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


    Cycling in Belgium

    Ever heard about Eddy Merckx, Johan Museeuw or Roger de Vlaeminck? Did you know that they are notable Belgian cyclists and true legends all over the world? Discover what made them famous or simply walk in their footsteps and visit Belgium for a true cycling adventure in springtime. There’s nothing like starting the year with a combination of sports, nature and culture.

    The first meeting point of the year will start in the heart of Ghent with Omloop het Nieuwsblad, taking place on 27 February 2016. This first classic cycle race will give you a taste of what’s to come in the new season, starting with a famous cobbled climb through the mythical Flemish Ardennes, better known as the Muur van Geraardsbergen.

    CyclinginBelgium© www.milo-profi.com

    2016 is a big year in cycling, as it marks the 100th edition of the Tour of Flanders, one of the biggest races in cycling in the world. With a total track of about 265km, the Tour of Flanders is the longest cycling race in Belgium and will take place in the provinces of East and West Flanders on 3 April 2016. For its 100th edition, there will be a tribute to Roger Decock, the oldest still living winner. It’ll also be extra special this year because you can witness a key turning point in history. So far, there are six cyclists with each allowed three victories. The only ones who are still able in becoming the ultimate record holder are Tom Boonen and Fabian Cancellara. As Cancellara will leave the cyclist world later this year, it’s the ultimate opportunity to watch the final duel between both veterans. On top of it, you’ll feel like you’re part of the race, as you’ll be closer than ever to the, as called in Belgium, true Flandriens. Hear, feel and breathe the energy of the cyclists as they pass by on the steep Paterberg or conquer the cobbled road of the Oude Kwaremont.

    Do you dream about being a true Flandrien yourself, scream victory on the hills of the Flemish Ardennes and feel like a real hero at the end of the day? Then grab your agenda and mark the dates here below, as you’ll be able to challenge yourself and conquer exactly the same routes and hills, just a few days before or after the professional cycling races. Enjoy this sports adventure together with people from all over the world and make it a moment to remember. To make your experience even more special, you can stay in one of the many bed & breakfasts in the region, grab a typical Belgian beer and visit the Tour of Flanders Centre in Oudenaarde, exposing many years of cycling history.

    If you’d rather climb up higher and want to finish the Belgian cycling season in splendor, then you’ll want to participate to Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the oldest and final classic cycling race of the season. With its length of approximately 260km and a record high of 262m, also known as the hill of La Redoute, you’ll feel stronger and more satisfied than ever once crossing the finish line of the toughest cycling race of the season. If you’re a bigger fan of the spectacle itself, you can meet up with the professionals the following day, 24 April 2016, and enjoy the marvelous landscape of the Belgian Ardennes.

    See you at the start line!

    Cycling in Belgium 2© www.milo-profi.com

    PROFESSIONAL CYCLING RACES   CYCLOSPORTIVES
    Omloop Het Nieuwsblad 27-02-2016 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad Cyclo 28-02-2016
    Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne 28-02-2016 Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne Cyclo
    27-02-2016
    Dwars door Vlaanderen 23-03-2016 Dwars door Vlaanderen Cyclo 05-03-2016
    E3 Harelbeke 25-03-2016 E3 Velo 26-03-2016
    Gent-Wevelgem 27-03-2016 Gent-Wevelgem Cyclo 26-03-2016
    Tour of Flanders 03-04-2016 Tour of Flanders Cyclo 02-04-2016
    Paris-Roubaix 10-04-2016 Paris-Roubaix Challenge 09-04-2016
    Brabantse Pijl 13-04-2016 Brabantse Pijl Cyclo 16-04-2016
    La Flèche Wallonne 20-04-2016 La Flèche Wallonne Cyclo 07-05-2016
    Liège-Bastogne-Liège 24-04-2016
    Liège-Bastogne-Liège Cyclo 23-04-2016

    Belgium, a top destination for fashion lovers!

    When people are asked about fashion capitals, most will invariably respond with Paris, Milan and New York. Not many people know this, but Antwerp too is considered as one of the world’s fashion capitals.

