Top Destinations in Belgium from European Travel Advice

Here are some great suggestions for where to visit and places to go in Belgium
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European Travel Advice Holiday Destinations – Belgium

The capital city of Belgium is Brussels which is also the ‘de facto’ capital of the European Union. Brussels has a population of a little over 1 million residents.

A problem that Belgium has is that, there are lots of different perceptions on its most popular destinations and whether it is a country visited in it’s own right or as an add on to trips to other locations such as Germany, Holland or France.

This can detract from the fact that there are many popular places to visit in Belgium and it has many attractions with lovely locations to interest anyone travelling in Europe. So don’t be fooled, there are some great places to visit in Belgium, so set aside some serious time and go and have a look.

With a population of over 10 million it is divided into 3 regions but has four language areas split between Dutch speaking, German speaking, French speaking and a bilingual area based around the capital. The capital of Belgium, Brussels forms one region and the other two are the Flemish and Walloon regions. It goes without saying then that Belgium is compact, most of the top tourist destinations in Belgium are close enough to one another that, perhaps using the comprehensive train service, you could potentially visit a good proportion if not all of them during a weeks holiday and definitely if you allowed 2 weeks.

Belgium for many is the very heart of Western Europe and you can find traces of the Dutch, Austrian, French and Spanish influences throughout the country with some of the finest architecture from several periods. Try Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque and Art Nouveau to name but a few.

Here are a few popular places to get you started.

Top Tourist Destinations in Belgium

Brussels the capital of Belgium and home to the Royal Palace, a stunning piece of architecture in the centre of Brussels that is open to the public. The Royal Saint-Hubert Galleries are in Brussels, an up market shopping area the foundation of which is a two hundred meter listed monument that forms the covered galleries where artists and intellectuals promenade. This area competes for clientele from the ‘Palace du Grand Salon which houses the high class antique stores, restaurants and is where you can purchase famous Belgian chocolates.




The Grand Place is a UNESCO world heritage site originally built as a merchants market and now has a daily flower market. Coudenberg is an underground trail where you can explore the underside of the Royal Palace and will find the remains of the Coudenberg Palace that have been excavated over the last 25 years or so. Don’t forget to seek out the ‘Manneken Pis’ as well, a small statue of boy peeing in the fountain, or to visit one of the museums, like the museum of Ancient Art or the Magritte Museum to see Rene Magritte’s works of art.

Bruges

Bruges, one of the most beautiful cities in Europe and known as the Venice of the North. There are loads of museums, historical buildings, canals and streets. The cobble stoned centre of the city has been recognised as a UNESCO word heritage site.

Bruges has a tradition of presenting sand sculptures through the summer and ice sculptures through the winter. You can see the city on foot, by boat,by horse and cart or from an air balloon. Bruges is also home to the famous Michelangelo sculpture Madonna with child.

The most famous landmark in Bruges is probably the Belfry of Bruges if for no better reason than it stands some 80m tall. Not for the feint hearted if you want to use it for the views, there are around 366 steps to get to the top, but in doing the climb you will find yourself enjoying numerous attractions on route.

Another famous landmark is the ‘Church of Our Lady’ which dates back to the 13th century and is the home of the Michelangelo sculpture mentioned earlier ‘Madonna with Child’.



Waterloo

Waterloo, the famous site of the historic battle of Waterloo where Napoleon was defeated by the Duke of Wellington, with a little help from Marshal Blucher and his Prussian army, consequently changing the course of European history.

This is a location that history buffs will love, there are lots of museums dedicated to the Battle of Waterloo that describe how the Napoleonic wars were brought to a close at this famous meeting place. The monument to the Battle of Waterloo is called the ‘Butte du Lion’ (or the Lion’s Mound in English) and the fighting took place in an around Braine-l’Alleud.

If you visit around mid June you may be able to watch re-enactments of the battle and you can find out the details for times and locations at the tourist office located in the village of Waterloo.

Antwerp

Antwerp is a great place to find a diamond or check out the latest in European fashion trends. It is located just inland from the famous Belgian ferry port of Ostende (not one of my recommended places to visit in Belgium) heading due East and on a large estuary formed by the River Scheldt.

Like many European cities the architecture is pretty spectacular, and a great place to start to explore the city from an architectural viewpoint is the Grote Market where you will the guild houses from the 16th and 17th centuries surrounded by cobblestone streets running out of the main square. The range of architecture you will discover here includes Gothic, Art Nouveau and the contemporary designs such as the Antwerp Law Courts which were designed by the famous British architect ‘Richard Rogers’. The Zurenborg area of Berchem is also very well known for its architectural diversity.

Antwerp also offers some excellent dining venues where you can experience traditional Belgian fares such as Belgium chocolates, beers and waffles in amongst some of the fine eating and drinking experiences that can be found in the city.

For a comprehensive guide of Belgium or it’s major cities, you probably won’t find anything better than what’s on offer from ‘Lonely Planet’.

Ghent

Ghent is the capital of the East Flanders province in Belgium and, as the origin of its name indicates, it sits on a confluence of the rivers Schedlt and Lys. Water has a significant presence in Ghent as it plays host to a port and an important canal system that adds to its attractions.

It is smaller than, but similar to, Bruges so should probably be considered in terms of a day trip out or perhaps a few days stay. But with fine wine and food on offer, its canals and port, it is well worth a visit.

Plus for many people the fact that it is compact and easy to negotiate adds to its charm. The architecture is both Romanesque and Gothic and there are some wonderful buildings to see including the ‘St Bavos’ cathedral and the ‘Belfry’ which are best viewed from St Michael’s Bridge.

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