The major attraction in Flanders are the historic city centers which are brimming with quaint medieval squares, tree-lined canals, gorgeous architectural facades, world class museums and friendly outdoor cafes perfect for sipping on the local brews. Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp radiate charm with cobblestone streets, beguinages, gothic cathedrals and artistic treasures of internationally renowned paintings from the Flemish primitives to Breughel and Rubens and such modern masters as Permeke, Ensor and Magritte.
And let’s not forget Brussels: the Capital of Europe. But there is a lot more to Flemish cities than just architecture and history. You can also enjoy your time discovering the colorful open-air markets, shopping galleries, breweries and stylish restaurants overflowing with local culinary delights. All of these can also be found in sandy beach coastal resorts such as Ostend, Knokke and Blankenberge. For people seeking peace and quiet, picturesque villages like Damme or Lissewege might be just what they are
Bruges, known as 'the Venice of the North', is the best preserved example of medieval Flanders. The stunning beauty and culture of this unforgettable city can be easily explored on foot, by boat ride along quiet canals, or by horse-drawn carriage over cobblestone streets. Although Bruges is a small city, one day is really not enough to explore all of its architectural and artistic treasures, folklore, chocolate shops, lace boutiques, and local restaurants.
Eternal links with water
For centuries the canals of Bruges have linked the city to the sea. In the middle ages international merchants turned Bruges into one of Europe’s most flourishing cities. Large parts of the medieval heritage has remained practically intact which has convinced Unesco to designate the entire city centre as a world heritage site.
With Bruges it’s love at first sight. It is a mysteriously medieval city of human proportion with many cosy squares and corners. The elegant image of swans in the lakes and on the canals turn Bruges in to the most romantic destination.
International masterpieces and the city of the Flemish Primitives
In the wake of the Burgundian dynasty, the great Flemish Primitives, including Jan van Eyck and Hans Memling found their creative niches in Bruges. The city became the meeting place and source of inspiration for many artists. Today, world famous masterpieces and top collections can be seen in one the 27 Bruges Museums.
Bruges has always excelled in goldsmith art, diamond cutting and handmade tapestry and lace of outstanding quality. Today it is also an international center of calligraphy and letter sculpting. And of course the world’s capital of chocolate is the obvious place where you will find the cream of artisan chocolatiers. Happiness in a box does exist ! Chocoholics the world over agree: Bruges pralines are simply mouth-watering!
Ghent is praised for its brilliant mix of a wonderful past and a vibrant present. Here hides one of Europe’s finest panoramas of water, spires and centuries-old grand houses. It’s also Flanders’ biggest university town with well-priced restaurants and a laid-back atmosphere. Under the watchful eye of Gravensteen Castle, the city boasts an Opera House, 18 museums, 100 churches and over 400 historical buildings.
Antwerp is well worth a visit for its art museums with works of Rubens and Van Dyck, for its excellent restaurants and its specialist shops. Much like Antwerp diamonds, the city sparkles with an impressive range of architecture from medieval buildings to Art Nouveau and to the contemporary Courthouse.
For four long years Flanders Fields was the scene of the First World War. A million soldiers were wounded, missing or killed in action. The landscape of the region still tells the story of the war. It contains hundreds of monuments and cemeteries which have great historical significance for the people of many nations. Many museums explain in an interactive way all the aspects of the conflict.
The daily Last Post ceremony that has taken place each day at Menin Gate (Ypres) since 1928, shows that memories do not fade away.
‘In Flanders Fields Museum’, ‘Talbot House’, ‘Tyne Cot Cemetary’ and the ‘Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917’ will bring the visitor back to the horrifying reality of trench warfare.
The open air museum Atlantic Wall at Domain Raversijde keeps the memory of World War II alive. Two kilometers of trenches and bunkers can be visited.
Popular holiday destinations like Blankenberge, Ostend or Knokke bustle with activity all year through. Here you will find everything you could wish for on an excursion: sandy beaches, an array of specialist shops, fashion, art galleries, casinos, golf courses and culinary delights in many restaurants and bistros on the beach promenade.
Info: Belgian Coast website
Damme is Flanders in a nutshell. Every stone tells its medieval story and reflects the Burgundian glory of long ago. Stroll along the romantic streets with their specialist book shops and relax in one of the many restaurants and cafés. Enjoy the magnificent view from the tower top of the 14th century Church of our Lady.
In the immediate vicinity of the ports you can also discover other villages like Lissewege or Stene situated in the historic polders.
All facilities are available to give you the chance to enjoy these oases of peace and nature. Several cycling and walking tours are organized in and around the polders, linking nature, gastronomy and historical monuments. Or, why not hop across the border to Holland to the charming little town of Sluis with its wide variety of shops.
Info: Bruges Ommeland website