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Enjoy the good life in

Flanders & Brussels


[ Letter ]

Welcome to Flanders. The northern region of Belgium is a little pocket of easy-to-reach towns and cities, which offer so much more than just beautiful squares, magnificent medieval architecture, cobbled streets and museums. Come for the fabulous food, buzzing bars and lively nightlife. Come for both classic and contemporary art. And, if that’s not temptation enough, come for the shopping: cutting-edge fashion, speciality foods, antiques, diamonds and possibly the world’s most delectable chocolates. If you’re looking for the good things in life on a weekend break, it’s all right here!

Go to Flanders once and you’ll want to return to explore more of this remarkable region

THE NETHERLANDS

Oostende

WEST-VLAANDEREN

Ieper

FRANCE [2]

Antwerpen

Brugge

ANTWERPEN

Gent OOST-VLAANDEREN

Oudenaarde

Mechelen VLAAMS BRABANT

Leuven

BRUSSEL

Hasselt LIMBURG

BRABANT WALLON

GERMANY LIEGE


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Live and breathe the four seasons in Flanders > Spring

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Shop for diamonds before

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you get on the train.............................................. 4 > Summer Hop on a bicycle and absorb the party atmosphere............................ 7

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> Autumn

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Eat well and explore the cities

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> Winter

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From museums to markets to music............... 14

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> Need to know Planning a visit? How to get to and around Flanders.............. 16 ©J .A

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ad

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[ SPRING ]

Shop for diamonds before you get on the train

Antwerp Cool culture, hip bars and diamonds sparkle in this fashionforward city

ARRIVING AT THE STATION EARLY FOR THEIR TRAIN TO THE COAST, TWO FRIENDS HAVE 30 MINUTES TO KILL. AS THERE ARE 40 JEWELLERY SHOPS IN AND AROUND THE STATION, THE FRIENDS HAVE NO PROBLEM FINDING A DIAMOND RING EACH. © Toerisme Antwerpen

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www.visitantwerp.be


[ SPRING ]

Antwerp is the only place in Europe where this is possible.

Nationalestraat, Meir and Hopland have become a Mecca for

Belgium is responsible for almost 90% of the diamond trading

fashionistas: this is where you will find boutiques dedicated to

in the world and most of that takes place in Antwerp, where

selling fashion clothing, shoes and accessories. On the corner

the jewellers are located close to the railway station. Many of

of Nationalestraat and Drukkerijstraat, there is also an entire

the diamond dealers have also opened a branch in the shop-

building dedicated to local fashion. Called “Modenatie”, it’s a

ping mall inside Antwerpen-Centraal station, meaning that it is

fashion museum, fashion institute and fashion academy rolled

now possible to buy a diamond necklace in between changing

into one. To the west, towards the Scheldt, on Kloosterstraat

trains. Of course, it doesn’t have to be a diamond necklace;

and surrounding smaller streets, you will find antique stores,

the jewellers also sell smaller items, such as rings, charms and

second-hand shops and interiors boutiques side by side. Here,

other jewellery made of silver, gold and diamonds at surpris-

you can find everything from Art Deco jewellery to add to your

ingly affordable prices.

collection to a stunning Rococo mirror that would look “just perfect” in your home. To the south, Verlatstraat is the place

There are plenty of other shopping opportunities in Antwerp,

to go for art galleries selling everything from classic to modern

which has become an important fashion centre over the last

pieces.

15 to 20 years. The stores of world-famous couture labels are to be found in the city, alongside well-known Belgian design-

Ann Demeulemeester, Dries Van Noten, Dirk Van Saene and Marina Yee.

ert © Mon ique Van End

“Antwerp Six”: Walter van Beirendonck, Dirk Bikkembergs,

© Et ie nn e To rd oi r

ers who have made their mark internationally, such as the

© www.tomaskubes.cz

www.leuven.be

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[ SPRING ] © To m as Kubes

Brussels is just as good for

es as Kub © To m

shopping. For upmarket international-style stores, head for the design and gift shops in the Châtelain district, close © P. Clément

to Avenue Louise, but if arts, antiques and bric-a-brac are more your thing, then take time to explore the Zavel district and the streets that lead from there to the square of Vossenplein. No matter where you go in Flanders, you are always likely to chance upon an interesting shop or two. And it’s often not just the contents that will catch your eye, but the building too; some are true architectural gems located in 15th- and 16th-

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century buildings. Whether you are looking for a delicate piece

