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.
List of my TOP attractions in Flanders
- Kortrijk with enchanting beguinage courtyard
- “See Bruges… and die?”
- The Bruges Bear
- Gent, the second most beautiful city in Flanders?
- Antwerp, the centre of diamond trade
- University city Leuven
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.
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.
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….
… and sleeping dogs. But, as we all know, they should not be awakened.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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….
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
With these beautiful impressions I continue to my next destination on my Flanders round trip.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.