Photograph by Battlefield Traveller, Phil Tucker
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For many people, thoughts of Belgium often involve chocolate and beer: sipping the oh-so-rich hot cocoa at sidewalk cafes; strolling down cobbled streets with a gaufre (waffle) slathered with melted chocolate; stepping into a favourite brewery, or simply unwinding with a flavorful ale on the many outdoor patios of the Grote Markt. Certainly, Belgian life is what we consider some of the best food and drink on the continent.
Others will think of the country's first-rate museums filled with the work of Flemish masters. Undoubtedly, our favourite aspect of Belgium is the powerful history they continue to acknowledge, and honour - specifically in West province of Flanders, a region that shares strong and personal connections with families across Canada.
The Menin Gate, at the Last Post, Remembrance Day Ypres
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EXCITING DESTINATIONS IN BELGIUM
Known for its scenic canals, ancient squares,
beguinage (a typical Flemish medieval housing concept), art museums featuring exclusive artistic heritage such as paintings by the Flemish primitives, architecture and some of the best lace in the world. The city centre is compact and all attractions are within walking distance. Bruges is also famous for its gastronomy. Foremost, it is known as the chocolate capital of the world. With over 80 bridges, Bruges is a must-see.
Brussels is best described by one word: cosmopolitan. Nearly one in four city residents is an expatriate drawn there, typically by business or government ties. Brussels is not just the capital of Belgium, but also the capital of the far-reaching European Union. So when you're sipping hot chocolate at a sidewalk cafe (a delectable treat at any time of the year), you are eyeing one of the world's most diverse populations; and it is one of the wealthiest, too.
City of YPRES
In the heart of Flanders, Ypres (also spelled Ieper) became known throughout the world as a result of horrific World War I battles. Every night at 8 pm, buglers sound the Last Post at the Menin Gate to commemorate the soldiers who died there. The gate itself is inscribed with the names of 54,896 missing soldiers—a small fraction of those who perished in the battles. Totally obliterated during World War I, the town was triumphantly rebuilt afterward and is today known as the City of Peace.
This university town has a nice combination of the ancient and the contemporary—and fewer tourists than Bruges, even though it isn't quite as perfectly preserved as its neighbour. The old section of town should be seen on foot, where breathtaking gothic and renaissance architecture surrounds you. For a grisly display of torture instruments, stop by the walled Castle of the Counts of Flanders or the Castle of Geraard de Duvel—Gerald the Devil.
The world's diamond capital and home of Flemish Baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens, Antwerp, Belgium, is a joy to visit. The wide squares and the narrow cobbled streets of the old town are perfect for strolling—they're lined with shops and cafes, which make the walk even more pleasant—and there's a thriving nightlife. Business is deep-rooted in the history of Antwerp. The city prospered as a small trading center as early as the eighth century.
Customising your own Tour to Belgium
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