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Discover Belgium: Special themes - Brussels - Antwerp - Bruges - GhentMons - Namur - Liège - Leuven - Mechelen -  Ostend


While many of the adventures of Tintin see him travelling across the globe, the stories are always linked to Hergé’s hometown of Brussels. Walking through the city you will discover that many existing places have been used as a setting for Tintin’s adventures. Some examples are the Brussels Park and the Royal Palace featured in the King Ottokar’s Sceptre, the North Station in Tintin in the Land of the Soviets, the flea market at Place du Jeu de Balle in the Secret of the Unicorn, the Royal Theatre of La Monnaie and the Metropol Hotel in The Seven Crystal Balls. Similarly, the city of Brussels and Belgium have celebrated Tintin and his creator Hergé in several ways:

Several monumental frescoes featuring Tintin and Hergé’s genius are spread throughout the city of Brussels. Discover them at Brussels South Railway station, Brussels-Luxembourg Railway station, Stockel Metro Station (terminus metro line 1) and Rue de l’Étuve;
Tintin statue in Uccle;
The Tintin Building, listed as historical monument, home to the Editions du Lombard publishing house;
Hergé’s Place of Birth, in Etterbeek, 25 rue Cranz;
Hergé’s home, at 17 avenue Delleur, where he lived from 1939 to 1953;
Tintin’s House (before moving to Moulinsart Castle), at 26, rue du Labrador. (In reality, this was at 26, rue Terre-Neuve, where Hergé’s grandmother used to live.)

Although Hergé, the pen name of Georges Remi, is synonymous with a certain young journalist and his little white dog, there is much more to discover about one of the most famous cartoonists in the world. If you want to learn more about Hergé’s work, don’t miss:

The Comic Art Museum in Brussels, with a completely renovated section celebrating the works of Hergé. The Museum is located in an Art Nouveau building designed by Victor Horta.
The Musée Hergéfully dedicated to Hergé’s genius. The museum - a stunning building designed by Christian De Portzamparc in the student town of Louvain-la-Neuve about 30 minutes away from Brussels – looks like a ship from the outside, while the interior features a lift shaft that evokes the famous Tintin rocket. Sharing space with some Tintin-related gems like a real-life version of the shark submarine, as seen in Red Rackham’s Treasure, and unfinished pages from many of his adventures are early work Hergé did as a typographer and some personal items including his record collection and artworks, all revealing the man behind the ginger-haired master detective.

In cooperation with Moulinsart, Brussels Airlines is also celebrating Hergé and Tintin with a special Airbus A320 aircraft disguised as the famous shark submarine from the Tintin album Red Rackham’s Treasure. Discover here our Rackham aircraft >>


New content coming soon!




Brussels

Brussels is an essential destination for any tourist. The city is a leading cultural, historic, culinary and tourist centre.

In the centre of Brussels, you must certainly visit the Grand-Place with its large number of historic mansions, the magnificent 15th-century Town Hall and the well-known Maison du Roi Museum. There is also the Galeries St Hubert, which is the oldest covered shopping arcade in Europe. The fifteenth-century Saint Gudula and Saint Michael Cathedral is also worth a visit. You can relax in the Parc de Bruxelles facing the Royal Palace.

You can also go for a walk along the Place du Grand Sablon, with its large number of antique shops. The daily flea market on Place du Jeu de Balle is certainly an attraction. Other sights include Sablon Church with its Gothic interior and the Palace of Justice on the Galgenberg. The European quarter, which is the centre of government for the European Union, surrounds Place Schuman. Just outside the city centre, you will find the Atomium, a steel molecule enlarged 165 billion times. 

