Home of TinTin and Poirot, Belgium is a country full of art, history, culture and great restaurants without being overrun by tourists.
Europe’s capital, the city is much more than simply a bureaucratic centre. Full of contrast – French and Flemish, historical and modern - enjoy its Art Nouveau architecture and shop for everything from designer clothes on Avenue Louise to dried caterpillars in the nearby African quarter of Matonge – and don’t forget a visit to one of the many fabulous chocolate shops. People-watch in the cafes of the fabulous Grand Place, visit its museums and if you feel like a change of scene, Bruges, Ghent or Antwerp are all easily doable as day trips.
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chocolate-box pretty and made famous by the film In Bruges, its winding streets and canals are best explored out of high season or early in the morning, before the crowds arrive. As well as gorgeous ancient buildings and cobbled streets everywhere you look there are museums and galleries specialising in everything from Flemish art at the Groeninge to chips at the Chip Museum. There are several stunning churches to visit including the Church of Our Lady which features Michaelangelo’s marble Madonna with Child and in the central Market Square, climb the 366 steps of the 83 metre high belfry and enjoy the views over this stunning town.
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– Belgium’s second city and the world’s leading diamond trade centre, Antwerp is a magnet for fashionistas, club-goers and art lovers. Despite being badly bombed during World War II, its mediaeval centre remains along with its port, riverside fortress and the stunning Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal cathedral. Also well worth a visit are the Museum Aan de Stroom devoted to the history and future of Antwerp, housed in a building covered with 3,000 aluminium hands and the Rubenshuis – Antwerp is Ruben’s birthplace.
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Ghent guide – a university town with 65,000 students, Ghent has a quirky, buzzy feel. Its pretty, narrow streets open out onto stunning squares and beautiful churches such as St Baafskatherdraal with its huge original Rubens painting and muralled crypts. Take in the view of the towers and Gables of Ghent from Grasburg Bridge or the top of the dragon-topped belfry, or enjoy a canal cruise to view the city from the water. There are museums devoted to both contemporary and fine art and plenty or artisan food shops and cafes – there are no large supermarkets at all in the city – and great beer and chocolate, of course.