On the last warm and sunny day of autumn, we visited a place like no other in Belgium. A few years ago I first heard of Bokrijk and had been looking forward to visiting it ever since then. Everything fell into place that day. The Indian summer held on and it helped make the visit pleasant. While I knew it was big, I didn’t expect we would stay all day long. But first, let me tell you more about Bokrijk. It’s an open-air museum near Genk, Belgium that consists of a park and a museum. Also, a sizeable Arboretum surrounds the entire complex, which makes it feel like an oasis of calm. We had many corners of this beautiful place all to ourselves.

Old farmhouse in Bokrijk
Old farmhouse windowsill in Bokrijk

My favorite thing about it was the architecture. Bokrijk strives to preserve and present the rural life in Flanders as it was before WWI. And fascinatingly enough, that means picking houses apart, brick by brick and bringing them over. Certain local farms were sold to the museum, after which they were restored to their original state. We actually saw a few farms that were in the process of being rebuilt. Overall, there are 148 authentic buildings in the complex. Many of their interiors still look like it’s 1774 or 1843, which was utterly beguiling. They’re warm and inviting, in the best way possible, the countryside kind of way.

Old stable in Bokrijk
Old farmhouse interior in Bokrijk
Old cabin in Bokrijk

Many farms have a direct connection to the stables, which must have been practical during wintertime. Today, you can find donkeys in those stables and pet them because they’re very friendly! On the whole, there are plenty of animals around Bokrijk. We even saw a border collie herd a flock of sheep right in front of us! The most compelling aspect of Bokrijk has got to be the staff that takes on specific roles. For instance, you can learn how school lessons used to look like back in 1913. Also, you can stop and play traditional games while walking through Bokrijk. Such as horseshoes, walking on stilts, mast climbing or bowling. Honestly, there were so many and almost all of them new to us!

Old farmhouse interior in Bokrijk

There were so many things to do and so many places to see. I was a bit overwhelmed but in a good way. At the moment, there is a big exhibition on Pieter Bruegel because of the 450th anniversary of his death. Since he designed his paintings as visual puzzles, they reproduced one of them on the floor, with some missing pieces. And under a massive angled mirror, you can lie down and fill in the puzzle!

Since visiting Bokrijk, I am absolutely in love with the concept of open-air museums. I find them terribly charming and overall, a unique experience. We agreed to return next year in late spring and stay longer. While it was delightful to visit during autumn, we wondered how the vegetable and flower gardens look like when in bloom. Also, we didn’t really explore every corner of it since we didn’t expect it to be this vast. Right before leaving, we sat down at Bistro Koetshuis for an overdue lunch. After our light breakfast and 10 km of walking, we were elated to receive the pasta we ordered. Satisfied with everything Bokrijk offered us, we headed back home, already daydreaming about the next visit.

Nature in Bokrijk
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