There's just something special about small, unassuming Belgium. So often the butt of patronising clichés from its larger and more self-important neighbours, and certainly less disposed to trumpeting its myriad delights than, say, France, Belgium nonetheless manages to encompass all the best that Europe has to offer in a relatively confined area. It is a country of astonishing variety, yet both compact and close enough to invite discovery and regular reacquaintance. And thanks to Eurostar and an excellent local rail network, it is now more accessible than ever.
Though no longer Europe's best kept secret, Belgium still constantly surprises. Like its people, it is both welcoming, full of joie de vivre, quirky and irreverent, sophisticated but down-to-earth, trendy yet traditional. Belgium is living testimony to the fact you don't have to travel far into Europe to find yourself immersed in a totally, enchantingly foreign experience and yet at the same time feel immediately at home. Multilingual, multicultural, yes, but distinctively and uniquely Belgian.
The capital Brussels is one of the world's great cosmopolitan capitals, home to the European Union and international organisations, with a vibrant popular culture and incredible array of bars and restaurants. Flanders, to the north and west, is justly proud of its medieval art cities, Antwerp, Bruges and Ghent. Each is brimming with quaint cobbled medieval squares, tree-lined canals, beautiful architectural facades, peaceful beguinages, great museums and the ubiquitous friendly outdoor cafes perfect for people-watching and enjoying a local beer.
All these Flemish jewels are unique in their own way and conveniently located only a short train ride away from each other. Indeed, within a single day it is possible to take a romantic canal cruise in Bruges, hunt for diamonds in Antwerp, stroll past the stunning facades of the Kornmarkt in Ghent and be back in time for dinner in the capital's magnificent Grand Place.
And each has so much more to offer than simply architecture and history. There are the colourful open-air markets, shopping galleries, cafes and brasseries, stylish restaurants to suit all tastes and budgets, a vibrant nightlife; there are festivals and exhibitions, and regular parades, carnivals and pageants steeped in medieval history are an important part of local life And of course there are the chocolates and waffles
So don't delay - discover or re-discover Belgium's cities now with Eurostar's high-speed link and French Travel Service's carefully selected, great value city centre hotels. We are quietly confident you'll soon be back for more!