Category Archives: Belgium

Belgium – A New Take

“After I killed him, I dropped the gun in the Thames, washed the residue off me hands in the bathroom of a Burger King, and walked home to await instructions. Shortly thereafter the instructions came through – “Get the fuck out of London, you dumb fucks. Get to Bruges.” I didn’t even know where Bruges fucking was.

It’s in Belgium.”

– Ray, In Bruges

Belgium trip

If you haven’t watched the film In Bruges, you should. It’s excellent: resplendent with great views of the city and hilarious drunken Irish conversation. Much like the city itself, in fact. Bruges is a lovely place, with stunning architecture, great sights and, most importantly, copious amounts of Belgian beer. Which is, of course, the best beer in the world. Be warned, though: Bruges is beautiful, but sadly everybody knows it. The place is packed full of tourists more or less all year round.

great things to do around Belgium

A better choice for those hoping for a Bruges-like experience without the tourists is Ghent. The beer and the sights are just as good, and the architecture is similarly beautiful, but tourists are still pretty thin on the ground; making it Belgium’s best kept secret. Be sophisticated and visit one of the art museums and galleries in the town – there’s a fair few and they all have interesting stuff to see.

Belgium beer

What’s not such a secret is that Belgium produces, without any doubt, the best beer in the world. Try everything at the first opportunity you get, but if you’re feeling up to it, take a tour round one of the many, many breweries in Belgium (it doesn’t matter where you are in the country – a brewery will be nearby). Alternatively, a few companies offer beer expeditions and tasting nights around town; particularly in Bruges, Bruxelles and Antwerp, where the tourists tend to be.

travel tips to Belgium

If you’re into a more rural kind of holiday, head into southern Belgium, or Wallonia, where they speak French and live a little more quietly. The sights here are forests, caves and tiny village inns with great food and, yes, still excellent beer. It’s a wonderful area. Consider a hiking or cycling holiday – plan your route and make your way through the area, eating and drinking every night at the village inn. If you plan it right and enjoy that kind of thing, a hiking/cycling holiday through Wallonia is without doubt one of the best of its kind.

Belgium best spots

What else? Oh of course, there’s also the food. To eat out here, either go fully rustic or completely high-brow. Both will be immensely good food, with excellent crusty bread, mussel soups and complimented with (you guessed it) great beer. Try the chocolate, too – Belgium is famous for it, after all. Street food is enjoying a rise in popularity in the urban areas of Belgium recently, too, and is unlike any other street food I’ve come across: waffles, pastries and baguettes are popular here, and all are delicious. The Belgians have an obsession with sausage (no jokes, please) and cook them beautifully.
I started this article with a quote, and I feel like finishing with one, too, so here we go:

“I like to say that while antimatter may seem strange, it is strange in the sense that Belgians are strange. They are not really strange; it is just that one rarely meets them.”

– Lawrence M. Krauss, A Universe From Nothing

Nice one.

The High Fens of Belgium

I recently took a little detour through Belgium, which gave me the pleasure of seeing familiar landscapes under a new light. This time, it was the fog that played with the senses. The “Flat Land”, as Belgium is sometimes called, is not always that flat. If you are looking for mountains, of course, you won’t find them here. But you will find forest covered hills and valleys, meadows and streams in the South of Belgium, in the Ardennes. And there is one special place in that region, the High Fens.

High Fens, Belgium

The High Fens Plateau is situated at the highest point of Belgium (694m). Not very high, it’s true, but the place is completely different from the surrounding Ardennes. This plateau is a place of mystery, and its unusually cold and humid climate as well as its natural beauty remind me of the Russian Tundra. Reddish grasses as far as the eye can see, stunted birches and pine forests. All that is missing are snow-capped mountains in the background. But this is Belgium…

High Fens, Belgium

The Parc Naturel des Hautes Fagnes (High Fens Natural Reserve) covers over 4,500 hectares (11,123 acres) and contains rare and endangered wildlife and flora, such as orchids and black grouse. The ground is very humid, swampy at times, which has led to the formation of bogs and peat. Peat used to be extracted, dried and used as fuel by the surrounding villages. In the 19th century, many pine trees were planted and you can still see these forests today. When the fog covers the land, the forests become eerily silent and dark.

High Fens, Belgium

I was alone on my walk, and loved it. At my own rhythm, letting the pure, cold air fill my lungs. The fog was really thick and I loved this feeling of being utterly alone in another world. Once more, Belgium and its grey skies made me melancholic, but a melancholia it is nice to bask in a little, just for a walk, especially when you know a good Irish coffee is waiting for you!