T r av e l p l a n n e r
F landers A Supplement to
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GERMANY FRANCE WALLONIA
Flanders—It’s in Belgium
It’s not like people who live in North America are totally geographically challenged. They know, for example, that there is a Flanders, most are even pretty confident that it’s in Europe somewhere...they’re just a tad unsure about where it is and even what it is, for that matter. Flanders is the Dutch- or Flemish-speaking region in the north of Belgium. Its capital is Brussels, which is also the capital of Belgium as a whole. The south of the country is French speaking. More than anything though—as you’ll see in the following pages—Flanders is a state of mind. Yeah, it’s got its traditions and a very visual pride of ownership in them, but it’s not a stodgy sense of ownership. Brussels, for example, home to the headquarters of the European Union and NATO, is often referred to as the very, very prestigious capital of Europe. But it’s also a city where comic strips are king and where fries are a national treasure. Flanders itself is the only place in the world where beer—this is, in fact, beer heaven—chocolate and lace play well together. And it is in Flanders where travelers looking for truly authentic craftsmanship will feels like kids in a candy shop. Here, there, everywhere, the diamond-cutters, the painters, the fashion designers, the chocolatiers produce a cutting-edge craftsmanship that is truly something the people of Flanders are proud of, and rightfully so. Visitors will see it in the cuisine—there are more Michelin star-rated restaurants per capita here than in any other European country—the art, the beer, even the heritage.
But one of Flanders’ best features is that it’s a small, compact region—it’s the size of Connecticut—with easy travel time, under 1 hour by transit, between cities. There are also great hotel values throughout; in fact, accommodations here are more affordable than in other European capitals. But, more importantly, Flanders is a region of deliciously wonderful secrets like the little jewel of a town called Ghent, an often overlooked paradise of canals and cobblestoned streets leading you to whimsical little shops, charming little cafes and pubs and clubs where fun is foremost on the menu. Just north of there, Bruges, its more well-known look-alike canal city often referred to as the “Venice of the North,” also capitalizes on traditional charm, along with a generous helping of Flanders hospitality. And then there’s Antwerp—Europe’s second largest port and a dazzling diamond of a city that also happens to be the diamond capital of the world— that’s also gaining a reputation as a major capital of cool in Europe, with a focus on fashion, design and trendsetting that’s making a lot of heads turn toward Flanders. And so will you as you flick through the following pages.
Table of Contents Antwerp...............................................................F3 Brussels..............................................................F7 Bruges............................................................... F11 Ghent.................................................................F13 Practical Information.........................................F15 This travel planner was written by Rick Shively.
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Antwerp, home of 16th and 17th century Flemish masters and long-time center of the global diamond trade, is a masterpiece of a city—a modern-day portrait of European “cool” with an emphasis on contemporary chic that’s evident in everything from fashion and design, to its trendy one-of-a-kind boutiques and shops, dining and clubbing. All put together in a cosmopolitan mix only the second largest port in Europe could muster. But with all its modern vibe, this is, in fact, one of Europe’s oldest cities, and visitors will find it more than a little difficult to ignore the city’s classical reputation as a historical icon. Antwerp was, don’t forget, home to the likes of Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony van Dyck and Jacob Jordaens, an artistic legacy that was not lost on this city over the centuries. That very legacy, combined with its centuries-old history as an important port and trade city, is juxtaposed today with Antwerp’s international reputation as a modern and avant-garde artistic and design center, plus the present-day home to the so-called “Antwerp Six,” the much-heralded contemporary fashion designers who have gained the kind of worldwide recognition that’s as prestigious as the city’s famously classical artisans.
48 Hours in Ant werp Morning—Day 1 Start off your day with breakfast at the Berlin Cafe, offering Belgian specialties in a stylish atmosphere. Or, take some time at The Cafeteria, offering up healthy fare, sweets and a variety of other breakfast selections that helped put it on the Antwerp Tourist Guide’s “Best Antwerp Breakfast” list. After breakfast, head over to Grote Markt, Antwerp’s main square and starting point for many city tours. But there’s plenty to see right around the square such as the 16th century City Hall finished in 1564, plus the nearby eye-catching Guild buildings, a photo op from heaven, with their magnificent architecture topped by decorative gilded statues, all filled today with a variety of shops, cafes and restaurants. Still more photo ops await at the beautiful Cathedral of Our Lady and the imposing Central Rail Station. Finally, finish up the morning with a visit to The Rubens House—certainly one of the world’s great artists whose famous preference for the more voluptuous female form led to the phrase, “Rubenesque”—a must-see on a visit to Antwerp. There’s a significant collection of Rubens’ work displayed here, as well as art by his students Jacob Jordaens and Anthony Van Dyck. The house itself, too, gives visitors a good idea of what 17th century artistic life was like, since this place was also party central for that period’s movers and shakers.
Afternoon—Day 1 After all that sightseeing, head over to the nearby Bourla Theater, located in what was once called the city’s Latin Quarter. The theater it-
self—originally built in the mid-19th century—has been recently renovated and its interior has been called one of the most classically beautiful buildings in the city. This is a great place for a drink in the theater’s De Foyer Bar, famous for its ambiance. For lunch, you might want to pop into Lombardia, a vegan and organic food and juice bar, with tasty salads and sandwiches and ginger teas. Expand your sightseeing beyond the city-center by hopping on the Diamond Bus, Antwerp’s version of the Hop-on and Hop-off buses so popular in the larger tourist cities around the world. The afternoon is a good time to take advantage of the tour because tickets are good for 24 hours, which means you won’t have to do it all in one day. Here’s a tip: do the whole route first without getting off and make note of what you want to see in the afternoon and leave the rest for the next morning. Tips from Loca Some of the places you might ls want to spend some time at either ✔ High-end ‘t Zilte for dinner the first afternoon or in the morning ✔ People-watc h at Cocktails at of the second day would be some of Nine ✔ Shop for choc olate at The the city’s wonderful museums (take Chocolate Lin e at Paleis op de advantage of the new Antwerp Meir ✔ Stroll the Ar t Nouveau distr ict, City Card, which offers discounts Zurenborg for all attractions). The Plantin✔ Hang out at the Park Spoor Noord, a great outd Moretus Museum, for instance, a oor park with cafe in summ World Heritage site, is a museum er complex that archives the history ☞ www.visitflanders.us / F3
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Jewish Heritage Jewish Antwerp is a self-contained entity, mostly on Pelikaanstraat and the surrounding streets, near the Central Railroad Station, just around the corner from Diamondland, the diamond center, where visitors can view the different preparation processes of diamonds. It’s no accident Jewish Antwerp shares this region of the city with Diamondland, because more than 80 percent of the city’s Jews are involved in the diamond trade. Here, too, you’ll find the Antwerp Diamond Museum, the largest diamond museum in the world where interactive displays showcase mining and cutting processes, and polishing demonstrations take place Saturday afternoons. On display you’ll find items dating from the 16th century to the present including a replica of the British Crown Jewels containing two of the world’s largest diamonds: the Kohinoor and the Cullinan.
