Europe in a Nutshell: Belgium

by on September 19th, 2010
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Belgium is the country in the heart of old Europe, which succeeded in preserving the continent’s charm and magic. It is rather difficult to list all the reasons why Belgium is so popular among tourists. It could very well be the enormous Ardenne forest on the border with Germany and Luxembourg, wide sandy beaches in the north of the country, and the old Town Hall in Brussels.

Start in Brussels if you decided to spend a few days exploring this beautiful country. Brussels – the capital of Belgium – is the host of the EU’s and NATO’s headquarters, but it is a tiny bronze sculpture of a boy called the Manneken Pis, which has become the city’s symbol. The main attraction in Brussels is the Grand Place, one of the most beautiful squares in the world. The Palace of Nations is home to Belgian parliament. The glorious Royal Palace has been turned into a municipal museum with unique historical exhibitions. Other popular museums include the Wax Museum, the Royal Museum of History and Art with one of the richest collections of Egyptian antiquities as well as the Chinese and pre-Columbian American art, the Menier Museum, the Museum of Aeronautics, the Automobile Museum, and the Museum of Modern Art. In the State Botanical garden, one will see an unsurpassed collection of the models of architectural monuments called Mini-Europe. The Mini Europe Park – an astonishing collection of all major European landmarks – located in the National Botanic Garden, is the most popular tourist destination in Brussels.

An hour by train heading westwards will take you to the famous Ghent, one of the most charming old cities in Europe. Ghent is the capital of Flanders with a population of about 250 thousand people. Curious tourists will admire Cathedral of St. Bavo with the frescoes by Van Eyck, St. Nicholas Church, the Town Hall, the castles of Count Philip and Gerard the Devil. The city is also considered to be the center of decorative arts and folklore.

A little further west lies a city from fairy tales (and a great Hollywood movie) – Bruges. To climb up the tower in the center of the city is a real feat as you have to ascend 366 steps before you can observe the surroundings from about 100m above the ground. Moreover, you can hire a carriage that will take you along Bruges’ ancient streets. There is a Museum of Fine Arts and Hans Memling Museum in Bruges; old market square with the buildings dating back to the 13th century and a magnificent 83-meter bell tower.

Another great Belgian landmark is Antwerp. During a tour to Anderlecht, you should visit the Museum of Erasmus, Beersel Castle, and Gaasbeek Royal Castle. To the south of the capital, the tourists will find a very quiet town of Bouillon. Some 20-minute drive eastwards will lead to a little town of Leuven, the home of legendary beer Stella Artois. First brewed in 1926, this famous beer was called Stella to commemorate the Christmas star plus the name of its brewer.

Needless to say that beer in Belgium is huge. There are about 600 kinds of beer and the traditions of brewing and even bottling Belgian beer are almost a thousand years old. Some of the breweries that the tourists can visit have been working since the 14th century. The traditional Belgian chocolate is arguably the best in the world and that makes thousands of visitors drool over many small candy shops scattered everywhere, especially in Bruges.

Belgium gives everyone a chance to plunge into unique atmosphere of medieval romance in the heart of European history and culture. The biggest cities in Belgium are all famous for their medieval Gothic architectural masterpieces. Some of them have deservedly been honored as the existing evidence of how European architecture has developed over ages.

Traveling to Belgium is as easy as anywhere else in Europe. Very well developed and efficient railway system, good roads and reliable travel agents and tour operators in Belgium make this country a very popular destination.

Source: my travel blog on TripCook.com


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