The Kingdom of Belgium with its only 11 million inhabitants is one of the smaller countries of the European Union. The most important institutions of the European Community having their headquarters here, Brussels is also considered the capital of Europe.
The political and social character of the country has up to this day been determined by the communities of the Flemish (Dutch-speaking) and the Walloons (French-speaking). Two more regions are those of the capital Brussels and of the small German-speaking community at the German border.
On the 21st of July, 2013, the national holiday of Belgium, King Albert II handed the crown down to his eldest son Philippe. The parliamentary monarchy is ruled by the king, the prime minister as well as by its government and bicameral parliament.
The southern French-speaking region of Belgium is strongly characterized by woodland. Endless natural parks in the Ardennes as well as the high-moor country “the High Fens”, romantic riversides, like those of the Meuse or the Lesse, also solitary abbeys and suddenly appearing castles and fortifications keep the visitor spell-bound.
The real Ardennes are situated in the Province Luxemburg.
Well worth seeing is the small town of Bouillon on the Semois River with Gottfried von Bouillon’s fortress standing high above the valley.
In St. Hubert the legendary St. Hubert-Celebration is held every year at the beginning of November.
In the former Cistercian abbey of Orval the most famous Belgian Trappist beer is brewed even today.
In the romantic valley of the Maas, the town of Dinant nestled against the rocks with its romantic Abbey Leffe lying on the Maas, as well as the capital of the region Wallonia – Namur – attract the most visitors. The Maas with its confluents offer an interesting area for water sports.
Brussels – the capital of Europe
The institutions of the European Union with the European Commission as well as the European Parliament dominate the busy life of this lively town.
Even today, Belgium is represented at the highest level by the Belgian royal family with King Philippe who ascended on 21.07.2013 and Queen Mathilde.
The Grote Markt with its unique ensemble of guild houses is unquestionably one of the world’s most beautiful.
2 of Brussel’s symbols are in dispute for superiority:
The Atomium, created for the World’s Fair in 1958.
One of the spheres provides a panoramic view and a restaurant, and visitors can also admire different exhibtions.
The Manneken Pis
The bronze fountain-sculpture created in 1619 by Hiernomius Duquesnoy representing a urinating boy, is a copy of the year 1965.
The original is preserved in the Maison du Roi in Market Square.
Worth seeing are the most important art museums of the town:
The Royal Museum of Fine Arts and the Museum in Honour of the surrealist painter Magritte.
Every second year, in mid-August (as also in 2014), the Market Square is turned into a sea of flowers, a real spectacle.
The best-known towns in Flanders – Antwerp, Ghent and Bruges – offer exceptional highlights:
The young fashion scene, the Jugendstil as well as the world famous art museums in Antwerp
The magnificent building, art-historical showpieces, and the romantic canals in Gent
The medieval atmosphere combined with the sumptuous specialities, like the famous Belgian chocolate manufacturies or the well-known Belgian breweries.
The capital of the chocolate with medieval appeal UNESCO Weltkulturerbe. The stately belfry, the symbol of independence, numerous historical churches, like St. Salvator’s Cathedral, as well as the romantic canals inviting for a boat tour, are the landmark of the old city, which became part of the UNESCO-World Heritage in 2000.
The cultural offer with numerous museums and the concert hall is one of the greatest of the country. In the Groening Museum you will discover the world-famous collection of early Flemish master painters.
The interactive experience-world of the Historium conveys the town’s heyday of the Middle Ages.
Bruges is considered to be the world-capital of the chocolate, named the brown gold by its fanciers. Countless chocolatierartisanals conjure up fascinating creations.
The town of Flemish arts and cuisine
The landmark of Ghent is unquestionably the massive tower of the Sint-Baafs-Kathedraal, overlooking the whole town together with the two town towers. One of the 22 altars, the altarpiece “The Adoration of the Lamb”, is world-famous. The so-called Ghent Altarpiece is now being restored in the halls of the Museum of Fine Arts.
The crypt from the early Middle Ages is decorated with well-preserved frescoes.
Typical for the townscape of Ghent are the countless boats on the Graslei meandering through this magnificent townscape.
Ghent is also considered to be the gastronomic capital of Flanders. The Heet Grot Vleeshuis, formerly a meat market hall from the 15th century, today houses a restaurant and a shop with Flemish specialities, like the Ganda ham – rabbit deep fried in dark beer with roast apple-potatoes.
Young creative chefs have opened restaurants and bistros in Ghent.
Rubens and young fashion
Antwerp has always been linked to its best-known baroque painter – Peter Paul Rubens. The painter, born in Siegen, died in Antwerp in 1640.
The Rubens-House, the place where the painter had lived and worked, is now a museum presenting his life and his works.
Worth seeing is te Grootemarkt with its carefully restored guildhouses, unnumbered Jugendstil-buildings scattered all over the town, like the recently renovated Main Station.
Antwerp is also the capital of fashion. The Fashion Academy, celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2013, has shaped many young designers and creators of fashion
Worth seeing is the MAS-Museum – the museum on the stream – the new town history museum, its architecture being most impressive
Antwerp is another important place of the catering trade.
To be mentioned, as an example, the Maison Antoine in Place Jourdan, said to be serving the best Pommes Frites in town.