge! In our everyday lives we tend to ‘use’ a rather small part of it. Since COVID limits our choice of foreign destinations, why not to discover the larger Brussels? The Promenade Verte – the Green Walk is the ‘third ring’ of Brussels that offers an easily accessible, perfectly sign-posted, safe way to walk not less than 60km in total!
It was few years back that I picked up the booklet describing the 60km long ‘Promenade Verte’ walking and cycling trail. Sometimes I had a look at it, but never had that final ‘kick’ to hit the road up until this COVID period came and I started looking for new destinations in and around Brussels. It was a great choice! By writing this article about my experiences, I would hope to provide that same ‘final kick’ for others, too, to embark on this journey.
The Promenade Verte was developed by Bruxelles Environment. They provide a 70 pages long detailed description of the itinerary that can be either ordered in a printed format or downloaded from HERE. The booklet describes in great detail the 7 sections of the Promenade Verte in French and Dutch (no worries if you don’t speak any of these languages, the main touristic sights are all marked on the map). Furthermore it also contains high-resolution maps for each part of the trail. The sections are between 6km to 12km, each of them possible to complete in 2-3h – if you don’t want to opt for any extra sights or activities along the route. These latter offer such a variety of options that any of the sections can easily be turned into a half-day or full-day trip.
So, once you have this guide in hand, you are basically good to go, the description and the maps are all there. Therefore, my goal is to provide some extra information or hints based on my own experiences that you might find useful when starting this project.
First and foremost, I would like to enumerate four arguments why the Promenade Verte is something you should definitely do this spring.
- It is SAFE. I completed almost all sections alone, the timing included weekdays and weekends as well. The only part where I would recommend to have a walking buddy is the one that includes the industrial area in the south-west (I will precise it further down). Otherwise you will come across other hikers, cyclists, dog-walkers everywhere. I never felt alone, insecure or abandoned!
- It is ACCESSIBLE. All starting and end points of the segments are easily accessible with local transportation. Good news for those living in the EU quarter: almost all access points are reachable with direct bus, metro or train line from Schuman or Maelbeek! Getting to and back from these points take a bit of time, but that’s all part of the experience – like warming up and stretching when jogging. In my description below I provide the closest local transportation stop to the departure points.
- It is SIGNPOSTED. During the 60km there were only 2 points where I got a bit uncertain about the way forward. I will add some extra hints to those in the description below. Otherwise, one would always see the next mark or the change of direction no matter if you are in the middle of nowhere or at a busy traffic junction.
- It is EXCITING. And highly addictive! None of the segments are boring, there are always new places, parks, signs, wall-paints etc to see. Once finishing a chapter I couldn’t wait to continue with the next.
I did the tour clock-wise, so I will mention the start and end points accordingly, but it also works the other way around. Another general information that might be useful is that along the road one encounters nice information points where the map of the whole trail features as well as some extra information about the sights of the current part. Nice spots to take some extra pictures for the documentation of the hike.
So, now let’s see those 7 segments.
1. Heyzel Plateau and the Royal Parks
Access to start point: Metro 6 (stop: Houba-Brugman)
Access to end point: Bus 59 (stop: Picardie)
Impressions, sights: This is probably the most ‘touristy’ segment. You will see the Atomium from a nice perspective and also end up at Gare du Schaerbeek. Then there is also a possibility to have a close look at the Chinese Pavilion and the Japanese Tower. Highly instagramable spots! I can imagine doing this segment again with future visitors of mine.
Hint: there is one signpost missing on the corner of Rue Chaumontel and Rue Walckiers. Follow the map so that you would not miss the hidden green spot of Moeraske!
2. Between Senne and Woluwe
Access to start point: Bus 59 (stop: Picardie)
Access to end point: Bus 79 (stop: Hof Ter Musschen)
Impressions, sights: Based on the map I was expecting this part to be less green, but I had nice surprises all along the road. I would definitely recommend to visit the Brussels Cemetery (for more information about it you can read in my article on this cemetery). At Parc de Roodebeek the map offers two options to continue your walk. Should you feel comfortable with leaving the signposts and follow the trail based on the map, I would highly recommend to do that! It is hard to miss the path and takes you along some rather remote pathways in the Val d’Or (or ‘Golden Valley’).
