Spreading over 92ha, just outside Brussels, the Meise Botanic Garden is one of the largest botanic gardens in the world. Over two centuries old, it is not only a perfect nature get away, but also a place where you can learn more about the plants you admire on your visit.
From the plant palace to the culinary garden, the apiary, rose garden, magnolias, there are so many things to see and do at the garden, it is impossible to capture it all here. I can only hope this article will convince you to visit yourself and admire its beauty.
1. The gardens
Once inside the premise, you walk on the path that leads to the castle. It used to be covered by large beech trees, to shade the royals on their way in. Now, the cobblestone road is guarded by young meta sequoias. The species used to be endangered until more specimens were discovered somewhere in China and now it is planted in gardens and parks around the world.
From the over 20,000 plant species housed at the Meise Botanic Garden, more than 7,000 are from temperate zone and thus can be found outside. Maple trees, conifers, oak trees, magnolias, hydrangeas, peonies, medical plants and fields of wild garlic, to name just a very few, await to be discovered by curious botanic lovers.
On the S-W part of the estate, lies the Balat Greenhouse. Built out of glass and steel, it is one of the oldest greenhouses in the country, having been designed by architect Alphonse Balat in 1854. This was about 20 years before he oversaw the construction of the Royal Greenhouses and, having seen both of them, one cannot help but think the Balat greenhouse at Meise is a sort of prototype for the Winter Garden in Laeken.
The rose garden is the youngest addition at Meise. It is only 4 years old and not yet at its final stage, as the plants still need time to grow. The roses are planted systematically in concentric circles, based on their historical development, species and provenience.
2. Bad weather? Not a problem.
You would be inclined to think that the weather needs to be nice to enjoy a visit at a botanic garden and while a sunny day can indeed allow you to make the most out of the garden at Meise, there are plenty of things to see even on a typical Belgian rainy day.
2.1. The Plant Palace
The plant palace is a 1ha greenhouse complex hosting over 10,000 plant species. Each greenhouse of the complex showcases a different biome, so you are transported from the tropical rainforest…
…to the desert.
Along the way you will find the incredible giant water lilies, which have just started to grow.
But also camelias and rhododendrons that fill the room with their sweet gentle aroma.
2.2. The castle
The castle was part of the Bouchout Estate and dates back to the 11th century. Now, it is home to a permanent exhibition that tells the unique history of the estate and the castle and, throughout the year, temporary exhibitions inspired by the world of plants are organised here.
2.3. The WOODlab
This beautiful small museum introduces you to all the surprising characteristics of wood. Here, you can find out all about nature’s most plentiful product and the many ways in which it is used through interactive and engaging activities.
3. Choose your journey
It takes a full day, at the very least, to visit the entire garden. If you have the time and are well rested it is certainly the best solution to discover the estate, or as much ground as you can cover, on foot. While there are clear paths all around the park, it is best to have a map on you, since there is still a chance to get lost in the “wild Meise” and wooded areas.
However, if you do not have this much time available, fear not, the Meise Botanic Garden has some special paths prepared. Depending on what you would like to see more, each walk is designed to show you a different side of the garden, from the seasonal walks, showcasing the most beautiful blooms of a specific time of year, to the historic gardens or “people and plants” walks.
4. Children fun
As the Meise Botanic Garden is the perfect get away for families, the park is designed to be interesting and engaging for children. Besides the treasure hunts, like the Easter egg hunt, the garden organises sometimes for children, there are always interactive elements for children to discover in the plant palace.
King Amaryllo also takes children on a path that follows the seasonal walks, so kids can keep engaged while their parents enjoy the gardens. But the king does not only bring the amusement of searching for his cartoonish face around the estate. With every occasion he teaches children something about the plants they are seeing, so it is a fun and learning experience at the same time.
And, one of the most interesting activities prepared for children, one that I am still sorry I have not yet had the chance to experience myself, is the “Amaze-Your-Feet Path”. A course of over 1km of “walking fun” created solely with natural materials awaits as long as the weather is warm enough for being barefoot.