Belgium’s Greatest Attractions
Belgium’s most notable features are its medieval town centers, which are home to a multitude of UNESCO sites and numerous fantastic bistro bars serving some of the world’s finest beers. However, there is much more to explore, including caves filled with stalactites, post-modern heritage, kayaking rivers bordered by forests, rural castles, and sandy beaches along the North Sea. Our sense of adventure often drives us to discover the lesser-known and hidden gems of our destinations because we believe there is much more to a place than what is commercially advertised. Therefore, through our mini guide, Belgium Travel – Cockpit Of Europe, we aim to showcase this Western European country in a unique light.
Why is Belgium Known as “The Cockpit of Europe”?
You may be curious as to why a country like Belgium is given such an unusual nickname. Since ancient Roman times, the region now known as Belgium has often found itself in the path of invaders. Cities have been plundered, and fierce conflicts have raged, particularly over the past two centuries. A lion statue on a conical artificial hill overlooks the world-famous Waterloo battlefield, where Napoleon was ultimately defeated.
Endless rows of white tombstones in the Flanders fields serve as a poignant reminder of the four years of hell during World War I. Furthermore, haunting former prison camps and various museums solemnly pay tribute to those who died in World War II, including Hitler’s devastating “Battle-of-the-Bulge” counter-attack in the Ardennes.
Belgium is one of the largest regions in Europe and has earned the nickname “Cockpit of Europe” because it has been the site of numerous significant European battles. Throughout history, various European powers have fought each other for dominance over this area, hence why Belgium is known as the Cockpit of Europe.
10 Fascinating Places to Explore in Belgium
We are confident that discovering why Belgium was once called the “Cockpit of Europe” must have been a captivating process. So, here are a few historically compelling places that should be included in your itinerary for your holiday in Belgium:
1. Waterloo Battlefield
Waterloo in Belgium is the site of Napoleon Bonaparte’s final battle, the Battle of Waterloo, which took place on June 18, 1815. During that time, it was also the largest battlefield in Europe. The highlight of this renowned site is the statue of a lion placed on a mound, overlooking the expansive battlefield. The historical significance of this place attracts numerous tourists from around the world. The site can be roughly divided into three parts: Hameau du Lion (Lion’s Hamlet), Waterloo Town Center, and the Museum in the Last Headquarters of Napoleon Bonaparte.
Address: Waterloo, Belgium
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The Atomium in Brussels, stands as a famous edifice situated on the Heysel Plateau. It was erected for the initial post-war universal world exhibition (EXPO 58) in 1958 and presently serves as a museum. Atomium was formulated by the engineer André Waterkeyn and architects André and Jean Polak. The structure stands at a height of 335 feet, comprising of nine colossal stainless-steel-spheres interconnected with one another, portraying the arrangement of an atomic structure. Intriguingly, each sphere has room to hold exhibitions. Five spheres are livable and can be reached via stairs, escalators, and an elevator. The utmost sphere also includes a restaurant which offers a breathtaking view of Brussels.
Location: Square de l’Atomium, 1020 Bruxelles, Belgium
Further Reading: 14 Essential Europe Travel Tips For The Novices!
3. King Baudouin Stadium
Cricket is a Belgian concoction! Scholars hypothesize that colonizers from north Belgium may have introduced the recreation to Britain, based on an old poem written in 1533, that refers to Flemish weavers as the ‘ruler of crekettes’ and mentions ‘wickets’, predating English references dating back to the 1600s. Therefore, when in a country where the sport of cricket holds such significance, it’s a splendid idea to pay a visit to a renowned stadium. King Baudouin Stadium is a multifunctional arena that was inaugurated in 1930. This is the largest stadium in Belgium and hiring a guide for the tour is advisable. The stadium houses several interactive resources placed across different areas, which provide insights into its history.
Location: Avenue de Marathon 135, 1020 Bruxelles, Belgium
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4. Signal de Botrange
The utmost point in Belgium is tinier than the world’s tallest edifice. The Signal de Botrange on the High Fens level in far-east Belgium is the utmost point in Belgium which is approximately 694m. It is the zenith of a extensive plateau. It is inferior to the world’s tallest skyscraper in Dubai, the Burj Khalifa at 828m. Belgium alongside the Netherlands and Luxembourg are verifiably recognized as the Low Countries. Intriguingly, being the utmost point, the meteorological conditions here also diverge from the remainder of Belgium. Signal de Botrange experiences sturdier winds and the temperatures also descend lower than the center of Belgium. The places also receive more precipitation.