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Belly up to the Bar This is Flanders and you really can’t leave without a visit to a beer bar—they may not even let you out if you don’t try at least one. In Antwerp, the Kulminator is the place to go for a varied selection of draft and bottled beers. And, like fine wine, there’s a surprising selection of aged beers, as well—all served in an unpretentious environment by the married couple owners. But don’t expect any special coddling just because you’re a visitor since Dirk, the husband, has a reputation for being a bit moody. For a friendlier environment, try Afspanning ‘t Waagstuk, where servers are happy to share their beer knowledge. Diners can select from five draft beers or 50 off the menu. ‘t Oud Arsenaal is another classic Antwerp beer bar with lots of locals enjoying the livingroom like ambiance. Here, you’ll find a half-dozen beers on tap, 50 on the menu and good beer food. The Groote Witte Arend has an open courtyard with tables as well as an interior bar, plenty of good beer food and a selection of about 80 beers including nearly a dozen on tap. Keep in mind, Belgian beer is not like the beer at the corner bar that comes in at around 3 or 5 percent alcohol. Here, it starts off at around 7 percent with many labels at around 11 percent or higher.
of this 16th century printing and publishing house which was once the world’s most prolific producer of books, highlighting the printing offices, workshop, library and printing room in their original state, plus an extensive collection of printing equipment as well as an invaluable archive and important works of art, including works by Rubens and Van Dyck. Some of the museum’s highlights include an original Gutenberg Bible, the world’s two oldest printing presses, original typographical matrices by Garamond and the world’s first printed Atlas. Then make your way to ‘t Zuid. Originally built in the mid-16th century, ‘t Zuid (the South) is one of the most interesting neighborhoods in Antwerp. The best way to get there is via the Kloosterstraat, a charming street lined with shops selling antique and second hand goods. Once in ‘t Zuid, visit the new museum for modern art (MuHKA)—which was opened in a former grain silo—several art galleries, and a new photography museum. The area is now one of the most trendy neighborhoods in the city with a variety of popular restaurants, clubs and bars. Before heading back to the hotel to change for dinner, head on over to Vlasmarkt for a stop at the Stamineeke pub, a 2-story, 17th century house in the classic Antwerp style. The beer selection is impressive and the draft beer selections will be familiar to North Americans such as De Koninck, Hoegaarden and Stella Artois. If you need a little caffeine fix before starting off your evening, try Caffenation. Its unique decor and garden patio make for an idyllic setting, and for true coffee aficionados, they use a house blend, an Anfim Barista grinder and a La Marzocco Linea machine. Now that’s serious.
Evening—Day 1 Head back to the city-center for some authentic fare at Hungry Henriettas, if no other reason than its great name. Menu favorites here include
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Fashionable Antwerp For the serious shopper with an eye for designer clothes created by the likes of Walter Van Beirendonck, Dries Van Noten, and Ann Demulemeester, The Flanders Fashion Institute has an Antwerp Fashion Map, a guide for visitors who want an entree into the nicest insider shopping places in Antwerp. Both Belgian fashion and international fashion houses as well as trendy children clothing stores, men’s fashion and vintage stores are covered. All the visitor needs is a healthy credit card and the will to abuse it. Itinerary 1: ModeNatie The first itinerary explores the neighborhood around the Mode Natie, known as “the heart of Belgian fashion’” since Dries Van Noten opened his Modepaleis in the Nationalestraat. Various designers and stores pursuing an avant-garde profile have settled down here. The Kammenstraat, a side-street of the Nationalestraat, is the place to shop for the latest streetwear collections.
seafood bisque, crispy-skinned ray with capers, and seared scallops on a bed of mashed potato. Yum! Or, for a little fun hideaway dining spot, try Sir Anthony Van Dyck, tucked away in a tiny cobbled lane in a 16th century building oozing with classical charm and famous for its delicious traditional Flemish food ordered from its 4-course gourmet menu. Alternatively, head over to the south and hang out with the locals at De Hopper, Wine Bistro Patine or Den Artiest. Wrap up the day with some serious clubbing. After dinner, start off slow at the oldest bar in town, the Quinten Matsijs, which dates back to the mid-16th century and still has oodles of medieval charm. Next, try De Vagant, a famous city-center bar with adjoining shop and restaurant that serves only liqueurs and jenever, which is Belgian gin usually served in shooters. But don’t do too many of those because by midnight, you’ll want to end up the evening—and probably a little of the morning on the weekends—at the Velvet Lounge, a trendy and sophisticated restaurant/after-dinner club that’s located in ‘t Zuid and which mixes ethnic fusion cuisine with lounge music, dancing, and a sexy vibe inspired by red velvet seating, candlelight, and chandeliers.
Itinerary 2: The South For several years, the South (Het Zuid) has been described as Antwerp’s trendiest district. In the museum district—within walking distance of the ModeNatie— there are numerous special restaurants, bars, galleries and design stores offering vintage, antique and concept products. Even the store of Ann Demeulemeester is located in this area. The return route leads through the Kloosterstraat, a street where fashion, second-hand and vintage stores are happily rubbing shoulders. Itinerary 3: Historic Center This third itinerary leads the visitor through the historic center, still dominated by the Cathedral of Our Lady and the Art Deco KBC Tower. This area is situated between the Groenplaats and the Grote Markt. Itinerary 4: Meir & Leien The Meir is the most important commercial shopping street of Antwerp and houses mostly international clothing and shoe labels. This large street dominates the fourth route. For a couple of years now, the Meir has been given an extra refined touch with the renewed and glorious Stadsfeestzaal (the city reception hall). Itinerary 5: Wilde Zee & Quartier Latin The area around the Schuttershofstraat is known to the Antwerp citizens as the “Quartier Latin.” This neighborhood is dominated mainly by international luxury brands. At the Wilde Zee, located in and around the Lombardenvest, the first Belgian designer labels were sold in the 1980s.