In the spring, as soon as the sun appears everyone is sitting

of lace beside the canals of Bruges or simply walking around

outside at a pavement café. While it is still too cold for a glass

Gent trying to find your favourite jenever, take time to appreci-

of chilled beer, sample a hot chocolate, a cappuccino or a latte

ate your surroundings. Instead of “just shopping”, admire the

and be tempted by the large selection of freshly made pastries

beautiful architecture and settings that are all around you. Also

and sweets on offer. There are hundreds of different choco-

make a point of interacting with the local people, whether in a

lates to be discovered in Belgium; experiment with a few –

shop or a bar, you will find language is seldom a problem, virtu-

even if you never succeed in becoming an expert, at least you

ally everyone speaks English... and French and German...

will have had a sweet time learning about them!

www.visitgent.be


[ SUMMER ]

Hop on a bicycle and absorb the party atmosphere

Brussels Quick and easy to reach, the capital has couture, culture, cuisine and much much more

AN ELDERLY COUPLE CYCLE ALONG SLOWLY AND STILL REACH THE FESTIVAL IN GOOD TIME, WELL BEFORE THE STILT WALKERS ARRIVE IN THEIR COLOURFUL COSTUMES. It is easy to get around Flanders, both by bicycle and on foot.

To make life even easier for visitors, most Flemish cities provide tourists with free access to bicycles. On a bike, it can take 30 minutes or less to get from one village to the next – or even a third. © Soukari

www.brusselsinternational.be

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© J. Ber que z

[ SUMMER ]

© C. Po tig ny

If you decide to hop on a bicycle, you might find some challenging ascents: just ask the participants in the famous Ronde van Vlaanderen (the annual Tour of Flanders cycling race). In villages, and on secondary roads, Belgian drivers are invariably polite and give way to vulnerable road users, such as cyclists, but there are also plenty of clearly signposted bicycle routes. If you do get lost, don’t worry. Flanders is densely populated, with almost 6.9 million people living in the region, so there will always be someone nearby to give you directions. Even on the beach, you are never far from city life. Every single metre of the 66km-long Belgian coastline is packed

In addition, there is a profusion of modern celebrations held

with high-rise hotels, casinos, shopping malls, holiday rentals

throughout the region, such as the street theatre festival

and the second homes of the wealthy. A tramline runs all the

Leuven in Scène, Gentse Feesten and the Brussels Summer

way along the coast, from the Dutch to the French border.

Festival. Some of these are held every year, and others every second, third or fourth year. There is certainly no shortage of

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There is plenty of activity in the cities in the summer months,

events and there is definitely something to suit everyone’s

because Flanders is a country of festivals. Every region,

taste. During the festival season, make sure you walk the

every city, every section of the city, every single community

streets to absorb the true atmosphere. Everybody plays

seems to have its own procession, masquerade or carnival.

their part. The actors may be the most obvious participants,

A few of the traditional events include Ommegang in Brussels,

but others will be working as sound technicians or make-

Reiefeest in Bruges and the Hanswijk procession in Mechelen.

up artists or ticket sellers. And quite a few will be, like you

www.tourismmechelen.be


[ SUMMER ] ©S tef an J aco bs

one of Europe’s most beautiful folkloric events, it takes place every year on a summer’s evening in the Grand Place in Brussels. Ommegang, which means “to turn around”, is a reconstruction of the official reception held when Charles V visited Brussels in 1549. At the start of the event, the king and his courtiers, all dressed

visitors, watching the beautiful

Ghent This ancient beauty is a melting pot of art and history

in beautiful robes, walk around and allow the people (who line three sides of the Grand Place) to photograph them. The dignitaries then take their seats on a special stage and all kinds of people (horseback riders, grocers, artisans), dressed in period costume, start to appear from the side streets. An orchestra

procession,

provides the sound track to the event and

grabbing a waffle or chips or a drink from time to time, meeting up with old friends and making new acquaintances.

rapturous applause breaks out when 34 children and adults enter on stilts, each one taller than the last. Meanwhile, generous old ladies distribute pies and flowers to the audience, while an old brewery wagon serves up beer on tap. When the procession finally stops,

If you have to choose just one festival,

the audience mingles with the performers and the music

then why not Ommegang? Considered

keeps playing until the last partygoer has left the square.

www.brugge.be

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[ AUTUMN ]

Eat well and explore the cities within the cities

Leuven University students lend this medieval marvel a lively edge

THE WAITRESS PLACES A PLATE FULL OF PALING IN ’T GROEN ON THE TABLE IN FRONT OF A TOURIST, WHILE HIS FRIEND LOOKS AT HIS PLATE OF VLAAMSE CARBONADEN WITH SURPRISE: HE HAD EXPECTED AN OLD-FASHIONED RISSOLE, BUT INSTEAD HE HAS BEEN SERVED A DELICIOUS STEW.

