Take a walk through the landscape that inspired Bruegel

Just a few kilometres from the centre of Brussels is the valley of the Neerpedebeek, a stream also known locally as the Pedebeek. The stream passes through some wonderful countryside in the Flemish Brabant municipalities of Lennik and Dilbeek and the Brussels municipality of Anderlecht. Along its route are the picturesque villages of Sint-Gertrudis-Pede, Sint-Anna-Pede (both Dilbeek) and the village of Neerpede (Anderlecht). Despite its proximity to Brussels the area has remained largely rural. 

The undulated green landscape so typical of the Pajottenland, the area of Flemish Brabant to the west of Brussels, make the Valley of the Neerpedebeek a veritable paradise for lovers of outdoor activities such as walking and cycling. 

So it is little wonder that the artist Pieter Bruegel the Elder (portrait below), who spent the last ten years of his life (1559-1569) living less than 10km away in Brussels drew inspiration from valley of the Neerpedebeek. 

As well as providing an opportunity to take some healthy but not too strenuous exercise, the Bruegel Walk also allows those walking it to get to know a number of works painted by the artist during his Brussels period between 1559 and 1569. No fewer than 11 reproductions of Bruegel’s locally-inspired work can be seen along the walk’s 7km route. 

The route of the walk

The walk gets under way outside the church in Sint Anna-Pede. Bus 118 (Brussels South Station to Schepdaal stops outside the church. The Erasmus metro station is around 3.5km away. The Church of Saint-Anne was built in 1250. The church (photo, below) became world-famous thanks to Bruegel’s 1568 painting The Blind Leading the Blind.

A little further we pass by De Ster (The Star). The building is a fine example of traditional architecture. Up until the not so distant past loam was widely used in construction in the Pajottenland area of Flemish Brabant. 

The walk then passes by one of the most impressive railway bridges in Flemish Brabant, the 520 metre long viaduct known locally as “The 17 bridges” (photo, below) The viaduct was completed in 1932 as part of the work to build a new express railway line between Ghent (East Flanders) and Brussels. 

Toerisme  Dilbeek

We then pass by a disused watermill where locally grown grain was ground for hundreds of years until it fell into disuse in 1911.

Bruegel regularly walked the 8 or 9 kilometres from his home on the Hoogstraat in Brussels to paint during fairs or during the harvest. One of the barns we pass between the watermill and the Neerhof children’s farm is believed to have been the setting for ‘The Peasent Wedding” (reproduction below)

The Neerhof was built in 1740. Today the farm is owned by Brussels Flemish Community Commission that runs it as a children’s farm. It is a place where city children (and others) can get to know about farming as it used to be.

After leaving the Neerhof farm we pass through the centre of Itterbeek, a village best-known for it biannual Lambic beer festival. 

On we go past the Breugheldal (Bruegel Valley) care home and back towards Sint-Anne-Pede. Just before the end of our walk we pass by the baroque chapel of the Virgin and Child with Saint-Anne (photo below) The chapel used to stand in the middle of a landscape made up of orchards and meadows. Nowerdays, the chapel is surrounded by other buildings.

A map of the route