    The river port of Antwerp has been a fashion centre since the early 1300s when it dominated the European wool trade. In the 1500s, Antwerp was one of the richest cities in Europe, with many rich and well-dressed inhabitants. Many centuries later in the 1980s, a group of young designers, named the “Antwerp Six”, decided to breathe new life into their heritage. The world-renowned group, which graduated from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp in the 1980s, is still highly active, both in Belgium and internationally. Several of the Six are fashion leaders with their own labels, such as Dries Van Noten, Ann Demeulemeester and Dirk Bikkembergs. Younger graduates such as Haider Ackermann, A.F. Vandervorst and Wim Bruynooghe have also made their mark on the world stage.

    In 2013, the prestigious Fashion Department of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp celebrated its 50th anniversary. However, the oldest Belgian fashion academy is the fashion institute “La Cambre”, founded in 1927 in the European capital of Brussels. The Brussels fashion academy “La Cambre” is at the top level of the international fashion scene, with Kim Stumpf, Jean Paul Lespagnard, Louise Leconte and Anthony Vaccarello as notable alumni in the fashion world.

    While the Antwerp style is often described as avant-garde and dark, the Brussels style is romantic and playful. Belgian fashion design is marked by its quality, soberness, innovation and a high-level of craftsmanship, recognised and celebrated around the world. Brussels and Antwerp are a 45-minute drive from each other, as well as being easily accessible by public transport. So don’t hesitate to stop by for an amazing shopping experience in both cities. You will discover that Belgium is a great place for fashion!

    Fashion in Belgium©Sofie Coreynen/© www.milo-profi.com/©Ulrike Biets for Modo Brussels

    5 must-do’s in Brussels:

    1. Visit the famous couturiers, stylists, designers and jewellers in the Antoine Dansaert Straat / Rue Antoine Dansaert and Léon Lepage Straat / Rue Léon Lepage.
    2. Explore the trendy concept stores in Châtelain.
    3. Discover Belgian state-of-the-art brands like Café Costume, Fabuleux Marcel de Bruxelles, Just in Case, Filles à papa, Clio Goldbrenner… as well as international brands.
    4. Take a long fashion walk along the Avenue Louise with a specialised guide.
    5. Ask a personal shopper from the Brussels Fashion and Design Centre to design an individually-tailored shopping tour especially for you.

    5 reasons to visit Antwerp:

    1. 7 shopping areas in the historical area, all within walking distance.
    2. Shop till you drop in the historic city centre on every first Sunday of the month when the shops stay open.
    3. Thanks to the quality label “Antwerp’s Most Brilliant”, you can easily find a jeweller that is 100% reliable and combines superior quality with fantastic service.
    4. Highest presence of exclusive fashion labels, including the flagship stores of Dries Van Noten and Ann Demeulemeester.
    5. The MoMu, Antwerp's Fashion Museum

    To further enjoy your shopping experience in Belgium, don’t forget to make a stop in Ghent which has a high concentration of vintage shops, or to visit the well-stocked markets of Wallonia. Book your flight now and come on over for an amazing shopping experience in Belgium - a land that is filled with of talent and creativity! Remember, the winter sales take place from 2 to 31 January 2016!


    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 >>


    ©Tomorrowland

    Every year millions of exuberant people gather to celebrate and enjoy the energetic atmosphere at the biggest and best festivals in the world, right here in Belgium. Tomorrowland, Rock Werchter and Pukkelpop - these are just a few of the festivals winning many prestigious awards that have placed Belgium at the top of the list as a music destination.

    As a partner of Tomorrowland, Brussels Airlines flies you on party flights to Belgium, the festival’s home. With a Tomorrowland livery on the aircraft, a DJ on board and a magical atmosphere, your festival experience starts right when you check in.

    Would you like to know what it’s like to be a part of the Tomorrowland travel experience? Then have a look at this amazing video!


    You can fly to the capital of Belgium with Brussels Airlines from 60 different cities in Europe, Africa and the United States. With all music genres being represented, there’s something for every music taste so be sure to check them out! And do bring along your family and friends to make the party complete!


    Belgium is Flavours

    Some people just eat to live while others, like Belgians, live to enjoy food. Belgium is a gourmand’s paradise - good food, good chefs and a good time are the main ingredients in the Belgian way of life.

    We know our classics and we know that Belgium will naturally be associated with beer and chocolate. Our brewers and chocolatiers are some of the best examples of cutting edge craftsmanship. Building further on a rich heritage and traditions, they allow their creativity free reign, always seeking to innovate and surprise you in the process.

