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Sonian Secrets

Venture like a veteran — our Staff Picks are here to help you uncover Belgium’s best-kept secrets

  • woman photographing the candy shop window

    Sample Belgium's Finest Chocolate

    No visit to Belgium is complete without chocolate. So spend an afternoon (or two!) on a chocolatey tour and sample some of the country's finest. Follow your nose on Brussels Chocolate Walking Tour and Workshop. In four hours a guide will lead you through the city's charming cobblestone streets, treating you along the way to chocolates and world-famous truffles from some of the best shops in the city. Then you can try your hand at making your own. 

    If you'd like to exercise your taste buds more than your feet, try the Chocolate Tasting Tour, during which a well-informed guide will take you from chocolate shop to chocolate shop for scrumptious samples and a chance to buy your favorites for later. For those craving local insights, reserve your place in the Ultimate Chocolate Experience walking tour, where you'll learn how to make chocolate from the oldest chocolatier in the city.

  • couple with horses

    Reconnect with Nature at Our Four-Star Resort

    As the country begins to reopen just in time for the summer season, we can’t wait to welcome you back to Belgium. Our peaceful Brussels hotel allows you to share quality moments with your loved ones and enjoy the outdoors without wandering far.

    Located in the heart of the Sonian Forest, our luxury hotel naturally lends itself to privacy and social distancing. We have redesigned all the services of our spacious four-star resort with our guests’ and staffs’ well-being in mind.

    Revel in total wellness treatments at Spa Cinq Mondes, where sensory experiences await, with techniques inspired by Bali, India, Brazil, Japan, and Polynesia.

    Next, indulge in culinary delights prepared by our in-house executive chef at Argan, where a newly built terrace lends way to refreshing al fresco dining from dawn till dusk.

    In addition, an array of leisure activities can be found on our large grass lawns as well as in the surrounding forest, including tennis, cycling, biking, hiking, table tennis, basketball, badminton, and more.

    Explore 3 of our Summer Specials to help you reconnect with nature and read more about all the ways we’re committed to your health and well-being here.

  • opening chestnut seed on branch

    Monsieur Sernet's Green Thumb

    It's a small park and often overlooked, thought perhaps to be something less than it is. But Parc Tenbosch, leafing its greenery in Ixelles near Place Brugmann, is anything but ordinary. Tenbosch grew from the hands of an enthusiastic dendrologist (a botanist who specializes in trees), Jean-Louis Semet, who planted more than 70 trees that today top the list of 'remarkable trees' in the region. Almost 70 years later, it's the richest arboretum of rare species in Brussels. When the park is open, see if you can find the Aurora Horse Chestnut or the Mongolian Lime, or the Turkish turtledove and dwarf widow parakeet that may have winged to their exotic branches. It's not a contest really, just as long as you get there. Listen to the birdsong and the breeze and thank Monsieur Sernet for his green thumb.

  • bluebell flowers in the forest

    Hail Halle, the Majesty of Spring!

    Spring brings signs of hope. After the grays and toupes of winter, relish in the rainbow of color that explodes around Brussels. If it's lavender-blue you're after, follow your nose to the blooming Halle Forest. For a few magical days between mid-April and mid-May, this enchanted forest is carpeted in a sea of delicate bluebells. The tiny wildflower is a beauty on its own, but they grow in terrific numbers at the foot of the ancient beech trees that shade them. Millions of flowers will surely take your breath away.

    To satisfy the rest of nature's color palette, stop at Laeken Park on your way back into town. Located along the Promenade Verte course, the site features one of the only French-style landscaped parks in Brussels, with wide avenues and even wider lawns and geometric flowerbeds offset by clumps of yew and cherry laurels. Promenade and bask in the sun of spring.

  • group of friends drinking beer

    Tour and Taste the Lambic Tradition

    Ever heard of lambic beer? We'll explain. Or better yet, we'll let the experts do the talking and suggest you take a journey just outside Brussel's historic center, where the experts brew their big ideas. Tours at Cantillon Brewery or 'Brasserie Cantillon', are self-guided and overwhelmingly popular with beer-drinking visitors. And what makes this brewery unique is that it only makes lambic beer, a beer that spontaneously ferments with wild yeast. Most commercial beers have a strictly-controlled fermentation process with various strains of more traditional brewer’s yeast.

