Belgium

Overview

Seamlessly fusing the old and the new, Belgium stays in tune with the times while not letting go of its Medieval poise. Hip cafes and design boutiques mingle with UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the cities (most notably in the iconic Bruges, once world’s most important commercial hub), the North Sea offers up attractive sandy beaches, while the country’s south remains idyllically rural. Beer flows ceaselessly here, paired with the Belgian national dish “moules-frites” (mussels and fries), followed by a dessert of celebrated Belgian chocolates.

Top Attractions

  • Explore the historic city of Brussels, the capital of Belgium and the European Union, with its picturesque Grand Place, iconic Atomium, and cultural landmarks like the Royal Palace of Brussels, the Manneken Pis statue, and the Comic Strip Center.
  • Discover the medieval charm of Bruges, a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its well-preserved medieval architecture, winding canals, and historic landmarks like the Belfry of Bruges, the Basilica of the Holy Blood, and the Groeningemuseum.
  • Visit the vibrant city of Antwerp, known as the “Diamond Capital of the World,” with its bustling port, thriving fashion scene, and cultural landmarks like the Cathedral of Our Lady, the Antwerp Zoo, and the Rubenshuis museum.
  • Explore the picturesque countryside of the Ardennes, with its rolling hills, dense forests, and charming villages like Durbuy, La Roche-en-Ardenne, and Bouillon, perfect for hiking, cycling, and outdoor adventures.
  • Discover the rich cultural heritage of Ghent, with its medieval Gravensteen Castle, Gothic St. Bavo’s Cathedral, and vibrant arts scene, including the Ghent International Film Festival and the Ghent Light Festival.

Local Cuisine

  • Indulge in the flavors of Belgian cuisine, known for its rich and hearty dishes influenced by French, Dutch, and German culinary traditions.
  • Sample iconic dishes like moules-frites (steamed mussels with fries), carbonnade flamande (beef stewed in beer), and waterzooi (creamy chicken or fish stew), as well as street food favorites like waffles, frites (French fries), and Belgian chocolate.
  • Try Belgian specialties like stoofvlees (beef stew), vol-au-vent (chicken and mushroom stew), and witloof met ham en kaas (endives wrapped in ham and cheese), as well as traditional desserts like speculoos (spiced cookies), cuberdons (cone-shaped candies), and mattentaart (curd tarts).
  • Savor refreshing beverages like Belgian beer, with its diverse styles and flavors ranging from Trappist ales to lambics to saison, as well as Belgian gin, genever (Dutch gin), and jenever (juniper-flavored liquor).
  • Don’t forget to try Belgian waffles, which come in two varieties: Brussels waffles (light and crispy) and Liege waffles (dense and chewy), served with toppings like whipped cream, fresh fruit, chocolate sauce, and powdered sugar.

Outdoor Activities

  • Take a bike ride along the scenic canals of Bruges, with opportunities for exploring the countryside, visiting historic windmills, and sampling local delicacies like chocolate and beer along the way.
  • Go hiking in the Ardennes, with opportunities for exploring dense forests, rugged gorges, and scenic viewpoints like the Ninglinspo waterfalls, the Caves of Han, and the High Fens nature reserve.
  • Explore the Belgian coast, with its sandy beaches, seaside promenades, and charming resort towns like Ostend, Knokke-Heist, and Blankenberge, perfect for sunbathing, swimming, and water sports like sailing and kite surfing.
  • Take a boat tour of the canals of Ghent, with opportunities for exploring historic landmarks like Gravensteen Castle, St. Bavo’s Cathedral, and the Graslei and Korenlei quays, as well as enjoying canal-side dining and entertainment.
  • Visit one of Belgium’s many parks and gardens, such as the Royal Greenhouses of Laeken in Brussels, the Plantin-Moretus Museum in Antwerp, and the Plantentuin Meise botanical garden, with opportunities for picnicking, birdwatching, and enjoying nature.

Cultural Experiences

  • Immerse yourself in the rich cultural heritage of Belgium with visits to museums, galleries, and cultural institutions like the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, the Magritte Museum, and the Horta Museum.
  • Explore the vibrant arts scene of Belgium, with opportunities to attend festivals, concerts, and exhibitions showcasing Belgian and international talent, such as the Brussels Summer Festival, the Ghent Festival of Flanders, and Art Brussels.
  • Experience traditional Belgian music and dance performances, such as folk music like Flemish polyphony and Walloon chanson, as well as classical music like baroque, romantic, and contemporary compositions, which reflect the diverse cultural traditions of the country.
  • Discover the history and legacy of Belgium’s medieval past with visits to historic sites like the Gravensteen Castle in Ghent, the Belfry of Bruges, and the Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp, which showcase the architectural and artistic achievements of the Middle Ages.
  • Participate in local festivals and celebrations, such as the Carnival of Binche, the Ommegang Pageant in Brussels, and the Procession of the Holy Blood in Bruges, to experience the vibrant culture and spirit of Belgium firsthand.

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