    But there is so much more to Belgian cuisine! Located at a crossroads in Europe, Belgium is well placed to capture all international trends. Picking the best of each trend, our chefs excel at creating exceptional dishes of high quality and are appreciated internationally. Bear in mind however, that delicious and original meals can be enjoyed at many places, not only at 3-starred restaurants.

    The Chocolate Line ©www.milo-profi.be

    The must-try foods and drinks in Belgium:

    • Beer: gueuze, trappist, wheat, red ale, golden ale… it’s impossible to name all the varieties of Belgian beers - there are more varieties than days in a year! We are certain though, that you will find one that suits your taste (take your time discovering your favourite from what will seem like a never-ending list). Every beer comes served in its own special glass and each sip you take will be a unique experience. And you know what will enhance your enjoyment of that beer even more? A typical Belgian cheese - it’s the perfect accompaniment!
    • Chocolate: the famous Belgian praline was created in 1912 by Jean Neuhaus, founder of the iconic Neuhaus Chocolatier. Only natural products are used for the pralines, and they continue to be made by hand.
    • Fries: Belgium invented the French fries! The origin of “Belgian” fries dates back to the 18th century in the Ardennes region, where people used to catch small fish in the River Meuse and fry them. In winter, the river froze over making fishing impossible so people would cut potatoes into fish-shaped pieces and fry those instead.
    • Mussels: Belgian mussels come from the North Sea and are available in all the months that have the letter R in their names (from September to April). Moules-frites/mosselen met friet, a popular main dish of mussels and fries, is sometimes considered the national dish of Belgium.
    • Waffles: A waffle is not simply a waffle. You have to make the distinction between the Brussels waffle - rectangular in shape with a light golden-brown exterior and deep wells - and the Liege waffle - made with chunks of sugar to form a crunchy coating. Want to be a true Belgian? Then remember that waffles can be a snack or a dessert, but they are never served for breakfast!
    • Speculoos: a true Belgian specialty, these spiced crunchy biscuits are traditionally baked for St. Nicholas Day (6 December). Usually served with coffee, it is believed that a speculoos a day can keep the doctor away…
    • Cuberdon: this cone-shaped candy is made out of gum arabic and is the local specialty from Ghent. It’s traditionally raspberry-flavoured and purple in colour, but over the last few years, new flavours and colours have become available.
    • Brussels sprouts: cultivated in Belgium since the 16th century, these baby cabbages are delicious when roasted, stir-fried or steamed. Try them in stoemp, a typical dish made from pureed potatoes and mashed vegetables. Another typical Belgian vegetable is the endive, often referred to as “Belgian salad”. A typical Belgian dish with endives is witloof in de oven or chicons au gratin. This dish consists of endives wrapped in ham slices, then covered in a creamy béchamel sauce and baked in the oven to perfection. Wholesome and excellent comfort food for those chilly autumn or winter days.
    • Meat and game: Belgian cuisine is often described as “tasty and rustic”, and meat is definitely part of it. Ever heard of carbonade flamande/vlaams stoofvlees or Jambon d’Ardenne/Ardeense ham? The first dish is a beef and onion stew made with Belgian beer and served with fries, while the second one is an air-dried, salt-cured, uncooked ham from southern Belgium, similar to Italy’s prosciutto di Parma. The hunting season usually runs from October to end January which is when you can try the pheasant à la Brabançonne/fazant op Brabantse wijze. Not too keen on game? Then have a filet Américain (despite its name, it’s a must-eat in Belgium!) or meat balls in tomato sauce (perfect for children).

    Belgian Flavours ©Kris Jacobs / Hopmuseum Poperinge / www.milo-profi.be

    The must-dos:

