travel guide

Belgium Travel Guide

Belgium is nestled among France, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, with 43 miles of coast line and capital the city of Brussels. Belgium is divided into 2 main sectors: Flanders is the Flemish speaking flatlands of the north-west, reaching to the coast and Wallonia or Walloon, the French speaking south-east part. This is a charming country with its wonderful museums, long stretches of beaches, beautifully wooded region of the Ardennes and the pasture lands of Flanders. The district of Ghent is renowned for its orchids, begonias and its azaleas. Most cities have beautiful public parks and a colourful café lifestyle. It is a marvellous place to take a holiday. French and Flemish are the official languages but most people you will make contact with have a good working knowledge of English.

Belgium is a Catholic country and, as a consequence, processions and pageants take place all over the country at different times of the year. Some interesting ones include the Carnival of Binches on Shrove Tuesday with the Procession of the Gillies; the Procession of the Holy Blood at Bruges on the Monday after 2nd May; the Combat of the Lumecon, a local version of St. George and the Dragon; the Procession of the Golden Cast of Ste. Waudru, (both the later two take place at Mons on Trinity Sunday); The Procession of the Pentinents can be seen at Furnes on the last Sunday in July; and the historic Cortege and St. Guidon Procession is at Anderlecht on September 16th. However, the most beautiful and spectacular is the mystery called ‘Jeu du Saint Sang’ which takes place every 5 years in July/August on the open square at the foot of the belfry in Bruges. It relates the story of the relic of the Holy Blood belonging to the city of Bruges.

Food

In Belgium you will eat some of the finest food in Europe with many people considering that Brussels ranks with Paris when it comes to food. Local specialties are choesels a la Brusselloise (kidneys), waterzoo (chicken in broth), lobster in whiskey sauce, snipe cooked in brandy and chicken in sherry. Some of the most famous restaurants in the world are in Brussels. Among them are: La Couronne and Les Ambassadeurs (Au Filet de Boeuf) on the Town Hall Square. Restaurant Chantraine (Epaule de Mouton) is over 290 years old and is a famous name in cuisine. It is located just off the Grand’ Place. There are many other restaurants, equally good and at prices to suit all pockets.

Even though they are called French Fries, it is more of a Belgian dish than a French dish. French fries are found in Fritterie’s, fastfood outlets on streets, mobile van and kiosk outlets, and in all traditional or contemporary Belgian restaurants. The French fries served in take-away are usually very greasy and are served with a variety of 20 different sauces.

The Belgians love the wide selection of sauces ranging from mayonnaise to American sauce (mayonnaise mixed with ketchup and spices). Belgian are famous for eating their French fries with enormous quantities of mayonnaise! In a traditional or contemporary Belgian restaurant, the French fries are usually better than in the take-aways and are more tasty.

They are usually served with mussels (moules frittes, mussels and fries) or meat. Mussels and fries is probably the national dish and is served in many restaurants throughout the country

Belgian chocolate

Belgium is one of the world leaders in chocolate. The country used to have colonies in Africa and used the cocoa seeds efficiently to produce quality chocolate. Chocolate was a luxury at first but soon became popular and is today appreciated by millions of people world wide. Belgian chocolates are different from other countries’ chocolates. It is more special than a Mars bar for example! The taste is unique and so is it’s recipe. Belgian chocolates are used a lot as a gift. There are hundreds of types of Belgian chocolates available in special chocolate shops. Some of the famous shops and companies are: Godiva, Leonidas and Cote D’or.
Belgian Waffles are sweet and should not be confused with potato waffles. Belgian waffles are very popular. There are two main types: The Liege and the Brussels Waffle. The Liege waffle is found in many public places. It is smaller than the Brussels waffle but heavier on the stomach and more filling. It is served warm with a topping such as chocolate or whipped cream. You might also find cold waffles wrapped in packets in supermarkets or newsagents. These are not as tasty as the warm waffle and are quite disappointing! The Brussel’s waffle is not served that much on streets. It is larger than the Liege waffle but lighter to digest. It can be found mostly in restaurants and is served with cream and powder sugar and other toppings. Waffles sold in the street of Brussels are similar to hot dogs sold in the streets of New York! A famous ‘waffle take-away’ is Vigaufra.

Belgian beer:

Stella Artois, Leffe, Hoegaarden, Palm, etc are famous Belgian beers sold throughout the world. Most famous Beers started more than a hundred years ago as a small local brewery.

They have kept the old traditions of brewing which are still popular today. Most famous Beers belong to the Interbrew Group whch is one of the largest breweries in the world.

Apart from the famous beers you can find hundreds other type of tasty beers. People say you can drink a different beer everyday and never drink the same twice in a year! Furthermore, every Belgian beer seems to have it’s own glass! Belgium beers also include different flavours of beers such as cherry flavoured beers and strong brown beers with 10% of alcohol.

The Ardennes Region:  This region is primarily in Belgium and Luxembourg but also spreads into Germany and France.  Most of it however lies within the south-eastern area of Wallonia. 

The area known as the Ardennes comprises wooded hills and valleys, steep rocks and winding streams that are abundant with fish, forests teeming with deer, ruins of ancient castles, watermills and hunting lodges – such is the scenery in Ardennes and Fagne.

La Roche, Ciney, Boullien and Arlon are worth a trip. The Grotto of Han on the Lesse river are also worth seeing. Pay a visit, too, to at least one of the many war memorials that remember the victims from all over the world who fell during the Battle of the Bulge.  Beloeil Castle in the province of Hainaut is the residence of the Princes de Ligne. The chateaux and its splendid French style Baroque garden with ornamental lakes can be visited throughout the spring and summer months.