Our suggestions:

VisitBrusselsChâtelain: a quarter full of independent boutiques and laidback restaurants: the square itself hosts a popular Wednesday evening food market. 
Dansaert: there are always things happening – and a new boutique to explore – in the Dansaert quarter, the fashion heart of the city.
Louise: upmarket Avenue Louise is where all of Brussels heads at the weekend: the area has a real buzz and the city's best shopping.
St. Gilles: multicultural St. Gilles is full of hidden treasures: wonderful architecture; great restaurants and quirky boutiques.
Brusselslife Flagey: laid-back bars, an excellent weekend food and flower market and the beautiful Ixelles Ponds to stoll around.
Sainte Catherine: from the ultra-tradition fish restaurants on the square to the hip shops and bars of Rue de Flandre, Sainte Catherine is packed with distractions.
Uccle: Leafy Uccle has sweeping Art Deco avenues, pretty squares full of shops and cafés as well as acres of surprisingly wild forest to discover.



Antwerp

Belgium's "so cool it's hot" city has received a lot of well-deserved attention lately, especially since becoming one of Europe's Cool Capitals. Always creative - in the 16th and 17th century, the city was home to great masters such as Rubens and Anthony Van Dyck; in the 20th and 21st century, to many fashion designers like the world-famous Antwerp Six. There is much to do of a cultural nature, but the city is also well worth a visit for its excellent restaurants, bars and clubs, as well as for its shopping. Much like Antwerp diamonds, the city sparkles with an impressive range of architecture from medieval buildings in Art Nouveau styles to the contemporary Courthouse.

Our suggestions:

EVENTS Ricardo Brey, the futility of good intentions (6.02.2015-10.05.2015): first retrospective of this Cuban artist, living and working in Flanders. – Expo Dries Van Noten (13.02.2015-19.07.2015): glance into the creative world of one of the Antwerp Six. - The Golden Cabinet. Royal Museum at the Rockox House (until 01.01.2017): masterpieces from the Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp (closed for renovation) and the most important works from the Rockox House itself. – Exodus. Fleeing the war (until 31.03.2015): stunning black-and-white photographs along the Wandelboulevard of the MAS.– Far from war? Belgian immigrants in America during World War I (until 5.04.2015) at the Red Star Line Museum. - Rubens in Private (28.03.2015 - 28.06.2015): the exhibition displays the most beautiful and most intimate portraits of Ruben’s relatives. – Scheldeprijs (08.04.2015): this sprinter’s classic takes place between the Tour of Flanders and the Paris-Roubaix. - Taste of Antwerp (14.05.2015 – 17.05.2015): annual culinary event that allows you to discover a wide range of restaurants in and around Antwerp at very attractive prices.
EAT Michelin-starred Dôme (Grotehondstraat 2), is one of Antwerp's best-loved restaurants. Just across the street is the seafood eatery Dôme sur Mer (Arendstraat 1) and bakery Domestic (Steenbokstraat 37). 
SHOP An exhibition space, fashion boutique and bookshop with a café, Ra (Kleine Markt 7-9) is a favourite with Antwerp's style-conscious crowd.
LATER Well-heeled creatives make a beeline for the café-bar Vitrin (Marnixplaats 14), located on a key square in the trendy Zuid (South) district.


Bruges

The heart of Bruges, surrounded by an almost continuous ring of canals, is the best preserved example of medieval Flanders. So picture postcard perfect is the city center, known as "the Venice of the North", that it is nigh on impossible to take a bad photograph. With the city center closed off to cars, all the stunning beauty and culture of this unforgettable city can be easily explored on foot, by boat ride along quiet canals, or by horse-drawn carriage over cobblestone streets. Although Bruges is a small city, it will easily take more than one day to explore all of its architectural and artistic treasures, folklore, chocolate shops, lace boutiques, and local restaurants. The historic center of Bruges is on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites and is teeming with places of interest. Bruges is so magical that it's akin to a film set. This seems appropriate given that the 2008 film In Bruges was filmed on location in the city. This film, starring Ralph Fiennes and Colin Farrell, features two hit men holing up in the city after a difficult job. Farrell allegedly stayed in Bonifacius Exclusive Guesthouse (Groeninge 4) while in town filming.

