Belgium is found in northwest Europe, and though the country itself is relatively small, geographically speaking, it is certainly big on attractions. At just over 11,500 square miles in size, Belgium is a rather densely-packed land, its population topping out at around 10.5 million people. But, not all of these Belgian citizens speak the same tongue or share the exact same history. The northernmost part of the country is known as the Flemish region, and you’ll hear mostly Dutch here. In the Brussels Capital region, French is dominant, as is also the case in the southern and easternmost region of Walloon. In the Flemish region, cities carry names like Brugge, Antwerp, and Ghent, while the Walloon region boasts mainly French appellations, like Liege and Bouillon. There are also German speakers in Belgium, and they can be found in the far East Cantons, which were formerly part of Germany until 1920.
Belgium has seen its fair share of history, and when you travel in Belgium, you will see many of the country’s historical vestiges on display. The medieval quarters in Brugge, Ghent, Antwerp, and Brussels give insight into a time when the Flemish region was home to some of the most important and wealthy European cities. Ghent was flourishing by the eleventh century, and during your Belgium vacation, you can visit Gravensteen Castle, which was built in 1180 by then Count of Flanders, Philip of Alsace. The Counts of Flanders were preceded by Charlemagne, Frankish tribes further back, and Romans before them, already making for past conflicts aplenty. Only the North Sea separates northern Belgium from England, and it borders France to its west, the Netherlands to the northeast, Germany to its east, and the smaller country of Luxembourg to the southeast. This location has certainly been a factor in Belgium’s many past wars and uprisings, and the wars didn’t end until World War II ran its course.
Thankfully, many of Belgium’s old buildings survived the wars and skirmishes of Belgium’s history, and today, you can tour a number of cities and towns on your Belgium vacation and see what amounts to some of the most dazzling and interesting architecture on the face of the earth. The medieval quarter in Brugge is a delight that’s hard to explain, and spend some time in Brussels’s central Grand Place and you’ll think that you died and went to architecture heaven. Belgium is truly a stunning country when it comes to the quality of some of its artistic edifices, and while visiting Brussels, you can drop by the Victor Horta Museum to learn all about the Ghent-born architect who was an Art Nouveau pioneer.
Not only does Belgium excel in the architectural arts, but in other forms of art as well. Flemish masters like Rubens and Van Dyck were born in Belgium, and their paintings are on display all over the Flemish region of the country. In addition to finding paintings from Flemish masters in the Belgium art museums, you can also find some of their works on display elsewhere. St Bavo’s Cathedral in Ghent houses what just might be Belgium’s most defining work of art. The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, which was executed by both Jan Van Dyck and his brother Hubert Van Eyck, was finished in 1432, and you’ll also find a 1623 work by Peter Paul Rubens in the church that is called The Conversion of St Bavo.
City sightseeing, museum exhibits, and Belgium’s rich culture and history are just a few of the reasons why travel in Belgium is so rewarding. Sure, Belgium tourism increases in the warmer summer months, but there really isn’t a bad time to enjoy a Belgium vacation. The country is also renowned for its chocolate, its beer, its mussels, and its French fries, or Belgian fries as it should be. French fries were invented here after all, as was the saxophone, which you might care to know. Adolphe Sax was born in Dinant in 1814, and by 1846, he had a patent for his new instrument. Saxophones aside, the Belgian dining scene is a big Belgium tourism draw. Belgian food is quite good, and there are ample restaurants here that have at least one Michelin star. Seafood on the Belgian coast is divine, and you can enjoy mussels and other seafood favorites further inland as well. Wash whatever you eat down with Belgian beer, and you will be living the high life. Those who like their beer will be in for quite an experience at the Chimay brewery in Belgium. The Trappist Monks at the Chimay monastery make some of the tastiest and strongest beer around.
Travel in Belgium can mean so many things. There are fun tours to enjoy, beaches that heat up in the summer, a complete public transportation system for getting around efficiently and effectively, and friendly people who are proud of their country and willing to allow visitors in for a glimpse. And that’s just the start. A Belgium holiday will reveal delights that will likely have you wanting to come back for more. The hilly Ardennes region in the east boasts stunning colors in the fall, and you can take a refreshing dip in the North Sea come summer, so different seasons see different options for Belgium tourism. Make the arrangements to travel in Belgium yourself, and come see just how much this country has to offer. Belgium tourism is alive and well, and whatever you miss on your Belgium vacation, you can make up for in the future with a return trip.