Brussels is the bilingual capital of the country of Belgium, famous for its medieval towns with Renaissance architecture.
Most of the trips to Belgium start and end in this beautiful city, but the country has so much more to offer.
Despite the fact that the country is small, just 30,528 square kilometers, it is densely populated with 11 million people of two major linguistic groups. The Dutch-speaking Flemish live in the Flanders region in the north while the French-speaking resides in the southern region of Wallon.
Apart from eating Brussel sprouts and indulging in the tasty beer and chocolates, you should also spare some time to wander around the country centering around the canals and cobblestone streets, marching into museums and waltzing with the warm and friendly natives.
You can plan your visit selecting destinations and setting out at your own pace.
Here are 5 Cities to Add to Your Belgian Itinerary:
The destination for diamonds in Belgium, the port city of Antwerp is 40 kilometers north of Brussels, standing on the River Scheldt in the Flanders region.
It is a major cultural and trade center with multi-cultural groups of 170 nationalities. So you are bound to find somebody from your own ethnic region there.
For art aficionados, it is the venerated workplace of Rubens and Van Dyke. The Antwerp Fashion Museum is necessary place to visit for fashionistas. You can think of buying a diamond and do not miss the city’s famous jenever (gin).
The “Venice of the North” or Bruges will imbibe you with the Viking spirit.
It has a lovely cross-stitch of canals and magnificent medieval architecture, especially in and around The Grote Market Square. You cannot miss the neo-gothic Provincial Court, striking Belfry Tower and other places like the nine hundred years old Saint John’s Hospital and the gigantic Gruuthuse Mansion.
Down south in Wallonia is Liège, the birthplace of Emperor Charlemagne of the by-gone era and the modern crime writer Georges Simenon, the creator of Jules Maigret.
You should visit the Palace of the Prince-Bishops, the courtyards, and orchards of the Coteaux de la Citadelle, and the biggest and oldest La Batte Sunday Market. For car racing enthusiasts, a trip to Spa-Francorchamps Formula 1 racetrack will be a pilgrimage.
The rugged hills of Ardennes are the paradise of hikers. The dense forests, caves, and cliffs are infested with wild boars (Obelix of Asterix would love them), lynx, deer and other animals.
The caves of Han-sur-Lesse, the castle of Bouillon and the Labyrinth of Barvaux would absorb you totally.
The shutterbugs should not miss Charleroi, the biggest city in Wallonia.
The old Carmelite monastery there hosts the largest Museum of Photography in Europe, covering the history of photography from its origin to current date. The Saint-Vierge-Marie Church, the 17th Century Cartier Chateau and the Glass Museum are other places of interest.
These are just some of the options. There are more if you have time and energy. The country may be small, but the vistas are aplenty and with a rental car, you will easily reach all the corners of the country and enjoy the trip.