Our suggestions:

EVENTS Tour of Flanders (5.04.2015): taking place this year for the 98th time, the cycling classic Tour of Flanders is one of the twelve world cup competitions. – Holy Blood Procession (14.05.2015): the procession dates back to 1304 and is held every year on Ascension Day. – Bruges Triennal 2015 (20.05.2015-18.10.2015): this contemporary art triennial focuses on a single basic question: “What would happen if the five million visitors that come to Bruges each year suddenly decided to live here permanently?” - Ellen Harvey (until 24.05.2015): exhibition of the famous British artist, whose work includes video art, installations and paintings. - Great War Battlefields tour commemorating WW1 (until 31.12.2018).
EAT Bistro Bruut (Meestraat 9) has had a radical facelift; its dining room now combines vintage industrial-style lampshades and reclaimed-wood tabletops. The honest Franco-Belgian cuisine at Assiette Blanche (Philipstockstraat 23-25, assietteblanche.be) is a hit with the chic local crowd.
SHOP Family-run chocolatier Dumon (Eiermarkt 6) occupies a dollhouse-like shop near Markt Square, while newcomer BbyB (Sint Amandstraat 39) features chocolates from top chef Bart Desmidt in minimal Pantone-style packaging.
LATER Venerated 't Brugs Beertje (Kemelstraat 5) offers 300 different beers, including Brugse Zot ('the fool'), the city's only official home brew. A former employee runs Comptoir des Arts (Vlamingstraat 53), a hip and atmospheric cellar jazz bar with a roaring fire.


Ghent

"Here's a secret within a secret: Ghent might just be the best European city you've never thought of visiting, in a country that continues to be criminally overlooked." - Lonely Planet 10 places to visit in 2011. If you're the type who prefers exploring away from the tourist hordes, funky Ghent is definitely the place to go. Ghent is praised for its brilliant mix of a wonderful past and a vibrant present. Here hides one of Europe's finest panoramas of water, spires and centuries-old grand houses. But this is no place to simply kick back. It's also Flanders' biggest university town, which means linger-as-long-as-you-like cafés, well-priced restaurants and a laid-back atmosphere. Under the watchful eye of Gravensteen Castle or Castle of the Counts, the city boasts an Opera House, 18 museums, 100 churches and over 400 historical buildings. The most visited site in Ghent is the famous polyptych, The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, painted by the brothers Jan and Hubert van Eyck in 1432. It still hangs in its original location, the St. Bavo Cathedral. The locals, while intensely proud of their city, are very modest and would never brag about its merits. One reason, perhaps, why it has taken so long for the rest of the world to discover this little gem.

Our suggestions:

EVENTS Julia Margaret Cameron (14.03.2015-14.06.2015): exhibition of the work of the British artist. – Great Belgian Beer Dinner (23.04.2015): excellent beers, top class food and... 5 of the world’s best beer chefs. – Garden Days Beervelde (8.05.2015 - 10.05.2015): the English park near the City of Ghent will be revamped into a Brazilian jungle, with Samba dancers, Caipirinhas and Currascos. – Gent smaakt (13.05.2015-17.05.2015): Many prominent Ghent-born chefs will treat you to delicious dishes and local producers offer you a taste of authentic products loved by locals.
EAT Dine on tapas-style dishes at Pure Daphne (Gebroeders Vandeveldestraat 3), Belgium's first croquette bar.
SHOP Rustic interiors shop Comme un rêve (Brabantdam 56b) sells a mixture of super flea-market finds and new country-style knick-knacks for the home.
LATER Sip inventive, delicious cocktails out of glass balls and Mason jars at the futuristic Limonada (Heilige-Geeststraat 7).


Mons

Cultural capital of Wallonia since 2002 and European Capital of Culture 2015, Mons is a dynamic city with a rich heritage. Located close to the French border and at the centre of the largest mining and industrial region of Belgium, Mons has been a pilgrimage destination since the 7th century, when a Frankish woman, later St. Waltrude, decided to stop here and dedicate her life to God. St. Waltrude's Collegiate Church, one of Mons principal attractions, was never fully completed after 200 years of works! This can be seen on the church's exterior as the tower is not completed, the interior however, was completed in the 17th century. The church is considered one of the best examples of Brabant Gothic. Other remarkable landmarks of Mons are the Grande-Place, surrounded by the impressive Town Hall, and the Belfry (listed as a World Heritage site by the UNESCO), a bell tower hosting a carillon of 47 bells. If you have a more contemporary feel, don't miss the Marsh House, where painter Van Gogh lived around 1880.

