Belgium is situated in North-Western Europe bordered by the Netherlands, Germany, Luxembourg, France, and the North Sea. Belgium has a population of over ten million people in only thirty thousand square kilometres, making it the 17th most densely populated country in the world.
Often called the Essence of Europe, Belgium is both multicultural and multilingual. Flanders in the north, a flatland criss-crossed by canals, is proud of its medieval art cities, Antwerp, Bruges and Ghent. To the south in Wallonia, you will find the rolling hills of the Ardennes, countless castles, and the cities of Liege, Namur, and Tournai.
There are three languages (Dutch, French and German). However, English is widely spoken. The three regions (Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels) have self-government in many spheres. Belgium has retained its old-world charm in the preservation of its ancient buildings and historical traditions.
There’s just something about Belgium. Maybe it’s the friendly & welcoming people who with three official languages still find it easy to converse in English, the 4th unofficial language. Maybe it’s the stunning architecture decorating the quaint cobblestone squares. Or perhaps it’s the incredible cuisine found in the vast array of restaurants where each meal seems better than the last. Energetic and carefree, the overall mood in Belgium is infectious, summoning in all of us to live as Belgians and enjoy life to the fullest.
Well situated between France and Holland, the kingdom of Belgium encompasses all the best that Europe has to offer in an area in one country. Within the span of one day you can take a romantic cruise down a canal in Bruges, hunt for diamonds in Antwerp, enjoy waffles on the beach in Oostende, frolic in a festival in Binche, get lost in a castle in Namur, discover antiques at an outdoor market in Liege, and explore a fine art museum in Brussels. An extensive train network connects all of Belgium and makes navigation simple and comfortable for travelers.
Belgium famous for its chocolate, mussels and thousands of local beers, a country you must not miss!
Brussels is a city of contrasts with enormous diversity when it comes to places of interest and things to do. Brussels is the ultimate European city. As the headquarters to the EU (European Union) and NATO it is often referred to as The Capital of Europe. It is an international metropolis – a mosaic of languages, cultures, and traditions. Aside from the splendid and varied architectural styles of the city, Brussels also hosts over 80 museums, numerous tourist attractions, a vibrant nightlife, and more restaurants than you could count.
Antwerp is second largest city of Belgium. It is the second largest harbor of Europe (after Rotterdam). Moreover, Antwerp is a splendid city with numerous architectural highlights, most of which date from the 16th and the 17th century. The destructions of the Second World War, unfortunately, have scarred somehow the fair face of the old town. Still there are enough monuments left for those who likemonument-hopping to spend a few days admiring them. The past is also represented by the numerous paintings of Peter Paul Rubens who lived in the Antwerp of the early 17th century.
Antwerp is the diamond center of the World. If diamonds really are a girl’s best friend, than a lot of ladies will not leave out a visit to the diamond district around the Railway Station. This area is also the Jewish part of the city. The presence of many ‘Chassidic’ Jewish people gives the city a flair that cannot be found in other Belgian cities.
The richly historic city of Antwerp is Belgium’s most underrated tourist destination. Few places tangle the old and the new quite so enchantingly. Here Art Nouveau mansions stare back at Neo-Renaissance villas, and medieval castles provide a magical backdrop for the city’s myriad bars and cafes.
Ghent (in Dutch: Gent) is the fourth largest city of Belgium. It is not as big as Antwerp but bigger than Bruges. It is also less famous among tourists than the often praised stunning Bruges.
However, for some people Ghent is the real diamond of Flanders and Belgium. In a unique way, Ghent has managed to preserve its medieval power while keeping up with the times. The city center alone is a showcase of medieval Flemish wealth and commercial success. Modern Ghent certainly cannot be overlooked in Belgium. The city has an important harbor, thanks to the canal Ghent-Terneuzen which allows sea-going vessels to bring their products to the city.
Ghent is also the flower city of Belgium. Flower growers from the region around Ghent sell their beautiful begonias and azalea’s all over the world.
One of Belgium’s and if not Europe’s most beautiful cities, Bruges is a must-see for visitors to Europe. The Venice of the North, as it is known, is a well-preserved city. The attractions of this magical place include a wide range of museums, churches, historical buildings and canals and streets that can be explored by boat, foot or horse. Bruges also hosts many special events yearly, which are extra special times to visit the city.
Bruges incredibly well-preserved medieval architecture makes it one of the most exciting tourist attractions in Europe. Besides architecture, sites to see include several museums.
Of course a visit to Bruges wouldn’t be complete without a canal or carriage ride, sampling the chocolates and waffles, shopping for craft work including Bruges famous lace, visiting art galleries, climbing the belfry or trying several of the more than 350 available Belgian beers.
A city you will return to time after time.
Royal Museum of Fine Art, Antwerp
The Royal Museum of Fine Art in Antwerp houses a vast collection of paintings from the 14th century onwards. These include Antwerp’s most significant painters – Rubens, Van Dijck and Jordaens.
Gravensteen Castle, Ghent
Belgium has over 3,000 castles, about 300 of which are open to the public. Gravensteen is one of the best-known and most popular. Also known as the Castle of the Counts, it is one of the strongest moated fortresses in Europe.
Bruges is often referred to as the “Venice of the North” due to its network of canals and the 50 bridges which span them. Don’t miss this city.
