Belgium's second city, Antwerp has long been an important city in the nations of the Benelux both economically and culturally. Besides this, the city of Rubens is the world's centre for diamond processing as well as Belgium's primary seaport. The city boasts a magnificent cathedral, a fine-arts museum full of Flemish masterpieces, a maze of medieval streets in the town center, and a vibrant nightlife and cultural scene. Take a river cruise, not only to admire the famous skyline with its antique towers from the water, but also to experience the busy world port from the inside. You can also enjoy the Scheldt from the unique promenade near the Steen, the oldest building within Antwerp, which houses the National Maritime Museum with its open-air department exhibiting real ships.
Known as the 'Venice of the North', Bruges seems to have changed little from its 13th-century origins as a cloth-manufacturing town. With the city center closed off to cars, all the architectural and artistic treasures, folklore, chocolate shops, lace boutiques, and ambient restaurants of this unforgettable city can be easily explored on foot, by boat ride along quiet canals, or by horse-drawn carriage among cobblestone streets. The city center also made the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.
Brussels is sumptuous, historic and luxuriously cozy. What makes Brussels special? For visitors, it's full of delights - Grand Place, mussels with chips, pralines, under crowded museums, intimate hotels, Art Nouveau, Horta, Tintin and unbelievable beers. Modern edifices are only a few steps from the cobbled streets, splendid cafés, and graceful Art Nouveau architecture that speak to the city's eventful past. The city's spirit survives in traditional cafes, bars, bistros, and restaurants. Whether elegantly Art Nouveau or eccentrically festooned with posters, curios, and knickknacks, such centuries-old establishments provide a warm, convivial ambience that is peculiarly Belgian.
The magnificent old city of Ghent was one of the biggest cities in Western Europe at the end of the Middle Ages, renowned for its textile industry. Today it is the third biggest city of Belgium and one of the most beautiful ones. Much of the city's medieval architecture remains intact and is remarkably well preserved. Interesting highlights are the Saint Bavo Cathedral with the Ghent Altarpiece, the belfry, the Gravensteen castle, and the splendid architecture along the old Graslei harbor. The city of Ghent also houses three béguinages, recognized by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites, and numerous churches, among which the Saint-Jacobs church and the Saint-Nicolas Church are the most beautiful examples.
Located at the crossroads of Northern and Southern European culture, Liège is known as La Cité Ardente (the Passionate City). It is an old industrial center which faces the challenge of adapting to the 21st century. Take a walk through the old city center and discover the 16th century palace of the Prince-Bishops of Liège - built on the Place St Lambert, where the old St Lambert cathedral used to stand before the French Revolution. An archeological display, the Archeoforum, can also be visited under the Place St Lambert. Walk alongside the banks of the majestically flowing Meuse river. Other sites of interest include the Outremeuse area, the citadel, and the new train station designed by Santiago Calatrava.
Situated at the confluence of the Meuse and Sambre rivers, the bustling capital of Belgium's French-speaking Wallonia region, Namur has fine museums and churches, a casino, and an abundance of cafes and restaurants. The town's most prominent sight is the citadel, now demilitarised and open to the public. It plays host to a beer festival at Easter. Namur also has a distinctive 18th century cathedral dedicated to Saint Aubain and a belfry classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. An interesting custom is the annual Combat de l'Échasse d'Or (Fight for the Golden Stilt), held in September. Two teams, the Mélans and the Avresses, dress in medieval clothes while standing on stilts and do battle in one of the town's principal squares.
Oostende is one of the nicest beach resorts on the North Sea, famous for its sea-side esplanade, pier, and fine-sand beaches. Interesting locations that well worth a visit are: the Casino, Fort Napoleon and the Mercator, an educational tall ship of the Belgian merchant fleet, which has been converted into a maritime museum. James Ensor's name and fame are closely linked to that of Ostende. Both his house and the Provincial Museum of Modern Art (PMMK) have very interesting exhibitions on his work and life. For the sports lovers there is a wide range of sport facilities to choose from: an Olympic-size indoor swimming pool, outdoor pools filled with heated seawater, a racetrack, sailing and windsurfing.
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