Brussels Airlines offers all visitors of Mons 2015 European Capital of Culture a reduction of 10%* on return tickets to Brussels. >>

Mons2015-destination

Our suggestions:

EVENTS Mons 2015 European Capital of Culture: festivals, exhibitions, theater, dance, music, literature, fashion, gastronomy and much more! Please check out the updated calendar here. - Van Gogh au Borinage (25.01.2015 – 17.05.2015): the exhibition takes you through the crucial period (December 1878 to October 1880) when living in the Walloon coal-mining area of the Borinage Vincent van Gogh abandoned his career as a preacher and decided to become an artist. - VIA - International Dance, Theatre & New Technologies Festival (12.03.2015 – 25.03.2015). - Chocolate festival (21.03.2015 – 22.03.2015). – Doudou: Car d'Or, Lumeçon Battle & Ducasse Sainte-Waudru (31.05.2015): the Procession of the Car d'Or is 657 years old and has been recognised as a masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.
EAT Jean-Philippe Watteyne is famous in Mons, thanks to his run on the French TV series Top Chef. He's also the genius behind iCook (Rue des Fripiers 2, restaurant-icook.be), one of the city's most popular restaurants.
SHOP Mons Où Venir (Rue des Clercs 13) takes souvenir shopping to a zany new level, with models of the doudou – the city's green medieval dragon – among the many items on sale in Catherine Franeau's quirky little boutique.
LATER Cuba'R (Rue de Nimy 57) is a cellar bar that has brought Cuban music, Cuban drinks and some great cigars to Mons. 


Namur

Namur is the capital of Wallonia, the southern region of Belgium. Enjoy a stroll through the medieval city centre or the Citadel, one of Europe's most impressive strongholds. If you want to give your feet a rest, you can join one of the many boat trips on the rivers Sambre and Meuse, as the city is neatly tucked in between where both rivers meet, an ideal and romantic way to explore the region. Do you prefer a more challenging way of exploration? Namur is also the gateway to various nature hikes in the Belgian Ardennes, an extensive forest region famed for its gorgeous landscapes and hillsides.

Our suggestions:

EVENTS Check out the works by 19th-century Namur artist Felicien Rops at Musée Felicien Rops (Rue Fumal 12). – Folknam: Namur Day of Traditions and Folklore (April 2015): discover the richness and diversity of a traditional folkloric heritage full of colour.
EAT Le Métropole Brasserie (Rue Emile Cuvelier 1) is a good no-nonsense brasserie with an emphasis on beer and big portions. If it's a sunny day, nab a seat outside and enjoy the view of the Théâtre Royal.
SHOP b.d.Librairie (Rue Saint-Jean 8) has been selling that great Belgian art form, the bande dessinée (comic book), for 18 years.
LATER Exterieur Nuit(Place du Chanoine Descamps 6) is only open until 11pm but it's a good place for Belgian beer and French wine.

2014_Liege

Liège 

Just an hour from Brussels by train, Belgium’s third most populous city is perfect for a weekend getaway. As your train pulls into Liège, the first thing you’ll notice is the hypermodern train station designed by the famous Spanish architect Calatrava. The modern architecture of the train station contrasts with the rest of the city, which is a more eclectic mix of styles that reflect Liège’s long history dating back to the Middle Ages. As a Prince-Bishopric, Liège was a city of great importance in medieval times. Later, in the first half of the 20th century, the city gained further importance as one of Europe’s main centres of the iron and steel industries. Remnants of the city’s history can be found in the old Citadel, and at the Archeoforum which lies below Liège’s main square, Place Saint-Lambert. Liège’s most famous tourist attraction is the long stairway Montagne de Bueren - after taking on the more than 400 steps, you’ll be rewarded with a magnificent panoramic view of the city. Definitely a challenge that’s worth the effort!

