The Rouge-Cloître site is steeped in historical significance and importance, but we must confess, the best thing about it may be the playgrounds.
The area’s first buildings were constructed in 1366 and over the following hundred years the monastery became home to a busy religious community. Surviving manuscripts and documents from this period are on display in the Centre D’Art, though while a visit to the centre provides plenty to see, it’s worth noting that the majority of the information accompanying exhibits is written in French.
In the nineteenth century the monastery was the stomping ground of artists and bohemians who were enchanted by the striking Abbey and its surrounding landscape. The city-dwellers’ rediscovery of the site triggered the start of a renovation project to celebrate and preserve what was left of the monastery’s crumbling architecture.
Though the religious and artistic communities of the past have long since left, there is now a new excited batch of visitors in the form of children eager to board the park’s giant pirate ship playground!
This area is perfect for older children while another fenced in space accommodates anyone under seven who’s eager to join in the fun. As well as many suitable picnic spots, this section of the park also contains a small cafe, though this is only open at weekends.
Rouge-Cloître is bordered by the Sonian Forest (or Forêt de Soignes) where wildlife walks and trails turn little pirates into intrepid explorers eagerly spotting the forest’s many species of birds and animals. The ancient forest is also steeped in history and was used by the Romans to produce charcoal, while Napoleon brought down a huge amount of it to build a fleet of ships. Over time, felling has reduced the forest to just a third of its former size, however with over three thousand hectares of woodland still remaining, you won’t be short of wildlife trails or tree species to spot.
The Maison du Contes theatre is also located here and has events for children including puppet shows, readings – though double-check which language this will be in! – and entertainers who are sure to elicit a giggle; this is also a much more suitable destination for families than the Centre D’Art.