It’s easy to talk in clichés about Belgium: Brussels is a bureaucrat’s paradise, the countryside is flat and dull, their greatest contributions to culture are Tintin and Poirot. But that would be wrong, slanderous and downright stupid. Belgium is a glorious country to visit, full of history, culture, art, gastronomy and all the better without the legions of tourists who flock to Paris and Berlin fearing boredom in the Low Countries.
Brussels may be Europe’s capital, but we’ve discovered its quirks: chocolate sculpture, astonishing food, flea markets and inspiring architecture all a short distance from the main tourist district in the Ixelles suburb. You’d be mad to miss it - imagine swimming in a listed 1930s pool, watching Fellini films in an Art Nouveau cultural centre or taking a boat across a lake for a romantic meal. It’s all here.
Nobody in Belgium likes Bruges, but we do. It feels like a living painting, all medieval architecture, swans drifting on canals and too many chocolate shops to mention; those trendy Belgians find it staid and a bit too historic for its own good.
Antwerp, the country’s diamond and fashion capital, is edgy, fun, artistic and much underrated. The shopping is top class, the modern art is eye opening and the city’s clubs and pubs do a roaring weekend trade. Oh, and that fellow Rubens has done well there, too.
Ghent has a stranger appeal - again, it’s a city of art and architecture, where the modernism of Le Corbusier meets medieval and Art Nouveau styles, but thanks to its student population, it has a forward-thinking atmosphere too, and an enormous number of restaurants.