Morning—Day 2 If you’re eager to get on the road and looking for a quick bite like sandwiches, omelettes and freshly squeezed juices, then head to Barnini, a cozy cafe decorated with vintage furniture. Or, there’s Mo(Made), which is really a lunch and soup bar in the south, but according to Internet reviews, it offers one of the best breakfasts in town where the rolls are deliciously famous. Next, take advantage of the aforementioned City Card and visit some of the museums left over from the day before. Or, just for the fun of it, do a quick, relatively low-cost run through all the city sights for more photo ops on a couple of other fun tours you can take other than or in addition to the bus. The first is the Tram Tour, a 40-minute run around the high spots of the city in open carriage type seating that makes it easy for taking photos. The other option is a photo op in itself. It’s called the Palmtram and it’s a double-decker, horse-drawn carriage drawn by two huge Brabander horses and like the tram, takes you around the city on a
sightseeing tour of the most important tourist sites. But to be honest, it looks like a lot more fun. Kids will love it. Save some time for a visit to the Butcher’s Hall. Originally built in 1250 as the city’s main meat market, it was rebuilt and enlarged in the mid-16th century to accommodate the larger population and the Butcher’s Guild offices. Today, it’s a musical instruments museum, filled with the sounds of the city. Next, head to ‘t Steen, at 800 years old it’s the oldest building in town and the first large stone building in Antwerp, originally about six times the size it is today. It housed the city’s governor, a church, warehouses, courthouse and more. Today, what’s left is an entrance gate leading to a small inner courtyard, the only remaining part of a network of eight streets. At the top of the gate is a small statue of Semini, a pagan god of youth and fertility, who, according to local legend, was the forefather of the people of Antwerp. ☞ www.visitflanders.us / F5
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Good job, Semini. Another of Antwerp’s famous statues, the Lange Wapper, depicts a kind of boogie man who, according to folklore, could grow to the size of an enormous giant and enjoyed teasing children, harassing drunks and generally annoying everyone else.
Afternoon—Day 2 For a quality lunch, head over to the Botanical Gardens and make a stop at the Michelin rated Het Gebaar, one of the city’s most popular restaurants that’s open for lunch only and reservations are required. But “popular” is the key word here, so be prepared to take some time. Located in an old fish market building, De Godevaart is another great place for a multi-course lunch, made all the better with exquisite wine pairings. After lunch, Antwerp By Bike is a great way to spend three hours on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. The bike tour company—Antwerp By Bike—offers three different programs exploring hidden, out-of-the-way places you may not see on a regular tour. Visitors select from the city tour or the Gold Tour, which takes you to all the highlights of Antwerp; the Green Tour around the port, the docks and the parks in the northern part of the city, or the Blue Tour, which goes to the so-called trendy south, the Antwerp version of New York’s SoHo, then down to the Scheldt River to the Left Bank (Linkeroever) and then along the Scheldt. You can follow your bike tour exploring the Hendrick Conscienceplein, one of the loveliest squares in Antwerp and home to the early17th century Carolus Borromeus Church with its gorgeous baroque facade and a beautifully designed interior heavily influenced by Rubens with his knowledge of Italian architecture. Nearby are two excellent coffee places: BarChoc, with lots of espresso brews and a good variety of chocolate drinks, and Loyola. Even better is the Saturday market with a choice of goodies—from the famous Belgian waffles, to oysters and other exotic fare such as Moroccan goat cheese and honey sandwiches. End up the day with a stop at a museum. One choice is the MAS y of Antwerp In April 2005, the cit museum, the uniquely designed city r Sta al Red purchased the origin museum with its box-like tower that rt Po the Line buildings from opened earlier this year. It was built as a d an erp Authorities of Antw -to central museum for several collections top n, llio began a $26 mi the of on ati related to Antwerp’s history. The roof orm nsf bottom tra mpletion co for is a perfect place for panoramic views ted sla lex comp Red Star and photos of the city and a good in spring 2013 as the een 1873 place to stop for a drink at the Cafe Line Museum. Betw dary shipping en leg the , and 1934 Storm downstairs. Another interestAntwerp, company based in ing museum to visit this afternoon is llion emigrants transported 2.6 mi the MoMu (the Fashion Museum), America. to a new life in North located in the ModeNatie, which was on traveled Although millions originally designed as a storehouse e rat ne ge the Red Star Line, to d an m for a men’s and children’s clothing seu mu w interest in the ne m seu company. The MoMu has a collecmu the the city itself, st and nte co e tion of over 25,000 items, including lin on an a started using the rch sea n clothing, shoes, accessories, and tio na ltia mu g girl with lace with the oldest pieces dating photo of one youn not only back to the 16th century, complea ticket in hand, to ty, but bring discover her identi mented by contemporary pieces by details, go to her story to life. For such designers as Martin Margiela redstarline.org. and Walter Van Beirendonck.
Evening—Day 2 For quality dining and a dinner you won’t forget, reserve a table at Huis De Colvenier, located in the very center of Antwerp, where it’s been for 17 years in a classical Patrician house in the Sint-Antoniusstraat. The ambiance includes a summer terrace and a winter garden with an open retractable roof. The dining room itself is elegant and tasteful but not stuffy. But it’s the wine cellar that’s the big winner. You’re guided through the open kitchen, then down to the cellar with the chef/owner Patrick Van Herck, where you’ll enjoy an appetizer and a wine aperitif while planning your menu. For plainer, more traditional fare, try Kapitein Zeppos, named after a popular ‘60s Belgian TV show. It’s cozy, original and not too fancy cafe. Later, head on over to De Muze, a Jazz cafe where you can enjoy a meal, after-dinner drinks, a train station decor and best of all, if you’re a fan, some good jazz sounds. l
Gay Antwerp Like the city itself, with its growing reputation as one of the hippest cities in Europe, gay Antwerp, too, has developed a reputation as one of Europe’s trendiest gay destinations, as well as offering an open-minded and tolerant atmosphere. After all, Belgium was the second country in the world to legalize gay marriage. For hangouts, the Red and Blue disco is the city’s largest gay and lesbian disco, offering a variety of events, including a men’s party on Saturday nights that’s the major see-and-be-seen, gay-male party in the region. Other major clubs around the city that rate high with the gay-party set include the Rubzz Industrial Bar, Den Draak and D Club. The centrally located Que Pasa cafe bills itself as a gay Latin bar and cafe, with some fun drag parties. The Boekhandel ‘t Verschil is one of Europe’s most popular GLBT bookstores, located near the Grote Markt square. Don’t miss the Popi Cafe, a light and spacious venue with a gay-lesbian mixed clientele, close to the city-center and overlooking the river with its famous terrace. This gay-popular cafe is open for anything from breakfast to late-night parties. Additionally, the 3rd World Out Games are coming to Antwerp in 2013, Aug. 3-11. There will be sports events as well as a varied and international cultural program, but, most importantly, the event organizers says, it will serve as a platform that “aims to boost acceptance and integration of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender, queer and questioning people (LGBTQ) by and into our society.”
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Brussels Whether because of its status as the “capital of Europe,” thanks to the fact that it’s home to the European Union, as well as NATO, or because of its carefree charm and vibrant cityscape environs, Brussels is fast becoming one of the more popular and trendy cities in Europe. Much of that charm, no doubt, has a lot to do with the fact that it’s probably one of the most international cities in the world with more than 27 percent of its population coming from other countries, adding to its reputation as the so-called, “European Village.” But while its history goes back to the 13th century, there’s more of a sense of modernity to it than most iconic European capitals, probably because when it became the capital of the new country of Belgium back in the early-19th century, it was out with the old and in with the new—rebuilding the old city in a neo-renaissance style and adding to that a half-century later with an emphasis on Art Deco design. The result is an intriguing mix of the serious with the whimsical and architectural surprises throughout this energetic and vital city. Brussels today reflects a reverence for art and design, an imaginative approach to food and dining options and a fascination and focus on beer variations, chocolate, waffles and Belgian fries that borders on the obsessive, an obsession that’s soon shared by just about everyone who tries out these delectable treats. But there’s also plenty of both contemporary and historical attractions that capture the attention of visitors and you can be sure there’s plenty of unforgettable experiences around every corner in this legendary city.