Address: Liege, Beligium
Boerentoren or the Farmer’s Tower is Europe’s first skyscrapers. The structure, that is originally known as Torengebouw van Antwerpen and officially known as KBC Tower, was completed in 1928 in Antwerp. The height of Boerentoren has made several records in the history and it is yet the tallest place in Antwerp today. It is about 96m high and consists of 26 floors. The workmanship deco structure, now known as Boerentoren or KBC Tower, was the tallest expanding on the landmass until 1940 when Terrazza Martini Tower opened in Genoa, Italy. Boerentoren building was designed by Jan Van Hoenacker.
Address: Schoenmarkt 35, Antwerp, Belgium
6. Rue du Marché aux Herbes
Belgium is additionally credited to having Europe’s most aged shopping arcades, The Galeries St Hubert, which opened in Brussels in 1847. The oldest shopping place in Belgium is in the back streets between the Rue du Marché aux Herbes /Grasmarkt and the Rue Montagne aux Herbes Potagères /Warmoesberg and displace an ignoble space where the bourgeoisie hardly ventured into with a protected shopping arcade in excess of 200 meters (660 feet) long. This crowded lane is a popular shopping street in Belgium, so make sure you pay a visit to this humble yet busy street for a real feel of Belgium shopping.
Location: 1000 Brussles, Belgium
7. Street of Butchers
Prepare yourself to increase an inch or two to your waistline. Belgium’s unexpected range of culinary specializations extends far beyond the nation’s small size and is not intended for individuals concerned about their weight. Brussels and Liège compete over what constitutes the perfect waffle, while countless stores offer some of the most delightful chocolates in the world. Large mussels are served with crispy fries that you will simply refer to as “French” fries at your own risk. Beer brewing is a relatively mysterious art in Belgium, boasting an astonishing variety of styles, most notably the six exceptional Trappist beers, which are still produced within active monasteries. Curious about where to go to indulge in all of this? Head directly to the Street of Butchers, the renowned culinary street in Brussels.
Location: 1000 Brussles, Belgium
Even though it may be small, Belgium is a place of striking contradictions: linguistic, cultural, and geographical. The majority of the historic “art” cities are located in the predominantly flat, Dutch-speaking region of Flanders, enticing visitors with medieval towers, enchanting marketplaces, and architecturally diverse houses that often overlook truly urban waterways. Flanders is the northern part of Belgium where Dutch is spoken. If you desire to explore a different cultural facet of the country, this is the destination you must visit. The view of its picturesque canals and bridges seamlessly blending with urban settlements will leave you astounded.
Wallonia is the French-speaking part of Southern Belgium. Conversely, despite some intriguing post-modern urban areas, a significant portion of the hilly, French-speaking Wallonia is predominantly rural. Therefore, it is beneficial to have your own transportation to explore the region’s vast caves, historic manors, and countryside valleys, where there is endless outdoor amusement to be enjoyed. The area is renowned for its medieval towns, Renaissance-era architecture, and traditional Trappist beers. Popular tourist attractions include the baroque St. Aubin Cathedral and the Citadel, a hilltop fortress established in the 10th century. It is located in Namur.
10. Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium
Leading museums and exquisitely adorned exhibitions reveal the intricate history of what has been a melting pot of European art, from the Flemish Primitives, through Rubens’ captivating nymphs and Art Nouveau’s twisted curves to peculiar surrealism, humorous cartoons, and 21st-century fashion. Belgium also boasts some of the world’s most unusual festivals. Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium is a destination where you can catch a glimpse of all the aforementioned. This collection of art museums houses over 20,000 drawings, sculptures, and paintings, dating from the early 15th century to the present.
Address: Rue de la Régence 3, 1000 Brussels, Belgium
We trust that our mini guide, Belgium Travel – Cockpit Of Europe, has aided you in traversing through time and virtually exploring the splendid historical streets and places of Belgium. So, plan a trip to Belgium now, prepare your belongings, and immerse yourself in the incredible experience that Belgium has to offer.
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Frequently Asked Questions About Belgium Travel – Cockpit Of Europe
Which country is referred to as the ‘Cockpit of Europe’?
Belgium is referred to as the ‘Cockpit of Europe’.
What does ‘Cockpit of Europe’ signify?
Belgium is called the ‘Cockpit of Europe’ because it is where the largest number of European battles have taken place in history.