Wednesday, May 29

After the first part of my Belgium holiday I will continue with a round trip through Flanders in the second part. I am now happy about the flight delay in my Turkey vacation, because that’s how I got this beautiful travel idea. On my tour of Flanders, Belgium shows me surprising impressions that I would not have expected in this country.

Kleiner Fluß, der Brügge durchfließt und an Häusern entlangläuft

City view of Bruges – a highlight on my Flanders round trip

List of my TOP attractions in Flanders

  1. Kortrijk with enchanting beguinage courtyard
  2. “See Bruges… and die?”
  3. The Bruges Bear
  4. Gent, the second most beautiful city in Flanders?
  5. Antwerp, the centre of diamond trade
  6. University city Leuven
  7. Brussels

1. Highlight – Kortrijk with enchanting beguinage courtyard

Shortly after Tournai I leave the French speaking part of Belgium and find myself in Kortrijk in the first big city on my Flanders tour. I have chosen a stopover in Kortrijk, because this is where the picturesque Beguinage St. Elisabeth is situated. The 26 remaining Flemish beguinage farms are part of the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site – “Flemish beguinage”. I am impressed by the history and purpose of the Beguinage. These are not nunneries, but they unite women in a community of life under Christian conditions.

Beginenhof in Kortrijk besteht aus einem Ensemble von 42 kleinen weißen Häusern - Flandern Rundfahrt

Beguinage farm from the 13th century has been part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site “Flemish Beguinage” since 1998 – even more beautiful in the sunshine.

Since the weather is not very inviting, I will have a short walk through the city after visiting Beguinhof and continue to my next major stop on my Flanders tour in Belgium.

2. Highlight – “See Bruges… and die?”

That’s the name of a well-known film drama with Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson – but I don’t go that far on my visit to Bruges. Because there are so many beautiful things to experience in this city that I want to tell you about them at home.

First of all I let the city centre affect me. There is no building A and building B or the point of interest C to visit, no, here the whole old town is the point of interest.

Mittelalterliche Häuser in Brügge an einem Fluss

The fairytale old town of Bruges, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000.

After exploring the first impressions of the city on foot, I decided to take a boat trip. And in Bruges, a boat trip is definitely worthwhile. With the views of the numerous collections of historical buildings, I sometimes don’t even know where to look first. It is very pleasant for me when I don’t have to control my feet as well. The boat just keeps carrying me through town. Past beautiful city views….

Die wunderschöne Altstadt von Brügge vom Boot aus. - Flandern Rundfahrt

City views on a boat trip in the centre of Bruges.

… and sleeping dogs. But, as we all know, they should not be awakened.

Ein schlafender Hund in einem Fenstersims - Flandern Rundfahrt

Don’t wake up! Sleeping dog in Bruges.

After the boat trip I also visit the Memling Museum and the Groenige Museum, where old Flemish masters are exhibited. I also find masters of a completely different art in the small streets of Bruges. I’m thrilled with all the things you can make out of chocolate. You don’t want to bite into it. But chocolate bars are more manageable anyway.

Ameisenbär mit zahlreichen Ameisen aus Schokolade - Flandern Rundfahrt

A master of chocolate – far too cute (sweet you can’t say yes in this case) for eating.

When the sun is slowly fading on the horizon, I am glad about my decision to have not only made a day trip to Bruges on my Flanders tour. The day tourists are no longer in town and it is much quieter. In addition, Bruges is not only a place of interest during the daytime, but also offers a wide range of sightseeing in the late evening hours and I feel even more strongly transported back to the Middle Ages.

Angestrahlte Gebäude in Brügge. - Flandern Rundfahrt

The town hall, the belfry and the beguinage in the late evening offer me a magical backdrop.

But now it’s driving me to a restaurant. My eyes are quite full – but my stomach needs something now and then. I choose the Bistro de Pompe – in Kleine Sint-Amandsstraat 2, which is not located directly at the marketplace and is therefore reasonably priced with delicious food. I order moules-frites – mussels with french fries – and I am absolutely thrilled. It is a little unusual for me to eat the mussels in a restaurant with my fingers out of a pot – but tasty! I’ll get my appetite back when I write.

3. Highlight – The Bruges Bear

Before I go to the hotel, I visit another place of interest – with my own views.

Kleine Bierwirtschaft in Brügge - Flandern Rundfahrt

Here you have to go, here you have to go, here you have to drink beer: t Brugs Beertje.

