Friday, 24 June 2016

Brussels EU Quarter/Woluwe Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 7.3 or 12.3 km (4.5- or 7.6 miles), terrain: hilly with 122-meter gain

NOTE: Brussels is bilingual, for Dutch and French, and street signs are sometimes in one language, the other or both. I'll include both names when I mention streets here. Sorry about the bad pictures but it was raining when I did this run!

Brussels Running Routes:
Avenue Louise/Bois de la Cambre  
Center Loop 

Old-Town Sights
Atomium/Laeken
EU Quarter/Woluwe Park 
For more running routes, see Route List

Brussels is a compact city that is graced with some exceptional roles: as the Belgian capital city, European Union capital, NATO headquarters, capital of its own small province, as well as being the chocolate capital of the universe. There are interesting things to see everywhere you go.
Woluwe Park
Here's a run that takes you from the city center out through the EU quarter, along an elegant boulevard and then through the rolling hills of Woluwe Park out in the wealthy suburbs before returning on a parallel path. Actually this route can also be shortened by almost half by returning before getting out to Woluwe.

I used to run fairly often to Woluwe, in the days when I worked several months each year in Brussels. But that was decades ago. And when I headed out there again on a business trip this week, I realized that I had forgotten how hilly Woluwe was! But it's still as beautiful as I remembered. So let's get going on this varied and beautiful route!
The fountain in Brussels Park, with the Belgian Parliament in background
So get yourself to the fountain in Brussels Parc, across from the entrance to the Belgian Parliament. This shady square is lodged between the parliament and the royal palace, and is one of the most popular jogging spots in town.

Turn east and start running east, out Rue de la Loi/Wetstraat. As you enter the EU quarter, you'll already be able to see the gigantic triumphal arch in Cinquantenaire/Jubel Park in the distance, right where we're heading.
Along Loi, let's get by here fast!
This first part of the run is the least pleasant, actually, with loud traffic and office buildings for the first kilometer. You'll run downhill, then up again, past various EU buildings and other offices. On the uphill section, the new European Commission building is on the left side before the Robert Schuman roundabout.
European Commission building in the rain
But once you get past the roundabout, the street gets nicer, with a narrow park as a median strip.

Then, you run straight into Cinquantenaire/Jubel Park, a nicely maintained park dominated by its huge arch, built to celebrate modern Belgium's 50th anniversary.

Cinquantenaire Park
At each side of the arch are some old exhibition buildings now used as museums for art, cars and the military, at the 2-km mark. You can look into the windows of the big airplane hall on the left side to see a lot of cool old planes.
At the arch
Now exit the park, still heading eastwards.  Continue following the street, now called Avenue de Tervueren/Tervurenlaan, which will become increasingly more elegant, lined with nice stone row-houses.
Rowhouses along Tervuren
The further out of the city you run, the nicer it gets. As you come into the wealthy Woluwe suburbs, you're in another world, with huge homes and landscaped gardens.
Montgomery Square
At the three-kilometer mark, you'll come to a huge traffic circle, Montgomery Square. From now on, you'll run past big mansions as you come into Woluwe. 
Amazing art-deco mansion
NOTE: if you want to cut off 5 kilometers from this fairly long run, turn right at Montgomery onto Boulevard Saint-Michel/Sint-Michielslaan and run a few blocks till Rue de l'Escadron, where you turn right and follow the return way back as described later in this route.

Turn in here to the park!
When Avenue de Tervueren comes to a green valley sloping away to the right, take that first cobblestone road down (Montagne aux Ombres/Lommerberg) into the valley, into Woluwe Park. Before the road turns to the right, take the stepped shortcut down towards the ponds below.
The park trail: head uphill, then left
Now, head uphill between the lake and the pond to follow the trail eastwards on the far side of the lake as it turn left, keeping you further from the street noise. This also means, though, that you have to climb the hills over there.

When you come to the paved road after the first lake, cross the street to continue along the trail lining the second lake.
The fake-stone bridge
When you see the little fake-boulder path leading across the lake, cross it to the east to get a nice view of the lake, then turn right to continue southwards, uphill.

When you get to the paved street with car traffic (Avenue du Parc de Woluwe/Woluwelaan), turn right and follow it as it snakes its way westwards up the wooded hill towards the park exit.

NOTE: The rest of the way back involves a lot of zig-zagging from street to street. If you want to keep it simple, just turn around here and re-trace the first part of the run from here. But the route as it continues lets you experience a bit more of this interesting town.
Coming into Woluwe
You'll now enter a quiet Woluwe neighborhood, at the 6-km mark, full of nice villas, running northwards. The street name changes to Avenue des Franciscains/Franciskanenlaan. When you pass the church ahead, the road curves to the right as it goes by a few small stores. Turn left at the little square to run past the bank and continue running north along Avenue des Eglantines/Eglantierenlaan. A really pleasant neighborhood around here!

When you get to Legrain, the street-crossing with the triangular planters in the street, turn right to run downhill, heading north. This street is lined with fairly normal apartments. The further we run back into the center, the less elegant things will get.

After Legrain starts to head uphill again, turn left onto Avenue des Volontaires/Vrijwilligerslaan for just a block, and then turn right to continue northwards along Baron de Castro.

In a few blocks, at the 8-km mark, you'll come to where Castro crosses Boulevard Saint-Michel/Sint-Michielslaan, with its tram line and lots of traffic. Cross the street and continue straight ahead for two blocks.
African archer
When you come to a roundabout surrounded by shops and a supermarket, turn left to keep following the street with the median-strip, passing a statue of an African shooting a bow along Avenue du Front/Frontlaan.

This neighborhood has some fairly modern apartments lining it, and you'll run through a park-like square and continue (the streetname changes to 11 November) till you cross Avenue de la Chasse/Jachtlaan.

After Jachtlaan, take the second right-hand turn and run north along Baron Lambert in Etterbek. The houses look a lot simpler around here, and more urban as we get closer to central Brussels. Keep running along  Baron Lambert until it ends at Chaussée Saint-Pierre/St.-Peter.
Etterbek street
Turn left onto St. Peter, and run until you reach one of the of the coolest spots in Brussels, Jourdan Square, with its outdoor restaurants and cafes. You'll immediately wish you weren't wearing your smelly running gear, and could sit down to enjoy a good Belgian beer at one of those outdoor tables.
Jourdan Square: I want to stay here!
Turn right on the far side of the square to follow the tram tracks northwards to the next intersection with a traffic light, at Chaussée d'Etterbeek, the 10-km mark.

You'll see a park across the street, Leopold Park. So let's get away from the street noise and head into the park, keeping left to run past its little lake, and run past the Lycee school sitting above you on the left.
EU Parliament from Leopold Park: keep right!
Head west through the park, heading towards the giant glass EU buildings ahead, for the European Parliament. We're now back in EU country, and almost done.

When you get to the oval-shaped parliament building, keep right to run past the right side of the glass building next to it (another parliament building). You'll see stairs going up along the side of the building (look for the big, colorful arrows!), taking you up to the higher square in front of the EU buildings, Luxembourg Square. There are giant banners hanging all over, illustrating the insides of the parliament for visitors, a bit of pro-EU propaganda.
Luxembourg Square: EU Parliament entrance
Now turn right to run westwards through the square and along Rue Luxembourg, which will take you a few blocks through some downtown buildings until you come to Troon, a traffic-clogged square and its Metro station. The cross street here follows the course of the old city walls.

Cross Troon and then follow the street to the right (Rue Ducale), past the side of the Royal Palace, then straight into Brussels Park again, where you'll see the fountain across the park where you started. You've made it!
Entering Brussels Park again

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