About the size of Maryland, Belgium is often overlooked by visitors because they gravitate towards neighboring France or the Netherlands. Skipping Belgium in favor of its neighbors would be a mistake. Although it is small, it is rich in cultural diversity and its size means you can pack lots of destinations into a short visit.
Belgium is VERY castle friendly. There are at least 3,000 castles in the county and many are open to the public. Although, truthfully, some are more like palaces than castles. What is the difference, you ask? Castles have fortifications and palaces function more like giant homes on estates. In any case, both are great for sightseeing.
There are three distinctive regions within the borders of Belgium: Dutch-speaking Flanders is to the North, the French-speaking region of Wallonia is on the country’s South side and the German-speaking population is on the East side. The country’s capital, Brussels, is bilingual and throughout the country you can enjoy beer, chocolate, quaint villages and castles! The travel advisors at GetAway Travel can help you pack in as much into your trip as you want. Why skip the Netherlands, France or Belgium — visit all three!
Brussels is an art-lovers paradise
The Royal Museums of Fine Arts are actually five museums. You could spend days wandering through the art pieces which span the 15th to the 21st century. There are 20,000 pieces of art including sculptures, paintings and drawings.
Include the Museum of Natural Sciences in your museum visits in Brussels. It has one of the largest collections of dinosaur bones in Europe. More than 30 dinosaur skeletons were discovered in a coal mine in Belgium and they found a permanent home in Brussels.
The Grand Place is the central square of Brussels and is known the world over as being one of the most picturesque areas in the world. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the square is rimmed with guild houses. Guilds formed the economic base of the city during 1600s and each, from fishmongers to cheese makers to goldsmiths, built a headquarters in the square. Each has a distinctive architectural character and each is gorgeous — especially when they are decorated during the holidays. Festivals, concerts, cultural events and holiday celebrations are all held in the square which has numerous quaint sidewalk cafes so you can sit and people watch.
The Cauchie House is only open one weekend a month by reservation and is still worth a visit. Its facade is a stunning example of art deco architecture. The front is adorned with intricate paintings as well as sgraffito decorations. Sgraffito literally means scratched away and the technique involves scratching into the surface or plaster or stucco to show the color below.
NATO is headquartered in Brussels, but it is not open to the public.
A word, or more, on beer and food
There’s nothing like the craft beer in Belgium. There are more than 300 active breweries in Belgium and the Delirium Cafe in Brussels lets you choose between 2,000 types of beer. But beware and drink responsibly — the alcohol content of Belgium beer starts around 6% while usual domestic beers in the United States have alcohol contents around 4%.
Indulge your sweet tooth with the country’s chocolate or chocolate and praline. The most popular chocolatier is Pierre Marcolini and his creations are for sale at locations around Belgium.
Then there’s the waffles. Belgian waffles are thick with deep crannies that hold plenty of sweet or savory toppings. They are even quite tasty just sprinkled with sugar.
Visit any of the outdoor food kiosks, called frietkot or snack stands, for paper cones of potato fries. They are served hot and crispy because they are double-fried. There’s a fascinating array of dipping sauces to choose from. Do try the classic andalouse sauce which is mayo, tomato paste and roasted red peppers. It may seem counter-intuitive to look for stands with the longest lines, but that means the fries as well as the sauces are fresh because of the turnover of product. Find out everything you want to know about potato fries and recipes at the Frietmuseum in Bruges.
Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp
Bruges is like visiting the most charming place on earth. From its tree-lined canals to the cobblestone streets, it is peppered with medieval homes that look like gingerbread houses. Take a canal tour and enjoy the sights and the 24 bridges. It has two great city squares, Markt and the Burg and it is recognized as the birth place of Flemish primitive painting.
Ghent is between Brussels and Bruges and it is home to the largest student population in the country. The diverse and eclectic mix of humanity makes it a super creative community with a great music scene and a distinctive vibe. It is the home to the silent disco (everyone gets headphones) and it proudly carries the title of Vegetarian Capital of Europe. There are endless restaurants with an almost endless selection of plant-based cuisine.
Antwerp is a fashion and design destination. Belgium’s second largest city, it is home to the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. Many of the world’s premiere fashion designers have their roots in Antwerp. Visit their trendy shops in the Fashion District. You can get a clue as to the inspiration and insight into their designs at the Fashion Museum of Antwerp.
Fashion, fries, dinosaur bones, art and craft beer — GetAway Travel has you covered. We can be reached at: (262) 538-2140, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Belgium is a very pretty country that is often overlooked..looks like you had a great trip..