THREE CITIES TO SAVOR IN BELGIUM
Cruising is a fantastic way to travel the waterways of the Netherlands and Belgium, giving you a unique perspective on the heritage and history of this part of Europe.
A little background: Belgium is made up of three regions, each having considerable autonomy. The Walloon Region in the south is the largest, followed by Flemish Region (or Flanders), and is a Dutch-speaking area in the country's north. The national capital, Brussels, considered its own region, lies near Flanders’ southern edge.
During the Middle Ages, Ghent was a prominent city-state. Today it’s a university town and cultural hub. Its pedestrianized center is known for medieval architecture such as 12th-century Gravensteen castle and the Graslei, a row of guildhalls beside the Leie river harbor. There are several choices of excursions on a river cruise in Ghent, depending on your interests. Stroll through the Capital of East Flanders, learning about its unique history on your walking tour, or pedal through the spellbinding town on a guided bike tour. Alternatively, visit Bruges, one of the best-preserved medieval cities in Europe, on a full-day excursion that includes the renowned Church of Our Lady, home to the beautiful Carrara marble Madonna and Child sculpture by Michelangelo. If you prefer a shorter excursion in Bruges, visit the town later in the day or spend your afternoon at Ghent’s moated Castle of the Counts, which boasts an eye-catching design as well as a ghoulishly interesting collection of medieval torture devices.
Explore Belgium’s captivating capital, and EU administrative center, on your guided walking tour, or if you prefer, pedal through Brussels on a guided bike ride. If you are a history enthusiast, spend your day traveling back in time to sites related to World War II’s historic Battle of the Bulge, which was the last major German offensive on the Western Front, and toast fallen soldiers with a tasting of Trappist beer brewed by monks. For those not joining this full-day tour, choose from afternoon excursions that include a visit to Beersel Castle, one of the oldest and authentic moated castles in Flanders, or delight your palate with a Belgian chocolate tasting.
Antwerp is a port city on Belgium’s River Scheldt, with a history dating to the Middle Ages. Explore this trendy “City of Diamonds” on a walking tour where you’ll see Antwerp’s Steen Castle, Grote Market, and Brabo Fountain, along with the UNESCO-designated Cathedral of Our Lady. Active travelers may prefer instead to bike through Antwerp. Later in the day, beer enthusiasts will appreciate a tasting of the local brew while foodies may prefer an excursion to sample some of Belgium’s culinary delights such as its fresh and fluffy waffles. An afternoon bike tour is also available for those who prefer to get their heart beating later in the day, and it includes an opportunity to visit the Red Star Line Museum, highlighting the historic shipping line responsible for transporting three million immigrants to America. You may also visit the 17th-century Rubens House, period rooms display works by the Flemish Baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens.
For a small country, Belgium is packed with scenic and cultural highlights you don’t want to miss!