48 Hours in brussels Morning—Day 1 A good way to start off a day of sightseeing in the lovely capital city of Belgium is with a good breakfast at the Mokafé in the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, the glazed shopping arcade that opened in 1847 as a precursor to modern-day enclosed malls. Located near the Grand’Place—the starting point for your day of sightseeing—the arcade is encased under a glass pane roof supported by delicate, cast iron framework and is a must-see attraction on its own. It’s filled with shops, many offering a myriad selection of Belgian chocolates, the ever-present dainty lace stores and cafes, and for this morning’s purpose, a good place to start the day with a delicious breakfast in a charming, timeless environment. Next, take a short walk to the Grand’Place, Brussels’ aptly named, huge central square surrounded by its elegantly designed and colorful City Hall and guild buildings that today house restaurants, shops and hotels. Historically, the Grand’Place goes all the way back to the beginning of the 13th century when it started off humbly enough with three cloth-covered markets selling bread, cloth and meat, followed by more and more markets over the next hundred years when the construction of City Hall began. Within decades after City Hall was begun, the guild buildings started to go up and by the late-16th century, looked very much like it does
today. It was destroyed in 1695, however, by a French bombardment. Rebuilding started almost immediately and over the years, it’s been returned to its former glory, earning a place on UNESCO’s prestigious World Heritage list in 1998 after an extensive reconstruction effort. After visiting the Grand’Place, take some time to go through some of the city’s more interesting museums including the Rene Magritte Museum, open since 2009. It’s part of the Royal Museums of Fine Tips from Locals Arts of Belgium and over 500,000 visitors come through within a ✔ Head to Moeder Lambic to take in year, attesting to the popularity of the ambiance of a typical beer cafe the famed Surrealist painter. The ✔ Shop for designer clothing at museum contains more than 200 Hunting & Collecting works consisting of oils on canvas, ✔ Walk through comic strip history gouaches, drawings, sculptures and around the city-center with murals painted objects as well as advertis of comic strip figures ing posters, music scores, vintage ✔ Have lunch at Chez Henri, offering photographs and films produced delicious food with a modern twist by Magritte himself. ✔ Dine at Vismet, seafood and The Royal Museums of Fine meat dishes with a canteen-style Arts of Belgium—located on the ambiance and open kitchen west side of the Place Royale— ☞ www.visitflanders.us / F7
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Must-Do Coming up throughout 2012, is a gourmet odyssey—Brusselicious. Well-established Brussels culinary traditions are a solid foundation for creative cooking, capable of creating surprising dishes for every palate. With Brusselicious 2012, Brussels has decided to showcase every step of this gourmet journey—from product ingredients to the finished delight on the plate. Visitors will be able to dine in a tram that’s been converted into a restaurant, have champagne and caviar in the prestigious Art Deco rooms of the Villa Empain, or taste a roasted wild boar in the courtyard of the Town Hall. Visit www.brusselicious.be for lots of fun to-do’s during this gastronomic event.
48 HOURS IN BRUSSELS Continued
has one of the largest and best art galleries in the world, which grew out of a collection first set up in 1797 and originally housed in the former palace of Charles of Lorraine. This was transferred to the newly established Musees Royaux in 1846 and 130 years later, it was enlarged and modernized with the addition of an underground extension and divided into two parts—the Museum of Ancient Art (works from the 15th to 18th centuries) occupying the old building and the Museum of Modern Art (mainly 19th and 20th century Belgian works) in the new section lit by a shaft opening onto the Place du Musee, with the main entrance on the Rue de la Regence.
After lunch, hop on the metro out to the Heizel stop for a visit to The Atomium, an enormous iron atom enlarged 165 billion times built for the Expo 58 hosted by the city of Brussels. It’s comprised of nine silver spheres all linked and accessible by stairs or escalators and containing a variety of exhibitions. It’s a totally different experience and really one that shouldn’t be missed with great views from the top of the structure and a beautiful surrounding park. But plan for a full afternoon expedition because it’s rather far out from the city-center.
When you return to the city, take some time for a stop at one of Brussels’ charming cafe terraces like the Mapa Mundo located in the trendy downtown area near Place St. Gery, a multi-floor drinking den with Latin dance sounds thrown into the mix, and with mojitos and caiparinhas the house specialties. After a pre-dinner drink, head over to the Belga Queen for a truly unique dining experience, beginning with the restaurant itself. It was converted from an 18th century bank building in true belle epoque style to a multifunctional complex housing a restaurant, an oyster bar, a beer bar and a cigar lounge. The menu itself is based on traditional Belgian fare with a flair, adapted to today’s taste, lightened and given a very national touch through the addition of beer to numerous dishes. The wines come from Belgian producers and the Ponti coffee is from a selection of pure Arabica coffee beans from various continents and roasted locally. Linger after dinner at the beer bar or cigar lounge for after-dinner drinks.
Before lunch, take some time to experience the Museum of Musical Instruments, headquartered in a magnificent Art Nouveau building erected in 1899 and exhibiting some 1,500 instruments. One collection centered on the 19th and 20th centuries sits next to mechanical instruments and a beautiful set of bells. Popular instruments from Belgium, Europe and other continents share the ground floor, while the first level offers a historical journey from antiquity to the present day. The next level highlights the development of clavichords, harpsichords, pianos, citharas and other stringed instruments. Visitors can listen to the sound of each instrument on display via an infrared audio-headset system. At lunch time, to complete the Belgian experience, you must head over to Place Jourdan with one of the most extensive collections of international restaurants in the city. But never mind them, for the best Belgian fries you’ll ever have, be sure and go to Maison Antoine, with the traditional Belgian fries. You can smell them from Parc Leopold. There are also sandwiches available but vegetarians should take note that these are traditional Belgian fries which means they are fried in beef fat.
Morning—Day 2 The Bozar Museum is a good place to start after breakfast and this homage to the fine arts including painting, photography, sculpture,
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Capital of Comics
music and architecture—they also just opened a summertime bar—is a great precursor to the Art Nouveau Walk where you’ll see some of the city’s great architectural treasures like the Horta Pavilion, named after the architect Victor Horta who started it all. You’ll also have the opportunity to see Art Nouveau influence in the Marie-Louise and Margueritte Squares, the Rue Archimede and its cosmopolitan restaurants, the entrance to the Avenue de Tervueren with its cafes and terraces, and the Rue de Tongres, housing tearooms, shops for clothes, chocolates and perfumes. After the Art Nouveau Walk, this would be a good time to spend a few hours shopping before lunch and the Place du Grand Salon with its traditional chocolatiers, haberdasheries, shoe shops and antique shops is a good place to start. Next, try Rue Dansaert for avant-garde fashion and design stores, where you’ll be guaranteed to find some of the trendiest fashion stores anywhere. The Modo Brussels also organizes tailor-made walks in the fashion areas of Brussels.
