There is just something charming about Belgium, this small country in the heart of Europe where the inhabitants speak three national languages but go out of their way to assist any visitor in English as well. The hotels in Belgium are mostly three stars and above, and there are low cost options available for those travelling on a budget. This country’s accommodation is particularly suited to the business traveller, though visitors looking for a luxury stay in the country will not have a hard time finding a lodging to suit his or her goal.
Top Things about Belgium
Some may find it surprising to hear that there is only one national park in the entire country of Belgium. This is the Hoge Kempen National Park, which is an area full of pine forest, as well as heath land. This park is located in the Flemish Region.
Another major attraction in Belgium is Grand Place in Brussels, which is perhaps the most important tourist landmark in the city. This market square was constructed in the 11th century, and is an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Old-fashioned houses and stunning Gothic architecture are just two of the attractions of this destination.
Those headed to Antwerp can take in the Market Square of Antwerp that, though not as large as Grand Place, is still a relaxing place to shop, stroll around, and have a drink. A bonus of walking around this area is the fact that traffic has been banned, so it is completely safe.
If you travel to the South of Belgium, you will encounter a world of peaceful villages, friendly locals, abbeys, parks, castles and culture. The Ardennes, an interesting area to tour the World War II site where the Battle of the Bulges took place in 1944-1945, are composed of wild terrain carved out by many little mountain streams and lush forests offering many hiking and cycling trails and kayak rides on the fast flowing rivers. Do not cross this area without tasting at least some of the many culinary highlights, such as Jambon d'Ardennes or the typical Saucissons.
Overall, the Belgian countryside is full of even pastoral landscapes, though those looking for a little variety can go to the hills of the Ardennes region of the country. Different types of holidays can be accommodated.
Best Cities to Visit
Belgium has a complex and rich historic past, visible in the marvellous mixture of great architecture throughout its cities. Brussels, the Belgian capital of the European Union separates Flanders in the North from Wallonia in the South. Flanders is flat and home to the cities of Antwerp, where Rubens lived and worked and where the first newspaper was printed, Ghent, a historic university town and the top tourist city of Bruges, a well-preserved medieval town with cobbled streets, picturesque buildings and arch stone bridges.
Brussels is by far the largest urban centre in the country, and as such, it holds many of the country’s most popular landmarks. Besides the ones mentioned, much-travelled to destinations in the city include Musee Belvue, which features a vivid look into the history of the country.
There is also a thriving nightlife in Brussels, with no shortage of dance clubs keeping the music going into the wee hours of the morning. For those interested in a jazz club New York style, the Music Village provides. This facility is run by a non-profit organization, which goal is to bring the best jazz in the world to the city. Music Village holds around 250 concerts every year.
Antwerp is the largest municipality in the country, and has many events that cater to tourists. One of the major attractions in this city is the Royal Museum of Fine Arts, which is the most substantial art museum in all of Belgium. Within the walls of this institution are housed works numbering in the thousands, making it one of Europe’s most considerable art institutions.
Thanks to its connection to medieval history, Brugge has long been a favourite destination for tourists the world over. Taking a visit to this city is like stepping back in time. Market Square is the where the city’s hustle and bustle takes place, and it is full of preserved architecture from the medieval era. This part of the city is an UNESCO World Heritage Site. The City Hall of Brugge dates back to the 14th century, and has long inspired the awe of visitors.
There is a flourishing musical culture in Belgium, and the annual Jazz Middelheim festival is certainly evidence of this. This festival began in 1969, and some of the most legendary names in jazz have played the festival, including Wayne Shorter and Toots Thielemans.
Belgium has a much-defined sporting culture, and as such, there are several popular sporting events held in the city. The Belgian Grand Prix, which is held at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps racetrack in Wallonia, has been a popular event since the 1920s. There are several popular cycling races in the country, including Liege-Bastogne-Liege and La Fleche Wallonne. Parts of the Tour de France also take place in Belgium.
Local Cuisine and Beer
Belgium, according to connoisseurs, has the best chocolate in the world and the Belgians take their pralines very seriously. With chocolate festivals, chocolate museums and an abundance of chocolate shops, you will be deliciously entertained no matter where you go.
Mussels and fries, the national dish, goes well with one of the 450 different varieties of Belgian beer granting Belgium its unparalleled reputation for its specialty beers since the Middle Ages. There are many popular breweries in Belgium. The Cantillon Brewery in Brussels, which was founded in 1900, is one of them. This brewery is notable for continuing to use natural yeast fermentation in its brewing process, which helps to contribute to a traditional flavour. The beers Lambic, Faro, Kriek are produced by this brewery.
Another unique element in the beer scene of Belgium is the existence of Trappist beers, which are produced by Trappist monks. Though monks produce them all, the six Trappist beers available in Belgium are quite varied in style, from blondes to dark ales.
Blonde ales are quite popular throughout the country, with a few of the more popular brands being Duvel and Judas. There are many producers of blond ales in Belgium. These beers are generally light, very similar in style to pale ale.
There are also several brown beers produced throughout Belgium. Besides brown ale, there is also Dubbel, a stronger variant.
Much interesting architecture can be seen throughout Belgium, and it comes from many different eras of European history. Visitors interested in seeing architecture from the medieval era can visit the St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral in Brussels. This breathtaking structure has its roots in the 11th century, just like the aforementioned Grand Place. On the opposite side of the spectrum, the Berlaymont building in Brussels, built in the 1960s, is indicative of a post-modern architectural style.
Of course, there is an extensive art history in Belgium, and certain tourist spots, such as the Rubens House in Antwerp, play to this history. The Rubens House is significant not only for being the long time studio and residence of master painter Peter Paul Rubens; but it was also the place wherein he taught future notable painters such as Jacob Jordaens and Anthony Van Dyck.
With its rich history and architecture, great food and beers, Belgium is a fine stop between Amsterdam and Paris. The luxury traveller and the business traveller have many options to choose from when they visit Belgium. There are many five-star facilities in the city, as well as several rustic options to choose. This is certainly a classy part of Europe, with only a small selection of hotels under the three-star level, but all sorts of travellers will find what they are looking for in Belgium hotels.