Hint: when reaching the entrance of the large cemetery, look out for the next sign. The trail takes a slight turn continuing on Avenue du Cimitiere de Bruxelles that faces the entrance.
3. The Valley of the Woluwe
Access to start point: Bus 79 (stop: Hof Ter Musschen)
Access to end point: Tram 8 (stop: Bosvoorde Station) or by train (Station: Boitsfort)
Impressions, sights: This section is incredibly rich, you will come across several parks, lakes and forests. Before starting this segment you can visit the windmill at Hof Ter Musschen that is right at the start point. After exiting the Sonian Forest the trail passes by the Watermael-Boitsfort cemetery, a nice hidden spot to have a look at. The section finishes next to the Tournay-Solvay Parc. Take some time to discover this hidden gem!
Hint: I started with this segment since I felt more comfortable passing through some places I knew already. It was a good first impression and experience!
4. The Sonian Forest and South Uccle
Access to start point: Tram 8 (stop: Bosvoorde Station) or by train (Station: Boitsfort)
Access to end point: Bus 60 (stop: Engeland)
Impressions, sights: This segments first crosses through the Sonian Forest – a long straight line without any headache to follow signs. Just enjoy! The second half crosses by great hidden places in Uccle that you have probably never seen before. Look for the donkey farm on the way, an eco-friendly ‘grass cutting system’ to comply with Natura2000 recommendations.
Hint: you can reach the starting point by passing through the Vallon des Enfants Noyés – an extra hidden green spot with a nice lake.
5. South-West Brussels
Access to start point: Bus 60 (stop: Engeland)
Access to end point: Metro 5 (stop: Erasme)
Impressions, sights: This is the longest section, because one needs to get from Uccle through the industrial zone to the other side of the canal. However, there is definitely enough to see around here, too, that is worth the extra effort. I would recommend to take a walking buddy with you, parts of the trail might be rather empty and abandoned especially during weekends. At the beginning you will pass through Keyenbempt, where there are several kitchen gardens operating. Since you will come across several such ‘jardins potageres’ along the Promenade Verte, you might want to find out more about them HERE. Another interesting venue that you will pass by later is the mini steam trains tracks at Bemptpark. After leaving the canal, believe it or not, you will end up in a hidden protected natural area behind the Ikea in Anderlecht!
Hint: On the last part of this section a meditative path was developed in cooperation between Erasme Hospital, ULB and Brussels Environment. An original idea in a unique spot that might be extra handy during these COVID times. Find out more about the project HERE.
Access to start point: Metro 5 (stop: Erasme)
Access to end point: Bus 87 (stop: Elbers)
Impressions, sights: I very much liked the first part of this segment. Some nice view of the horizon along the way at Neerpede and then the Lake Pede are very pleasant sights. Afterwards one needs to be a bit patient while crossing a more urban part in order to reach the next green spot: the Scheutbos. This is said to be the hilly spot from where the French troops bombarded the Grand Place in 1695.
Hint: Few hundred meters off the trail, the Luizenmolen windmill is worth the detour.
7. The Valley of the Molenbeek
Access to start point: Bus 87 (stop: Elbers)
Access to end point: Metro 6 (stop: Houba-Brugman)
Impressions, sights: The first part passes through Berchem-Saint-Agathe (a nice destination in itself, check it out on my Instagram profile HERE). Zavelenberg is one of the last active agricultural sights in Brussels! Then the trail takes you through the Marches of Ganshoren and Jette along the Molenbeek stream. This green part with lots of water around has become one of my favourites all along the Promenade Verte! Once reaching the end of Parc Roi Baudoin there is a nice map of two extra trails in Jette – might be useful for future trips.
Hint: Make a detour from Parc Sobieski to Les Jardins du Fleuriste. This hidden garden is told to be one of the most romantic spots in all Brussels!
Well, this is it, 60km of discoveries literally around whole Brussels. A nice thing about it that once completing it, you will always look for those spots where the roads cross the trail when leaving town. It is an experience that makes life richer here in Brussels and it will also give you endless new ideas and trails to continue walking – an inspiration and motivation we all need lately. I hope this experience will charge at least as much your batteries as it did charge mine!
Should you embark on the journey, feel free to share with me your experiences (follow my Instagram account ) and tag me in your Insta posts. Let’s make others move, too!