Here I enter to experience the world of Belgian beer. The “t Brugs Beertje” is a small, rustic restaurant and has over 300 types of beer to taste. The waiter takes his time and advises me on my choice. Of course, I won’t tell you how many of them I have chosen. But so much can be said:’t Brugs Beertje has many tasty beers in the bar. The evening will end with a nice end to the day with some tasty beer.

I am glad that I have booked myself in Bruges for several days, because there are so many beautiful old buildings to look at.

Angestrahlte Gebäude im Mondschein in Brügge auf der Flandern Rundfahrt

Evening view of buildings in Bruges by moonlight

4. Highlight – Gent, the second most beautiful city in Flanders?

I find this written in some travel guides because it is often compared to the nearby Bruges. I do not think that Gent and Bruges can be compared to each other. They are both worth seeing in their own way. Gent also has an impressive old town. But it is more alive and the audience is younger due to the university. Also in Ghent I stay for two nights, because the city has so many sights to offer. But let’s get going and explore the city centre….

Mittelalterliche Gebäude in Gent an einem Fluß - Flandern Rundfahrt

The grain knife house, the guild house of the free skippers, the stack house’ Spijker’… each house on the Graslei has its own history.

On one side of the shore you can find the Korean Republic with its numerous cafés and restaurants, which invite you to linger in sunny weather and enjoy the beautiful view. Together with Graslei, this is the pulsating centre of the city centre.

Gebäude am Ufer in Gent. - Flandern Rundfahrt

The historic buildings in Korea are reflected in the water.

But in the background I can already see the Grafenburg (Gravensteen) with its flags on the battlements. I’m drawn there before enjoying a beer in the Belgian autumn sun.

Mittelalterliche Ritterburg in Gent mit Flaggen auf den Türmen. - Flandern Rundfahrt

The Gravensteen is an old knight’s castle, which stands in the middle of the city centre and is surrounded by the river Lieve.

The knight’s castle stands in the middle of the city and has a lot to offer – if one is lucky, even a flock of promising young knights.

Gruppe von Kindern in Ritterkostümen auf einer Mauer der Wasserburg Gravensteen - Flandern Rundfahrt

A band of junior knights on one of the outer walls of the castle.

At the top of the castle I have a wonderful view from the viewing platform to the whole city. Ghent shows its best side in the autumn sun.

Blick über Gent - Flandern Rundfahrt

View of Ghent from the castle Gravensteen.

After the many steps I’ve climbed up and down the castle – luckily not in knight’s armour, I’ve earned another Belgian beer in the sun, haven’t I? So it’s off to Café’t Galgenhuis. Whereby “entering” is the wrong word here, because it is supposedly the smallest restaurant in Ghent. In the sun, I’m drawn to the terrace anyway.

Kleinstes Lokal in Gent - Flandern Rundfahrt

Café’t Galgenhuis – the smallest restaurant in Ghent

As I walk through the streets in the evening, Ghent reminds me of my holidays in Ireland. There is no pub culture with live music here in Ghent. But the city is just as lively and the numerous beer bars with their unbelievable selection of beers invite you to stay.

Since I am also in Ghent for several days, I will continue my cultural tour the next day. At the Vrijdagmarkt I notice these extraordinary buildings, which don’t seem to fit here at all. They were built around 1900 by the socialist movement.

De Bond Moyson en Ons Huis - Gebäude entstanden um 1900 - Flandern Rundfahrt

De Bond Moyson en Ons Huis – two buildings of the socialist movement.

With these beautiful impressions I continue to my next destination on my Flanders round trip.

Liebfrauenkathedrale von Antwerpen bei Regen - Flandern Rundfahrt

The Cathedral of Our Lady of Antwerp – beautiful to see even in bad weather.

5. Highlight – Antwerp, the centre of diamond trade

Unfortunately, my wallet is not enough to stock up on diamonds at one of the local dealers. So I look at other sparkling views of Antwerp. The city is considerably larger than Bruges and Ghent, so that shopping is the main focus here alongside a number of attractions.

On my way from the hotel to the city centre, I pass the station building and look at it from the inside and then I continue.

Bahnhof Antwerpen-Centraal von innen - Flandern Rundfahrt

Antwerp-Centraal railway station should also be visited from the inside if you pass it. It’s worth it.

Sicht auf die Fußgängerzone Antwerpens - Flandern Rundfahrt

Two historic buildings in downtown Antwerp

Neoklassizistische Stadtfestssal in Antwerpen

If you should take a look, even if you don’t want to buy anything: Stadtfestsaal Antwerp Shopping Centre

I use the champagne bar in the shopping mall in this bad weather to take a break from shopping and sightseeing.

