The Belgium coast is mostly famous for it’s ugly buildings and crowded beaches the moment the suns casts it’s first summer rays. But did you know that the Queen of the Bath Cities, as Ostend is often referred to, is home to an impressive collection of street art? Yes, for the third time running, Belgian’s largest coastal city forms the backdrop for the popular art festival The Crystal Ship.
This year over fifteen artists created large scale murals and art installations using Ostend as their canvas. The new artworks became a permanent addition to the fifty larger and hundreds of smaller creations which resulted from the past two editions. Together they form an impressive artistic trail throughout Ostend.
You can discover the art works on foot or rent a bike to get around even faster and absorb more of the art.
Pairi Daiza is a gorgeous animal park in Brugelette. This park is so much more than a zoo, though, the environment is breath taking, with beautiful gardens, temples, an African stilt village, a nice playground for the children and so much more. A day really isn’t enough to visit everything thouroughly. The animals in the zoo have plenty of space and can be admired from different view points. No ugly cages here, but nice, clean housing with animals who look well fed and not stressed at all.
There are lots of different options for food. You can take your own picknick, buy some fastfood or eat in a real restaurant. Food is a little bit expensive, though.
I have to say, the pandas were a bit of a disappointment. Their housing was quite dark and to be honest, these animals are cute, but also a bit boring. The visit to the Lemure island was a highlight, though. It is absolutely wonderful to encounter these lovely animals up close and personal (one even sat on my shoulder).
This is a must see when visiting Ghent. From the top of the Belfry you have a splendid view on two of the three famous Ghent Towers (you’re standing on the third). You can also see the famous bell ‘Klokke Roeland’ and two of the older versions of the dragon on top of the tower. The Belfry is a beautiful historical place, you won’t regret visiting. Don’t worry about the stairs, there is an elevator which brings you to the highest level.
Brouwerij Wilderen is a superb place to have a drink and a nice chat with friends and family. The home brewed beer is excellent, the drink menu is very extensive, the terrace is enormous and very beautiful, with some lounging chairs and a separate playground for the children. What better way to relax than enjoying a glass while your children are having fun?
Be warned, in summer the terrace is very popular, so you’ll probably have to wait to find a place. We got lucky because we arrived around dinner time and lots of people left around that time.
Tip: Do try the tapas Wilderen. You will not be disappointed. Be warned though, chances are you won’t have any place left for the main course.
If you like the beer, you can buy some in the shop.
After my years as a student at the KU Leuven, I decided to stay for a while and enjoy the city and all it has to offer. Since Leuven is known as being the home town of the Stella Artois, beer has always been interwoven with the city’s history. Now I have to be honest with you, although I visited my fair share of breweries in Belgium, I do not really enjoy drinking beer. But thanks to my boyfriend who really loves beer, throughout the years I also got to know Leuven the beer city a bit better.
So here are my tips for beer lovers who want to learn more about beer culture in Leuven
Once a year, on the last weekend of april, the Zythos Beer Festival draws people from all over the world to the tiny town of Leuven. The Zythos Beer Festival is the biggest festival of its kind in Europe and to be fair, the choice in different beers is quite impressive. I don’t find the surroundings (a big, dark industrial hall) to be very inviting, but each beer vendor does an effort to decorate his or her stand in a way that makes it nice and welcoming.
If you just want to enjoy a nice beer, I can recommend two cafés with an impressive beer menu: M-café and Fiere Margriet. The owners of both bars are very knowledgeable on the subject of beer, so make sure to ask for suggestions.
Of course, since Leuven is the home of the largest beer company in the world: InBev, you really have to join a guided tour of the Stella Artois brewery. The brewery is very modern (they recently modernized all of their brew kettles) and the guides are very good. At the end of the guided tour, you’ll get the opportunity to taste a perfectly poured Stella.
Leuven has also some small breweries, brewery Domus being the most famous. The bar-restaurant serves their own home brewed beer, which you can enjoy with some typical local cuisine. Guided tours of the brewery are possible, but the tours require an advance booking of at least 8 people and a maximum of 30.
If you like authentic Sicilian food, you’ll love Etna Trattoria. The couple who runs this cozy restaurant in the heart of Leuven sure knows what they are doing. The beautifully tiled floors and nice bar with lots of Italian specialties give of a really authentic vibe.
The husband makes sure his clients are served well and is very helpful in explaining the menu. He also knows his wines, so do yourself a favor and enjoy a nice glass of Italian wine with your dish.
The wife is the master of the kitchen and seems to really enjoy her job. When going to the toilet in the cellar, I’ve seen her countless times singing and dancing to the music. It must be this love for the art of cooking that translates onto the plates. The Sicilian food really is a feast for the taste buds. Most of the time I just order the specialty of the day, because I’ve never been disappointed by the food they serve.
A gem of a place.
Sicilian, Italian restaurant Etna Trattoria
+32 494 377 344
Not to be missed! The combination of beautiful architecture and lots of chique shops makes this a must see when visiting Brussels. Chocolate lovers will be pleased to find here the highest concentration of chocolate shops in the whole of Brussels. My personal favorite: Marcolini.
This place has been photographed countless time. The symmetrie of the place is gorgeous and in the evening it is beautifully lit. Nice for some window shopping or perhaps enjoy a breakfast at Le Pain Quotidien.
Place Sainte Catherine went through some changes in recent years. A nice addition are the terraces on the square, where you can enjoy lunch or dinner in summer.
Since we were with a group of ten persons it wasn’t easy finding a place for lunch. We were lucky that the terrace of Italian restaurant I Latini on the square had just opened so we were seated in a very nice spot under some trees.
The Italian waiter who took our order did this with the kind of flair you’ll expect from an Italian gentleman. My friends and I all ordered a pasta dish. We had to wait some time before our order arrived, but weren’t disappointed. The pasta was served on warm plates and perfectly cooked (as should be expected).
I had ordered the trofie al pesce spada affumicato e pesto di pistacchi. Due to the combination of smoked swordfish and pesto sauce, I found the dish a bit too salty. But otherwise, we had a lovely lunch.
Restaurant Saffron in the Viage Casino was a pleasant surprise, to be honest. Wasn’t expecting such nice food in a casino. The staff was efficient and I was really impressed by the roasted sea bream I ordered. Very good! The wonton soup I had as a starter was nice, but nothing out of the ordinary.
The menu is kind of eclectic, ranging from Asian cuisine, to traditional Belgian dishes to hamburgers. So everybody will find something to their liking. Also worth noting, this is one of the few restaurants in Brussels open until 2.30 AM. On Friday and Saturday they are even open until 3.30 AM.
You’ll need to pay an entry fee to the casino though, if you want to enjoy this restaurant. Minimum age for entering the casino is 21. The casino itself had too many slot machines to my liking. We visited on the French National Holiday and got offered some free pancakes and small appetizers.
Very steep stairs, so when arriving at the top you’ll be out of breath (don’t forget to take a bottle of water with you). But really worth doing so when visiting Liège. It is really a must see. The view is beautiful and you’ll be proud of your own accomplishment!