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Belgium is a Federal State

Belgium is a typically stable, cautiously progressive, western European liberal democracy. The alliance with The Netherlands and Luxembourg became the Benelux Union in 1958, which, in turn, became one of the foundation stones of the European Community. Brussels is the headquarters of both NATO and the EU. Today, the anachronistic images of boring Belgium have been well and truly banished over the last decade as the country promotes its key destinations, along with a string of new attractions.

Easy to travel around, this pocketsize country is divided into the Flemish north, Flemish speaking and the Walloon south, French speaking. Brussels, the capital, is the heart of the country and the European Union. Belgium always had a lot more going for it than the faceless political and bureaucratic buildings that litter its capital with a string of engaging cities in Bruges, Ghent, and Brussels itself that offer impressive architecture, lively nightlife, first rate cuisine and numerous other attractions for visitors. Then there is reinvented Antwerp, now a hotbed of fashion and modern design, and the more bucolic charms of the beauty of the mountainous Ardennes region to the east, as well as the sweeping sand of the coastline resorts of the western seaboard. Belgium is also a land whose specialities include ubiquitous beers, delicate chocolates and Belgian waffles.

The principal domestic problem is continuing tension between the Flemish speaking north and the French speaking south of the country, known as Wallonia, not forgetting the capital Brussels. However, throughout the years, Belgium has evolved towards an efficient federal system. Five reforms have been necessary to achieve this in 1970, 1980, 1988, 1989, 1993 and 2001. In 2005, Belgium celebrated 25 years of federalism and for the first time ever, article one of the Belgian Constitution stated that Belgium is a federal state made out of communities and regions.

Enjoy the many Brussels museums such as the Museum of Ancient Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Comic Strip Museum and the Museum of the City of Brussels.

Relax over a meal of moules frites in one of the many reasonably priced restaurants of Brussels Rue des Bouchers, close to the Grand Place. Most have tables outside in the summer, from which to watch the world go by while dining.

Pay homage to chocolate, which is one of Belgiums best known products, with a visit to the Chocolate and Cocoa Museum off Brussels Grand Place, or Choco Story in Bruges.

Take a canal boat ride along the waterways of Bruges sometimes described as the Venice of the North, an excellent and relaxing way to appreciate the medieval architectural splendours of this historic Flanders city.

Sample some of Belgiums many fine beers at tBrugs Beertje a characterful bar in Kemelstraat in the centre of historic Bruges. It offers a choice of literally hundreds of varieties.

Belgium as a Holiday Destination

Belgium has a lot more going for it than some of the dreary descriptions and jokes about it would suggest. It is a low lying country, situated between France and Holland with a coastline facing England

across the North Sea.

A welcoming country to visit

One of the reasons for its boring, unpopular image probably stems from its capital, Brussels being a dreary collection of administrative offices and its associations with E.U. bureaucracy. Another reason is Belgium’s identity crisis. It is Flemish-speaking in the north and French-speaking in the south and there has always been a considerable clash of cultures between the two, both competing for a definition of what is the real Belgium. However, if one delves beneath the surface of this uninspiring portrayal of Belgium, it soon becomes apparent that the country has much to offer. For a start, it is actually packed full of absorbing history; from both before and after its separation from the Netherlands in 1830. Beautiful historical buildings and architecture abounds in nearly every city. Ghent provides a fascinating example of a medieval port and has the most number of historical buildings to see. Bruges however, is the most attractive from a scenic point of view. It is a beautifully preserved 14th century Flemish town whose narrow cobble-streets, canals and gabled houses demand at least a day’s visit and preferably a longer stay there.For a lively city with plenty to do, head for Antwerp which as well as being Europe’s diamond capital and a hotbed of modern fashion, still manages to reveal its impressive past through places like the house where Rubens lived and worked for thirty years.

Although much of Belgium’s countryside is flat and lacking in scenic appeal, the Ardennes region is mountainous and offers a beautiful wooded landscape of wild crags and ravines where one of the most famous battles of World War 2 was fought.

Belgium’s people are generally some of the most welcoming you will find anywhere. They are noted for their love of good food in large helpings. The word Gourmands (meaning big cuisine) rather than Gourmets (meaning fine cuisine) describes the typical Belgium very well. Another cliché often used to describe Belgium cuisine is; French food in German sized helpings. It is very apt!

When to visit

The warmest time of the year is April through to September but Belgium weather is inclined to provide days of grey skies and rain at any time.

A popular tourist attraction takes place at the beginning of July. This is the Ommegang Pageant, a spectacular medieval festival dating back to 1359. The colorful procession through the streets of Brussels is followed by a flag and horse parade. Next, crossbow men surround a statue of the Virgin that the procession has escorted from the Sablon Church. Finally everyone settles down to enjoy an incredible fiesta of games and entertainment.

Getting to Belgium

The UK has several discount airlines operating flights from many of its airports to Brussels, Antwerp and other cities. Visitors from other European countries will usually travel by train or road. U.S. and Canadian tourists will probably need to consider flights to France or the UK rather than finding a direct flight.

More travel tips about Belgium

For more travel tips, information and articles about Belgium as a holiday destination, take a look at the best-travel-tip.com website