But hiding away in the little town of Genval, half an hour by road or rail from where the Eurostar terminates at Brussels’ Gare du Midi, is the home of the tranquil and luxurious spa break. It is a story of water.
Once upon a time, in 1906 to be precise, the Societe des Eaux Minerales built a Chateau to create a spa in the holiday resort of Genval-Les-Eaux. The quality of the mineral water from the local springs was so great that in 1934 Jacob Schweppes rented the building and set up water and soft drinks production.
Over 100 years passed and the Chateau du Lac has come full circle as the hotel established here by the Martin family has created a state-of-the art spa facility in what is the only five-star hotel in the south of Brussels and in Wallonia.
The atmosphere of a turn-of-the-century chateau has been carefully preserved, as has the calm and tranquillity of 1906, when perhaps the ancestors of today’s white swans floated on the silver stream l’Argentine flowing through the ponds that were to become the lake.
In these beautiful, bucolic surroundings, the Chateau du Lac is a secret hideaway only minutes from the culture and sophistication of Brussels. The rooms are spacious with warm colours and textures. I loved the four poster-style bed in our room and the fabrics used throughout.
The spa is a pleasure in many ways. On the top floor of the Chateau, not only is it beautifully designed and decorated with wood and silver and chocolate colours, but almost all the rooms and spaces offer views into the beautiful outdoors.
Some spas I’ve been to are in the basement or somehow secluded away. Here they embrace the fresh air and other beneficial qualities of the outdoors. A roof terrace for sunbathing and an indoor chill out area with heated recliners looking out over the treetops and the lake’s majestic fountain. There are more views of the green trees from the Tisane room. Windows are open – it is so peaceful here.
The dual treatment rooms have private Jacuzzis, rose petals and yeet more views of the lake. There is also a private hammam room where they offer a full rassoule clay body treatment. You sit in the hammam until the clay coating has done its good work. And there’s the ultimate in bubble baths: a high-tech bathtub with essential oils and chromatherapy – choose from 16 different programmes depending on your mood and needs.
A new offering is treatment specifically designed for pre- and post-operative, to prepare the body and aid recovery. Of course there is a fully equipped gym with personal trainers, yoga and spinning classes.
Caring for your body in another way, the Chateau du Lac’s lounge-bar restaurant – Genval Les Bains focuses on changing seasons and fresh produce from the markets and this is likely to be the dietary choice of those on a made-to-measure slimming regime.
There are a number of other good eating out options in the vicinity, from the nearby Brasserie and a local classic – the Shangri-La Chinese restaurant – to La Laguna, a bustling new Italian with authentic food and big picture windows overhanging the lake.
In the summer time the yacht club has aperitifs in the afternoon every second Thursday, with drinks in the park across the lake organised by the hotel on alternate Thursdays. Here you can enjoy music concerts and a friendly atmosphere as the local community gathers.
The Brabant countryside is known as the garden of Brussels and it is charming both in summer and winter. All this only a couple of hours by Eurostar from the hurly burly of London St Pancras and 30 minutes from the hubbub of Brussels.
By Natasha von Geldern
Many thanks to the Chateau de Lac, which invited me to stay with them. The 5* Chateau is the flagship property of Martin’s Hotels, a family-owned group of 11 hotels in Belgium. See the website to book online at the best available rate and for Special Promotional Martin’s Offers.