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Video courtesy of Visit Bruges Tourism

The small country of Belgium offers visitors a wealth of history and culture, boasting delightful medieval towns and some of the world’s most famous artists such as Rubens and Van Dyck.

The lively city of Brussels is the political centre of Europe. The country is steeped in history; from the architectural gems throughout the picture postcard towns of Ghent and Bruges to the fields of Flanders that were the scenes of many bloody battles during World War One.

Belgium is also famous for its tasty food and drink such as its chocolate, mussels and traditionally brewed fruit beers. It is split linguistically with the official language being French but a large portion of the population speaking the local dialect of Flemish.

The heart of Brussels is the Grand Place, an irresistible historic square as beautiful as any in Europe. It has a special charm on Sunday mornings when the square is transformed into a flower and bird market. Be sure to visit the 15th-century Town Hall, late 17th-century guildhalls, the City Museum as well as the Royal Museum of Ancient Art where the rich collection of Flemish and Dutch oil paintings is unrivaled.

Among the many churches, Cathedral St. Michel, St. John the Baptist and Notre Dame de la Chappelle stand out as most important architecturally. Nearby is the famous Maneken-Pis, a bronze statue of a small boy watering the fountain. The statue is the celebrated mascot of the city, said to embody the rebellious spirit of Brussels.

Filled with cathedrals and museums, Ghent is a city dating back to Roman times. It is now the capital of the province of East Flanders and one of Europe’s largest inland ports. It served as the principal seat of the Counts of Flanders and its massive castle dates from the 11th century.

The Rembrandt moors in the centre of town near the church that houses the famous painting by Van Eyck, “The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb”. Ghent also claims the title “City of Flowers”, as it is surrounded by nurseries devoted to azaleas, rhododendrons and begonias.

With its extensive system of canals and bridges, Bruges is often called the “Venice of the North.” The city, which has a population of 119,000 inhabitants and is the capital of West Flanders, was one of the most important cities of commerce from the 13th to the 15th centuries. Virtually surrounded by water which follows the course of the old fortifications, the town is linked by canals to the ports of Zeebrugge, Ostende and Ghent.

The beauty of the buildings, along with its famous lace and the wealth of art treasures, combine to make Bruges one of Belgium’s most popular tourist centres. The Halle dates from the 13th century and long served as the main market.

Also from the 13th century, the Belfry is the finest in Belgium and the most prominent architectural feature of Bruges. The Basilica of the Holy Blood has a lower chapel dating from the 12th century, the upper from the 15th-16th centuries and the Stadhuis is the oldest Gothic Town Hall in Belgium, dating from 1376. Located on the central square, it’s a wonderful spot to sip tea or coffee in the afternoon.

The Groeninge Museum contains the municipal collection of paintings, some of them late Old Masters and some works of the 19th-20th centuries. Opposite the museum is the early Gothic church of Onze Lieve Vrouwekek which traces its origins back to the 10th century.

Belgium rainfall is mild and steady throughout the year. Summer days are sunny with July the hottest month in Brussels with an average temperature of 18°C (64°F). Winters are mostly overcast, and the coldest month is February at 3°C (37°F) with the most daily sunshine hours are 6 in December. The wettest month is June with an average of 90mm of rain.

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