F or such a small country, Belgium can be confusing. It is comprised of two groups of people — the Dutch-speaking Flemish in the north, and the French-speaking Walloons in the south; it has three official languages; and, for those interested in such things, more than 500 different beers.
Its capital, Brussels, which is also the home of the European Union, wreaks of Old World charm. One of the city’s two major attractions is the Grand-Place, a stunning square and the historic commercial hub of the city, with its spectacular Hôtel de Ville. The other, oddly enough, is the Manneken Pis, the small statue of a boy relieving himself which is said to be a demonstration of the irreverent spirit of the local citizens.
West of the capital are the medieval cities of Bruges and Ghent. Bruges is one of the best-preserved medieval cities in Europe, and is the top tourist attraction in the country. During the 13th and 14th centuries Ghent was the largest city in Western Europe and today it retains many of it ancient charms. It’s less popular than Bruges, however, so it can be enjoyed without the crowds.
A few miles west of Bruges you’ll find the beach town of Oostendeon the English Channel. To the east, beyond Ghent, lies Antwerp, a bustling seaport city and a beautiful city that in the past few years infused with doses of high art and high fashion.
Get off the beaten tourist-track and also visit Wallonia in the south. There, nestled up against the border of Luxembourg, you’ll find the town of Bastogne, of World War II fame, and the rugged hills and forests of the Ardennes.
Good to Know
Belgians love their beer, and brew some very good ones. In fact, even the monks at six Trappist Monasteries get into the act, creating some heavenly and popular brews.
The Top 10 Places in Belgium
Don’t let Belgium’s relatively small size fool you — this country probably has more to do per square mile than most other places on earth. And best of all for the traveler, it’s a comparatively easy place to get around and English is widely spoken. Here are the top 10 most-visited places in the country.
In Search of the Best Chocolate in Bruges
This past weekend, en route home from Amsterdam, I decided to make a side trip to Belgium. My goal: to find the best chocolate in Bruges.
Why Bruges? Along with it’s famous medieval architecture and canals, it’s also a chocolate hotspot with an incredible number of chocolatiers and shops, a nirvana for lovers of chocolate.