Belgium, the not-so-boring cousin

A few days in Belgium will give you a new-found appreciation for this tiny European country in the north

16 September 2016, 10:59am
The Grand Palace – The Grand Palace Square in Brussels contains architecture of three eras (Baroque, Gothic and Louis XIV) and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998
The Grand Palace – The Grand Palace Square in Brussels contains architecture of three eras (Baroque, Gothic and Louis XIV) and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998
Belgium has a bit of a bad reputation for being the boring cousin that no one wants to hang out with. Why go to Belgium when you could be sipping champagne in Paris, partying in Berlin or feasting on pasta in Rome?

Perhaps it is because it is home to the European Parliament, and let’s face it, no matter how hard you try, exciting isn’t the first adjective that comes to mind when describing this essential hub of activity. 

However, like most people would be found to be interesting if you take the time to get to know them, a few days in Belgium will give you a new-found appreciation for this tiny European country in the north. 

What to do?

Whatever you do, don’t go to Belgium on a diet. Fries not only come with everything but are available on every street corner at any time of day or night. Twice fried, the Belgians know their fries and serve them with a variety of sauces that add extra lashings of comfort to this popular side. The origin of the French fry is debatable, but in this neck of the woods the Belgians are claiming their stake. 

When you’re craving something sweet look no further than the Belgian waffle. Slightly thicker than a regular waffle, these come with a variety of toppings including whipped cream, icing sugar, jams and chocolate sauce among others.

While we’re talking about chocolate, the Belgians are known the world over for their supremacy in this field. With 220,000 tons of chocolate produced in Belgium every year, you are sure to find the right opportunity for a little (more) indulgence anywhere in the country. 

Belgian chocolate: Belgians are known the world over for their supremacy in the world of chocolate, with some 220,000 tons being produced every year
Belgian chocolate: Belgians are known the world over for their supremacy in the world of chocolate, with some 220,000 tons being produced every year
Anyone with even the most remote interest in beer will know that Belgium is the place to go for craft beer. Every region has its own selection of local beers and a beer bar that stocks a good selection is never very far away. The Half Moon Brewery in Bruges is one beer lovers will not want to miss. Tours of the brewery run from 11am to 4pm and include a degustation of Brugse Zot Blonde, because what’s a beer tour without a little tasting?

But Belgium isn’t all about indulgences. If you take the time to look around you will find beauty in many corners. Bruges, known as the Venice of the North, is best seen from the water. Hop on a boat and take a trip along the expansive canals to take in the quaint charm of this European city. The water flows into places and past landmarks that can’t be accessed from the street, bringing you up close to some of the town’s most incredible sites that would otherwise go unnoticed.

Not far from Bruges lies her lesser known sister, Ghent, which The Lonely Planet calls Europe’s “best-kept secret”. Walking through the city of Ghent is like walking through a historical painting, an architectural masterpiece of castles, cathedrals, churches and old merchant houses. The medieval Castle of the Counts, right in the middle of the city is a great place to take in the views. The kids will love this fairytale castle but be careful, the torture museum is not for the faint of heart. Their one-of-a-kind shops offer items from every era; vintage stores, ice cream stalls and wallpaper shops are not uncommon in this quaint little town. 

Belgium’s capital, Brussels is home to many a cultural landmark. The Grand Palace is at the top of tourists’ hotspots for good reason. The square, measuring 68 by 110 metres is one of the most beautiful in Europe and contains architecture of three eras (Baroque, Gothic and Louis XIV) and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998. 

Tomorrowland: Belgium’s largest festival, Tomorrowland hosts some of the biggest names in electronic music
Tomorrowland: Belgium’s largest festival, Tomorrowland hosts some of the biggest names in electronic music
In downtown Coudenberg, the six museums that make up The Royal Museums of Fine Arts in Belgium contain 20,000 drawings, sculptures and paintings which date from the early 15th century all the way up to the present. The painting Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, long-attributed to Brueghel is located here and is the subject of W.H. Auden’s famous poem Musee des Beaux Artes. 

Though Belgium is a great spot for culture, it is not limited to this bracket of tourist. Those seeking out the party lifestyle will have tried to get tickets to the infamous Tomorrowland. Ever since 2005, this electronic music festival has been working its way up the festival ladder so that today tickets are only available for a very short time as clubbers sit at computers hitting the refresh button in the hope of getting hold of these prized tickets.

How to get there?

Air Malta offer direct flights between Malta and Brussels with a current frequency of nine weekly flights. This frequency will continue in November and December and is expected to increase in 2017. One way prices, including a 20kg baggage allowance, start from €54 including taxes and charges. These prices are valid for travel from 1 October, 2016 to 31 March, 2017. Visit www.airmalta.com for more info.