Belgium attracts beer and chocolate lovers by the thousand every year, but there is much more to the towns and cities of Flanders and Wallonia than these culinary staples. Each destination can offer its own unique atmosphere and sights, while still providing the delicious food, charming aesthetics and fascinating history that are unmistakably Belgian.
So much so that there is a city for every kind of tourist in this beautiful country. Here are just a few of the many reasons to visit.
Brussels, For Surrealists
You could say that Brussels is perfect for any art lover, but it is surrealism that really takes centre stage. As the place where René Magritte flourished into the world-renowned artist he became, it offers a wealth of surrealist art from the man himself and his peers. As well as an eponymous museum, fountain, frescoes and the bar where Magritte used to sell his works, you can also visit the home in which he spent almost 20 years with his wife.
Other surrealists who have left their mark on Brussels include Marcel Mariën, who is laid to rest in The Schaerbeek Cemetery alongside Magritte; Camille Goemans, who spent a lot of time drinking in the ‘La Fleur en Papier Doré’ café; and Paul Delvaux, whose panoramic painting can be found in the Bourse metro station.
Bruges, For Romantics
Painted as a boring city in a 2008 film starring Colin Farrell, Bruges is far from dull in real life. Its fairytale façade and quaint canals create a romantic backdrop, especially after dark when perfectly placed lighting adds an extra layer to the charm.
Above your head, church spires tower over you, whilst little pockets of greenery offer the perfect place for a quiet picnic. Specific secluded spots include Minnewaterpark, home to the Lake of Love; Koningin Astridpark; Tanners square and the Rozenhoedkaai (Rosary quay); and the Groene Rei (Green Bank).
Mechelen, For History Buffs
Mechelen is another underrated city which, because of its canals and beautiful buildings, is often compared to Bruges. However, it’s time for this Belgian gem to step out of its big brother’s shadow and prove its worth as a destination – especially for fans of history.
There are a whopping 336 listed buildings in the city, some of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. These include the striking St. Rumbold’s Tower, an unfinished structured but one which offers fantastic views over the city - if you can manage the 514 steps. You may also be interested to discover the history behind the breathtaking Beguinage, the bells of the Royal Carillon School and the legendary Het Anker Brewery.
Antwerp, For Fashionistas
Antwerp has a more modern feel to it than other Belgian cities and tends to attract the cool crowd on the lookout for some glitz and glamour. With stylish looking buildings that boast even more stylish window displays and a glistening diamond district, this is the place to come if you’re looking for some retail therapy.
Once one the richest cities in Europe, the passion for fashion was ignited by the Antwerp Six in the 1980s and has continued to grow ever since. Stadsfeestzaal, The Meir and the Historic City Centre are all great places to shop in the here and now, whilst the MoMu (fashion museum) will help you dive into the history of clothing creation.
Leuven, For Beer Lovers
Ok, so we couldn’t make an entire list without mentioning the best place to go to sample some of the famous beer this country has to offer. Mechelen may be home to one of Belgium’s oldest breweries, but it is Leuven that can boast the largest. That accolade belongs to Inbev, creators of Stella Artois and bearers of tradition dating back hundreds of years.
If you want to learn more about the brewing process, you can tour the brewery, but if you simply want to drink the end product, head to the numerous pubs on the Old Market Square. Plus, if you time your visit to Leuven for April, you can enjoy the frivolities and party atmosphere at the Zythos Beer Festival and the other Leuven Beer Weekends.
Whatever your reason for a holiday in Belgium, there is plenty to satisfy every type of traveller. If you want to learn more about our city breaks, rail options and beer festivals call us on 0800 988 3369 today.