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Off-Track Activities – Belgian Grand Prix

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Off to Spa Francorchamps for the Belgian Grand Prix? Here’s your guide to off-track activities in this beautiful part of Europe. The next race takes place on August 25-27, 2017.

Known as the ‘Pearl of the Ardennes’, the Belgian town of Spa is a destination in itself, F1 action aside. Henry VIII of England allegedly raved about the town’s healing waters and by the 1700s Spa was a fashionable pocket of Northern Europe, hosting visiting royals and politicians, writers, intellectuals and artists who hailed this chic town the ‘café of Europe.’ So make sure you book out some time to explore the area and its surroundings if at all possible. We’ve put together a handful of must-see attractions to fit in around your trip to the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa.

Les Thermes de Spa

You couldn’t visit Europe’s original health resort – the town that all spas became named after – and not experience its hot springs and mineral water first hand. A visit to the ‘original’ spa is the perfect antidote to a weekend of high octane hedonism, or a great way to unwind before the weekend kicks off. You can book specific wellness treatments or just spend some time drifting between its cloudy saunas, beautiful outdoor baths and hammams. A three hour pass costs €20. Click here for more details.

Parc de Sept Heures

Back in the eighteenth century, this beautifully leafy corner of Spa was the place to see and be seen. Lying conveniently close to the town baths, here you can sit with a coffee and a book, partake in some mini golf or peruse its Sunday morning flea market if you can fit it in before lights out at Francorchamps. Check out the pavilion and its lakes and fountains.

Musee de Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps

Located at Stavelot Abbey some ten kilometres from the circuit, this must-see exhibition is found in the Abbey’s warren-like vaults. Charting the history of the circuit as well as the origins of Le Mans 24h, this is a real gem and packed full of motor racing vehicles as well as an original 1912 taxi! Click here for more information.

Casino de Spa

Bring your passport if you fancy a wander around this neoclassical marvel, built originally in 1770 as part of a complex including the town’s original bath house and exhibition halls. Remember to look up at its ceiling murals, and bring some cash if you fancy a flutter: this is still very much a working Casino! More information (French only) is here.

Luxembourg

Luxembourg is reachable by train or car in around 2 hours if you fancy venturing further afield before or after the race weekend, and definitely worth a visit. Wealthy and pristine, the city state has a distinctly fairy-tale feel about it: emerging from dense forest and towering with medieval architecture and dramatic views. Be sure to check out Notre Dame cathedral, take one of its many free walking tours, and treat yourself in one of its many Michelin-starred restaurants. This city has more Michelin stars per head than anywhere else in the world!

Other places worth visiting

There’s plenty of other pretty towns and cities within a reasonable distance of the Spa Francorchamps circuit, many of which would provide a great base for your weekend at the Belgian Grand Prix. Here’s some of the best known:

  • Liege, Belgium > Located 60km northwest of the circuit, Liege is a pretty, historic student town of around 200,000 inhabitants.
  • Aachen, Germany > Over the border in Germany (around 60km north of Spa), Aachen is another historic mid-sized city with a population of approximately 250,000. It boasts an impressive old town and famous cathedral.
  • Maastricht, Netherlands > Like Liege, Maastrich is also situated on the Maas river (hence the name), but over the border in the Netherlands and around 70km north of the circuit. Home to 120,000 inhabitants, Maastricht boasts a beautiful old town and is known for its cuisine, good shopping and multicultural atmosphere.

Food & Drink

Belgium produces over 500 varieties of beer, so look out for brewery tours and beer festivals if this is your kind of thing, and don’t leave the country without enjoying at least one cone of frites – you’ll find it impossible not to. They do chips differently here: twice baked for sublime crunchiness, and served with mayonnaise or tartare sauce – never tomato ketchup. Waffles are another staple food synonymous with Belgium: the Brussels waffle is rectangular and typically served with a dusting of icing sugar or whipped cream whilst the Liege waffle has a caramelized sugar coating. If you fancy trying something more than just the tasty street food in Spa, L’Art de Vivre restaurant is widely thought to be the best restaurant in Spa.

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About the Author ()

Alice West is a freelance copywriter from the UK with a passion for traveling to F1 races around the world.

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