Brussels (Internet: www.brussel.be ) is not only the capital of the Kingdom of Belgium, but also the seat of some of the most important institutions of the European Union, such as the European Parliament, and NATO. The stunning Grand’ Place (in Flemish: ‘Grote Markt’), a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has been the undisputed showpiece of Brussels’ old town since the Middle Ages. The square is surrounded by small, cobbled streets lined with restaurants and cafés. Also not far from the Grand’Place is the famous statue of Manneken Pis (Peeing Boy), which dates back to 1619 and is considered a symbol of the indomitable spirit of Brussels residents. The Atomium (Internet: www.atomium.be), which was built for the World Exhibition in 1958, represents an iron crystal molecule enlarged a billion times. There are countless museums in Brussels. Among the most original are the Musée du Cacao et du Chocolat (Cocoa and Chocolate Museum), the Center Belge de la Bande Dessinée (Belgian Comics Museum), which is an absolute must, especially for fans of the comic series ‘Tintin’, and that Brewery Museum in the Maison des Brasseurs on the Grand’ Place.
- Andyeducation: Introduction to education system in Belgium, including compulsory schooling and higher education.
Once the playground of European aristocracy, the town, beach and promenade of Ostend still bear witness to the elegance of a bygone era. A visit to the former sail training ship Mercator (Internet: www.zeilschipmercator.be ), which houses a museum, is worthwhile. You should definitely try the fresh crabs at the daily fish markets.
Known for its diamond production, Antwerp has the second largest port in Europe and is a melting pot of different nations and cultures. The Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens lived here, and paintings by the artist are on display in the Rubens House. Among the city’s many museums there are also more unusual exhibitions, such as the Frietkotmuseum (chips museum), where you can learn all about the famous Belgian fries (website: www.frietkotmuseum.be ). A visit to the oldest zoo in the world is also worthwhile. Meir, which has been declared a pedestrian zone, invites you to go shopping.
The La Roche-en-Ardenne region is ideal for outdoor activities and is particularly popular with young families. The Ourthe offers ideal conditions for kayaking or rafting, there are numerous caves that want to be explored and the Ardennes invite you to go on a bike tour. Also worth seeing in La Roche-en-Ardenne are the ruins of a palace complex belonging to the Frankish kings (Internet: www.chateaudelaroche.be ). Findings indicate that people lived here as early as the Neolithic Age.
In June 1815, in a field about 18 km south of Brussels, the French Emperor Napoleon led his troops against the Allied troops under General Wellington and lost. This decisive battle went down in history as the Battle of Waterloo, ending the war that had raged in Europe for 22 years. The Waterloo battlefield is a popular day trip destination and is easily accessible by train from Bruxelles-Midi/Brussel-Zuid.
In Flanders Fields Museum
Some of the most important – and tragic – conflicts of World War I took place in Belgium. There are numerous military cemeteries and memorials commemorating all those who fell on the battlefields and in the trenches on the Western Front. Almost all memorials are open to visitors; a guided tour with a qualified and historically experienced guide is recommended. In Ypres is the In Flanders Fields Museum (website: www.inflandersfields.be ) where visitors can learn more about the events of the First World War.
Top – an export hit
Belgian lace is one of the country’s best-known exports. The history of production dates back to the Renaissance period. In Bruges and Brussels there are a number of shops that sell high quality antique lace. Demonstrations are regularly held at the Kantcentrum (website: www.kantcentrum.eu ), a museum in Bruges dedicated to lace.
Spa and its medicinal springs
The Walloon town of Spa gave its name to the term spa (health resort). In several places in the immediate vicinity of the city as well as in the center there are springs whose water is said to have healing powers. If you want to let your soul dangle, you should definitely pay a visit to this city. The range of thermal baths and wellness treatments is large (Internet: www.thermesdespa.com ). The pretty old town invites you to take a walk.