Antwerpen, daughter of the river Scheldt and second largest city of Belgium is situated at about an hour from Bruges. The 500.000 inhabitants call it 'Metropolis'.
It has the second largest port of Europe (behind Rotterdam) and is a splendid city with lots of architectural summits, especially from the 16th and 17th century.
During the Second World War the city was fairly damaged but still there remain sufficient monuments to admire. The past is represented as well in the many paintings by Peter Paul Rubens, a painter who lived in Antwerp at the beginning of the 17th century. Antwerp is also famous in the whole world as a diamond center. No woman will ever leave Antwerp without visiting the so-called diamond district in the vicinity of the Central Station. This is also known as the Jewish part of town. The presence of this people gives Antwerp a flair you cannot find in any other Belgian city. Antwerp not only lives in the past but actually it is famous as a fashion-city, thanks to many Flemish designers, such as Walter Van Beirendonck, Nadine Wynants, Ann Demeulemeester, Dirk Bikkembergs, Kaat Tilley and others.
Today Brussels stands for the agglomeration of the 19 municipalities. They compose one of the three regions in the Belgian state. It is also the capital of Belgium and the Head Office of the Flemish and Walloon Community. At the same time it is the principal seat of the European Commission together with the Council of the European Union.
Brussels is the bilingual capital of Belgium which means that both Dutch and French are official languages. Street names and road signs are posted in both languages. Brussels is also a capital where many cultures live together and you hear many different languages. This vivid and international flair is also thanks to its role as a point of intersection of all Europe. The same diversity and contrast are also be found in the different building styles of this city. Thus gothic cathedrals stand side by side to classic buildings such as in the area of the Royal Palace. Even splendid houses in art nouveau or art déco are to be discovered.
The Grote Markt (central market place) is the place to be in order to discover the history of the city; splendid guild houses and the impressive beauty of the gothic town hall turn the square into one of the most brilliant and world famous places in Europe.
Damme is a small town, situated at about 5 km from Bruges. You can reach the city in a paddle boat via the canal (built in the 12th century), by bike, by bus or by paddle steamer.
It has become a very popular tourist destination by its rich history and many places of interest; popular but not restless. Damme is famous for its gastronomy, far beyond its boundaries. Since a few years Damme has become the place to be for used and new books.
You can find many small bookshops. Places of interest: the historical centre with the town hall, the market place, the windmill, the church, the hospital museum, art in the streets, the medieval source with water pump, the statue of Jacob van Maerlandt, the 'Slekkeput', the city walls, the canal (Damse Vaart), ...
From Knokke to De Panne, all along the coastline, in every village and every town, there are many things to be discovered.
In glamorous Knokke you can stroll along the promenade, watching the show windows of exclusive boutiques and galleries. By taking the Kustlaan, you will easily reach the sophisticated residential 'le Zoute' where you can also visit the natural reserve 'Het Zwin'. Knokke is situated at about 20 km from Bruges and easy to reach by bike of by train.
Ostend is a cosmopolitan city that offers you many advantages and a rich historical past, among which a seaport, a marina, an airport, a casino kursaal, different commercial centres, ... The following places are surely worth a visit: the thematic park Earth Explorer, the three master Mercator, the Fort Napoleon, the domain Raversyde, the Amandine, the museum of fine arts, the historical museum 'De Ploate' and the provincial museum of modern art. Ostend is situated at about 30 km from Bruges and is easy to reach by car or by train.
De Haan still offers you the old-fashioned holiday feeling by its numerous villas in Belle Epoque style. Many of those villas and hotels are painted in pastel colors. Small paths are winding through the green offering you nothing but calm and silence. This seaside resort is famous, not only by its building style but also by the fact that you'll find no high buildings. De Haan is situated at about 20 km from Bruges and can easily be reached by car. Public transport is a bit more difficult though the coastal tram, which links the different seaside resorts, is quite an improvement.
Ghent is the fourth largest city of Belgium with around 250.000 inhabitants. It is not as large as Antwerp but much larger than Bruges.
Ghent is situated at the crossing of highways E17 and E40 and about half an hour's drive from Bruges. Trains between Ghent and Bruges go every half hour and it takes about 25 minutes to get there. It is no coincidence that Ghent, capital of Eastern Flanders, got so many beautiful names: historical heart of Flanders, city of all times, ... The city unites a great past with a lively present. It is being visited every day by lots of tourists and the inhabitants are called 'stroppendragers'.
The historical heart of Ghent includes many places of interest. From the Sint-Michielsbrug (bridge) you have a magnificent view of its skyline with the three towers of the Sint-Niklaaskerk (church), the Belfort (Belfry) and the Sint-Baafskathedraal (cathedral) where you can admire the word famous 'Lam Gods' by the Brothers van Eyck. The old port at the Graslei and Korenlei is only one example of what this city has to offer. Not so far from there you'll find the Gravensteen, a medieval castle of the counts of Flanders. Ghent has something for everyone: different musea, abbeys, churches and historical buildings, shops, restaurants and a sparkling nighlife.
Being the 3rd city of Flanders in the 13th century (after Gent and Brugge), Ieper played an important role in the County of Flanders.The cloth industry turned it into a flourishing city around 1250. Ieper cloth and textiles were sold up to the annual fair of Novgorod (South of Saint-Petersburg). During all World War One, the city was surrounded by German troups; British soldiers called this the 'Ypres Salient'. The Germans did not succeed in conquering the city in spite of a few great battles, costing the lives of 500.000 soldiers. The city was reduced to a heap of rubble. After the war some people expressed the idea not to rebuild but to leave it as a macabre memorial. Yet the city was restored into its prewar condition, mostly with German funds, enforced as a part of the 'Wiedergutmachung'. The reconstruction took over forty years. For many people, among which the British, Ieper is the centre of all commemoration of the First World War. The fields around the city are powdered with more than 170 graveyards, all of them very well kept. The Germans were the first to use toxic gas (mustard gas), which was called Yperite after the war.
Every evening at 8 pm, under the arches of the Menenpoort (Menin Gate), the 'Last Post' has been sounded since 1928, in commemoration of the hundreds of thousands of soldiers perished in the First World War. Ieper is situated at 70 km from Bruges."