Belgium

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Although small in size, Belgium lies at the very heart of the European Union. Famous for its seemingly endless varieties of beer and some of the finest chocolate in the world, this charming nation has somehow managed to stay under many travellers' radar – undeservedly so. Although the extensive Belgium Travel Guide recommendations of state-of-the-art museums, art galleries and architectural treasures can be overwhelming in number, any visitor willing to explore this corner of Europe will come away truly impressed.

Bordered by France, the Netherlands, Germany and Luxembourg, Belgium has these days acquired a multicultural flavour. That's especially the case in its cosmopolitan capital Brussels, which employs representatives from all over the world and acts as the European Union's political and administrative headquarters. Despite an influx of foreign influences, this vibrant city has managed to retain its unique cultural identity. Highlights include the beautiful 12th Century La Grand-Place and the nearby fountain statue of Manneken Pis, or 'peeing boy,' as well as the Musee Magritte, devoted to the surreal paintings of the country's premier artist, René Magritte. Brussels also boasts the Atomium – a truly impressive structure built for the 1958 World's Fair and boasting a restaurant at the top, as well as one of the oldest chocolate boutiques in the world, Neuhaus, dating back to 1857. In fact, curious chocoholics may wish to visit the Musee du Cacao et du Chocolate on Grand Place to really appreciate the intricacy of the chocolate-making process.

Belgium holidays wouldn't be complete without a visit to the picturesque city of Bruges, with its Gothic architecture comprised of brick towers, churches, narrow cobbled alleyways and a stunning network of water canals which criss-cross the city. Most Belgium tours also stop in the Flemish cities of Ghent, with its impressive medieval Gravensteen castle – the historic seat of the Counts of Flanders, as well as Antwerp – the city associated with one of Europe's grandest cathedrals, the painter Rubens, the diamond industry and a stunning harbour location. Although the northern Dutch-speaking region of Flanders attracts the most tourists, those preferring to explore natural attractions in an outdoor setting might enjoy visiting the southern region of French-speaking Wallonia, with its abundance of caves, castles and valley landscapes.

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