Small enough to see everything in just one week and with enough spirit and highlights to be considered as one of the best-kept secrets in Europe, Belgium finds it astonishingly easy to win over even the most unenthusiastic visitors. If the first things that come to mind when someone mentions Belgium is chocolates and the EU, then you’ll be in for a most pleasant surprise.
While it’s true that the capital, Brussels, home of the EU and Nato, is choc-a-block with politicos and faceless buildings, a closer inspection reveals a multi-cultured city that’s big on Art Nouveau and café life. Dutch, French, Spanish, even Austrian elements can be seen in the lifestyle of Brussels citizens and in its rich architecture. And then there’s Bruges and Antwerp, two cities resplendent in their middle age architecture that make for as rich a sightseeing experience as it’s possible to have.
As Diverse as Night and Day
We must not forget that Belgium is a country of two halves – Flanders to the north, Wallonia to the south, and this split helps to make it one of the most multicultural, multilingual destinations in Europe. Flanders, whose people speak Dutch, is defined by its flat countryside, criss-crossed by canals, and is rightly proud of the rich artistic history displayed most prominently in the museums of Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp.
Wallonia, where they speak French, is characterized by the rolling, woody hills of the Ardennes, a generous share of medieval castles, and the cities of Liege and Tournai, which are both highlights of any trip that takes in the south of the country.
To make life easy, almost everyone speaks fantastic English, meaning travelers will have no problems making themselves understood. Coupled with the convenience of traveling anywhere in the country (it takes no more than 3 hours to drive across), a surprisingly warm welcome, and of course, the beer and the chocolates that are as good as it gets, it’s no surprise that Belgium is one of Europe’s most up-and-coming destinations.
Budget for one week: More than 800 Euro
Taxes and gratuities: Gratuity is recommended
Local currency: Euro
Spoken language and/or official language: Dutch, French,German
Area: 30,528 km2 (11,787 sq mi)
Sanitary requirements: You can drink tap water everywhere in Belgium
Major cities: Brussels, Antwerp, Ghent, Charleroi, Bruges, and Liège.