© Toerisme Antwerpen

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www.leuven.be


[ AUTUMN ]

The national dish Vlaamse Carbonaden is a casserole made

Bouchers, near the Grand

from very tender beef, beer and onions. Those who do not

Place in Brussels, which is

speak Flemish find it difficult to guess what lies behind the

lined with restaurants, where

descriptions on a Flemish menu. Who would know that the

almost all the guests are

national delicacy paling in ’t groen is eel in a sauce made with

eating “moules and frites”

chervil and parsley? Or that the classic dish Filet American is

– always in large quanti-

actually steak tartare?

ties. But you don’t have to eat here. Fortunately, this delicious meal is replicated

long and rich tradition, new influences have appeared in the

throughout the country. The

last century, via Belgium’s African connections and the EU

same is true of other kinds

institutions that welcome people from every corner of Europe.

of seafood, such as oys-

Wherever you eat, be it in large contemporary restaurants in

ters and what are known as

the cities or intimate old-fashioned cafes in the towns and vil-

small grey shrimps. If you

lages, you will find sophisticated and surprising compositions.

travel around Flanders, you

Flanders has more than 70 Michelin-starred restaurants, that’s

will find that all the cities

more per head than France!

are very close to each other

© Ca rl Pe nd le

Sampling Flemish cuisine is a real adventure. While it has a

and to the coast; this means If you are looking for a simple meal, you should order the win-

that fish and seafood are as

ning combination of “Moules and frites” – mussels steamed

fresh as fresh can be when

in white wine with onions and herbs served up with freshly

they arrive at your restaurant

fried chips. Flemish chips are among the world’s finest and

table. While fish and shellfish

that’s a fact! Although it is touristy, take a stroll along rue des

are traditionally accompanied

www.brusselsinternational.be

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[ AUTUMN ]

by chilled white wine in

autumn, when the hops have been harvested, but it’s possible

many countries, dare to be

to quench your thirst on a delicious brew at any time of the

different and sample them

year, whether in a stylish bar or a traditional pub.

alongside Belgium’s amazing selection of beers.

After a good hearty meal and a couple of beers, a walk through

is over and the crowds have diminished. Beginer farms were

the wide range of beers on

founded in the 12th century, when unmarried or widowed

offer. Some of the region’s

wealthy women from religious families decided to live together

140 breweries date to the

in a shared community. These “small cities within a city” have

Middle Ages, so the Flemish

survived throughout Flanders; 14 of them are on UNESCO’s

certainly know what they’re

World Cultural Heritage list. Of these, three are in Gent and,

talking about when it comes

as in Bruges, one of the Begijnhof houses is open to the public

to beer. Monastery brews

so that visitors can get an impression of the simple life led by

are particularly good, but the

these worldly nuns. The Leuvens Begijnhof is one of the best

best beer is Trappist, made

kept and most lively as it now belongs to the university and is

according to ancient recipes

used to house foreign students, professors and other staff. If

in only a handful of Cistercian

you are lucky, perhaps you will have a chance to chat to one

monasteries. Many brewer-

of the residents to find out more about modern day living in a

ies are open for visits and

Begijnhof. Otherwise, simply enjoy the peace and quiet, and

tasting sessions. The best

recharge your batteries before heading on to the next must-see

time to do this is in the

destination.

www.visitgent.be

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traditional dishes incorporate

ov e_ BI de Ke rc kh © O. va n

best time for this, not least because the main tourist season

ar E li a s

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help to digest your food and clear your head. Autumn is the

beer with their meals, many

©O sc

the cobblestone streets and green parks of a Begijnhof will Not only do the Flemish drink


[ WINTER ]

Bruges Chocolate shops and (beer) hops in Belgium’s picture postcard perfect city

From museums to markets to music OVER A GLASS OF MULLED WINE AT THE CHRISTMAS FAIR IN BRUSSELS, FOUR VISITORS DISCUSS WHICH MUSEUM HAS GIVEN THEM THE GREATEST PLEASURE DURING THEIR STAY IN FLANDERS... One of the group found the diamond museum in Bruges and the renaissance atmosphere in Peter Paul Rubens’ house in Antwerp really fascinating. Her friend got a real kick out of the groundbreaking contemporary arts in Antwerp’s MUHKA. The other couple cannot agree on their favourite museum either; he found it hard to drag himself

© Sarah Stock

www.brugge.be

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[ WINTER ]

African tribal art, musical instruments, the

Brussels, while she can’t decide whether she preferred the

architecture of Victor Horta, the history of

furniture displays at the famous design museum in Gent or the

fashion and, in Bruges, chips and chocolate.

