Belgium

Belgium is a country immersed in beauty, with wondrous works of architecture and classical aesthetics, as well as a plethora of stunning gardens and castles.

Antwerp

This Belgian city is renowned for its diamond dealerships, offering a stunning collection of sparkling gems. The practice of polishing diamonds was in fact invented in this glorious city, and the Antwerp Cut has become an exclusive term used to signify a higher class of quality stone. 

Antwerp is also a great place to experience fine dining, with a varied range of culinary delights that includes food from around the world, and Belgian delicacies such as roggeverdoemeke and appelbollen are not to be missed.

Antwerp has plenty of attractions and sights, including the charming Antwerp Zoo and the underwater extravaganza that is Aquatopia.  The city certainly is not short of a few museums, with the Fashion Museum, Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Diamond Museum and the Middelheim Museum all proving particularly popular with visitors.

Whilst Belgium is famous for its sights and history, there’s still time for nightlife and you will find the Noord and Zuid districts offer good, lively late night fun, and the city centre has a great selection of inviting bars, pubs and cafes. 

The very first skyscraper in Europe, the KBC tower, was built in Antwerp during the early 1930s.

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Bruges

Bruges is the tranquil location of some of the world’s finest examples of architecture, and since 2000 the entire city has been on the World Heritage list.  The spectacular structures give Bruges a unique skyline that is dominated by a classical aesthetic; the Church of Our Lady and Saint Saviour’s Cathedral play a key role in giving Bruges its inimitable design.

The canals of Bruges are a charming, romantic wonder, and a cruise around offers the chance to really embrace the picturesque qualities of this wonderful city.  Once you’re back on foot, don’t miss the Bruges museums, with captivating works from many periods of history, and the Flemish Primitives collection will be a highlight for art lovers.

Those with a sweet-tooth are in for a real treat, as Belgium, and particularly Bruges, is well known for its luxurious chocolates.  There are almost 50 chocolate boutiques in Bruges alone, as well as the Choco-Story chocolate museum, and if you need to walk off the sugar then take a trip around the stunning public gardens.

Bruges has a significant economic importance thanks to its port. At one time, it was the chief commercial city of the world.

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Flanders

Flanders is a region in the north of Belgium which is home to many of the country’s most exciting and captivating towns and cities.  Antwerp is the only place to go for diamond shopping, whilst Bruges offers some of Europe’s best classical architecture. 

Brussels is a tranquil haven, giving visitors a great place to relax and enjoy the serene sensibility that is synonymous with Belgian culture, and for a lively night out pay a visit to country’s home of beer, Leuven.

If you’re looking to sample the culture and learn about the heritage then there are plenty of museums and activities to experience.  Those who enjoy the outdoors will be able to cycle and walk the picturesque routes of Flanders, and golfers will find a great selection of courses to try out their swing.

The Flanders region also offers a glorious coastline, with 67km of stunning white sand, and you can try invigorating activities such as kite surfing and sand yachting.  Once you’ve worked up an appetite, you could choose any one of the local towns and cities to taste the cosmopolitan cuisine of Belgium, but leave room for the chocolates.

Brussels sprouts have been grown in the Brussels area for over four hundred years.

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Ghent

Ghent is a quaint and picturesque location, with cobbled streets and meandering canals, and it’s home to almost a thousand listed buildings.  This tranquil setting enjoys a low profile, and embodies an untainted aesthetic that is particularly refreshing.

A wealthy city in medieval times, Ghent was once Europe’s largest cloth producer, and there are plenty of opportunities to find out more about the heritage.  The Gruut Brewery is worth a visit, and offers an insight into the process of using special spices instead of hops for a healthier brew.

For music lovers, July sees the popular Ghent Jazz Festival with an array of fantastic artists performing, and if you’re feeling brave then visit the Castle of the Counts, where you can find out more about medieval prison life and weapons, inside this magnificent converted 12th century castle.

In the 11th century Ghent was the second biggest city in Europe.

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Leuven

Leuven is the home of Stella Artois, and a popular place to visit for a good bit of beer tasting.  Great for a weekend break, this town has a relaxed, welcoming atmosphere.  

The city has a strong student contingent thanks to the famous local university, so there’s no shortage of lively bars and restaurants to try.

If you’re looking for a little bit of art and architecture, then Leuven has lots to offer, with the majestic Gothic Town Hall providing a wonderful sight, and the Groot Begijnhof, renowned for being one of the world’s finest remaining examples of a béguinage.  

The Kruidtuin botanical garden is a vibrant display of thriving plants, trees and herbs, and if you want to enjoy some local performing arts then try the STUK Centre for the Arts.

Leuven is Belgium’s beer capital, home to the internationally known red-label Stella Artois.

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Mechelen

Mechelen is a small, idyllic location, and is yet another Belgian home of striking classical architecture.  Visit St. Rumbold’s Tower for one of the city’s most impressive structures, and the two Royal Palaces are worth a visit. 

The Houses on the Haverwerf and the part-wood facades are a popular attraction, and the city isn’t short of a few museums.

The Toy Museum, or Speelgoedmuseum, is an exhibit of old and new toys, with a collection covering over 20,000 square feet.  

The Town Museum, known locally as the Hof van Busleyden Museum, is a Gothic building from the 16th century, and houses some fascinating examples of the local handicraft which has played such a key part of the city’s heritage.

Mechelen has a great selection of restaurants, offering both local and foreign cuisine, and there are some stylish bars if you want to relax and enjoy some evening drinks.

 

In the Late Middle Ages, highly lucrative cloth trade gained Mechelen wealth and power.

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Ostend

Ostend is Belgium’s popular seaside city, boasting more than five miles of beautiful beach, and it still maintains the country’s renowned architectural style.  

After basking in the sun you can visit the stunning Napoleonic fort and the Belle Époque houses of De Haan, before taking in some of the works of Belgian art luminaries such as Paul Delvaux and Rene Magritte.  

The MU.ZEE, formerly the Provincial Museum of Modern Art, plays host to some fascinating works of Belgian art dating from the mid-19th century.

For a smart dose of science, try the Earth Explorer; this interactive experience is for the whole family, and demonstrates the forces of nature at work.  As it’s a coastal city, you aren’t far from some maritime fun, and shrimp fishing is a popular local attraction.

Ostend also has plenty of culinary treats on offer, with some great restaurants and bars, and shoppers will enjoy the weekly Ostend markets, as well as the array of stylish and original boutiques found around the city.

Ostend is the only Belgian coastal resort that is as lively in the summer as in the winter.

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