    • Visit one of over 150 active breweries, learn about Belgian beer culture in one of the interactive visitor centres, take part in one of the beer festivals (many take place in September as part of the Belgian Beer Weekend – Brussels, 04.09.2015 – 06.09.2015), or visit a stunning Trappist abbey like the monasteries of Chimay, Dinant, Maredsous or Rochefort. If you’d rather try all the beers in one place, you’ll want to visit the Delirium Café (Impasse de la Fidélité 4) in Brussels. With close to a record-holding 2,500 beer varieties, this bar is a Valhalla for beer lovers.
    • Get some chocolate directly from over 320 chocolatiers or even try making it yourself at a workshop. You can also visit a Chocolate Museum in Bruges and in Brussels. And of course, remember to check out a few of the more famous Belgian chocolate shops like Neuhaus, Godiva, Corné Port Royal, Léonidas, Marcolini, Wittamer… But if you’re looking for something a bit more adventurous, you’ll love The Chocolate Line shops in Bruges and Antwerp by Dominique Persoone, Belgium’s most eccentric chocolatier. At his outlets, you’ll find unconventional flavours such as popping candy or lemongrass paired with chocolate. If you really want to try something unique, try the chocolate shooter, a device invented by Persoone to enable customers to ‘sniff’ cocoa powder.
    • There are more than 5,000 friteries/frietkoten in Belgium where fries are served in paper cones with many varieties of sauces and dips. If you are really hungry, you can have a mitraillette, a half baguette filled with fries, meat, salad and sauce. Among the more famous friteries/frietkoten are Maison Antoine located in Place Jourdan, Brussels, or De Gouden Saté in St Peter's Square in Ghent.
    • Don’t try only moules-frites! There are restaurants that serve mussels prepared in more than 30 ways, as well as a lot of other delicious seafood. Seafood is served everywhere in Belgium, even by street vendors. For an ultimate seafood experience, go to the Belgian coast and enjoy the unique atmosphere of the North Sea. Head to De Mosselbeurs in Ostende (Dwarsstraat 10) for over a dozen types of mussels or simply enjoy the best seafood of the region at Ostend Queen (Westhelling 12).
    • Most waffles are served warm by street vendors and dusted with sugar or topped with whipped cream, soft fruits or a chocolate spread. They are so good that they will make your face light up even on a rainy Belgian afternoon!
    • In Belgium, there are more than 100 Michelin-starred restaurants. This little country has the highest density of haute cuisine in Europe. Whether you like meat or you prefer fish, whether you are a vegan, a vegetarian or an organic food lover, in Belgium, you will be sure to get good quality food whatever your budget.

    Of course it’s not only what’s on the plate or in the glass that counts, but also the venue and the people you share it with. A meal becomes a wonderful all-round experience when we share it with others. Tempted? Then become a real foodie and enjoy a gourmet trip to Belgium with your family and friends!

    And on your flight back, bring Belgium's acclaimed cuisine with you thank to our Belgian Star Chefs menus served in Business Class on our long haul flights out of Brussels.





    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 stroll 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

    Creativity has always been an inherent part of Antwerp - in the 16th and 17th century, Antwerp was home to great masters such as Rubens and Anthony Van Dyck; in the 20th and 21st century, the city has been an inspiration to famous fashion designers such as Dries Van Noten and Walter van Beirendonck. 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. And of course for shopping: retail stores are also open on each first Sunday of the month. Much like Antwerp diamonds, the city sparkles with an impressive range of architecture from medieval buildings to Art Nouveau townhouses and the beautiful contemporary MAS or “Museum Aan de Stroom” (“Museum at the river”).

    Our suggestions:

