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Traveling to Belgium
Belgium may be small, but with its surfeit of medieval treasures, pleasant countryside and cosmopolitan vibes it certainly punches above its weight. Brussels, of course, is the country's whirling metropolis, but the historic towns of Bruges and Ghent are beautiful and unmissable, too, while Antwerp is great for shopping and nightlife.
It's easy to get around Belgium thanks to the excellent high-speed trains running between the major cities and towns, as well as nearby European cities. The comprehensive network of regional trains also makes it easy to stop off in less-visited spots. Modern motorways cover much of Belgium, making it great for driving.
See & do
Visitors to Belgium may find it hard to drag themselves away from Brussels, with its varied architecture and world-class museums. Indeed, many come to the country to do little more than admire capital's famed Art Nouveau buildings, soak up the nightlife, and learn about its role in the World Wars. But there is plenty to see beyond the capital – and we don't just meant the commercial port city of Antwerp.
Idyllic Ghent with its gothic buildings reflecting in waterways is a proudly Flemish city that's growing by the day. Its soaring medieval cathedral features one of the most famous pieces of religious art as its altarpiece, the Van Eyck brothers' Adoration of the Mystic Lamb. But the church is an artistic masterpiece in itself.
While more touristy, the legend that is Bruges will transport you to another world far from Brussels. One of the best-preserved medieval cities in the world, its Flemish art and lively cafe culture are as worth experiencing as its venerable churches.
For a bit of physical activity, head to the wooded peaks of the southernmost part of Belgium – the fabled Ardennes. Here you can hike through hills bulging with limestone, explore the varied wildlife and hit the lively rivers.
Belgium may not be famed for its nature, but this a country that boasts a surprising diversity of countryside. Hoge Kempen, the only national park in Flanders, is a massive 5,700 hectares in size, full of woodland, undulating hills and plenty of animals.
Belgians will tell you not to miss the village of Beloeil about an hour from Brussels. It contains the splendid 14th-century chateau of the Princes de Ligne, filled with aged furnishings inside, and surrounded by water outside. Also a little off the tourist trail is Dinant, a pretty, historic town on the River Meuse near the Ardennes.
Food & drink
When it comes to eating and drinking, Belgium is famed for two things: French fries, chocolate and beer. From big hitters to microbreweries, there are thought to be nearly 200 Belgian beers on tap in the country, while Belgium's love affair with chocolate dates back some four centuries. But Belgium has also been developing a fuller culinary reputation lately, particularly in Brussels. Restaurants serving cuisine from every corner of the globe now abound thanks to the capital's rich multiculturalism. Throughout the country there exists a lovably eccentric cafe culture. But if you like your drinks with a bit more punch, you could always disappear into one of the country’s many traditional pubs.