Biking is big business in Belgium – a cyclist’s paradise with its contrasting landscapes of arable flatland in Flanders and the rolling hills of Wallonia. The hundreds of way-marked cycling routes encompass romantic canals, historic castles, seaside resorts, abbeys, and even gourmet restaurants; they can be short, easy rides suitable for beginners and families or they can constitute long-distance challenges for experienced cyclists.
As well as being the hub of cool designers and diamond traders, Antwerp has wonderful cobbled squares, gabled medieval buildings, Baroque churches designed by Rubens, Europe’s largest harbor, and the Museum Aan de Stroom (MAS), showcasing the city’s seafaring history. If that’s not enough, it’s within easy reach of some of Europe’s most exciting cities.
Although chocolate has been around for some 2,000 years, Belgian chocolatier Jean Neuhaus re-invented the wheel with his pralines in 1912 – these delicious individual chocolates can be filled with any flavor filling – and Belgian chocolate soon became known as the best in the world.
With Brussels being an all-year-around destination the round of museums, galleries, palaces, and shopping continues unabated through the spring months. OutsideBrussels there is plenty happening to entice visitors to Belgium in spring.
Convivial and cultured Brussels has any number of splendid history, art, musical, and science museums, among which the Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and of Military History is the ideal pit-stop for military enthusiasts, especially as the section on Belgium’s role in World War II has been recently updated and improved.
Cosmopolitan, cultured Brussels lies at the heart of Belgium and has more than enough to occupy visitors, but within striking distance of the city there are lost of cities well worth visiting on day trips.
Allow at least an afternoon to explore Antwerp Zoo in Flemish-speaking Belgium, which was built in 1843 and is today right next to the city’s main railway station. Despite its early foundation it is one of the more forward-thinking of European zoos, running several conservation programmes, having a high success rate with breeding, and looking to run sustainably on its own resources.
There is plenty to do in Belgium in winter. Brussels is an all-round destination so the round of museums, galleries, palaces, and shopping continues unabated through the winter months. Outside Brussels the crowds will have disappeared and prices in hotels will generally be lower.
Beer drinking is a connoisseur’s pastime in Belgium and it comes in a dazzling array of guises and flavors. The country has more than 100 breweries producing over 400 beers. Main varieties include pilsners; the lager-like dark dubbel beers and their stronger relation the trippel; hoppy strong white and fruity strong dark ales; or naturally fermented golden yellow lambic beers, traditionally brewed around Brussels and normally high in alcohol content.
Time has stood still in miniature Bruges, crammed with ancient churches and palaces leaning over the canals. The city flourished as a port up until the 15th century, when its fortunes dried up along with the sea and now it appears to exist in a time bubble.