© Jasp er Jam es

away from Tintin & Co at the Belgian Comic Strip Centre in

works of the liberated 15th-century painters at the Het Zotte Kunstkabinet in Mechelen.

Shopping is another indoor pleasure that is perfect for the winter months. In Brussels

With so much on offer, it is a hard decision to make. Aside

and Antwerp, you can choose from a vari-

from the many one-off exhibitions that are held throughout the

ety of international shops but it is also

year and the plethora of private galleries, Flanders has a rich-

worth taking advantage of the short dis-

ness of museums that is rarely seen. These museums cover all

tances and efficient train connections in

kinds of subjects, including lace, the ancient Flemish masters,

Flanders to explore other shopping havens, such as Hasselt, which are off the beaten track. Only 80km east of Brussels, Hasselt likes to call itself the Hoofdstad van de

e © To er is m

Smaak – The Capital of Taste as it is full of exquisite shops, gourmet restaurants and well-dressed women. The shops in Hasselt are more closely grouped than anywhere else in

M ec he le n

Belgium, with a choice of 600 to be found right in the heart of the city. In Gent, shopaholics love the Veldstraat, which is

© Lay la Ae rts

full of expensive boutiques and lies at the heart of a very lively shopping district. Leuven has many young residents, thanks to its renowned university, so expect to find funkier shops and boutiques along the parallel streets of Diestsestraat and Bondgenotenlaan.

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www.tourismmechelen.be


dt De Sme © K ri s

© Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten Antwerpen

[ WINTER ]

with a visit to a festive skating rink and fairground attractions. One of the largest Christmas fairs is to be found in the heart of Brussels, close to the Stock Exchange, Sint-Katelijneplein and Vismarkt (the fish market); it plays host to several hundred stalls. If the excitement of the fair gets all too much, then retreat to the nearest church or cathedral for a few minutes rest and to admire the magnificent religious

From the end of November until the New Year, many cities in Flanders

art in quiet contemplation. Highlights include the

Mechelen The bells ring out loud in Flanders’ renaissance masterpiece

sculpture of Maria and Child by Michelangelo in the church of Onze Lieve Vrouw in Bruges, the famous altarpiece by Jan Van Eyck in the church of Saint Bavo in Gent and the 14th-century painter Dirk Bout’s version of the Last Supper, in the church of Saint Pieter near the town hall in Leuven.

hold their traditional And finally... What is the ideal way to end your day?

Christmas fairs. An evening visit is particularly romantic, as the nights draw in and the city centre

Is it in a pub with a Belgian beer, in a gourmet restaurant, in an exclusive cigar bar or in a disco or nightclub until the sun comes up? All of these options are possible because the

turns into a sea of twinkling lights.

Flemish really know how to enjoy life. But for a truly Belgium

You can buy traditional Christmas decora-

experience, head to a jazz cafe. Belgium is one of the world’s

tions, cakes, presents and local delicacies

leading exponents of jazz and, especially in Brussels and

at the many stalls and, in several cities

Antwerp, it is possible to hear every style from New Orleans

such as Antwerp, combine your shopping

to fusion.

www.visitantwerp.be

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NEED TO KNOW Situated in Northwest Europe, between France, Germany and the Netherlands, Flanders, the Dutch-speaking northern part of Belgium, charms visitors with its cities packed with historic attractions and architecture as well as world-renowned cuisine, chocolate and beer. The main cities are three hours or less by train from Amsterdam, London, Paris and Cologne. Once in Belgium, the maximum distance between any destination is just 300km and most of the popular tourist destinations are much, much closer! What’s more, the public transport system, comprising mainly trains and buses, is fast and efficient. In general, Belgians are helpful towards tourists and their knowledge of English is excellent.

Editor in chief: Peter De Wilde, Grasmarkt 61, 1000 Brussels Concept & Pre-production Gramma – Wendy Guns Printed by Dessain Copyright: front cover from left to right Johan Jacobs, D. de Kievith, Monique Van Endert, D. De Kievith D/2010/5635/3/4 This brochure has been compiled with the greatest possible care and all information was correct at the time of going to press. The publisher can not be held liable for any errors, inaccuracies or changes during the intervening period.

www.visitflanders.com


Haspengouw cycling routes