Belgium capital, Brussels © Jean-Pol GRANDMONT
It may be a little country, but it is a lovely one, so it is sad that Belgium is often overlooked when travellers plan a trip to Europe. Tucked between the desirable and obvious destinations of London, Paris and Amsterdam, Belgium is usually treated as a stepping stone to the English Channel, or, at most, a quick stop-over for a look-see in the capital, Brussels.
Beyond the city of Brussels with its historic Gothic buildings and tall European Union office blocks, is a treasure-trove of undiscovered lazy seaside towns, and the inland wooded gorges of the splendid Ardennes, sprinkled with medieval castles and steeped in folklore. The medieval city of Bruges has character and charm galore with a rich architectural heritage, graceful canals, winding waterways and cobbled streets, and is a favourite with visitors. Belgium is a country that has inspired many artists and writers with the charm of its Gothic cathedrals, town halls, gabled guildhouses and rich museums.
After a busy day exploring it all, evenings are best spent experiencing Belgium's fantastic cuisine and delighting in the country's variety of 300-odd brews of beer. Belgians have a reputation for their gracious hospitality, no doubt due in part to the country's location, which has created an international crossroads for commerce and culture. Despite this, Belgium and its distinct regions of Flemish Flanders (north) and French Wallonia (south) has proudly preserved its traditions and identity.