These are our Must See Destinations For Belgium
The city of Antwerp is known as Antwerpen in the Dutch language and Anvers in French. It is a fantastic old city which is located on the right bank of the river Scheldt in the country’s Flanders region. Back in the 16th century Antwerp was well known for the wealth of its citizens, and the houses of these wealthy merchants and manufacturers have been well preserved and can be seen throughout the city.
Visitors can see how the city’s new attractions complement the more traditional, with the impressive Grote Markt, containing the Town Hall and the Brabo Fountain, which commemorates the legend of the city’s origin and also the 18th-century Groenplaats, with its Rubens statue. The Steen, a 12th-century fortress now houses the National Maritime Museum, whilst the Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten (Royal Museum for Fine Arts) close to the southern quays has a collection of old masters (Rubens, Van Dyck, Titian) and the leading Dutch masters. The Rubens House, where the famous Flemish painter lived, is also a major attraction.
The Ardennes region, in the southeast of the country is home to tranquil villages, amidst deep river valleys and high forests. It was the scene of heavy fighting in World War I and World War II, notably during the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944 and January 1945. You can see the site of this pivotal WWII engagement at the Bastogne Historical Centre, close to the Luxembourg border, which features collections of memorabilia and a large American memorial.
The sandy Belgian coastline stretches for 67 km (42 miles) from De Panne on the French border to Knokke near the Dutch border, with over a dozen resorts; Ostend, Middelkerke and Knokke are the liveliest.
The Flanders city of Bruges, often described as the ‘Venice of the North’, is easily taken in by a scenic canal boat ride. Known as Brugge in its native Dutch language, this pretty city is home to some of Europe’s best preserved medieval buildings and is noted for fine art collections. At its core are the two medieval hubs, the Markt and the Burg. The whole historic centre is a Unesco World Heritage site.
The Groeningemuseum houses a comprehensive survey of six centuries of Flemish and Belgian painting, from Jan van Eyck to Marcel Broodthaers. The museum’s many highlights include its Flemish Primitive art, Renaissance and Baroque painting, as well as a selection of works from the 18th and 19th century neo-classical and realist periods and post-war modern art.
At the Kantcentrum, visitors can watch demonstrations of traditional Flanders lace making and learn all about the history of this famous Belgian product.
This vibrant capital city is noted for its interesting history, fine beer, tasty chocolates and politicians. The principal centre of the European Union and NATO, Brussels’ true focal point is the magnificent Grand Place, fringed by baroque guild halls, a gothic town hall and a plethora of busy pavement cafes and intimate restaurants. Nearby, visitors can pose for a photograph in front of the famous Manneken-Pis fountain statue, and his less famous sister, the Janneken Pis.
Brussels has many excellent museums, including the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium (French: Musães Royaux des Beaux Arts, Dutch: Koninklijke Musea voor Schone Kunsten), which combines four interconnected sections of old masters and modern art collections. Together they make up Belgium’s most complete collection of fine art with works by, amongst many, Pieter Bruegel, Rubens, Paul Delvaux and Renã Magritte. Other interesting museums include the Museum of the City of Brussels and the Comic Strip Museum.
In the north of the city centre lies Heysel Exhibition Park, which houses the 103-metre (335-foot) tall Atomium monument, built for the 1958 Brussels World Fair. Nine steel spheres 18 metres in diameter connect via tubes with escalators. Windows in the top sphere provide a panoramic view of Brussels. Other spheres have 1950s exhibitions.
One of the major highlights of Brussels is the food; you can visit the Chocolate and Cocoa Museum (situated just off the Grand Place), or simply relax at one of the reasonably priced restaurants of Brussels’ Rue des Bouchers, to enjoy a meal of moules frites. Most have tables outside in the summer, from which to watch the world go by while dining.
Just 18 km (11 miles) south of the city is the 1815 Battle of Waterloo site, which commemorates the battle that shaped the future of both Belgium and modern Europe.
The city of Dinant, in French-speaking Wallonia, sits on the banks of the River Meuse. The city’s landmark is the Collegiate Church of Notre-Dame, rebuilt in Gothic style after falling rocks from an adjacent cliff partially destroyed the former Romanesque church in 1227. Above the church rises the spectacular fortified Citadel, first built in the 11th century. It was rebuilt and enlarged in 1530; destroyed by the French in 1703, and rebuilt in 1821 to its present aspect, with 408 rock-hewn stairs.
Sightseeing cruises may be taken from Dinant along the upper reaches of the River Meuse, where some quite spectacular scenery may be enjoyed.
Ghent is the capital and largest city of the East Flanders province. Famous as a centre of lace, Ghent was a medieval powerhouse – one of the richest cities of northern Europe. Today the friendly town has a large student population. Much of the city’s medieval architecture remains intact, and its centre is the largest pedestrianised areas in Belgium.
Highlights of the city include St Bavo’s Cathedral, in which hangs one of the earliest known oil paintings: “The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb” by the fifteenth-century artists, Jan and Hubert van Eyck. This work is considered to be one of the most important examples of medieval painting in Western Europe.
The city also houses three bÃ©guinages (similar to a convent) and numerous churches, among which the Saint-Nicolas Church and the Saint-Jacobs church are the most beautiful examples.
Also worth a visit are the Museum of Fine Arts (Museum voor Schone Kunsten), with paintings by Hieronymus Bosch, Jean Fouquet, and many Flemish masters; the Museum of Industrial Archaeology (Museum voor IndustriÃ«le Archeologie en Textiel or MIAT); and the City Museum for Contemporary Art (Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst or SMAK), which features works from the 20th century, including Joseph Beuys and Panamarenko.
Liège is the principal economic and cultural centre of Wallonia, and is situated on the banks of the Meuse. The 16th-century palace of the Prince-Bishops of Liège is built on the Place St Lambert, where an archaeological display, the Archeoforum, can also be visited. The Saint-Paul cathedral contains a treasury and St Lambert’s tomb.
Liège is renowned for its significant nightlife. Within the pedestrian zone, the Le CarrÃ© area has a number of lively pubs which are reputed to remain open until the last customer leaves.
85 km southwest of Brussels, on the river Scheldt, lies the city of Tounai (Doornik in Dutch). The country’s second oldest city, it is home to many cultural attractions, such as the 12th century Cathedral of Our Lady, and the oldest belfry in Belgium – both of which are UNESCO-listed heritage buildings.
Located in the Flemish province of West Flanders, Ypres was the centre of intense and sustained battles between the German and the Allied forces during World War I. It is now a base for tours of battlefield sites, as well as the Menin Gate – an imposing monument transcribed with the names of the 55,000 British and Commonwealth troops lost in the trenches of World War I. Each evening, since the end of the conflict, traffic around the monument’s imposing arches is stopped while a bugler plays the haunting Last Post.