Love Belgium: Beer, castles, and crazy carnivals

 

Belgium’s main attractions are its medieval town centers, which are home to a slew of Unesco treasures and a plethora of wonderful cafe-bars offering some of the world’s best beers. 


There’s a lot more, too, from stalactite-filled caves to post-industrial heritage, forest-edged kayaking rivers and rural chateaux to sandy North Sea beaches. 


From the Flemish Primitives through Rubens’ sensuous nymphs and art nouveau’s sinuous curves, to strange surrealism, comic strips, and 21st-century fashion, cutting-edge museums and superbly endowed galleries reveal the complicated history of what has been a furnace of European art. Belgium is also home to some of the strangest carnivals in the world.


Despite its small size, Belgium is a land of stark linguistic, cultural, and physical diversity. The majority of the historic ‘art’ cities are located in largely flat, Dutch-speaking Flanders, luring visitors in with medieval belfries, beautiful market squares, and step-gabled buildings that frequently overlook lovely urban canals. 


These destinations, which are dotted with excellent museums and galleries, are near together and smoothly connected by regular public transportation. In contrast, much of hilly, French-speaking Wallonia is deeply rural, notwithstanding some intriguing post-industrial cities. To get to the region’s beautiful caverns, impressive castles, and bucolic valleys, where there’s infinite outdoor fun to be had, it’s helpful to have your wheels.



Prepare to gain a couple of inches on your waistline: Belgium’s exceptional spectrum of culinary specialties extends far beyond the country’s small size and is not targeted towards dieters. Brussels and Liège fight for the best waffle, while a plethora of specialty stores sell some of the world’s most decadent chocolates. 


Jumbo mussels are served with crispy, twice-fried frites that you should never refer to as “French” fries. Then there’s beer, of course. In Belgium, brewing is a nearly mystical skill, with a dazzling rainbow of distinct varieties, most notably the six great Trappist beers, which are still made in live monasteries.

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Belgium’s Top 4 Things to Do

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Brussels sightseeing tour with a stop at the Atomium

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