Afternoon—Day 2 At lunch time, you must head back over to St. Catherines Place to the Noordzee, a quaint, thoroughly Belgian street stall with what many people say is some of the best seafood in the city, all complemented by an excellent wine selection. After lunch, this is a good time to wander on over to Rue Gheude for a visit to the Cantillion Brewery, a small Belgian traditional family brewery based in Brussels and founded in 1900. This is the home of the famed Gueuze Lambic beer, a taste treat that cannot be missed if you’re visiting Brussels. For a truly unique visit this afternoon, go to the Congolese neighborhood of Matonge where there are more than 100 different nationalities from all around the world living. While many of the original African residents no longer live here, their influence is still ☞
As if being known as the capital of Eu rope and the officia of Belgium and Fla l capital nders isn’t enough , Brussels is also kn the “capital of comi own as cs,” the home of int ernational cartoon Tintin and The Smurf favorites s, as well as a variet y of other comic ch that are well know aracters n throughout Europ e. In the immediate po st-World War II perio d, the rise of two children’s magazin es—”Le Journal de Tintin” and “Le Journa Spirou”—shook the l de publishing world in Belgium before sen shock waves throu ding gh the rest of Europ e. However, Tintin an were only the first d Spirou in a line of heroes tha t were to appear on pages: Corentin, Bla these ke and Mortimer, Lu cky Luke, Buck Dann Johan and Pirlouit, y, Alix, as well as all the frie nds that accompanie on their adventures d them also played a role. The precision of the se drawings, know n as the clear line tec nique, and the richn hess of the colors pro mpted the publishe bring out beautiful rs to hardcover editions of these wonderful quickly whetting the stories, collectors’ appetite s. Moving away fro American influences, m the the Belgian cartoonis ts were the creators a “9th art” that appe of aled to all readersh ips. In Brussels, the Centre for Comic Str Belgian ip Art, housed in an Art Nouveau build the living expressio ing, is n of this with its the matic exhibitions, its and its cafeteria, wh library ich are always very “animated.” Throughout Brusse ls, several booksho ps are devoted exc to new, second-han lusively d and collectors’ co mi c books. But above don’t miss the “comi all, c strip trail,” which fea tures 30 walls in the capital that are cove red with larger-than -life comic strip chara portrayed in the mo cters st comical of situati ons.
Art Nouveau Art Nouveau is an international philosophy and style of art, architecture and applied art—especially the decorative arts— that were most popular during 1890–1905. Three motifs seem to predominate the Art Noueveau style: the arabesque, the floral or animal pattern and the feminine silhouette. There were several Art Nouveau movers and shakers in Brussels, but it was Victor Horta who asked, “Why don’t we change everything?” With that he brought about a revolution in architecture and true stars of the movement came out to play, including Paul Hamesse, Leon Sneyers, Paul Hankar, Henri Jacobs and Antoine Pompe, among many others. They created exquisite Art Nouveau structures, including the Horta Museum, the Maison Cauchie, the Cite Hellemans social housing project, Kindergarten, the House-Rue Faider, Paul Hankar’s house, and the Hotel Van Eetvelde, among an array of other marvelous creations. A must-see is the Dieweg Cemetery, the resting place of a number of personalities, including the father of Tintin, and boasting Art Nouveau sculptures.
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48 HOURS IN BRUSSELS
felt with a variety of African food shops, many African hairdressers and a lot of ambiance. There are numerous African bars and everyone is welcome. During the summer there are concerts in the street and it’s a fun, unique place to spend some time.
Evening—Day 2 If you’re in the mood for seafood, try Bij den Boer, a specialized fish restaurant located in the very heart of Brussels. But keep in mind it’s a very popular restaurant and it’s often fully booked so it’s a good idea to make a reservation. It offers a varied, medium-priced weekly menu with four courses and located near the St. Catherine Church. For some excellent meat dishes, go to Rotisserie Vincent on Rue des Dominicains not too far from St. Michel Cathedral. There’s also plenty of mussels and eel dishes to choose from. After dinner, there’s a great late-night bar called I’Archiduc on Rue Dansaert where you can stop for some post-meal drinks. Located just down the way from the Stock Exchange building, I’Archiduc is a legendary Art Deco jazz bar that’s been entertaining patrons since 1937. l
Brussels’ gay village on the Rue Marche au Charbon offers a pictureperfect location near the Grand’Place in the heart of the historic Quartier Saint-Jacques, all set amidst a cluster of stepped gabled townhouses, cozy old-fashioned pubs, lounge bars and sunny pavement cafes. A good place to get an overview of Brussels’ gay village is at the Le Platesteen cafe, which is not exclusively gay but does have a wide sunny terrace facing four of the area’s busiest bars, which makes it one of gay Brussels’ favorite meeting spots, along with Cafe le Fontainas where visitors can idle away an afternoon with an excellent view of the comings and goings in the gay village. For dining, try Mam Mam, gay Brussels’ favorite Thai restaurant, famous for its huge bowls of fragrant soup noodles, while the Lesbian-run Kika sports 1970s design and serves up cool bistro classics in a mellow lounge atmosphere. On the bar and club scene, there’s Le Belgica, one of the most famous night spots in the city and a good example of a traditional Brussels pub. Farther along Rue Marche au Charbon, Le Baroque takes the surrealist decor to new levels of campiness culminating in a fresco of Michelangelo’s “Creation of Adam.” It attracts an older, cruisy down-to-earth crowd, along with its neighbor, Dolores. L’Homo Erectus keeps the younger crowds happy with regular raucous karaoke, drag shows and striptease, while its sister bar L’Homo Erectus Classicus has a more laid-back ambiance. The Boys Boudoir is perfect for pre-clubbing cocktails, before hitting Bruxellois and its late-night “spectacles,” or the most famous drag bar in the city, Chez Maman.
N PIS MANNEKE
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Bruges Romantic Bruges, a UNESCO World Heritage site city and a treasure trove of medieval architecture and design, is arguably one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. This city, very often referred to as the “Venice of the North,” thanks to its intricate network of canals lined by centuries-old homes and buildings, is also one of the oldest cities in Europe. It can trace its lineage back to the first century B.C. when it began as a Roman outpost. From its very first days as a city in the early part of the 12th century, however, Bruges focused on becoming a major port with the building of the city walls and canals, many of which still remain today. Indeed, within 150 years, Bruges had become the first port city to become the main link to trade in the Mediterranean. It became a major player in the cloth trade and by the early part of the 14th century, the city started what was probably the first stock exchange in the world. Today, much of Bruges’ early legacy is still very much evident, with a major focus on traditional Flemish culture. The city’s streets are filled with shops that create and sell the fine Belgian lace that’s popular and envied the world over, as well as the rich, delectable Belgian chocolates for which the city has gained international renown. It wasn’t too many years ago that Bruges’ historic city-center was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. The current city boundaries still coincide exactly with those of the medieval city-center, and the spaces and structures that were so typical of Bruges in the past have been preserved. The city’s historical architecture and artistic treasures with fascinating museums and attractions, not to mention an enormous amount of restaurants and romantic spots make a vacation here an experience to remember.