    Cantillon Brewery was one of the first 100 breweries that hopped into being in Brussels. Now it's the only surviving member of that founding family. Tours at Cantillon are self-guided and take about 30 to 45 minutes. See brewing, fermenting, and bottling in action. And taste the result. Gueuze and kriek, or sour cherry varieties, are crowd favorites.

  • marionette theater

    Puppetry in the Pub

    This month, toast to the 'Toone' of 1400 puppets as you step into a 200-year-old thirsty theater. That's just our way of describing a charming old marionette theater where, at curtain's close, you can step off-stage and taste one of Belgium's finest Trappist brews in the attached pub. Toone is the name of the alley where you'll find this hidden gem, just steps away from the Grand-Place. Founded in 1830, the Théâtre Royal de Toone still offers several shows each week including classics like Romeo and Juliet and the Three Muskateers. Marionettes who've long since retired from the stage dangle from the pub rafters and sit on the windowsills to join you in your drink. We can't promise they won't stare! Expect refreshing blondes, fruity krieks, and full-bodied browns to be on the menu. A clever and colorful website includes the puppets' repertoire.

  • botanique garden in brussels belgium

    Start with Art at Botanique

    The green lawns and glass walls of the Botanique attract visitors from around the world, but it's what's inside the former botanic conservatory that's drawn crowds for the past 25 years. Dedicated to musical discoveries and art demonstrations, the exhibition space has earned the reputation as one of Belgium’s premier cultural centers. Each year the Botanique hosts more than 300 concerts and close to a dozen art and photography exhibitions for tens of thousands of visitors. And while the crowds are international, Botanique takes great pride in the fact that more than a third of its featured artists are Belgian born. Each month features something new as well as returning events, like Les Nuits Botanique, Botanique's annual music festival in May. It's just a short drive away from Dulce La Hulpe and right next to Brussel's Botanic Garden where you can enjoy a brisk wintry New Year's walk before tucking into your artistic afternoon.

  • atomium museum brussels

    Make Science Fun at Atomium!

    Think small. Really, really small. Something you can't see with the naked eye. Did you guess an atom? Perhaps not. But an atom was the very inspiration for a work of art created by two architects tasked to design a centerpiece for the 1958 World Expo in Brussels. They built an atom, not a microscopic one, but one that's big enough to climb inside. And it still stands today!  The now-museum is called Atomium and shines proudly in Heysel Park just west of the city. Curious yet? Come check it out! Ride an elevator through the center tube to climb more than 300 feet and walk through six of the atom's nine spherical cells for a historic tour through an iron crystal, magnified 165 billion times. And plan to stay awhile. In the top cell is a restaurant and in the center cell, a performance space for concerts and parties and conferences. Check the website for details!

  • argan restaurant

    Dine in Style at Argan Restaurant

    Dine in the heart of the lush Sonian forest, an exclusive al fresco experience in the plush interior of our brand new Argan Restaurant. Featuring a central bar and an open kitchen, Argan guests can enjoy the privilege of watching esteemed Executive Chef Adrien Clauwaert and his team carefully prepare each meal, while relaxing over a selection of our finest wine and spirits. In perfect harmony with the surrounding forest, Argan's menu features fresh, seasonally-inspired offerings. And while that guarantees a surprise for your tastebuds, the highest quality preparation and table service remain constant. This month, melt into the tender Belgian beef or sultry Dolce Burger and balance your plate with roasted vegetables or a crisp green salad. Argan opens early for breakfast with an all-day menu starting at noon and serves dinner for one or to share starting at 7. We welcome you to be our guests any time of day. Come hungry and leave the rest to us!

