I was having tea and scones with a fellow traveller friend, and when I said that Belgium was one of my favourite countries, she laughed. After my incredulous look back, she clarified her response by telling me what I hear so often about the feeling folk get from the country: it’s grimy, it’s a bit unfriendly, it’s stark and cold. (Ok – I’m slightly paraphrasing – but I’ve heard all these comments at one point or another.)
I have spent much time in Belgium given how easy it was to access while I was living in Amsterdam and there are so many charming things about it.
I caused quite the debate over at Europe A La Carte back in December with my public apology on Brussel’s nomination as the most boring European city. But to me Brussels, if you scratch beneath the surface, is one Europe’s most stylish capitals.
Beyond Brussels, I can easily think of so many nice places to visit, just off the top of my head:
- Ghent. This is the sister city to Bruges, a tourist magnet, but I like Ghent’s slightly more rustic feel. As well, there is the world renouned SMAK modern art museum, a total surprise in such a small medieval town. Oh, and yes, there is tons of good beer here. Who doesn’t like a nice tipple now and then?
- Namur. The ancient citadel – complete with subterrean passages – and the surrounding old town is well off the typical tourist track. With a weekly market, several festivals throughout the year, and friendly locals, what’s not to like?
- Antwerp. Beyond all that diamond shopping , the city it is full of fantastic artwork and impressive architecture. Check out this post on a perfect day in Antwerp.
Beyond that, there’s all the festivals! There is the Heavy Metal Festival every June in Dessel, the Carnival de Binch (one of the few world festivals to actually be included in a UNESCO world heritage charter), The Dour Festival…are you getting the point that this is one happening place?
Right, so I get it that perhaps Belgium is not the din of iniquity that is Amsterdam, nor the fabulous chic of France. But it holds its own right and shouldn’t be overlooked.