It happens time after time. People understand Europe the way they've been introduced to it--the usual tourist meccas, the attractions on a thousand postcards. Then they remember Belgium, the little country they passed through a few days ago. It seems beautiful, it's practically next door to Paris, London, and Amsterdam, and they have 24 hours to explore it before heading home. Two hours later, they are in love with Belgium !
Belgium the best-kept secret in Europe. Visiting medieval cities, quaint towns, Gothic cathedrals and town halls, castles, and carillons will keep you busy during the day. At night go to a pub; there are more than 350 delicious beers to chose from. The reputation of our gourmet food makes the French jealous and it is almost impossible to find chocolates as good as ours !
Belgium, a kingdom no bigger than Maryland, is Europe in a nutshell, multicultural and multilingual. Flanders in the north, a flatland criss-crossed by canals, is proud of its great art cities, Antwerp, Bruges, and Ghent. To the south in Wallonia, you will find the rolling hills of the Ardennes, numerous castles, and the cities of Liege, Namur, and Tournai. The capital city of Brussels is one of the world's great cosmopolitan cities, home to both the European Union and NATO, as well as a wealth of international trade and finance companies.
Belgium's history has always been linked to both commercial and cultural exchange, and much of its character is due to its role as the great meeting place of Western Europe. Traces of the Austrians, Spanish, French, and Dutch can still be seen in its architecture and in the lifestyle of its people. You will see superb examples of art and architecture past and present--Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque, Nouveau. Cities teem with museums, historical buildings, theatre, music, and festivals.
Much has been said about Belgium's hospitality and it's all true. Because of the country's location as an international center of commerce and culture, Belgians are at ease with travelers from all over the world. They are proud of their homeland, and anxious to help get to know it better. You'll find them always personable, cooperative, and courteous. The Flemish speak Dutch and the Walloons speak French. In Brussels, the capital, both languages are spoken. But to make it easy, everybody speaks English.
Folklore is an important part of life in Belgium. Carnivals, festivals, pageants, plays, and religious processions are held all year long. Almost any occasion is cause for a parade and almost every parade includes a giant or two.
Somehow, Belgium has maintained a low-key approach to all of this international sophistication. It is a country for connoisseurs, but connoisseurs who do not take themselves too seriously.
TEXT AND PICTURES COPYRIGHT BELGIAN TOURIST OFFICE, NYC/USA