  • european parliament building brussels belgium

    Visit the Parlamentarium

    What better time than now to brush up on world affairs! If you're in Brussels, why not visit the Parlamentarium, the home of the European Parliament. It's just outside the historic city center and even if you’re not passionate about politics, a stop at the visitor’s center may still be worth your time. Begin with a multimedia exhibit that takes you back through both World Wars. Interactive in its style, you'll be able to feel what life was like in Belgium and throughout Europe during war times and understand the original reasons justifying the formation of the European Union. Spend an hour or two to read the biographies of members of the European Parliament and watch mini-documentaries that give personal accounts of how becoming part of the EU changed lives for the average European citizens. Brussels houses the largest parliamentary visitor center and it's free to enter. See? Learning can be fun!

  • seafood plate of mussels

    Taste and drink the best of Bordeaux

    'EAT! Brussels, drink! Bordeaux' in Warandepark, is a feast for the eyes and palate featuring some of the very best that Brussels' restaurants have to offer. That doesn't mean menus will be limited to mussels and frites. 31 chefs from countries around the globe who have earned their stripes in Brussels will pull out all the stops to plate colorful and delicious creations sure to surprise and please amateur and gourmand foodies alike.

    A "Wine Pass" will complement food flavors and tantalize your tongue with regional tannins while you learn about the world of Bordeaux wines. If it's something sweet you savor, take a stroll among the gourmet confectionery stands. Tickets are available online for the September 5-8th festival, and that ticket affords you a chance to vote for your favorite culinary sampling. It's just opposite the palace, so event organizers insist it promises to be very royal affair indeed.

  • flower wall

    'Flowertime' Blooms in City Hall

    Brussels is sizzling with fun things to do throughout the month of August. From week-long music festivals to weekend fireworks, there's no shortage of excitement. This year, why not revel in the romance of Belgian's talented florists and schedule your visit to experience Flowertime from the 14th – 18th. More than 100,000 flowers, arranged by more than 30 floral artists and landscape architects, will transform 13 magnificent historical rooms in Brussels' City Hall. It's a floral tour de force that's sure to dazzle your inner child. Stroll through the palace as if it's a garden with the entry hall, corridors, offices, meeting, and reception rooms all decorated with dozens of floral arrangements. Just outside the palace, find the Grand Place flowered, too. Flowertime blooms in every color every two years, alternating with the Flower Carpet of the Grand Place. Timed tickets are available online. Buy in advance and skip the wait!

  • party with fireworks feest fête Dolce la Hulpe Brussels

    Celebrate National Day

    Celebrate Belgian National Day July 21st. On this date, way back in 1830, Belgium gained political independence and regained cultural independence from the United Kingdom of the Netherlands. So it's only appropriate that festivities are strictly Belgian. Wander down the Jeu de Balle after 4 pm and you'll find mouthwatering servings of the traditional dish, mussels and pomme frites, accompanied by brass band music, majorettes, and accordions. It's a full-on public holiday with all the bells and whistles. Expect military parades, air force aerial demonstrations, street festivities, expositions, and fireworks. The Royal family participates, too. Watch the king inspect the Belgian Army parading past the palace. And on the morning after, join the family at mass in the Cathedral of Saint Michael and Saint Gudula. They'll have been up late! The party reaches its crescendo just before midnight when a spectacular fireworks display lights the sky above the Royal Palace.

  • parc du cinquantenaire Brussels

    Brussels' Elegant Greenery

    Amidst the Brussels bustle, find a lush bit of green to pause in peace. Petit Sablon Square isn't big within its city block limitations, but it's worth a visit just the same. Tucked inside a wrought-iron balustrade, the 129-year-old garden is decorated with 48 bronze statues along its length and ten additional statues along the back edge of the park. The men guarding the back are modeled after well-known 16th century Belgians including Mercator, Abraham Ortelius, Louis Van Bodeghem and Rombaud Dodonée.

    Cinquantenaire Park, by contrast, is big enough to get lost inside. Planted in 1880 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Belgium's independence, the grand manicured lawn is punctuated with beautiful gardens, monuments, and museums. A triple triumphant arch at one end marks the spot for an unbeatable sweeping view over the city. Picnic tables and playgrounds make it a great afternoon destination for couples and families alike.

