Brussels is a city of architectural contrasts, of majestic medieval splendor but also of sleek modern marble palaces where the whirling wheels of the European Union carry on spinning 24 hours a day. Placed right at the heart of modern-day Europe, the European Parliament Visitor Centre in Brussels enables visitors to understand the political and cultural legacy and achievements of the EU.
As well as possessing one of the most beautiful medieval squares in the world, Brussels is also famous for its peerless 19th- and early 20th-century architecture. Here’s where to find Art Nouveau and Art Deco in Brussels.
The medieval town of Ypres was a center of the Flemish textile trade that had its heyday in the 13th century. As the centuries passed the town was repeatedly razed in various wars over territory; it was hardest hit in some of the fiercest fighting of World War I, when the lives of 500,000 Allied and German soldiers were lost in the area. So it’s no surprise that most of the top five things to do in Ypres are war-related.
This year marks the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo in Belgium. I visited Waterloo a few months ago, but as the city was preparing its big reenactment – which took place the weekend of June 27 – a lot of the historical sites were either closed or partially under construction, in preparation for that big weekend. So when I saw that Viator would start a Battle of Waterloo Tour right after everything reopened, I immediately signed up.
Tiny Bruges has spectacular medieval architecture and is eye-catching enough to enthrall most kids; in addition it has plenty of unusual attractions specifically aimed at youngsters, pony-and-trap rides around the sights, tempting chocolate shops at every step and an accessible fast food cuisine of waffles, crepes and fries to suit most tastes. Here are five family favorites in Bruges.
As the capital of the Flemish-speaking Oost-Vlaanderen (East Flanders) province, Ghent is an important university city, inland port and industrial center. The River Leie winds through the city center on its way to join the River Schelde and a network of canals that were built to lead to the port. The interconnecting canals of Ghent are often compared to Venice’s — but without the crowds.
In days gone by, Ghent was considered the poor relation of Bruges — but times have changed. Tourists are welcomed here with warmth, and Ghent is also a university city, an inland port and an industrial city. It has the gritty edge missing in Bruges; less pampered but with some of the most spectacular medieval architecture in Europe. Add to that museums and artwork and this is a city on the up and up. But where to start? Right here, with the ten best sights in Ghent.
Leuven is the main town in the Flemish region of Brabant and is famous for its brewing and gloriously ornate town hall. Visiting Leuven from Brussels is easy as it is a simple 25-kilometer/15.5 mile drive from Belgium’s capital city.
The bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo will take place June 18–21, 2015, amid great celebration, including a series of costumed enactments of the famous battle.