Weather is a favourite subject of conversation in Belgium: it is either too cold or too hot, too dry or too wet. Winters, for example, can be very mild or very cold with snow, whereas summers can be very sunny or simply too wet. Or in other words: Belgian weather can be very extreme.
So, what do you do when you live in a crowded, busy city like Brussels during a heatwave? You can seek refuge in one of the many parks, such as the Josaphat park in Schaarbeek and the Royal Park in Brussels. The Belgian capital is actually one of the greenest capitals of the world, thanks to these parks and the presence of forests in and around the city, like the Bois de la Cambre and the Fôret de Soignies.
But when the parks become too crowded and the heat too stifling, you can drive through the Fôret de Soignies to Genval, a municipality about 20 kilometres to the south-east of Brussels. The biggest attraction is the Lac de Genval, the Lake of Genval, with a length of 1 kilometre and a width of a quarter of a kilometre. Notwithstanding the name, the lake actually belongs to two municipalities: the French-speaking Genval and the Dutch-speaking Overijse.
We arrived at the Southside of the lake, at the Château du Lac. This castle, which was built at the end of the 19th century, has been turned into a five-star hotel with the same name. Needless to say that the views from the hotel are stunning.
The hotel was built in the style of the Belle Epoque, a period at the end of the 19th century, characterised by monumental buildings. There are other buildings around the lake that belong to the same era.
But most people come here to cool down, relax and enjoy the beautiful views. There are benches all around the lake and lots of tourists and locals picnic here as well.
After your picnic, you can walk off the calories by walking around the lake.
The lake is private property; fishing and swimming are not allowed. But there is a small harbour, where you can rent pedal boats and the like.
At regular intervals, you will find cafés and restaurants around the lake. Near the small harbour, for example, there is a pizzeria.
Genval itself, on the other hand, has little else to offer. There are no majestic cathedrals nor interesting museums here. In fact, the only noteworthy building is the train station, built in art nouveau style.
So, if you happen to find yourself in Brussels and it is way too hot, hop on a train or get in a car to Genval and do as the locals do: cool off on and around the lake. You won’t regret it!