Belgium fires one's imagination. Tourists from all over the world are attracted to Belgium and its cosmopolitan capital, Brussels. It is no surprise then, that Belgium has a lot to offer the foreign tourist. Belgium means holidays in many forms. You will be able to briefly escape the daily grind, with a weekend in a Belgian city, but you can also plan a true voyage of discovery throughout Belgium. Those with a craving for art and culture or architectural beauty, will be pampered in the cities of art. Those who would like a taste of our gastronomy, cultural events and nightlife, will have their every wish satisfied.
Attractive Tourist Places
It is an international metropolis – a mosaic of languages, cultures, and traditions – and the home of the European Union, NATO and hundreds of international organizations. Brussels is a classic European city with small town charm and cosmopolitan attractions. Among the most celebrated attractions are the Grand Place, Europe’s most beautiful medieval square lined with guild houses. Originally built in the 13th century, the square is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Every other year for two days the Grand’Place is decked out in an amazing flower carpet, made up of 1 million begonias. Just a short walk from the Grand Place is the Mannekin Pis, a small bronze statue of a little boy relieving himself.
Known for its vibrant nightlife, its funky bars and restaurants and numerous festivals, Belgians see Antwerp as the “capital of cool.” The Antwerp Fashion Academy produced a group of avant-garde designers who made a big splash on the fashion scene in the 1980's and became known as “The Antwerp Six”. Discover the compact center of Antwerp, which juxtaposes beautiful medieval buildings with modern architectural landmarks. Antwerp is also an art-loving city with which the name Rubens is eternally linked. Funky nightlife, historical buildings, and the biggest diamond center in the world, Antwerp offers something for everybody.
The historic center of Bruges is on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites and is teeming with places of interest. With the city center closed off to cars, all the stunning beauty and culture of this unforgettable city can be easily explored on foot, by boat along quiet canals, or by horse-drawn carriage on cobblestoned streets. Although Bruges is a small city, it is filled to the brim with architectural and artistic treasures, folklore, chocolate shops, lace boutiques and fine restaurants. Two popular places in the city are The Beguinages and the Halve Maan Brewery.
Ghent is an unassuming, un-touristy city filled with university students, linger-as-long-as-you-like cafes, well-priced restaurants and vibrant energy. It’s a city with great mustard, Stropke beer, and the ten-day Ghent Celebrations held every year in July. Under the watchful eye of Gravensteen Castle or Castle of the Counts, the city boasts an Opera House, 18 museums, 100 churches and over 400 historical buildings. The most visited site in Ghent is the famous and beautiful polyptych, the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb painted by the brothers Jan and Hubert van Eyck in 1432.
Liège, the largest French-speaking city in Belgium after Brussels, is a historical city situated along the Meuse River. Dating back to Charlemagne, Liège is a treasure trove of historical sites and celebrated collections. Sitting on the Meuse River is the Grand Curtius, home to the prestigious archaeology, decorative arts, religious and Mosan art museums, a glass museum as well as the famous weaponry museum. Travel back in time as you walk the Coteaux, a winding path of steps and courtyards leading up to the citadel of Liege with an incredible view. Just outside the city, visitors have easy access to the Blegny mines and the Henri Chapelle American Military cemetery, the largest in Belgium.
Less than an hour from Liege is the city of Spa, a picturesque Belgian town often referred to as the “Pearl of the Ardennes”, nestled in a wooded valley surrounded by rolling hills and countless rivers and springs. Having given its name to all spas, visitors from across Europe have traveled to Spa for its healing hot spring water treatments since the 14th century. For some travelers a trip to Spa must include a visit to the relaxing Thermes de Spa for any one of the many modern spa treatments. Formula 1 racing fans may be familiar with Spa because it is home to the Spa-Francorchamps racetrack, the most scenic in the circuit, and host of the Grand Prix each year at the end of August.
Namur, the capital of Belgium’s French-speaking region, sits along the Meuse River is surrounded by one of Europe’s largest ancient citadels. Just outside of Namur, the towns of Dinant and Wepion offer a wonderful day trip to visitors with an explorer’s spirit. During the summer months, Wepion produces rich and flavorful strawberries and strawberry stands from local farmers line the streets selling the fresh fruit. Further down the road, is the city of Dinant, sandwiched between the Meuse River and its citadel, originally built in 1051. You can spend a day visiting the waterfalls of the Grotto of Dinant or the Sanctuary of Beauraing, then grab a table at one of the local café while taking in the views of the sparkling Meuse River.
In this town close to the Luxembourg border, thousands of American soldiers died fighting in WWII during the Battle of the Bulge. Just outside town, is the Mardasson Memorial, built to honor the memory of the 76,890 American soldiers killed, wounded or missing in the battle from the 48 states, plus the then-territories of Alaska and Hawaii. Also located just outside Bastogne is the Wood of Peace. The 4,000 trees in the woods, planted for the 50th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge, were dedicated to the American veterans who fought in the Ardennes, Belgian combatants and all the civilians and soldiers who died in the winter of 1944-45. Every veteran who returned to Bastogne in 1994 chose a tree, which will always bear his name. The Wood of Peace design, only visible from above, is laid out in the image of the UNICEF emblem: a mother and child, symbol of human tenderness.
Mons is a city rich in history and tradition. The town hall building on the Grand Place of Mons, constructed between 1458 and 1477, has a Belfry, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Van Gogh also spent some time near Mons before moving on to Provence. His house, an authentic and preserved environment, now houses a permanent exhibition of reproductions and an audio-visual show in various languages, including English. The popular festival of the Ducasse de Mons or the Doudou is recognized by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
Mechelen is a small and picturesque city that is big on charm and history. Once the capital of present-day Belgium and Holland, today it is a city thriving with quaint shops, car-free areas and amazingly pleasant little squares. But for some it is best known for its carillon school where students from all over the world come to learn to play church bells. One of the most pleasant experiences to have in Mechelen is to sit outside at a café sipping on a local beer while listening to the delightful bell music coming from the sky.