Belgium Destination Guide

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Belgium destination guide

Regions

Belgium consists of three federal regions, listed from North to South:

Cities and regions in Belgium
Flanders
The northern, Dutch-speaking region of the country. It includes well known cities like Antwerp, Ghent and Bruges. The Flemish provinces are (from west to east): West-Flanders, East-Flanders, Antwerp, Flemish-Brabant and Limburg.
Brussels
The bilingual capital region of the country and headquarters of the EU.
Wallonia
The southern, French-speaking region, incorporating a small German speaking region in the east near the German border. The Walloon provinces are (from west to east): Hainaut, Walloon Brabant, Namur, Liège and Luxembourg.

Cities

Belgium has a very high rate of urbanization and has an astonishing number of cities for such a small territory

  • Brussels — Belgium’s bilingual capital and the unofficial capital of the EU. Today one of the most multicultural cities in Europe. Brussels has a nice historic centre around the famous Grand Place with its Gothic town hall and baroque guild halls. Other popular destinations are the Atomium, one of the symbols of Belgium, the European quarter, the palace of justice, the Saint Michael and Gudula cathedral, the stock exchange, the royal palace, “manneken pis” and the art nouveau houses of Victor Horta. Brussels houses some important museums, such as the Magritte museum, the comic museum and the royal museum of fine arts.

Flanders

  • Antwerp (Dutch: Antwerpen, French: Anvers) — Belgium’s second largest city, along the Scheldt river, is landmarked by the enormous Gothic cathedral of Our Lady and especially known for four things: Rubens, diamonds, fashion and the port, the second largest of Europe. Places of interest are the Grote Markt, with the renaissance city hall and stair shaped guild houses, the central station, the Plantin-Moretus museum, the MAS museum, the zoo and the Royal Museum of Fine Arts.
  • Bruges (Dutch: Brugge) — One of Europe’s wealthiest cities in the 14th century, nicknamed the ‘Venice of the north’ because of the canals and romantic atmosphere. The historic centre is mainly medieval, including the famous belfry, a Beguine and the Groeningen museum. Quiet at night, Bruges offers lots of small guest houses and family businesses greatly outnumbering chain hotels. Damme and Lissewege are popular towns to visit in the environs.
  • Ghent (Dutch: Gent, French: Gand) — Once one of Europe’s largest cities, Ghent is now a perfect mixture of Antwerp and Bruges: a cosy medieval centre with canals, a lot of churches and a great castle, yet with a lively student population, a modern art scene and some great festivals. The Gothic Saint Bavo cathedral houses the Lamb of God, one of the masterpieces of Flemish medieval painting.
  • Leuven (French: Louvain) — A small city dominated by one of Europe’s oldest universities. Beautiful historic centre and a lively nightlife. Leuven is also known as the home of Stella Artois and Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s largest brewing company.
  • Lier (French: Lière)— Charming Flemish city situated along the Nete river with a beautiful Beguine, a belfry, stair-shaped houses, a Gothic cathedral and small medieval streets.
  • Mechelen (French: Malines) — An important medieval city with a nice historic district around the Saint Rumbolds cathedral, famous for its carillon school, the oldest and largest in the world.
  • Tongeren (French: Tongres) — The oldest town in Belgium along with Tournai, Tongeren lives up to its promise.
  • Ieper (French: Ypres) — Once one of the largest cities in the Low Countries, now best known for its destruction during the First World War, marked by memorials and cemeteries (Flanders Fields Country, see below).

Wallonia

  • Binche — Walled town that is famous for its carnival.
  • Charleroi — Although the name ´Charleroi Brussels-South Airport´ suggest otherwise, Charleroi is not a suburb of Brussels, but is actually the largest town in Wallonia (being marginally larger than Liège). Sadly, it is not the kind of town that most people would want to visit, unless they´re into heavy industry and urban decay (in which case it is paradise). Nonetheless, those who venture into the centre will be surprised to find it is friendly and relaxed (and to find that there are also some nice buildings).
  • Dinant — A small town with a cathedral and citadel in a stunning natural setting on the Meuse river, Dinant is a popular spot for adventure sports such as canoeing and rock-climbing which best visited in winter. Dinant is known as the place where Adolphe Sax invented the saxophone.
  • Liège (Dutch: Luik, German: Lüttich) — The cultural hub of Wallonia – which sits on the banks of the wide river Meuse – is a many sided city that is definitely worth visiting if you are in Belgium. Besides some industrial scars, it is undeniable that Liège has a unique character, an eclectic mix of architecture from the middle ages to the present, a dramatic setting, exciting night-life, a number of museums, and varied natural surroundings to boot!
  • Mons(Dutch: Bergen) — Also known as the ´Bruges of Wallonia´, Mons´ historic centre is simply stunning!
  • Namur (Dutch: Namen) — The political capital of Wallonia, Namur is a classy town of around a 100,000 inhabitants, that boasts a tidy, well preserved old centre and an impressive citadel at the confluence of the Sambre and Meuse rivers. Similarly to Liège, Namur has a a dramatic setting and impressive natural scenery in its immediate surroundings.
  • Spa — The elegant small town in the Ardennes which put the word spa into spa-town.
  • Tournai(Dutch: Doornik) — The oldest town in Belgium along with Tongeren, Tournai is a pleasant town on the banks of the Escaut (Scheldt) with an impressive four-towered cathedral.
  • Verviers (pop: 55,936) — Overlooked by almost everyone, Liège’s little brother to the east was one of the first towns in the world outside Great Britain to be mechanically industrialised in the early 19th century, when British entrepreneur William Cockerill (and his son John) set up shop there in 1799. Verviers — which is set in the dramatic valley of the Vesdre — also contains many traces of its pre-mechanical history, which dates make to medieval times. While the town might not be everyone’s cup of tea, it will certainly prove fascinating to many others!

Other destinations

  • Ardennes — the most sparsely populated region in Benelux, this is a hilly countryside region covered with forests, tiny nature-stone villages and castles, such as the one of Bouillon or Durbuy.
  • Fondry des Chiens
  • Waterloo
  • Tyne Cot Cemetery
  • Abbeys — a lot of them famous for brewing beer, such as Orval, Chimay, Postel, Floreffe or Val Dieu.

courtesy © wikimedia.com

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