    EVENTS Footprint (until 14.02.2016): An exposition on the history of fashionable shoes during the 20th and 21st century. With some unique pieces of designers like Vivienne Westwood, Jean Paul Gaultier and Dirk Bikkembergs. - 450 years city hall (until 24.02.2016): celebrate the 450th birthday of Antwerp's city hall with guided tours, expositions and many more events. – The Nutcracker (24.01.2016 - 31.01.2016): A simple nutcracker turns into a splendid prince who takes Clara off to the land of the Sugar-Plum Fairy. This unique Christmas ballet by Tchaikovsky is performed in dazzling sets and is a unique experience for the whole family. - Antwerp Chocolate Week (19.02.2016 - 27.02.2016): From 19 to 27 February 2016 the city of Antwerp is all about chocolate. Visiting chocolate lovers will have the opportunity to follow the tasting route. - 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. -
    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 Hospital (De Burburestraat 4-5) is more than just another fashion store; it’s an experience in itself. Shop the latest fashion in store or head to the wine cellar for the city’s best wine selection. Plans are being made to add a small resto-coffee bar and a luxury B&B to the store.
    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 Winter Walk (01.11.2015 - 31.03.2016): Guided tour through Bruges, introducing you to the many facets of the city. - Bruges Beer Festival (06.02.2016 - 07.02.2016): Bruges has earned a reputation with its long tradition of brewing and café culture. The international beer festival brings tohether over 70 breweries. You can taste over 300 beers at the festival and 15,000 people will join you in sampling this epic range of beers in historic Bruges. - Exhibition Bruegel's Witches (25.02.2016 - 26.06.2016): Everyone imagines a witch as an ugly woman who scoots on her broom up the chimney. In the fireplace, there is a large cauldron where she brews her magic potions while the cat warms itself by the fire. Less well known is that this witch image was created by artists from the Low Countries. Especially Pieter Bruegel played a decisive role in this. He was the first to place the witch near a fireplace, and while witches used to fly on all kinds of objects, Bruegel resolutely opted for the broom, which others were only too happy to copy. - 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 NL-BE Design Derby (23.10.2015 - 13.03.2016): Dutch and Belgian Design icons meet head-to-head in this exciting exhibition featuring 400 objects from the two neighbouring countries including silver, glass, ceramics, furniture, fashion and automotive design. Exuberant Art Nouveau from Belgium is contrasted with its more restrained Dutch counterpart, and contemporary handmade Belgian showpieces enter into a dialogue with today's sober Dutch Design. - The Lost Kingdom, Wiliam I and Belgium (15.10.2015 - 28.03.2016): In 2015 it will be 200 years since the Netherlands and what was to become Belgium were unified in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The kingdom held out for 15 years, from 1815 to 1830. For a short while the ‘Belgians’ and the Dutch inhabited one and the same state. Though King William I reigned as an enlightened despot, he also did a great deal to develop the industry, the infrastructure, education and cultural life. But why did the South feel so differently about King William I from the North? How did William I come by nicknames like the Copper King and the Canal King? Why did the Belgians daub this slogan on street walls around 1830: “We want William out - should William grow wiser - we want William back”? What was the long-term significance of this period for Belgium? - Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (27.02.2016): The opening race of the international cycling season has its start and finish for over 60 years in the historical city of Ghent.
    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).


    Discover the 2016 Ghent Floralies


    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.

    Our suggestions:

    EVENTS Les Gestes Bleus (15.01.2016 - 30.06.2016): (Re)Discover the greatest poets and art writers of the Late 19th and Early 20th century in this exhibition. - This is not Europe! (21.02.2016 - 26.06.2016): 100 cartoons reflect our society through humor, irony and emotion. The current crisis of the European Union is the heart of this exhibition, where people have the chance to think about the rise of nationalism and extremism in Europe.
    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 Expo Pop Impact - Women Artists (17.10.2015 - 14.02.2016): Évelyne Axell is one of the most important women in Pop Art. The painter died tragically and would have celebrated her 80th birthday this year. In her seven artistic years she managed to create a rich legacy and earn a spot next to famous artists such as Andy Warhol. - The Great Bonfire of Bouge (14.02.2016): Celebration of the start of spring by burning the winter man. This event is the largest bonfire of the country, has an amazing atmosphere and always ends with spectacular fireworks.
    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 Ice Star Wars (14.11.2015 - 31.01.2016): Never before, the world of Star Wars was shown in ice sculptures. Visit the gigantic statues on a surface of more than 1500m2 and don't forget to bring your hat and gloves. - International contemporary engraving biennial & festival (27.03.2016 - 24.05.2016): Dozens of engravers from all over the world gather in Liege to exhibit the unique world of engraving and etching.
    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 Sarah Morris (18.10.2015 - 20.03.2016): In her series of paintings and films, Sarah Morris explores the dialogue between architecture and the underlying power, the use of symbols and communication techniques within an urban context. - Leuven Jazz (16.03.2016 - 20.03.2016): Leuven Jazz offers you a mix of concerts, expositions, readings, free podium, etc. Many young talents and national and international stars participate to the event. - InBev: biggest brewery of Belgium, located in the city centre of Leuven.
    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. - Unterseeboot über Malermeister (05.12.2015 - 07.02.2016): A retrospective exhibition about Guy Van Bossche, together with the works of twenty-two other artists that had an important influence on his life as a painter. - 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 Postival 2016 (06.02.2016): At this festival, you'll learn all the exclusive tips & tricks from professionals in the music industry. Enjoy an entire day of music and participate to numerous workshops.
    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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