The Diamond Museum, Antwerp
Antwerp has long been the world centre of diamond processing and the diamond trade. The famous ‘Antwerp cut’ and the advanced scientific research are documented in this fascinating museum.
The Grand Place & Hôtel de Ville
Described by Victor Hugo as “the most beautiful square in Europe,” the Grand Place is located in the very heart of Brussels. The square contains numerous impressive baroque and gothic buildings, many of which have dazzling gilt details.
How to get there
There are 3 international airports in Belgium: -Zaventem Airport-Brussels -Deurne Airport-Antwerp- Ostend Airport-Ostend
The National Airport of Belgium and Brussels (Located in the village of Zaventem, at about 10 km from the center of Brussels). Nearly all international flights coming into Belgium arrive in this airport.
Getting to Bruges by car from the UK is really easy. If you live in the south of Britain you can choose Eurotunnel from Folkestone (It is a very quick way to travel as there are 2 to 3 departs each hour and the crossing time for le Shuttle is only 35 minutes.) or P&O ferries or Hoverspeed from Dover. They all go to Calais and from there it’s just an hour or so to Bruges. Mainland Europe, you can drive here in a few hours from anywhere.
Taking the train is an easy way to travel, with frequent departures on busy routes. When you take into account the time it takes to get out to many European airports, you’ll often find the train quicker than flying. This is especially the case with fast trains such as the Belgian Thalys, the French TGV, and the German ICE along with the Eurostar which connects London to Paris within three hours via the Channel Tunnel and can take the train and arrive right in the centre of the city.
Every day, ferries travel from Dover in England between the port of Ostend and Zeebrugge in Belgium.
From the north why not take the P&O Ferries overnight sailing from Hull to Zeebrugge, only 30 minutes from Bruges
International coach services, operated by Eurolines, serve Antwerp, Bruges, Brussels, Ghent, Liège and Mons.
Brussels’ most festive months are July and August. On the first Thursday in July there’s the Ommegang pageant, a huge parade of nobles dressed in historic costumes. Belgium’s colourful National Day is in July, which also marks the start of the month-long Brussels Fair.
Throughout the year there are jazz festivals, religious processions, local fairs, film festivals and classical music extravaganzas. Carnival is a big do – people shake off the winter blues with outrageous celebrations ranging from balls to masked parades. In Ypres, the Kattenfestival (Festival of the Cats) involves imitation cats being hurled from the town’s belfry! Maybe bring your own and join in the fun!
Eating Dining Shopping
Belgium has given the world french fries easier to say than Belgian Fries please, so they became French Fries), waffles and some of the world’s best chocolate. Although this country’s cuisine remains one of Europe’s most underrated, Belgian restaurants have taken Europe by storm with a number popular restaurants including Belgo in London and Léon de Bruxelles in Paris.
Although widely known for brussels sprouts, chicory (chicon in French and witloof in Flemish) is the main vegetable to gain prominence in Belgian cooking. Apart from chicory, brussels sprouts and french fries Belgium’s national cuisine revolves around meat and seafood. However there is a large selection of vegetarian restaurants.
Mussels (moules in French) are cooked in a variety of different sauces and feature on most Belgian menus. Many places specialise in moules frites (mussels with French fries). Other popular seafood includes oysters (huîtres), shrimp (crevettes), eels in green sauce (anguilles au vert) and waterzooi – a creamy stew featuring chicken, fish or scallops.
Belgian menus also feature a number of meat dishes where beer is used as a prominent ingredient. Meat and beer dishes include carbonnade flamande (beef cooked with beer, carrots and onions and seasoned with thyme) and lapin à la gueuze (rabbit casserole featuring gueuze beer and onions). Lapin à la kriek is a variation of the above with the gueuze beer substituted with cherry beer.
Belgium is the home of beer with over 100 breweries and over 500 different beers. Although there are some excellent lager beers such as Stella-Artois, it is the specialty beers for which Belgium is famous. Where else but Belgium could you try raspberry beer?
Belgian beer is usually served in a glass produced specifically for that particular type of beer, with some really extravagant designs. If you’re the type of person that just has to take home a few beers then Belgium is paradise.
The main pedestrianised street is Rue Neuve, a nightmare on Saturdays, but packed with chain fashion and household stores.
Antwerp also has a main pedestrianised drag, the famous Meir, leading from the station to the cathedral. The high-fashion district is around Nationalestraat, while funky young things head to Kammenstraat.
The Veldstraat is where to find the chain stores as well as some antique shops. Also explore the streets around the Korenmarkt and Hoogpoort. More upmarket shops can be found in Bennesteeg.
Bruges is one of the most attractive shopping cities in West Flanders, with a large variety of shops within reach of everyone’s budget. The main shopping streets are situated between Markt square and the old city gates:
Belgium’s history has always been linked to both commercial and cultural exchange, and much of its character is due to its role as the great meeting place of Western Europe. It would be difficult to name a European country who didn’t want to stake their claim in Belgium at one time or another. Traces of the Austrians, Spanish, French and Dutch can still be seen in its architecture and in the lifestyle of its people. You will see superb examples of art and architecture past and present – Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque, and Art Nouveau.
Useful telephone numbers
Emergency Number 112
Airport Information (Brussels) (02) 753 77 53Train station: (Gare du Nord) (02) 203 36 40
Tourist Office: (Brussels) (02) 513 89 40
Holiday rents online:
National Transport Line Brussels (02) 515 20 00
24 hour medical service