But culturally Antwerp also has a lot to offer. For example, the Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten with one of the largest collections of Reuben’s works or Rubenshuis, where the artist lived for 30 years. But I am attracted more and more to the metropolis of Belgium – Brussels. But before we go to the big city, I will spend the night in Leuven – the small university town just outside Brussels.

Weide mit Kirche im Hintergrund bei Leuven - Flandern Rundfahrt

It becomes a bit more rural – landscape on the way from B&B to downtown Leuven.

6. Highlight – University city Leuven

First of all, I’m moving into my room in the Park B&B. It is located about two kilometres from the city centre, but it is beautifully situated and I have a wonderful route on my way to the city centre.

Leuven reminds me of Göttingen. The difference is that Leuven has fewer inhabitants but more students than Göttingen. There is also a wonderful student and international flair here, which reminds me of my student days.

But it was not only these thoughts about my studies that made me happy about my stay in Leuven. The view of the town hall alone during the day and in the evening is worth the overnight stay.

Rathaus in Leuven bei Tag und bei Nacht - Flandern Rundfahrt

The extraordinary town hall in the centre of Leuven.

Sint-Pieterskerk in Leuven - Flandern Rundfahrt

Sint-Pieterskerk at the Grote Markt in Leuven

Historisches Gebäude am Grote Markt in Leuven - Flandern Rundfahrt

Another building at Grote Markt in Leuven – a small dwarf at today’s Café Notre Dame Quasimodo

7. Highlight – Brussels

Brussels welcomes me on my Flanders tour with nice weather and I start my tours in the city. Of course, I’m going to the Grote Markt in the centre of the city.

Gebäude auf dem Grote Markt in Brüssel. - Flandern Rundfahrt

Former guild houses on the Grote Markt in Brussels.

Stadtansicht Grote Markt in Brüssel. - Flandern Rundfahrt

It is understandable that Brussels’ marketplace is considered one of the most beautiful in Europe.

And then we go on to the tourist attraction that attracts the most tourists besides the Atomium. Manneken Pis. But did you know that he had a sister with Jeanneke Pis in 1985 and that both of them were joined in 1998 with Zinneke Pis? I was also a bit surprised when I heard about it and started searching. It’s true. Here’s the proof.

Manneken Pis und weitere Figuren in Brüssel - Flandern Rundfahrt

Manneken Pis, Jeanneke Pis and Zinneke Pis are scattered all over the city centre and spend a day working out of their distress.

It’s a small, funny scavenger hunt through Brussels if you want to find the three bronze figures. Speaking of schnitzel. After such a scavenger hunt, I’m hungry for a while. I became a fan of moules-frites here on vacation and in the Chez Leon I will find it. It is located at the tourist mile and at first glance it looks like a tourist trap. But the service was good and the food was delicious. What more could you ask for for a meal in between.

And another personal highlight at the end of my Flanders tour

Of course, Brussels is also a great place to go shopping. If you’re in Brussels, you have to go to the Marollen quarter. A rustic and manageable lifestyle district with exciting shops. And in this store I found one of my hobbies – at least in the autumn: New de Wolf in Hoogstraat 91, where you can find beautiful decorative items for the year. But from October on, the shop is full of Christmas decorations. Exceptional Christmas decorations at reasonable prices. Since I am here by car, I buy a new collection of Christmas trees in white, silver and glass suits.

Weihnachtsbaum mit weißem und silbernem Weihnachtsschmuck

Christmas tree 2014 with the christmas decoration from Brussels

This is the end of my Flanders tour, which has brought me so many surprising experiences and unexpected impressions in this country, that I am sure there will be a reunion soon. bientôt Wallonie, tot ziens Vlaanderen, see you soon in Belgium!

Atomium in Brüssel bei Nacht - Flandern Rundfahrt

Magnificent view from the hotel to the illuminated Atomium – until soon Belgium!

Conclusion: Belgium is worth a visit – also or maybe just in September or October. Both parts of the country have their very own charms and yet they have something in common – a Belgian peculiarity that I like. In Wallonia, especially in the Ardennes, there are vast landscapes, Flanders is characterised by the coastal region, rustic cities such as Bruges, Leuven and Ghent, but also by large cities such as Antwerp and Brussels. All over Belgium you can eat delicious fries, treat yourself to chocolate and eat tasty mussels and choose from a rich treasure of different beers.

Journey duration: For the trip I have described with the first part Belgium vacation in Wallonia – Liège to Tournai and the second part 7 highlights on my Flanders round trip I have been 16 days on the way. After this Belgium tour I recommend to make two roundtrips with 14 days each or to leave out some places, then you have more of these beautiful areas.

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