The lovely and compact heart of Bruges looks like something out of a medieval fairytale when dressed in its Christmas finery; while the city plays host to one of Belgium’s most magical Christmas markets, the Bruges Snow and Ice Festival is the highlight of the city’s yuletide entertainment.
Flanders is the northern, Flemish-speaking region of Belgium, where the Christmas season stretches itself out over the whole of December. Christmas Markets in Flanders start appearing in late November and St Nicholas’s Day is celebrated on December 6 with church services and family feasting.
Although many people go to Ghent purely to see the spellbinding Mystic Lamb by Flemish Primitive artist Jan van Eyck in the Sint-Baafskathedraal (St Bavo’s Cathedral), there are some exceedingly good museums in this stylish Flemish city, which is fast on the up. Here are my recommendations for the five best museums in Ghent.
Pretty Bruges looks its romantic best during the festive season, when decorations twinkle along its cobbled streets, the canals are often flecked with snow and its great Gothic piazzas are adorned with gigantic Christmas firs. Bruges at Christmas plays host to one of Belgium’s most magical Christmas markets; between November 22 and January 2, 2014, the Grote Markt and Simon Stevinplein are given over to hundreds of cute wooden stalls selling local handicrafts and gourmet specialities.
Ghent is oft overlooked in the headlong rush to Bruges or Antwerp – and what’s more, there are plenty of free things to do in Ghent. Sandwiched between Brussels and Bruges in the Flanders region, this gorgeous mini-city was the center of northern Europe’s booming textiles trade in the 14th century and vied with Paris for political power. Today it a city of canals, cobbled streets, castles, art galleries, high-end stores and cathedrals – making a perfect weekend destination.
Chocolate, beer, and waffles, the Belgium trifecta. We had these quintessential Brussels favorites along with traditional tapas as we walked the city as part of the Brussels night walking gourmet Belgian food tour. We came to Brussels to taste the food and drink the unique beers, and the tour checked all of the boxes.
The year 2014 sees the centenary of the start of WWI, which will be marked across the globe in appropriate style with memorial services, exhibitions and the opening of new museums. World War 1 centenary events will loom large in particular in Belgium, where the first shots of the war were firesd and where the first soldier died at Liège on August 4, 1914.
Brussels is not the cheapest city in Europe and there is so much to see here that expense soon starts to mount up. The best way doing justice to the myriad museums, galleries and sights of Belgium’s capital is to invest in a sightseer’s Brussels Card.
The landmark Belfry (Belfort) in Bruges stands 83 meters tall and dominates the town’s main square of Markt. With its iconic 13th-century tower, much of medieval Bruges’ commercial life was conducted in the market halls below. Today some of these have been transformed into exhibition rooms and a World War I exhibition at the Belfry runs until February 22, 2015.
Housed in a gallery purpose built in the late 1920s near a cluster of other Bruges museums at Dijver 12, the Groeningemuseum ranks among Belgium’s leading art galleries with a collection that covers Flemish masterpieces from the 15th to the 20th centuries.