"Pfft, the GR in Brussels? No, thank you! Walking on tarmac between cars is what I do every day on my way back from work." Think again you spoilsports! The plotted routes emphasize open spaces, parks, small roads and other unusual and unknown spots. All remarkable sites, full of history and folklore ...
BrusselsLife met with Henry Horn, former volunteer buoy tender of GR trails in Brussels and Brabant. This inveterate hiker was actively involved in plotting routes for Brussels. "We tried to follow a certain logic in our plans. We have focused on the most pleasant streets and green spaces. We made sure that the walker does not miss too many beautiful things and discovers unknown or unusual places like Parc Egmont, the Abbaye de la Cambre or Watermael-Boitsfort’s garden cities. "
Three main axis: GR 12, 126 and 579
GR trails run through Brussels in three main axis: the GR 12, GR 126 and GR 579.
The GR 12 guides hikers from Amsterdam up to Paris via our capital. It crosses Brussels diagonally from the Atomium to Uccle-Calevoet then Dworp before continuing its route in the Brabant.
The GR 579 begins at the foot of the Cathedral of Saints Michel and Gudule. It then takes a southerly direction by discovering often unexplored paths towards Watermael, Boitsfort station and the Drève du Haras.
The GR 126 starts from the same place. From the cathedral, it continues its journey to the Red Cloister Abbey, the forest of Soignes and the valley of the Dyle where it finally leaves the capital.
Caution! The three routes converge at the Cathedral of Saints Michel and Gudule. A directional sign will help you stay on track when you reach the crossroads.
BRU GR: 9 hikes in Brussels
Around these three main axis, the GR association volunteers have formed a network of nine hikes in 13 municipalities of Brussels. These various walks are gathered in the GR BRU guidebook. They offer walkers routes from 9 to 26 km. It’s up to you to prepare your itinerary according to your preferences.
The urban landscape forces your eyes to search for markings on rather surprising mediums: trash cans, benches, bollards ... Of course, trees are always useful for hikers to keep in sight. But beware, in the municipality of the City of Brussels, you will never see the markings on posts. Do not look in vain ...
Henry Corne explains the difficulty of tending to marking operations in the heart of the capital: "The continuous flow of people downtown degrades the indications. In the country, volunteers only need to refresh the markings once per year, but in Brussels it is necessary to repaint them 3 times per year. And often roadworks cause these markings to disappear. "
Hiking in Brussels is not the same as conquering the Kilimanjaro. Though comfortable shoes are necessary, heavy gear is not. Take advantage of the city by traveling light. You will always have the opportunity to buy a bottle of water at the supermarket or sit at a terrace to take a break, regain strength and cool down.
Guidebooks: Prepare your hike
Each GR path is described in a topo guide. Each publication contains a description of the route and information about mileage, the locations visited, refreshment stops, etc.. The book will help you organize your walk, forecast your drop-off points or your STIB connections.
More so than most common reads, the Brussels guidebooks have a real cultural vocation to them. They have the particularity to focus primarily on the historical and patrimonial aspects of the urban landscape! As Henry Corne advises: "When you walk in Brussels, take the time to discover what is around you by reading the explanations available in the guide."
You can find topo guides to Brussels at the tourism office of the Grand-Place, at the Bip, at la Fnac, at Anticyclone des Açores library, at AS Adventure, at Lecomte or through the association's website. The IGN shop, at the Abbaye du Bois de la Cambre, sales the entire GR's guidebooks collection.
So ... convinced? Seize the opportunity to explore the urban landscape from a different angle. Scour the city differently by focusing on a heritage that still hides many things.