The city is located on the banks of the river Meuse, which divides the city into two parts. The Outremeuse (which translates to ‘the part beyond the Meuse river’) is famed for its more creative vibe and folklore. The most important character in Liège’s folklore is Tchantchès, a marionette doll representing the stubborn and rebellious yet good-natured character of Liège. Enjoy the puppet theatre at the Musée de Tchantchès and learn more about Outremeuse’s history with the help of Tchantches and his wife Nanesse.

Our suggestions:

EVENTS Degenerate Art according to Hitler (until 29.05.2015): exhibition dedicated to works that were sold by the Germans at the Lucerne auction in 1939. – Liège in torment (until 30.05.2015): day-to-day life during the occupation. - I was 20 in 1914 (until 30.05.2015): various points of view are exhibited from leaders, soldiers, doctors and civilians etc. - International contemporary engraving biennial & festival (27.03.2015 – 24.05.2015). - International Detective Films Festival (April 2015): short films, premières, documentaries, films… - International Cycling Classic "Liege-Bastogne-Liege" (April 2015): the 100th edition of the oldest cycling 'Classic'. – International Jazz Festival (07.05.2015 – 09.05.2015).
EAT Every bite is an adventure at Mandibule en Roue Libre (rue Souverain-Pont 38), a cosy bistro where chef-owner Fabien Henrard encourages customers to pick up their own orders from the kitchen and play their own vinyl records during meals.
SHOP For a genuine Liégeois shopping experience, forget the high street stores and join the foragers at the city’s many antique markets. Every Sunday morning on the left bank of the Meuse river, La Batte (Belgium’s oldest outdoor market) is a beehive of activity. Alternatively, try the Saint-Pholien market every Friday morning on the Boulevard de la Constitution.
LATER Party until the wee hours in the pubs and nightspots of the Le Carré neighbourhood.


Leuven

Whether you're looking to quench your thirst for knowledge or just your thirst, Leuven is the ideal place. This youthful town, less than half an hour by train from Brussels, is home to one of Europe's oldest universities (KU Leuven), and history is present on every street corner. A few lucky students even have the distinct privilege of living in the 13th century stone beguinage (begijnhof) selected as a world heritage site by UNESCO. And where there are students... there is beer! Leuven is Belgium's reigning brewing capital – no small feat in a country that produces hundreds of delicious varieties. Leuven is the headquarters of AB Inbev, the largest brewery in the world, famous for Stella Artois beers. Centuries of Flemish tradition and craftsmanship lie behind Leuven's premium brews. The university, one of the oldest and most important in Europe, has its roots in the center of Leuven, and its historic college buildings dominate many of the squares and streets. The university and its 28,000 students and professors have a special tie with Leuven, which has existed since the university's founding in 1425. Leuven is a great place for the curious traveler with time to explore. It is an intimate city; any spot can be easily reached on foot or by bicycle.

Our suggestions:

EVENTS Peter Buggenhout (13.03.2015-31.05.2015): retrospective of the varied works of this Belgian artist who constructs sculptural installations out of industrial and found materials. - Brabantse Pijl (15.04.2015): the closing race of the Flemish Spring and the last of the Flanders Classics. – Leuven Beer weekend (24-26.04.2015): during this weekend, you will definitely discover why Leuven it's known as the beer capital.
EAT Located at the heart of Leuven's culinary scene, Trente (Muntstraat 36) is run by a top young Flemish chef. Typical dishes include bream, fennel and bouchot mussels.
SHOP Running in parallel, Dietsestraat and Bondgenotenlaan streets house luxe labels such as Delvaux (Bondgenotenlaan 15). For more offbeat food and clothes, try Mechelsestraat and the Vismarkt: Sumo (Mechelsestraat 7) stocks shoes by Chi Mihara and Dries Van Noten.
LATER Sample Con Domus and Nostra Domus beers at home brewery Domus (Tiensestraat 8).


