A Visitor’s Guide To Belgium
This small country has often been at the heart of conflict in Europe over recent centuries, and nestled between France and Germany has been conquered several times, leading to the country being dubbed ‘The Battlefield of Europe’ by some people. However, despite its small stature it is one of the most important and interesting countries in Europe to visit, both because of its role as the unofficial capital of the European Union, and because of its cosmopolitan nature with three official languages spoken there. The country’s name came from its name when it was controlled by the Roman Empire, Gallia Belgica, and even then the Romans recognized that the people of Belgium were different to the population of France.
While Belgium does have an open border policy with its neighbors, the US State Department believes it is a very safe country to visit which has avoided major terrorist incidents. Nonetheless, it does advise visitors to avoid any public demonstrations, although there are generally enough police officers present to keep the public safe.
Top Attractions To Enjoy In Belgium
The Historic Center Of Bruges – The pedestrianized center of Bruges is a very pleasant place to explore with a network of canals and cobbled streets, and is one of the best examples of medieval architecture in the world, with the thirteenth century belfry offering stunning views of the city
Le Grand Place – This large open square at the heart of Brussels is one of the busiest parts of the city with stalls and coffee shops, and is surrounded by guildhalls and the beautiful old town hall of the city.
The Cathedral Of Our Lady Of Tournai – This stunning historic cathedral was largely built in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, and is particularly noted for its wonderful rose window and superb Romanesque towers.
Dinant – This beautiful city is located on the banks of the Meuse River in the south of the country, and has a lovely citadel located at the top of a cliff overlooking the river with wonderful views over the superb Collegiate Church of Notre-Dame, which is a great example of Gothic architecture.
Bastogne Memorial – The Battle of the Bulge in and around Bastogne was one of the most significant events in the Second World War, and the memorial pays tributes to the thousands of heroic American soldiers who held off the large German offensive in the area.
Rock Werchter – This large music festival draws visitors from across Europe and is famous for its excellent line up of the best rock bands from around the world, and has grown to a four day festival in July every year from its beginnings as a single day event over thirty five years ago.
Bouillon Castle – Occupying a prominent position overlooking a curve in the Semois River in southern Belgium, this castle has been in place for nearly a thousand years, and was sold by Godfrey of Bouillon to the bishop of Liege in the eleventh century to help finance the First Crusade.
Antwerp – This wonderful city is not only dotted with historic buildings and landmarks, but is also known for its thriving creative scene with a wide selection of restaurants and lively night life, while also being one of the most important diamond trading cities in the world.
Sint-Baafskathedraal – The cathedral was originally built in the tenth century, and was gradually expanded in a Gothic style over the next six centuries into the remarkable building that can be seen today, and is also home to the stunning Ghent Altarpiece which was painted by Hubert and Jan van Eyck.
Ardennes – Located in Western Belgium, this area is noted for its rolling hills and forests and is a very popular destination for those who want to enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking, mountain biking and canoeing.
Where To Stay In Belgium
Radisson Blu Eu Hotel – This modern and stylish hotel has been beautifully decorated and offers visitors comfortable city center accommodation, and also offers guest luxury bathrooms, flat screen televisions and wi-fi internet throughout the hotel.
Progress Hotel – A nice option for those who are staying in Brussels and are looking for a competitively priced room, visitors can enjoy the modern design of the rooms that are comfortable, as well as offering a fitness center and being within walking distance of the city center.
Het Gheestelic Hof – This hotel is a stylish and interesting place to stay with large rooms that come with luxurious bathrooms and comfortable beds, while also being within easy reach of the main sights of the city.
Ensor Hotel – A good choice for those looking for a well priced room in Bruges, this hotel is located within the historic city center and offers simple and comfortable accommodation with access to a games room and offering bicycle rental for visitors.
N H Ghent Sint Pieters Hotel – This stylish hotel has a wonderful location facing on to the river at the heart of the city, and gives visitors large comfortable beds in spacious rooms, and access to luxurious bathrooms and a stylish bar within the hotel itself.
Guesthouse PoortAckere – A great option for those looking for a well priced base from which to explore the city of Ghent, this hotel is located within a historic former monastery with high ceilings and traditional architectural touches, while still being within walking distance of the city center.
Plaza Boutique Hotel – This classically decorated hotel offers luxurious rooms in an European style with comfortable beds and beautiful bathrooms, while also offering superb views of the surrounding city center from the lovely roof terrace.
Ambassador Suites Antwerp Hotel – These simple yet spacious apartment suites are a great option for those staying in Antwerp on a budget, and give visitors a great location just a short distance from the main sights of the city.
The food that can be enjoyed in Belgium will often show influences from France and Germany, and can vary by region from the fish and seafood found in the coastal areas through to the meat and vegetable dishes found in the inland regions. One of the most popular dishes is moules-frites, which is a serving of mussels that are steamed with celery and onions, and then served with french fries. Another popular dish usually served as a starter is tomate-crevette, which is a hollowed out tomato that has been stuffed with mayonnaise and grey shrimp. Waffles are one of the most common desserts or snacks on offer, and are made from a cooked sweet batter and served with a variety of toppings.
As well as its excellent food, Belgium is world famous for brewing beer, and although it is a relatively small country there are more than a thousand different brands of beer that are brewed and sold in the country.
Currency And Visa
The currency in Belgium is the Euro, which is widely used across Western Europe and is generally exchanged at a rate of around 1.37 US Dollars per Euro. Belgium is also a part of the Schengen Agreement, which includes many countries in Europe, and means that most visitors staying in these European countries for under ninety days will not need to arrange a visa in advance. For those taking trips in Europe for over three months, it is worth checking which countries are a party to the agreement, and whether further arrangements are necessary.