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From First World War battlefields to quaint cafes, Belgium will bewitch you!

The only two images that comes to mind when one talks about Belgium are that of beer and chocolates. But, as it turns out, there's plenty to see if you look beyond the many chocolate factories and breweries- fom First World War battlefields to quaint cafes.

travel Updated: Oct 27, 2014 19:47 IST
Shalvi Mangaokar
Shalvi Mangaokar
Hindustan Times
belgium,belgium sightseeing,things to do in belgium

The only two images that came to mind when I found out that I was heading to Belgium were that of beer and chocolates. But, as it turns out, there's plenty to see if you look beyond the many chocolate factories and breweries. Let me warn you though, there's a lot of walking involved.

Of locals and more
Brussels is all about cobbled streets, beautiful views and quaint cafés. If you do include the city in your itinerary, make it a point to head to the Central Square. Lady Gaga performed here recently, I was told. And culture vultures will be left amazed by the grand architecture on display.
Museums are the other attraction. From the Museum of the City of Brussels (that has a collection of over 800 costumes of city mascot Manneken Pis) to The Belgian Comic Strip Center- that transports you to the land of Tintin and the Smurfs- there's a lot of history worth finding out about.
Of course, a visit to Brussels is incomplete without tasting the delicacies on offer. From classic steaks and 'original' French fries to tapas restaurants, the city food scene will leave you satiated.

What a beauty!
Bruges is often called the Venice of the North. And, true to its moniker, it's mesmerisingly beautiful and Belgium's greatest tourist trap. With each architectural marvel comes a story that tells you the history of the city and explains its medieval charm. Stunning, to say the least, it's almost impossible to get a bad picture here. So keep your cameras powered up and click away.

From L to R: Artwork on display in Antwerp, In Flanders Field Museum

You could head to the 13th century Onze-LieveVrouwekerk Church, which has Michelangelo's Madonna and Child on display. It is his only piece of work outside Italy. Or go to the St John's Hospital, one of Europe's oldest surviving hospitals, now a museum and a must-visit spot. From admiring old structures and walking over several bridges to tasting chocolates at one of the city's oldest chocolate stores, there's so much to do in Bruges. And the food is sumptuous. People here love to eat and love to make you eat. Keep in mind, their portions are large. So, if you head to the right restaurants, be prepared for a five-course meal.

City that doesn't sleep
Head to the busiest and most commercial city in Belgium- Antwerp- and visit Our Lady Cathedral. Constructed in the 13th century, it is probably one of the most beautiful cathedrals in the world. This city- with medieval streets, old monuments, museums and multiple shopping streets- is constantly buzzing. It's also Belgium's style hub. So get ready to walk the streets with the country's fashionistas and get a lowdown on Europe's current trends.

From L to R:Exterior of Our Lady Cathedral, Antwerp and Comic art in Brussels

Beer, anyone?
A trip to Belgium is incomplete without a visit to a brewery, and beer tasting is an integral part of the Ghent experience. Gruut Stadsbrouwerij serves amazing home-brew on tap. And your brew could range from mild to potent. Interestingly, they use only herbs to preserve their beer. This city, too, is full of stories, and a boat ride is the best way to get a feel of the place.

War story
This year marks the centenary of the First World War. And, visitors to Belgium must include a short trip to Ypres to their travel agenda. The city, which is just over an hour's drive from Brussels, was a battlefield for four years. And, till date, you see glimpses of its war-torn past. Also, head to the In Flanders Field Museum, where the exhibits tell the stories of millions of wounded soldiers and destroyed towns. The Menin Gate, which was constructed in 1928, has the names of over 55,000 soldiers that went missing during the war carved into it.

Getting there
You need a Schengen visa to enter Belgium. There are daily flights to Brussels from Mumbai.

Note: The writer's trip to Belgium was sponsored by Visit Flanders.

First Published: Oct 27, 2014 19:31 IST