Introduction

 IntroductionBelgium is seldom considered an essential stop on the average European itinerary but it is a mistake to overlook this tiny but culturally significant territory in the North of the continent.

Small as it seems Belgium has been the unlikely backdrop for some of the most important events in European history. It has seen armies of all the major empires come and go and its flat landscape hides the battlefields of Waterloo, Ypres and Passchendale, events that changed Europe forever.

The country has also seen the production of some of the finest works of art the continent has ever seen. Artists like Breughel, Van Dyck and Rubens were all masters in their day and Belgium’s art galleries are replete with their fantastic and moving works.

Many of Belgium’s cities are works of art in their own right. The simple beauty of historic centres such as Ghent and Bruges is matched by few cities in Europe. Meanwhile Brussels is a masterpiece of Renaissance art and architecture and has a refinement not found in many cities of its size. Steeped in history, it is also home to the European Government and has a distinctly cosmopolitan and modern outlook.

The people too are an interesting mixture of French flair and taste and Dutch devil-may-care. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Brussels’s centre where you can enjoy a sumptuous meal in a Michelin starred restaurant, or eat a paper cone of fries within yards of each other. Elegant coffee shops sit cheek by jowl with dance-clubs and you can hear any of the languages of Europe in a single turn around the magnificent Grand’Place.

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