Belgium & Luxembourg

Spotlight on Belgium & Luxembourg

BELGIUM: If Belgium's spotlight on the European stage is a little dim, it's only because its people are rarely boastful. This slow-burning country has more history, art, food and architecture packed into its tiny self than many of its bigger, louder neighbors. A rich and bubbling vat of beer, chocolate, oil paint and bureaucrats, Belgium gives off the heady pong of the bourgeoisie. Stir the pot a little and you'll find an 'artificial state' roughly made up of two parts Germanic Flemings to one part Celtic-Latin Walloons. Divided by pride first and language second, the country's binding agents are a pervasive sense of family and an indomitable entrepreneurial spirit. Visitors, lulled by the locals' friendliness, will probably not even notice the tensions spark across the Linguistic Divide.

Antwerp is famous for its art treasures, diamond industry, and culture, relaxation and entertainment. Shop at Grote Markt, at the heart of which stands Brabo Fountain. Antwerp’s main attractions include stunning City Hall, one of the most important buildings of the Northern Renaissance; Our Lady’s Cathedral, one of the finest gothic churches in Belgium; and the daintily restored 16th-century guildhouses. Visit Diamond Land or Provincial Diamond Museum. Other sites include The Steen - a waterfront gatehouse of a medieval fortress built on site of a 9th-century fortification from which the town spread that now houses the National Maritime Museum; Mayer van den Berg Art Museum; Royal Art Gallery - which has 2,500 paintings spanning five centuries; and Plantin-Moretus Museum - a 16th-century patrician mansion that was a famous printing house of the Plantin and Moretus families.

Bruges - Because of the export of high-quality cloths, Bruges became prosperous and rich. The remaining buildings still let you feel how rich Bruges was. Museums house a lot of fabulous paintings from this time. At the end of the 15th century Bruges was prosperous because of the silting up of the coastal area in Zwin, now a natural park near Knokke that can be discovered by bike during the summer. Walking in the city you can feel Bruges's history. Bruges became poor and was put back in the spotlight by Georges Rodenbach's novel "Bruges la Morte". Bruges was reborn as an Art City, well preserved, never severely damaged. The city is admired every day by thousands of tourists from all over the world. In 2002 Bruges was been chosen together with Salamanca in Spain as culture cities of Europe.

Brussels's Upper and a Lower Town conjure up images of important buildings and long avenues and small, dark streets. Lower Town, the old Flemish quarter, contains the city's most famous sites, including its greatest landmark, Grand Place, and the Manneken Pis. It's also the location of around ten churches relatively close to each other; most of them from the Flemish Renaissance and Baroque periods. In Upper Town, you'll find King's palace, royal squares and various palaces from the eighteenth-century neo-classical Austrian period. The built-up business and residential areas are scrupulously broken up by frequent patches of green parks, which help account for the city's sedate, unfrenzied atmosphere. Around the city center are congregated many small, carefully laid-out parks that provide settings for statues and national monuments.

Ghent - It is no coincidence Ghent was given several names: historic heart of Flanders, a city of all times, one of the most beautiful historic cities in Europe. The city combines an impressive past with a vivid present. The historic heart of the city offers many places of interest. From St Michael's bridge there is a wonderful view of the skyline of Ghent with the three impressive towers of St Nicholas' Church, the Belfry with its bell tower, and St. Bavo's cathedral. Traces of the Middle Ages are well-preserved in Ghent. The old port with its guild halls on Graslei and Korenlei is merely one example of the beautiful views this town has to offer. Not far from Graslei arises the Castle of the Counts, once the medieval fortress of the Count of Flanders. Ghent also has several museums, abbeys, beguinages, dozens of churches and historical buildings. Everyone can find something here to suit his taste. Ghent offers shops, restaurants and an exciting nightlife. Discover Ghent by boat, carriage, bicycle or on foot.

LUXEMBOURG - Multilingualism is one of the assets of the Grand Ducal capital. Visitors may be ushered in with a hearty ”Moiën”, as the natives stick to their mother tongue, ”Lëtzebuergesch”, now as before. Placed in the heart of Europe, Luxembourg has matured into an economic and cultural center. The modern edifices of the European Institutions on the Kirchberg Plateau or the futuristic bank head offices lining Boulevard Royal bear witness to progress the city has made. The media world has found a home here, just like the circles of the specialist conventions or international conferences. Many great names, from Goethe or Victor Hugo to William Turner, used to think highly of Luxembourg hospitality and open-mindedness. Therefore, visitors should feel at ease in a cosmopolitan city stamped by the spell of smallness, visible at a glance.

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