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Home Page > Travelogues > Belgium (a.k.a. Belgique, België)

Quick Access for this Page -- [ Introduction ] [ Travelogues By Region ] [ Links ]

Click on the colored areas of the map to access a travelogue.  The colors indicate different regions of Belgium -- scroll down for explanation and introduction for each location. (Original map comes from the CIA World Factbook)

IntroductionBelgium is a very interesting little country that has played a central role on the international stage throughout the 20th century.  Some of it good -- it Belgiumhas been the home of NATO headquarters since the 60s and Brussels is very active in hosting major international and non-governmental organizations, particularly those in the humanitarian arena.  Some of it, however, is bad -- Belgium was the site of some of the worst trench warfare during the stalemate of World War I, and again Belgium served as a major battleground towards the end of World War II.

As a tourist location, Belgium is probably more attractive to those with particular interests.  Military history buffs will regard Belgium as a must-see, with all the battlegrounds and museums open to the public and regular re-enactment events and reunions throughout the year.  Belgium is also a popular destination for beer lovers, as the country's abbeys are famous Map of Belgium for their unique brews.  Some of them are world renowned, and treated like fine wines.

Belgium also offers some pleasant and less crowded alternatives to tourist attractions elsewhere.  The canalled city of Bruges, for example, is a very clean and beautiful alternative to the vice-laden city of Amsterdam.  Brussels has all the art and culture of Paris in a very friendly atmosphere.

Belgian cuisine is also among my favorites.  As I indicated in my list of Top 10 favorite meals (labelled as great alternative Thanksgiving Dinners), my #1 choice was the Belgian mussel pot -- a clay pot of steamers simmered in a yummy sauce served with fries and an abbey beer!  For those with a sweet tooth, I highly recommend true Belgian waffles, Belgian chocolate, and Belgian pastries!  (gee, now I'm getting hungry)

One thing about Belgium most people don't know is that it is really two countries in one.  The north and west comprise the region known as Flanders (Vlaanderen) whose people speak a derivative of Dutch, and Walloon in the south and east where French is the native tongue.  Most cities in Belgium have two names, and some differ vastly (Brussels, for example, is called Brussel by the Flemish and Bruxelles by the Walloons).  Most traffic signs only carry one name or the other, hence as you drive through the border regions the signs will change on you if you aren't careful.

I have one complaint about Belgium, unfortunately.  Some of its cities rate among the dirtiest I've visited in western Europe.  Sure, most of the tourist areas are cared for, but otherwise trash and filth were widespread.  My conversations with colleagues who live and work in Belgium made similar complaints, so I was not alone.  Be that as it may, I hope these travelogues will encourage you to consider Belgium as a destination -- especially if you are a fan of history or really gosh-darn-good beer.

Travelogues by Region.  The coloring of the locations on the map above indicate different regions in Belgium, as shown below.  

Red:  BRUSSELS.  The capital city of Brussels is one of the most impressive of brussels_04.jpg (30624 bytes)European capitals.  Brussels has some extraordinary architecture like the Royal Palace and gaudy Grote Markt, the grand museums of the Cinquantenaire (pictured), and the many beautiful churches.  Brussels is art, music, and science (the massive and odd-looking Atomium, for example) at far cheaper prices than Paris.  I tried to do it in one day, and it was simply not possible!  BLUE:  Popular Locations in Flanders.  Personally, I prefer thbruges_05.jpg (41174 bytes)e Flanders region more than the Walloon, but your mileage may vary.  Unquestionably, Belgium's most prized city is Bruges (as it is known to Americans, locals call it Brugge).  Bruges (pictured) is a gorgeous canalled city with all the trappings of Amsterdam but much cleaner and saner.  Those looking for truly old (and old looking) architecture might prefer a trip to Ghent just eastward -- it's Castle of the Counts is a classic.  Those wanting to see a gorgeous university town might seek out Leuven, just a short drive east of Brussels.

PURPLE:  The Ardennes Region.  The Ardennes is a region shared among southern Belgium, northern Luxembourg, and northeast France.  It has been the scene of world rocroi_02.jpg (19561 bytes)conflict, particularly in the Battle of the Bulge.  This travelogue, which is placed in the Belgium section but shares locations in France, covers several towns along the border of the two countries.  These are towns ranging from famous Vauban fortresses like Rocroi (pictured) to sleepy river towns like Haybes to scenes mountain vistas like Rochehaut.  It was one of my favorite driving tours.

GREEN:  The Walloon Region.  The travelogues in green represenorval_02.jpg (31205 bytes)t two different trips I made.  The first was to two famous Cistercian (Trappist) abbeys where the monks brew two world famous trappist ales -- Orval and Chimay.  The Orval abbey (shown) is definitely worth a visit as its ruins are among the most beautiful I've seen.  Chimay is less dramatic, but interesting nonetheless.  The city of Liège was my second tour to the region, and it is a fabulous river city with a massive shopping district and lots of art and culture.  

LinksThe below links connect you to external sites in a new window.  All links are official sites sanctioned by the national, state, or local governments unless otherwise indicated.  These links will open to the Flemish or French-language home page, which will offer an icon or link to an English-language section (normally limited content).  If an English language link is not available, click on the "Toerisme" section for locations in the Flemish north and "Tourisme" for the Walloon south.  This is for the tourism page, which should have English content available.  Links updated 28 December 2005.

Country and Regional Links:

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Belgian Tourist Office in the US

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US Embassy to Belgium

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US Consular Information Sheet  

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Belgian Embassy to US 

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Wallonia Tourist Bureau 

 

City and Town Links:

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Bruges Tourist Bureau

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Brussels Tourist Bureau

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Chimay Monastery Home Page

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Ghent Home Page

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Leuven Home Page (Dutch language only)

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Liège Home Page 

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Orval Monastery Home Page

 

   
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