I have always found the Flemish culture charming. It combines gracefully the Dutch simplicity with the French elegance. And lucky for us living in Holland, Belgium and the Flemish regions are in the neighbourhood. So we decided to kick off on a four-day roadtrip to explore better this area. Our destination cities included Bruges, Ghent and Lille. Between Holland, Belgium and France there are no borders to cross and no tolls to be paid which makes the trip comfy and more affordable.
After few hours of driving in the rain, arriving in the sunny city of Bruges was like entering a medieval fairy tale. The picturesque scenery of dreamy canals, historic buildings and numerous churches within walking distance makes it the ideal destination for city strolls. No wonder why the historic city centre is a prominent World Heritage site of UNESCO.
You will hardly see any cars in the centre. The galloping of horse hooves and carriages riding over the cobblestone streets create an entirely unique atmosphere transferring you to another era. Horse carriage can be also a convenient and extremely romantic way to get to know Bruges better. The smell of fresh waffle and chocolate will attract your attention along the way, so don’t forget to make a stop. The only downside is that city centre can get crowded in the morning and afternoon times due to the pack of tourists arriving . After four o’ clock, the rhythms slow down and the town gets pretty quite in case you want to enjoy your strolls in serenity.
The next day we drove towards the east to visit the largest capital of the East Flanders, the hidden gem of Belgium, Ghent. Its beauty caught us by surprise, its vibrancy made us feel welcomed from the first minute we arrived. This city should not be underestimated as it has a lot to offer whether you are an architecture admirer, a medieval history enthusiast or a foodie.
By the 13th century, Ghent was the biggest city in Europe north of the Alps after Paris . You can tell without a doubt by the well preserved imposing buildings. The Gravensteen castle, the Saint Bavo Cathredal along with the numerous churches you will meet in every corner are only some of the highlights in the centre.
Known student city, Ghent stays full of life throughout the day and until the late hours. Hip bars , trendy restaurants (wide variety for vegetarians) and cosy coffee places keep things vibrant. And since we are in Belgium do not forget to try the local delicacies made by praline chocolates and other delicious candies.
What I loved in this city, known for its cultural venues, is that it combines history with contemporary art. Real proof of that is the graffiti walls in a narrow street called Werregaren straat where it is absolutely legal to paint anything you want. This way the municipality encourage young artists to express themselves and at the same time preserve the rest of the city intact. These walls never stay the same, so when you visit they might look totally different!Our suggestions in Ghent;
- Restaurant : Lepelblad .The food is great but reservation is required as it can get crowded.
- Brunch: Simon Says. Cosy little breakfast spot with lovely food and great service.
- Cocktail bar : Mosquito Coast. It serves also tapas; Stunning interior!
Our next stop was Lille or Rijsel in Flemish . Yes, the city does belong to the northern part of France, however the Flemish influence is prominent. Medieval buildings, narrow cobblestone streets and Belgian beer are still the main characteristics , so you probably won’t even notice the difference once your cross the border from Belgium to France.
The Lille Cathedral and the Grand Place are the places that you will want to visit first. This is what we did before we started craving all the delicacies in the patisseries. Being also a student city, in Lille you can reach pretty much everything in walking distance, which makes it an ideal destination for a day trip.