  • greenhouses at laeken

    A Royal Invitation

    For three weeks of the year, overlapping the first 10 days of May, the Belgian Royal family opens their extravagant Greenhouses at Laeken to the public. And it's not a spectacle you can afford to miss. 

    Built in 1873, the complex of greenhouses complementing the castle of Laeken looks like a glass city tucked into lush rolling hills. A series of grand pavilions with their glass cupolas and wide arcades criss-cross the site like covered streets and are rather palace-like, offering so much more than the iron and glass of stereotypical conservatories.

    Some of the plants you'll see belong to King Leopold II's original collection, including the Winter Garden, which contains an ironically tropical array of plants and ceilings that are high enough to embrace the delicate fronds of the exotic palms. Take a look at the royal website to plan your visit. Each day reflects unique availability to guests.

  • halloween costume party

    Zombies, Ghouls, and Vampires, Oh My!

    Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival horrifies audiences every year with some of the scariest new films made to date. Certainly not for the faint of heart, the 37th annual festival offers 150 screenings inside comfortable cinema theaters city-wide. And more than 50,000 fans of science fiction, thrillers, fantasy, and surrealism flock to see them. 

    Adding to the experience, films are complemented by off-screen competitions and theatrical events. Zombies, ghouls, vampires, and monsters never-seen-before (or again?!) roam the arenas. If they don't scare you away, stretch your legs at the Augmented Reality exhibition, a full-fledged Virtual Reality section, a monstrous Gaming Madness Zone, or the crowd favorite Vampire Ball. And don't worry if costume-making isn't your things—leave your fate in the hands of the talented festival make-up artists and hairdressers. This year's festival is scheduled for April 9-21st, but don't wait to buy your tickets! Find them on the festival website.

  • Brussels City Center Belgium

    An Insider's Look at Brussels' Architecture

    Explore Brussels' unique architecture in a way few cities permit. Friday's through Monday's in March, from the 16th through the 31st, the Brussels Art Nouveau & Art Deco (BANAD) Festival invites you to celebrate its exceptional sense of style. Particularly unique to this festival, are guided tours in interiors that are usually closed to the public! These include private homes, schools, and industrial and office buildings. There are also guided walking, bike and coach tours, concerts, conferences, various cultural events, activities geared toward families and school groups, antique shows and more.

    Visit here to secure your all-access pass in advance, or purchase a card for your desired number of visits. If you'd rather not book ahead, expect to wait in line and pay a bit more to enter. No matter your approach, expect to see a mix of beautiful asymmetrical ornamentation in stained glass and bold colors within strong geometry in metal and mirror.

  • neon lights

    Interact With Brussels' Bright Lights

    Brussels is shedding bright lights on winter yet again. In a colorful and creative exhibition free to the public, the city invites locals and foreigners alike to bundle up and see the city at night through the eyes of talented visual artists. Organized by visit.brussels, a local tourist agency, Bright Brussels, as the event is called, presents circuits of light installations in the Dixmude and Dansaert neighborhoods of historic Béguinage, Lepage and Marchés aux Grains. There are a dozen interactive exhibits on which to feast your eyes. All are the works of Belgian and international artists. Walk by some, lounge next to others, or wave or walk through the rest. This year, an installation by popular Belgian visual artist Romain Tardy will be on display in the iconic Citroën garage at Yser. Bright Brussels is free and open to the public from 6:30 pm to 11 pm every night from February 14th - 17th, 2019.

  • belgian beer and cheese

    Cozy up with a Belgian Brew

    If asked to pick a favorite between food or beer, Belgians choose both. This January why not warm your spirit with some of Brussels'! The city overflows with great pubs and bars where you can sample the wide variety of Belgian beer on offer. If a flight of flavors is what you seek, try Delirium. It may not sparkle, but the bar is popular for its offering of more than 2000 beers, live music, and plenty of seating. It makes for a great escape from the winter winds.

    You won't be alone. Brussels sets a tone to enjoy being, rather than running around to see the sights. If you've spent the afternoon visiting its famed Winter Wonders, you might find cozying up with the locals is just the ticket. Too many choices on tap? Try a cherry beer. But be careful, at 8% you can’t have too many!