48 Hours in bruges Morning—Day 1 Where to start, where to start. In fact, in Bruges you can start just about anywhere and get caught up in its magical and timeless medieval allure. This is nirvana for the photo enthusiast. With its unforgettable architecture and bustling crowds, there are photo ops everywhere. It’s time to discover that this town which many people have called, “the town that time forgot” is also one of the most magnificently romantic places in the world. There are those wonderfully languid-looking and beautiful canals that wind so romantically around.
Afternoon—Day 1 For history buffs, art lovers and cultural aficionados, there’s no better place to scratch your personal interest itch than with the varied museums under the Bruges Museum umbrella whose diversity has become legendary in this city where arts and other types of museums showcase everything from Flemish Primitives to contemporary art, classical arts to archaeological finds, as well as furniture, silver, tapestries, folklore and poetry. Artistic pieces from the 15th to the 21st centuries are grouped in the internationally renowned Groeninge Museum. This is a don’t-miss, with an extensive collection of pieces by Flemish Primitives such as Van Eyck, Memling and Van der Weyden. Meanwhile, the group of historical museums include the Gruuthuse, the Welcome Church of Our Lady, the Archaeological Museum, Belfry, and City Hall. You’ll find a wealth of art and each site tells the history of Bruges from a different thematic approach. But a must-see is the Welcome Church of Our Lady, which has two distinctions—it has the highest spire in Bruges and inside is the only statue by Michelangelo
that resided outside of Italy during his lifetime. It’s a very simple statue of Mary with her son Jesus, with Christ depicted as a young boy called, “The Madonna and Child.” Don’t miss, too, the nearby Basilica of the Holy Blood, with a relic of the blood of Christ. Each year on Ascension Thursday there’s a “Procession of the Holy Blood” when the Bishop of Bruges carries the relic through the streets accompanied by costumed residents acting out Biblical scenes. This procession began in 1291 and has been held ever since. The Hospital Museum is the collective name of two historical hospitals: the eight-centuries-old St. John’s Hospital and the Museum of Our Lady of the Pottery. The old Saint John’s Hospital is one of the oldest existing hospitals in Europe, operating from the 11th century all the way up to 1978. It now houses the Memling Museum, the hospital museum and the old pharmacy. The Museum of Our Lady of the Pottery is known for its spectacular church and silver treasure.
Evening—Day 1 Take an evening walking tour or better yet, go for a horse-drawn carriage ride that will pick you up at your hotel or restaurant. After you enjoy a romantic dinner at Restaurant Den Dyver, don’t forget the carriage ride back to the hotel. ☞ www.visitflanders.us / F11
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48 HOURS IN BRUGES Continued
Morning—Day 2 Time to experience local delicacies. After a light breakfast, start off at the The Friet Museum, the world’s only friets (fries or chips) museum which tells the story of the humble potato from South America and how it has evolved into a worldwide, but particularly Belgian mania, for fries. This is serious stuff in Flanders, so don’t forget to try the tastiest fries cooked by the guy who cooked for the Belgian royal family. Are you getting the connection here—the cook for Belgian royalty? Fries are serious food here. Next, it’s off to celebrate the Bruges claim that they are indeed the “Chocolate Capital of the World”—Bruges boasts 50 artisanal chocolate shops, by the way—at the Choco-Story Museum, a must-see for chocolate enthusiasts as it describes chocolate’s transition from cocoa into chocolate. Its tasty exhibits make it well worth the time and be sure to stay for the chocolate making exhibition to get some excellent samplers. This is also a good time to pencil in that promise to your chocolate-loving self not to miss the Bruges chocolate festival—Choco-Laté—at the end of the year. Next, it’s on to the third big love of Bruges—and Flanders—culture, beer, so a stop at the Brewery De Halve Maan, which is also a Beer museum, is a must. It offers a tour of the beer making process as well as a tasting and a great view of the city from its tower. The tour lasts for 45 minutes and is a good way to get a feel for Belgian beer making.
Afternoon—Day 2 Now that your beer taste buds have been awakened, you’ll find a great lunch with an equally great selection of beers at Curiosa, just off the main square, followed by a stop at one of the city’s most traditional beer bars, ‘t Brugs Beertje, Kemelstraat, an excellent pub with hundreds of different beers and an authentic beer-cafe atmosphere. One last stop you might want to make before calling it an afternoon is the Jerusalem Church, a highly unusual church with an octagonal tower built by the Adornes brothers, merchants of Italian extraction. It includes a fine black Tournai marble tomb, late Gothic stained glass
Tips from Locals
pubs in the world singhe, one of the oldest ✔ People-watch at Cafe Vlis ul neighborhoods of the Bruges’ most beautif and well hidden in one gestraat and Lan rtier Bricole, located at ✔ Shop till you drop at Qua l talents featuring pieces by loca ss the Astridpark taminet, located just acro l’Es y coz at ch ✔ Stop for lun a quick snack h locals to have a beer or and a popular place wit h century house 15t ked away in a brilliant ✔ Dine at de Cafedraal, tuc ing its medieval charm urb dist t renovated withou that’s been completely are from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Market on the Market Squ ✔ Don’t miss Wednesday
windows, and a tiny and rather spooky chapel containing an effigy of the dead Christ. The entrance fee also covers the Lace Museum in the former Adornes mansion, where you can see local women and girls learning this traditional craft.
Evening—Day 2 Tonight, if you’re still interested in keeping the romance alive, try ‘t Gulden Vlies, a small romantic restaurant east of the Burg with excellent food and reasonable prices. Or, there’s Maximiliaan van Oostenrijk, a traditional mid-range restaurant offering plenty to eat including oysters and various meat dishes, plus of course fries, while the atmospheric Grand Cafe, serves traditional Belgian cuisine and beers—it’s famous for its beef stew and ribs—with prices slightly lower than the tourist traps and well worth it. Later, head on over to the Druid’s Cellar—love the name—a nice cozy place to drink a beer or sip on 16-year-old Bushmills whiskey and listen to some good music. The bar is located underground and actually gives the impression of a cellar. l
The Bruges Beguinage— A Woman’s
Surprise, Surprise! Emancipation for women is not a product of the 20th century, or at least it wasn’t in Flanders where as early as 1245, women could take to the Beguinages, a system and a place of sanctuary where women could retreat from the male-dominated society in which they lived to follow a more secure, useful and peaceful life without the need to take the vows of a nun. Many poor women, widows of Crusaders, and others, would have sought refuge here as did women from wealthy families who preferred a more simple way of life. The Bruges Beguinage was founded in 1245 by Margaretha of Constantinople, the Countess of Flanders and continued in use as a refuge for women until 1937 when it was taken over by a group of Benedictine sisters and it still serves as a convent today. In fact, the Bruges Beguinages became the first of several Beguinages that sprung up throughout Belgium and the Netherlands. Today, this UNESCO World Heritage site sits amidst a park-like setting guarded by popular trees and a grassy expanse, is surrounded by many of the cities most charming hotels, most housed in centuries-old buildings.
