Self-deluding foreigners who’ve never been here often quip that nobody can name five famous Belgians. Or that Belgium is ‘boring’. ‘So there’s beer and mussels, but what else?’ Belgians’ downbeat, self-deprecating sense of humour means that locals are more than happy to let such folks fool themselves. If foreigners want to ignore the country’s astonishing art history, its 60-plus Unesco sites, and bizarre carnivals that make Rio’s look unimaginative, so be it. As one Antwerp resident half-mockingly suggested, ‘Don’t waste your time here, Amsterdam is so much prettier!’
But the truth is that Belgium remains a country where people live well. There are strong social support systems, liberal attitudes, imaginative museums, a vibrant theatrical and artistic life and fabulous food. Belgian beers are divine and endlessly varied. Big new attractions for visitors continue to blossom.
Recent additions to Belgium’s portfolio include state-of-the-art galleries in Mons and Leuven, the superb new Hergé museum at Louvain-laNeuve, and the Magritte Museum and subterranean Coudenberg experience in Brussels. Then there’s the incredibly ambitious Grand Curtius in Liège, which is also where one of Europe’s most extraordinary 21st-century architectural talking points, Liège-Guillemins station, opened in 2009.
Above all, though, Belgium is a country of two distinct halves. Dutch-speaking Flanders (northern Belgium) has a flat, often monotonous landscape, but it is interspersed with fabulous historic cities. These lie close together and are conveniently interconnected by regular trains, making travel by public transport seamless. In French-speaking Wallonia (southern Belgium), however, most attractions are contrastingly rural: caves, castles, bucolic valleys and outdoor activities. Staying in village inns and stringing together several minor countryside attractions can make for a truly delightful experience if you’re driving or have strong cycling legs.
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Best places to stay in Belgium
Top 10 reasons Belgium isn’t boring
Late British comic Bob Monkhouse used to joke ‘I went to Belgium once. It was closed.’ Little understood, riddled with Eurocrats, somehow between places – all these impressions have contributed to Belgium’s dull rep. But dig a bit and you’ll find that Belgium is actually fascinating.
Belgium destination guides
The city hit the big screen when the 2008 Sundance Film Festival premiered the action-comedy, In Bruges.
Europe’s hot springs: 20 of the best spots for a soak
Sliding into a bathtub after a long day is one of life’s little luxuries, but there’s nothing quite like the restorative buzz garnered by a dip in a proper thermal pool. From Iceland’s idyllic Blue Lagoon to Switzerland’s most chic spa, here’s a rundown of some of Europe’s best hot springs.
Ghent and Bruges Day Trip from Brussels
Discover two of Flanders' special gems on a full day trip to Ghent and Bruges. No visit to Belgium is complete without a visit to these two beautiful cities, just a short drive from Brussels. After a one-hour drive through the scenic Belgium countryside you'll arrive in Ghent. Here you will visit the St.
Bruges Day Trip from Amsterdam
Discover Bruges – one of the most captivating cities in Belgium – on this day trip from Amsterdam. After traveling to Bruges by coach, you will receive a brief overview of city sights from your knowledgeable guide. Then, enjoy 6 full hours exploring the churches, canals and lace shops of Bruges on your own. See the Begijnhof, the city gates and the eye-catching windmills.
La Ducasse: tips for the dragon slaying festival in Belgium
'Le Dragon, el Biette' by ines saraiva. Creative Commons Attribution Location: Grand Place, Mons, Belgium Date: Trinity Sunday Level of participation: 4 - pull the dragon’s tail if you dare Calling all dragon slayers.
Sights in Belgium
Activities in Belgium
Tours in Belgium
Restaurants in Belgium
Budget hotels & hostels
Guesthouses and B&Bs
Fine food, café culture, Art Nouveau architecture and fabulous beer.