Welcome to Belgium
Smack-bang in the middle of Western Europe, this compact multilingual country effortlessly blends the historic with the new; from countless castles and medieval belfries to innovative art museums and hip cafes. And with some of the best comfort food on offer, you'll need to pack an empty stomach for gorging on waffles, chocolate, frites and piles of steaming mussels, all washed down with the country's famous frothy beer.
Belgium’s exquisite medieval towns are home to a bounty of Unesco sites, but happening big cities, caves, kayaking, industrial sites and sandy North Sea beaches are just some of the other attractions. The region was a crucible of European painting and has remained astonishingly creative ever since. Revel in the strange, affecting beauty of the Flemish Primitives, the voluptuousness of Rubens, the sinuous curves of art nouveau and the country's great contemporary scene. Popular culture too is a hoot: comic strips and fashion have dedicated museums, and Belgium’s carnivals are some of the world’s weirdest and wildest.
Belgium’s cities and fields bear the scars of centuries of invasion, siege, conquest, assimilation and resilience. Site of some of the most brutal conflicts of modern history, the country draws visitors looking to understand, remember and mourn. The battlefield where Wellington defeated Napoleon at Waterloo, the many towns and frontlines of WWI’s four-year hell, as well as the less commemorated, but no less significant, WWII sites – all have museums and memorials that sensitively honour the dead and keep their stories alive.
Town & Country
Belgium is both tiny and a place of distinct contrasts. The historic ‘art’ cities of Dutch-speaking Flanders seduce visitors with medieval belfries, magical market squares and step-gabled houses overlooking pretty urban canals, all interspersed with superb museums and galleries. And they’re all close together, seamlessly interconnected by regular public transport. Head south and much of French-speaking Wallonia is profoundly rural: impressive caves, castles and bucolic valleys to explore and lots of outdoor fun to be had in the wooded hills. Luxembourg falls somewhere between the two, its small but sophisticated capital encircled by magnificent castles and pretty hill villages.
Chips, Chocolate & Beer
Pack your elastic-waisted pants. Belgians serve up a remarkable range of edible specialities, including the world's most luscious chocolate. Jumbo mussels in a briney, winey broth are served up with crispy, twice-fried frites. Then, of course, there’s the beer. Brewing is an almost mystical art in Belgium and many ales are still created in the traditional manner: in monasteries. Meanwhile, Luxembourg has the world’s highest number of Michelin stars per capita and keeps all comers in a celebratory mood with an ever-flowing supply of local Moselle bubbly.