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Ghent Ghent is a time capsule, a medieval package with a contemporary core that wears its cosmopolitan side most effectively in its lively nightlife scene and deliciously quirky behavior. It’s also one of Europe’s best-kept secrets in terms of tourism appeal, a hidden gem with ancient cobblestoned streets and charming, centuries-old homes. But this is no Disneyland-esque paean to tourism kitsch, nor is it a rebuilt relic of the past. Ghent is a city of real-time elegance, a genuine piece of European architectural history. It’s history with a heartbeat. Today, Ghent is the largest university city in Flanders, has a friendly vibe and offers up a quirky spirit. This is the first city in Flanders, in fact, to organize a Veggie Day—it’s on Thursdays— meant to stimulate people to eat vegetarian one day a week to lower the city’s (and planet’s) carbon footprint. One of the coolest Ghent happenings though—aside from its annual week-long Gent Festivities, of course—is the legal graffiti spraying in the city’s graffiti alley. It’s the amalgamation of all these things that have honed the character and the charm of the city and which visitors can enjoy today in all its splendor.
48 Hours in GHENT Morning—Day 1 Start off the day at the Gravensteen, the Dutch name for the “Castle of the Counts.” It was built in 1180 by count Philip of Alsace and was modeled after the crusaders’ castles the count encountered while he participated in the second crusade. It served as the seat of the Count of Flanders until the 14th century and is one of the best-preserved castles in Europe as well as a favorite of visitors, particularly the view from the tower, offering a panoramic scene of the city. Next to the castle lies the Veerleplein, Veerle Square, where public executions took place and still another favorite of visitors is the castle dungeon and torture chamber, complete with all the tools of the trade from the medieval period. There’s also a movie guide, actually a unique, interactive computer-controlled guide, that helps make the castle history come alive. In the shadow of the Castle of the Counts is the Patershol neighborhood, an authentic medieval district that today is home to a variety of restaurants and bars where you can find just about any kind of dish you could want from African to Thai, and to traditional Flemish cooking like waterzooi (a Ghent specialty), a fish or chicken stew. Stop for coffee at Simon Says and bring along some traditional sweets like the cuberdons—a delicious candy with a syrupy center, usually raspberry flavored—from Timmerman’s candy store up the street.
Afternoon—Day 1 For lunch, you’ll want to head over to the old city square and stop for lunch at the ancient meat hall, a gothic building that was built between 1407 and 1419 and used in the 15th and 16th centuries as the central hall where the butchers of Ghent could sell their meat. It is now a cafe/restaurant with slabs of meat hanging from the ceiling
and specializing in delicious Ganda ham. Across the street, you’ll find a little shop called Tierenteyn-Verlent, which sells the most unique and tasty mustard you’ll find anywhere. In fact, you won’t find it anywhere else because this is the only place it’s sold. It’s made the same way it was in 1790 from a mix of ground mustard seeds, vinegar and salt. The seeds are ground two or three times a week for each fresh batch of mustard, so when you purchase it, the mustard is never more than three days old. For lunch, try a typical Ghent sandwich with tartare called “a Martino.” After lunch, take a tour of Ghent’s beautiful Town Hall, situated on the site where until 1482 the town representatives and guild’s men met in separate houses. Because these houses were judged too small and too unrepresentative for such important people, it was decided a new and bigger town hall Tips from Locals had to be built that was h the finished in 1484 and then ✔ Have a cup of coffee wit from 1518 until 1535 a new on kab Mo at locals d’eau, the and much bigger town hall ✔ Sit down for lunch at Bor rie in the sse bra was constructed in late recently renovated rs offe t tha e min Fish Gothic style. In 1701 the renovated s view al can great conciergerie was erected, the items ✔ Go shopping for vintage style of which is similar to and antiques the Ghent baroque houses el and buy ✔ Discover your inner reb and in 1750 a construction r own you e plac and can ay a spr in Louis XV-style was added graffiti alley graffiti (legally) in Ghent’s as the seat of the “chamber ☞ www.visitflanders.us / F13
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Afternoon—Day 2 For lunch, try some of the beer food at Dulle Griet, a popular beer bar that serves up a variety of typical beer food such as sausages, cheeses, chicken wings and salami. But the real reason for stopping here is a try at the Maxi Kwak beer that’s served in a large coachmen’s glass. But to get it, you have to give the waiter one of your shoes which is put in a basket and hauled up to the ceiling and you won’t get it back until you’ve finished your beer and returned your glass. After lunch, go to St. Bavo’s Cathedral for a visit to see the priceless religious art on view there and then take advantage of a photo opportunity at the nearby Belfry where you can climb up 44 steps and get a wonderful view of the city and a great panoramic photo.
48 HOURS IN GHENT Continued
Tonight, take advantage of a Ghent Walking Tour by night and see the wonderfully beautiful lighting the city has designed and developed, showcasing all the magnificent historic buildings lit up in the evening. You can also take a boat tour by night. Later, head over to the Bord’eau brasserie, which is quite popular (reservations recommended) and offers stunning views of the canal. l
of the poor.” Due to the natural additions that have occurred over the centuries, today the building is quite unique and beautiful. End the afternoon with some museum visits and start with the STAM City Museum located at the historic Bijloke site, a green oasis close to the city-center, where for seven centuries the sick were cared for, but then a quarter of a century ago the hospital vacated, making way for a number of departments of the local university. Visitors follow a chronological trail of objects and multimedia that trace the development and growth of Ghent.
Evening—Day 1 For a home-cooked meal try Restaurant De Avonden. For after dinner drink a good choice is the ‘t Galgenhuisje (The Gallows House), one of the oldest and smallest pubs in town. The bar is supposedly housed in the former gallows house dating from the 16th century, with a restaurant in the cellar, holding cells for the condemned. It’s very rustic with old exposed timbers, witches hanging from the ceiling, some tin beer signs, paper money of all nationalities and denominations stapled to the walls behind the bar and Flemish phrases painted on the timbers. Later, go over to ‘t Dreupelkot, a popular bar that produces its own jenever (Belgian gin) in a multitude of different flavors, including vanilla and chocolate. The bar is run by Pol, the boss, one of the most perceptive experts on jenever in Belgium, since he put together some of the 200 varieties on offer.
