A weekend spent at La Butte Aux Bois in Lanaken near Maastricht – a luxurious country estate hotel which is part of the Relais & Châteaux group – may well be the perfect pick-me-up.
The manor house was built as a private residence for Belgian nobleman, Sir Lagasse de Locht, on an estate bordering the Hoge Kempen National Park. As soon as you get to the hotel, the fresh air hits you, the sound of birds puts you instantly at peace, and the scenery is such that you’ll never want to leave.
The Bullens family recognised the potential of the location – and its historic buildings – and have transformed it into the finest hotel in Belgium, complete with a Michelin-starred restaurant, La Source, and the brand new Spa Retreat La Forêt.
La Butte Aux Bois is a retreat, a place for those who want to walk, sit, and appreciate the peaceful environment. Physical and emotional wellbeing is high on the agenda, and you can do yoga, mountain bike, and jog in the woods as well as treat yourself to various different spa treatments. If you want excitement and endless entertainment, look elsewhere. La Butte Aux Bois is for those who need to relax, staying in absolute bliss.
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Across the property there are three buildings. Le Manoir is the grand centrepiece, with 23 Flamant styled room, and a further 36 rooms are spread between La Villas (a former estate cottage) and the stylish new extension, Spa Retreat La Foret, which offers two types of rooms, Ambience or the Experience.
I stayed in Spa Retreat La Foret, where the rooms have floor to ceiling windows looking out onto spectacular views of the national park. The decor is elegant without being ostentatious – the gold doors are in keeping with the warm colour scheme and luxurious finishings. Rooms come with a Nespresso coffee machine, and it was a real treat to lie back and soak in a bubble bath while drinking my morning coffee!
Guests at La Butte Aux Bois are welcome to join in different classes and activities, from jogging to yoga, and horse riding at a neighbouring farm.
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But it’s the Spa Retreat La Forêt which is the main attraction, and where you’ll no doubt want to spend most of your time to indulge in the extensive selection of facial, body and beauty treatments. It’s a case of watch this space as they are set to become the leading specialists in dermatology for the treatment all skin types and age.
Le Spa has an indoor pool, panoramic sauna, and hammam, and on its covered terrace you can relax, meditate, or chill in the outdoor hot tub. Indulgent treatments which will make you feel a million dollars take place in La Forêt. I opted for the detox body wrap and mud massage. The therapist scrubbed my skin with sea salt said to be an effective natural exfoliant, and the combination of tea, Thalassic seaweed, and thermal water was both energising and moisturising.
Therapists at Le Spa work with Shiseido, and the exclusive La Foret range, created by Dr Bullens. Beauty treatments start from 15 euros.
The mud massage costs 129 euros, and that is for 85 minutes of pure relaxation, while the classic body wrap lasts 90 minutes and costs 99 euros.
Food and Drink
There are two restaurants at La Butte Aux Bois. Le Bistrot offers a simpler dining experience for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but there’s no doubt that the Michelin-starred La Source steals the show. In fact, Chef Ralf Berendsen is likely to earn La Source a second Michelin star, to add to its three Gault Millau awards.
The food at La Source, leaves your taste buds wanting more. My mouthwatering tasting menu included hamachi and North Sea crab, turbot with finger limes, lamb cooked in green spices with ricotta, and a chocolate and raspberry dessert, the flavours of which exploded on my palate. The dishes at La Source appeal to your other senses, too – the different ways the food are combined and presented is amazing to watch.
In fine weather you can lunch outside in the fresh air, the pristine natural environment perfectly complementing the lighter lunchtime dishes.
La Butte Aux Bois lies close to the borders with Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany. Guests staying at the estate are within easy reach of Brussels, should you want to spend a day wandering in the historic city centre, eating waffles and drinking cherry beer, or visiting one of the city’s 90 excellent museums. It’s a 30-minute drive to Maastricht, where one of the sightseeing highlights is the St. Peter’s Caves complex, an 80 km network of tunnels beneath the city. People lived here underground during the wars.
Is WiFi available?
WiFi is available throughout the hotel, though once you’re out in the grounds, exploring the lake and the forest, you’re wonderfully cut off from all communications with the outside world.
Prices are from €325 per night based on two sharing on a room only basis, breakfast is charged as taken at €25 per person (under 6 years complimentary / 50% discount for children aged 6-12 years). Double rooms are also available in the Manoir and the Villa buildings with prices from €218 to €495 including an extensive buffet breakfast.
Value For Money
Prices at La Butte Aux Bois start from €325 per night. It’s a small price to pay to be whisked away from reality for a luxurious weekend, and to have great staff attend to your every need. The room rate also includes breakfast, Nespresso coffee and fresh fruit in your room, access to the gym and the spa, making it very good value for money.
The closest airport to La Butte Aux Bois is just outside Maastricht, 15 minutes drive away. It’d take you 30 minutes to drive from Liege, and from Brussels, Antwerp, Düsseldorf, and Cologne, the transfer is only an hour.
The hotel does offer an airport pick-up service for EUR 100, or you can take the train to Genk and they’ll collect you from there for free.