Belgium: Land of Chocolate, Fries and the Not So Common Tourist

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So I have being living in Belgium for 7 years now and have never stopped discovering great places that, I think, travelers will really enjoy. Every time I discover a new place it always surprises me that there are hardly any visitors, and the few that do visit, are usually European either English, German or Dutch. It seems no one really thinks of Belgium as a vacation or sightseeing stop but I really believe this country has a lot to offer specially when wanting to enjoy good food and explore different parts off the typical tourist track.
When it comes to sightseeing there are a lot of beautiful areas that offer a great excuse to visit Belgium. Almost every small town in Belgium has something important to show, either medieval ruins or beautiful nature, museums or historical sites, and even provincial domains. It is very easy for a tourist to rent a car and just drive around for example to the south. The area of Dinant and Namur famous for its' Citadels (forts and castle ruins), or Waterloo and Bastogne famous for important battles (Napoleon's defeat and WWII battle of the Bulge respectively) are a few of the examples that come to mind. A good day trip, specially when visiting with children, are the many provincial domains which are protected forests with walking trails, picnic areas, playgrounds, and water attractions. One of my favorites is "Foret de Reve" in Ottignes. Other options include going north to the coast and experiencing the port of Antwerp and the Mechelen museum of Science (Technopolis). Whatever the destination it is certain that the driving (through small roads) will already be very pleasant as there are many "pit stops" along the way, from artisanal honey makers to beer abbeys offering guided tours.
Experiencing the food in Belgium is another big part of getting to know this country. There are many great, fun, original places to go to ranging from fry stands to lovely tea rooms and exotic restaurants to fast healthy cafe's and markets. Belgium has very few fast food chains or restaurant chains and in general prides itself in the small "brasseries" (bars or cafe's that sell lunch and dinner options). Fry stands sell mainly fries with all sort of sauces (many only available in Belgium) and a few other fast food choices like hamburgers. Waffles, on the other hand, are mainly sold through a very strong chain called Belgaufra which are present in pretty much every shopping street. A nice thing about Belgium's brasseries and restaurants is that most have some very interesting sites that go from old factories to tram stations and they always try to keep the decor very authentic. Most offer terraces even during cold weather so people can enjoy internal gardens and street views. An alternative to eating lunch at the brasseries is eating at one of the many markets (which are all over the cities) which provide an original way to experience the Belgian culture. At the markets you find usually simple but delicious food like hotdogs (more German than american type) sausage breads (similar to a hotdog but with baguette) roasted chicken, oysters, parma ham and sandwiches.
Belgium is in my view one of the best places in Europe for vacationing, not only for its variety in places to see, things to do and food to try, but also because it is still relatively a non touristic country that allows the visitors to still flavor and visit some authentic food and sites.
Gail F. is an Ecuadorian/American living in Belgium since 2003. She has immersed herself in the culture by studying, working, traveling and seeing a lot of what Belgium has to offer. From ideal one day family trips to romantic B&B weekends and adventure packages for the young at heart, she is ready propose a custom travel itinerary based on your preferences to make the most out of your stay in Belgium. If you are interested in really discovering Belgium then email her at visitbelgiumtoday@gmail.com.
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