Morning—Day 2 Start at Graslei & Korenlei, where Ghent’s wharf once stood and where today you’ll find the imposing Marriott overlooking the canal and dock, which was once, by the way, a thriving brothel thanks to its proximity to the wharf and the arriving sailors. Here, too, you can take one of the boat tours, which will take you around to all the city sights. Hop off the boat at the jetty at the rear of St. Pietersplein for a visit to S.M.A.K. Museum, the museum of contemporary art. It’s located opposite the Museum of Fine Arts and the two museums now form an artistic haven in a city park located on the outskirts of Ghent. Also, make a visit to the Design Museum of Ghent, with an outstanding collection that includes 17th and 18th century furnishings, as well as Art Nouveau pieces, complemented by objects from the 70s and 80s.
St. Bavo’s Cathedral The massive Sint-Baafskathedraal Cathedral, which everyone—for obvious reasons—refers to as St. Bavo’s, dominates the square where the city of Ghent began. The original St. Bavo’s was a wooden church dating back to 942, replaced in 1038 with a Romanesque church, parts of which still survive in the present-day crypt, the burial place of St. John, decorated with thousand-year-old murals. The current, massive cathedral was built in the 14th and 15th centuries in the Gothic style, but the real draw here is the wealth of religious art contained within. In the interior, the massive Baroque pulpit is made of white marble and oak in a design reminiscent of Bernini, while the Baroque organ that was installed in 1653, is the largest in the Low Countries. And, in the chapel behind the high altar is the recently restored “Conversion of St. Bavo” painted by Rubens in 1624. But without a doubt, the most important work of art in the Cathedral is the 24-panel altarpiece titled, “The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb,” painted by Hubert and Jan van Eyck and consecrated for this chapel on May 3, 1432. Currently being renovated by art experts from the Getty Museum, the beautiful oil painting is considered an important part of art history because of its increased emphasis on realism in both portraits and landscapes.
F14 / www.visitflanders.us
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PR ACTICAL INFORMATION Getting There and Away
AIRLINES American Airlines: (800) 433-7300 United Airlines: (800) 241-6522 Delta Airlines: (800) 221-1212 Continental Airlines: (800) 523-3273 Jet Airways: (877) 835-9538 US Airways: (800) 428-4322 Air Canada: (888) 247-2262
Brussels International Airport
The airport is located eight miles northeast of the city center. Taxis to the city center cost approximately 35-40 Euro. The train shuttle to Brussels runs every 15 minutes and takes about 20 minutes. The train station is located on the lower (-1) level of Brussels International Airport. One way fare is approximately 5.20 Euro. Direct buses run to Antwerp every hour, on the hour (Brussels Airport Express) and take approximately 45 minutes. A one-way fare costs 10 Euros, children pay 5 Euros.
Train Information in the U.S.
Call Rail Europe at (800) 438-7245 to reserve rail passes such as the Benelux Pass and point to point tickets on the Eurostar and Thalys. Both the Eurostar and Thalys operate out of the South Station (Gare du Midi) in Brussels. International train reservations can also be made by visiting the Belgian rail website: www.b-rail.be Brussels - London via Eurostar 1 hour 51 minutes Brussels - Paris via Thalys 1 hour 20 minutes Brussels - Amsterdam via Thalys 1 hour 46 minutes Brussels - Cologne via Thalys 1 hour 54 minutes
U.S. and Canadian citizens need only a valid passport; no visa is required for stays of less than 90 days. Other nationalities may need both passport and visa. Check with the closest Belgian Consulate as requirements may vary.
DISTANCES OF CITIES FROM BRUSSELS Antwerp......................................29 miles Bruges...........................................60 miles Ghent............................................35 miles Leuven..........................................16 miles Mechelen....................................16 miles
A valid U.S. driver’s license is accepted for stays of less than 90 days. A minimum of 25 years of age is required by major car rental companies. Driving is on the right hand side of the road.
Domestic Train Travel
Trains run daily from 5 a.m. to 12 a.m. National and international passes are available at major train stations in Belgium. Travel is valid only for dates shown on the ticket. Special rates for children and senior citizens apply. Lockers and luggage services are available in major train stations. For more information, visit the Belgian rail website: www. b-rail.be.
Getting in Touch
TELEPHONE & AREA CODES To call Belgium from the U.S.: dial 011 + 32 (country code) + area code (without 0) + telephone number. To call the U.S. from Belgium: dial 001 + area code + telephone number. When calling a Belgian number within Belgium: always dial area code + number. AREA CODES Brussels....................................................02 Antwerp..................................................03 Bruges....................................................050 Ghent........................................................09 Leuven...................................................016 Mechelen.............................................015
Pre-Paid Calling Cards
The Belgacom Phone PassTM can be used with private phones, pay phones and mobile phones. Belgacom Phone PassTM as well as other calling cards are available at post offices, train stations, book stores, newspaper stands, supermarkets, convenience stores and Belgacom Teleboutiques.
Post Office hours are from 9 a.m.12 p.m. and 2 p.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Stamps can be purchased at newsstands and souvenir shops. Mailboxes are red and marked “Post.”
Some Facts on Flanders
TIME ZONE GMT + 1 hour LANGUAGES Dutch, but English is widely spoken. In Brussels, Dutch and French are spoken.
Credit Cards & ATMs
The Euro. Check online for the daily exchange rate.
A.C. 220 volts using round 2-pin plugs.
City Office Websites
Brussels www.visitbrussels.com Antwerp www.visitantwerp.be Bruges www.brugge.be GHent www.visitgent.be Leuven www.leuven.be Mechelen http://toerisme.mechelen.be
Book via city tourist offices or your concierge in the hotel. In Brussels and Antwerp, there is also a hopon hop-off bus.
Tourist cards, giving you access to museums and/or places of interest can be purchased at the Tourist Offices. The following cities have a tourist card: Brussels, Bruges, Antwerp, Ghent
Tips & Taxes
Tips and taxes are automatically included in the price; however in cafes, restaurants and hotels, an additional gratuity is welcome for exceptional service.
Banks are open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. and are closed on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. Some banks close for an hour during lunch. All major cards are accepted (Visa, American Express, Diners Club and Eurocard) as well as Traveler’s Checks. ATM machines are available in all major cities.
Regular store hours are: Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Supermarkets generally open at 9 a.m. or some at 8 a.m. Stores are closed on Sundays. Antique and flea markets are generally open on Saturdays and Sundays.
Climate & Clothing
With four distinct seasons, Belgium is seldom too hot nor too cold. Summer temperatures range from 54° to 72°F and winter temperatures range from 32° to 43°F. In summer bring light-weight, comfortable clothing, and a sweater or a jacket for the evening. During the winter bring warm clothes, and it is always a good idea to pack an umbrella and a raincoat. Be sure to bring comfortable walking shoes as many streets are cobblestoned. Visit Flanders 620 8th Avenue, 44th Floor New York. NY 10018 Phone: 212-584-2336 Fax: 212-575-3606 Director: Geri Jacobs extension 3005 firstname.lastname@example.org Trade Manager: Julie Davidson, extension 3007 email@example.com www.visitflanders.us
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