Mechelen

Mechelen is a small and picturesque city that is big on charm and history but is probably best known for its carillon school. Here students from all over the world come to learn to play church bells. One of the most pleasant experiences to have in Mechelen is to sit outside on the terrace of a cafe sipping a local beer while listening to the delightful bell music coming from the sky. It is a city thriving with quaint shops, car-free areas and amazingly pleasant little squares. The grace of centuries-old palaces and majestic churches appeals to everyone. Mechelen is a city for all ages. Young people can actively enjoy themselves in the Toy Museum or the Tivoli Children's Farm, whereas the young at heart can entertain themselves at the Anker, one of the oldest operating breweries in Belgium. There are also many parks and gardens to stroll in, and the boat trip to these parks from Mechelen Central Station is not to be missed. Mechelen has no less than 336 listed buildings and monuments including eight gothic and baroque churches from the 14th century through the 17th century.

Our suggestions:

EVENTS Rik Wouters & Co (until 31.11.2017): the most representative collection of his works worldwide. - Hanswijk Procession (10.05.2015): A captivating procession with about 2.000 actors and even more collaborators. – Musica Divina (25.04.2015-17.05.2015): concerts with extraordinary artists in the magnificent religious patrimony of the province. - Mechelen Street Art Project. Mechelen Muurt: street art project led by city artist Gijs Vanhee. - Toy museum of Mechelen (Nekkerspoelstraat 21) displays several expositions all year round. – Boy descends the stairways: the work of contemporary artist Sarah Vanagt in the underground car park on St. Rumbold’s graveyard.
EAT Grand Café Lamot (Van Beethovenstraat 8/10) is a modern riverside brasserie-restaurant with good views of St Rumbold's Cathedral. For a completely different experience, Het Nieuwwerk (Nieuwwerk 11) serves classic Belgian cuisine in a peaceful, picturesque spot behind the Cathedral.
SHOP Kaashandel Schockaert (IJzerenleen 28) is a shop selling almost 300 cheeses and is particularly famous for its Gouden Carolus Brouwerskaas, which is made with local beer.
LATER Unwined (Begijnenstraat 23) with a glass or two of grape at this unpretentious bodega. The sommelier has removed the snobbery associated with choosing wine by creating a selection chart based on country of origin and occasion.


Ostend

At the "City by the Sea", over five and a half miles of sandy beaches invites you to delightful sunbathing and a refreshing dip in the North Sea. After frolicking in the sun, take a walk down the Promenade where you will find many shops, bars and restaurants. Ostend is a cosmopolitan city with a harbour, yacht-basin, airport and over 50 hotels. Visitors will be amazed by all there is to see and do. All year round, many activities take place. Some highlights are: Oostende at Anchor, Theatre by the Sea, Magic Lights in the Park, the Christmas Market with huge ice-skating ramp and Carnival week-end with the well-known Bal Rat Mort. One of Ostend's main, and maybe lesser known, trump cards is the gastronomy. What better place to sample the sea's delicacies than on the seaside. There are many restaurants, ranging from exclusive hot spots to cosy bistros, so there is something to suit everyone's taste and budget. The specialities are Dover Sole, shrimp croquettes and "tomato filled with shrimps". There is also plenty to keep you amused later on in the evening such as pubs, clubs and cinema complexes.

Our suggestions:

EVENTS The Sea – Salut d'honneur (until April 2015): Sea-themed exhibitions curated by internationally renowned artist Jan Hoet.
EAT Traditionalists eat mussels only from September to April, and the busy De Mosselbeurs (Dwarstraat 10) serves up more than a dozen versions, from basic to Thai-style, spiced with coconut, curry and coriander. Otherwise head down to Ostend Queen (Westhelling 12), where you'll feel like you've stepped aboard a cruise liner that serves excellent seafood.
SHOP Stock up on local delicacies at the outdoor market on the Wapenplein every Monday, Thursday and Saturday.
LATER Choose from 500 types of beer and 50 kinds of genever (a Belgian juniper-flavoured spirit) at the English pub-style Café Bottelje (Louisastraat 19) or throw shapes on the dancefloor at Tao Bar (Langestraat 24-26).

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