here is my rather random top 10: it is very difficult to choose – there are so many beautiful things to see!

choose belgium for a cool, modern and varied european vacation: it is quite small and you can easily reach the other cities by train. i stayed in ghent and traveled to bruges, oostende, bruxelles, antwerp, etc. i even went to lille, france  – do not miss the old quarter – via kortrijk. or you could take a longer trip to amsterdam via hague and rotterdam. take advantage of the 50% off during weekends and be careful with the various spellings of the city names – flemish, french and english – when booking train tickets!

10. the rene magritte museum in bruxelles. a surrealist pit stop!

9. the atomium in bruxelles. i would recommend the hop on hop off bus if you are short on time: its two routes cover the city’s most important highlights including the atom structure located outside the city center.

8. bruxelles, city of comics. you’ll find a lot of commissioned comics street art . belgium is the home of several well-known characters such as the smurfs, tin-tin and that galler cat gentleman and they celebrate that. for the hardcore fans, there is a comic strip tour and a comics strip museum!

7. oostende – go for a short seaside break. must see: this beautiful gothic church. plus: great local sea food. minus: feeding the seagulls may end up with a blistering fine – 150 euros. watch out!

for a lot more info, check out visit oostende.

6. bruges – beautifully picturesque. it deserves at least one day of leisurely walking and discovering. small and quaint, it has a lot of offer. the omnipresent canals are inhabited by a healthy population of water birds.

for more details, check out visit bruges.

5. antwerp is undoubtedly cool. you probably already know about my long-standing love affair with local gods deus. but the city is not easy to see: take your time to discover it!

it has a fashion district including the fashion museum – momu and some very interesting stores – do not miss the minimal ann demeulemeester store on 3, leopold de waelplaats – it will fulfill all your edgy hopes.

the city is a huge international diamond hub  – think four (!!) diamond bourses.

i liked the small zoo by the station, chinatown and the tiny but cute botanical garden.

i also enjoyed m hka, the contemporary art museum. right on the river side – their cafe with a terrace is perfect for a break. if you get there until 18.11, i recomend the jimmie durham show.

do not miss the newly opened het huis pavilion for the middelheim museum. the renovation included a series of pieces from very interesting international artists.

4. ghent is laid back and quiet. get yourself a ghent card and make the best of what the town has to offer.

my favourites: try the s.m.a.k. (museum of contemporary art) – their cafe is an attraction in itself.

while you are already in the citadel park, cross the street to visit the fine arts museum as well and then take a 5-minute walk to the botanical garden nearby – over 10,000 species thrive on a less than 3 ha area that includes a lake, green houses and a cafe.

I also loved the museum dr. guislain, an unexpected part museum, part mental institution place showing the history of how people found it suitable to deal with the mentally imbalanced. there’s also a separate gallery for sometimes related art. when i was there, there was a show on outsider art. very interesting!

if it’s sunny, do not miss a canal ride!

3. ghent (and belgium in general) as a street art destination.

2. track in ghent. a wonderful initiative of s.m.a.k., especially given the fact that ghent is a town with a population of 250,000 people. the exciting event lasts until 16.09 and the site-specific art of over 30 international artists is displayed all over ghent. i especially loved the knitted army in the tram station next to the castle and the search and destroy piece by the canal!  and the many religious-themed but modern and controversial nonetheless pieces exhibited in st. bavo’s cathegdral, alongside the adoration of the mystic lamb.

so, go get your track ticket and a map!

Search And Destroy (And honey, I’m the world’s forgotten boy)

Massimo Bartolini, Bookyards

Tadashi Kawamata, Favela for Ghent

Pilvi Takala, Lost Pigeons

1. the wonderful train station in antwerp. it may be an unexpected choice but it really is that good!

snack on fries and waffles and don’t miss the hundreds of local special beers.

right before leaving, buy chocolates for everybody back home.

and my personal favourite discovery: advocaat! it’s like eating pudding laced with alcohol. it’s beyond delicious… must not touch if you are on a diet! lol! for whoever is willing to ignore my warning, buy it here.

my favourite way of keeping up with cool belgium? i love belgium.

photo credits: google search, lilaesthete