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Famed for spending over a year without a government, yet also the headquarters of the European Union, Belgium is well-known for the quality of its chocolate and beer, as well as a proud heritage in the fine arts. The friendly and welcoming locals are divided between French speakers and the Flemish, who speak Dutch. Highlights of booking a hotel in Belgium might include the beautiful canals of Bruges, the nightlife of Antwerp and the sombre battlefields around Ypres.
Brussels - The capital not only of Belgium but also the European Union, Brussels is a modern cosmopolitan city, packed with boutique shops, restaurants and modern hotels. Don’t miss the cheeky Manneken Pis fountain, not far from the spectacular Grand Palace. If you want to sample traditional Belgian cuisine, Brussels is the best place. You’ll find many establishments serving moules frites, waffles or a selection of prestigious Belgian beers.
Bruges - This medieval town is like a fairytale come to life with charming cobbled lanes, bustling market squares and of course the beautiful canals that naturally draw parallels with Venice. As you might expect, then, hotels get pretty busy here, especially at weekends, Christmas and during the summer. Key sights in Bruges include the 13th century belfry, with nearly 400 steep steps leading up to incredible views over the rooftops, and the historic architecture of Burg Square.
Antwerp - Often referred to as Belgium’s ‘capital of cool’, Antwerp has a renowned entertainment and nightlife scene, and top hotels. The artist Peter Paul Rubens lived here - his former home and studio, built by Rubens in 1611, is now a museum where several of his canvases hang. Wander the cobbled streets with their many coffee shops, or browse for stones in Antwerp’s world-famous diamond district.
Ypres - A serene little town that was almost destroyed during the Great War, Ypres now stands as a living memorial to those who fell. A moving ceremony of remembrance is held every evening at the Menin Gate, and the many sites of historic interest include the Yorkshire Trench and the In Flanders Field museum. Popular Market Square is lined with busy restaurants and bars, and there is also a number of excellent fine art museums here.
Ghent - In comparison with other Belgian cities, Ghent sees relatively few visitors, which is all the more reason why you should make it your destination for a weekend getaway. Visit in late July for the vast Ghent Festival, which runs over 10 days, featuring live music from a range of genres, puppetry and street theatre. For dining, vegetarians are particularly well-served, with more vegetarian restaurants in Ghent per capita than almost anywhere else. Book a quiet hotel in Ghent for a relaxing getaway.
Discover the history of Bruges with a guided city tour in a comfortable air-conditioned coach - sights include the bustling Market Square and the Church of Our Lady with Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child statue, one of the artists’ only works found outside Italy. The Manneken Pis in Brussels is a popular symbol of Belgium - the bronze fountain depicting a young boy gleefully relieving himself is a big tourist attraction and was first erected in the early 17th century.
On the hunt for a bargain? Try outlet shopping in Maasmechelen Village, near Brussels, where you’ll find big discounts from global brands; Belgian chocolates are adored around the world - names such as Godiva and Marcolini have their workshops in Brussels, and chocolate tours abound letting you see master chocolatiers at work and taste their creations, such as delicious pralines.