Why Belgium is ideal for a short boating break

Thursday, 22 March 2012 1:23 PM

If you're looking for a short break that caters for all the family, consider boat hire in Belgium. Combining picturesque scenery and beaches with medieval architecture and fascinating museums, Belgium really does offer something for all the family.

With perhaps only three or four days to spend exploring the nation, you'll want to make sure you get to see some of Belgium's best bits, and in this case many its most impressive locations are the towns and cities close to the water's edge.

You'll start your getaway in the lovely seaside spot of Nieuwpoort, which is a fantastic place to stretch your legs as a result of the golden sand to be found here. If you have youngsters in your party, visiting the beach is sure to be a highlight of any holiday for kids, so let them build sandcastles while you sunbathe or go for a refreshing swim. It's worth hiring bicycles if you feel like getting active, as the promenade stretches for 2 km and offers lovely views over the water.

Before you head off to your first stop, explore the town centre, where you can witness beautiful architecture, including the Gothic church of Onze-Lieve-Vroukerk and the belfry, the latter of which is a UNESCO World Heritage property. If you're green-fingered, meanwhile, call in at Prince Mauritspark to admire no less than 18 interconnected show gardens.

Once you're all aboard, set off for Ypres, an ancient settlement home to a variety of landmarks. Climb ashore to view the belfry, which is 70 m tall, and the amazing Cloth Hall, which was built in the 1200s. Ypres also boasts numerous memorials, such as the Menin Gate, which was built in commemoration of the soldiers who were missing after World War I. Spend some time making your way around the local museum 'In Flanders Fields' to learn more about the battle.

Head to Diksmuide next and make a brief stop to visit the museum IJzer Tower. The structure is 85 m high and gives visitors the chance to experience the smell of mustard gas as they relive the events of the first world war. Back onboard, you can make for Bruges - the former capital of the Flanders region. The medieval city centre is so well preserved it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Among the landmarks to be found here is the Church of Our Lady on Burg Square, inside which you can view Michelangelo's Madonna and Child. In the market square meanwhile is a belfry, which is almost 750 years old and is well worth scaling for spectacular views from the top - if you can manage the 366 stairs, that is!

There are plenty of things to do in Europe, even on a short break, and Bruges is no exception. Renowned for its lace-making, the city is home to the fascinating Brangwyn Museum, which you can visit to look at varieties of the fabric, such as needlepoint, bobbin and old mixed lace. The city is equally well known for its beer, and you'll find hundreds of varieties to try during your stay!

Pay a visit to the Straffe Hendrik Brewery - the last family brewers remaining in the area - to tour the facility and sample the end product, and perhaps pick up a few bottles to enjoy back on the boat.

Your next - and potentially last - port of call on boating holidays in Belgium is Gothic Gent; another top spot for enjoying a cool beer, so seek out refreshment at the Dulle Griet Bar once you arrive and you can browse a menu that lists more than 250 different types of the drink! Gent is a great place to explore as although the historical city centre measures just 1 sq km, it is home to more listed monuments than any other city in Belgium.

Among the top attractions is the restored medieval fortress Chateau des Comtes de Flandre, and the imposing castle of Gravenseteen, which you can tour to view the implements of torture stored inside. Another must-see is the Cathedral St Bavo, which houses the well known painting Adoration of the Mystique Lamb by the Van Eyck brothers.

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