Sonian Forest

The Sonian Forest, jointly managed by the three Regions on the territories of which it is located, constitutes an extraordinary green space. Being part of a series of 78 remarkable beech forests existing in 12 European countries, it has been listed Unesco Worldheritage on the 7th of July 2017. Even though it has experienced an especially rich history, significantly influenced by demographic developments and land use, its original topography has been remarkably preserved. In this way, beneath the sombre canopy of this cathedral of beech trees, the areas where reindeer and mammoths once walked is very much still in evidence. It is perhaps because of its use as a game preserve by the Dukes of Brabant that it avoided being cleared for such a long time. However, in spite of everything, over the centuries, its edges have been gradually eroded by the villages and religious communities that were established on its outskirts. In the 18th century, the population plundered the resources of the Sonian Forest, which suffered greatly from wide-scale felling orchestrated by local lords short of money. Nevertheless, at the same time, during the Austrian period, a young landscape architect from Vienna, Joachim Zinner, took an interest in the forest with the aim of rapidly producing quality wood. He therefore set to work planting, in record time, the abundance of beech trees that, a number of decades later, would form the cathedral of beech trees for which it is still famous. Bequeathed to the Société Générale company by William I of the Netherlands, the Sonian Forest was sold and extensively cleared. Léopold I acquired the remaining 4,400 hectares and appointed the Water and Forestry Administration to manage it. (Listed 02/12/1959)

Practical information

  • Forêt de Soignes
    1160 Brussels
    • M
      Herrmann-Debroux
    • T
      Auderghem-Forêt/Oudergem Woud
    • T
      Herrmann-Debroux
    • B
      Deux Chaussées/Tweesteenwegen
    • B
      ADEPS/Rouge-Cloître – ADEPS/Rood Klooster