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Belgium, your host country

The 2019 Best Sommelier of the World competition is being hosted in Belgium, a small but important country in Western Europe. Whether you compete in the Best Sommelier of the World competition, accompany your partner, or attend to support your national champion, you will enjoy visiting Belgium, the region of Flanders and the city of Antwerp, where the competition is held. Want to know what wonders await you? We are glad to take you on a mini-tour. Discover what our country, its regions and your hosting city have to offer you.

Belgium: small country,
cultural giant

Belgium is a nation of true gastronomes; the love of fine food and drink is part of our DNA. From weekend cycling trips to delight in beers and cheeses made in monasteries, to our specialty dishes such as beef stew with endive salad, or waterzooi with a side of our epic potato fries – we’re spoilt for choice. And this is before we even mention the chocolate!

Belgians love to let loose. We have a very rich cultural scene (art exhibitions, concerts, theatre, dance, etc.) and our nightlife is one big celebration. Summer festivals have put Belgium on the global musical map. Tomorrowland, the vibrant electronic music fest, welcomes welcomes every year tens of thousands of festival goers from all over the world.

A democratic monarchy and a federal nation with Flanders, Wallonia and Brussel Capital as three separate governmental entities, Belgium has three official languages: Dutch, French and German. Don’t be afraid of being lost in translation: most people speak two or all of these, and nearly everyone - in their own way - is fluent in English, or speaks it well enough to direct you to the nearest restaurant or bar.

Being the centre of Europe both geographically, commercially and socially, every corner of Belgium breathes history, as you’ll undoubtedly discover.
What should you pack for your visit? No need to bring chocolate or beers, that’s for sure. In Belgium you’ll find the most surprisingly diverse regional flavours in an area covering less than 300 square kilometres. It’s best to leave some room in your luggage: Antwerp is a renowned fashion city. Belgium has the euro as its currency and ATMs are widespread. Merchants accept a range of credit cards.

Wallonia: an undiscovered gem

If you’re an outdoorsy person, Wallonia and the Ardennes are the place to go. The green and hilly areas of southern Belgium boast extensive forests, rough terrains, fresh and wild water rivers, rolling hills and steep ridges. Activities include canoeing, hiking, climbing and enjoying the gastronomic riches of the region, while savouring the spectacular views.

Food and folklore

Wallonia sends you an open invitation to indulge your taste buds. A long tradition of quality food, superb craftsmanship and process of the riches from the land have resulted in honest and flavourful cuisine: cheeses in a range of flavours and textures, and monastery beers whose fame extends beyond our national borders.

Want to relive history to the rhythm of fifes and drums? In the period leading up to Lent, there are carnival festivities right across Wallonia. The Carnival of the city of Binche is even recognized by UNESCO. The highlight of the festivities is the procession of more than a thousand Gilles through the streets of Binche. The Gilles, clown-like performers, wear vibrant dresses, wax masks and wooden footwear to ward off the bad spirits.

Industrial heritage

Having been an important industrial hub for many decades, Wallonia is of interest to anyone curious about the industrial heritage of Europe. Be sure to check out the Strépy-Thieu funicular lift in the Hainaut Province. Built at the beginning of the 19th century, it is the largest hydraulic boat lift.

Enchanting cities

Travelling in Wallonia, you’ll discover some unique towns and cities. Liège, Mons, Namur and Tournai, all vibrant cities and gateways to a fascinating and ever-surprising region. A quick tour through Wallonia’s urban highlights:

Namur

A historical city with some interesting sights for art lovers.

Dinant

The region is known as the Valley of Fortresses and Castles, which really says it all

Liège

Nicknamed the Burning City, Liège is known for its amazing nightlife.

Eupen

Capital of the German-speaking community and located at the foot of the Hautes Fagnes.

Waterloo

Famous for its decisive battle in 1815 – the foundations of our current Europe.

BRUSSELS

Belgium’s capital, Brussels, is also the administrative capital of the European Union, bringing a feel of multiculturalism to a city that – otherwise – could be just one of many other ornate European cities. The heart of Brussels is undoubtedly the Grand Place, one of the most beautiful city squares in the world.

Brussels, city of marvels

The Grand Place is surrounded by a number of exquisitely decorated buildings, from the 15th century city hall with its famous spires, to antique guildhalls from the early 1700s. The square has a life of its own. Pretty in the daytime, strikingly illuminated at night, it buzzes with thirsty patrons who visit local cafes or sometimes serves as a location for holiday markets and fairs.
The Old Town area around the Grand Place comprises cobbled alleyways and shops selling lace and other Belgian specialties while the delicious smell of Belgian waffles wafts through the air. For the ultimate Belgian experience, follow your waffles with one of the many excellent local beers.

The 15th century Gothic church, the Eglise Notre-Dame du Sablon, is located in the historic centre of Brussels and has a rich interior and exterior. Also of interest is the 1899 Old England Building. Originally a department store, it now serves as the Music Museum. A rooftop café in this art-nouveau gem provides a spectacular view of the city. The energetic Place du Jeu de Balle flea market attracts treasure-hunters as well as those looking for quirky curiosities.

Brussels is blessed with a range of well-stocked and interesting museums. The MIMA (Millennium Iconoclast Museum of Art) is home to a permanent collection of contemporary art, while the prestigious Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts incorporates the museums of Ancient Art and Modern Art. The world’s biggest collect of works by the surrealist painter and native of Brussels, Magritte, can be found in a museum named after and dedicated to his art.

Nine reasons to visit Flanders

Art, architecture and cultural heritage

Flanders has a rich cultural heritage that goes back hundreds of years. Wherever you go, the rich past is palpable - if only in its renaissance, baroque and art deco architecture. Its medieval or historical city centres and impressive art collections lure tourists from all over the world. The Flemish Primitives, Rubens, Ensor, and Fabre ... Flemish artists have always been among the finest. With a vast and varied offer of world-class museums, galleries and art centres, art lovers will find plenty to immerse themselves in on a trip to Flanders.

Design

Having a long and rich history in creativity, Flanders offers a flourishing design scene. A wide palette of contemporary designers create exceptional work at an international level, ranging from handbags such as the internationally renowned Delvaux bags to jewellery, ceramics, furniture and textile design.

Fashion

Antwerp has a unique story to tell in the annals of fashion. In 1963, the prestigious Fashion Department of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts opened its doors. The Fashion Department was a world leader in the early 1980s, with ‘The Antwerp Six’ which were a hot topic in the media.

Comics

With great talents such as Hervé (the adventures of Tintin), Jijé and Franquin, Belgian comics have had an enduring impact on the development of this ‘9th art’, in Europe and around the world. Read, see and discover the whole story at the Belgian Comic Strip Center.

Cycling

Flanders is a paradise for cyclists. So why not rent a bike and explore its beautiful scenery, picturesque villages and artistic cities? A trip to Flanders is nothing less than a pilgrimage for cycling enthusiasts. Hop on your bike, and follow in the tracks of legendary Belgian cyclists such as Rik Van Looy, Eddy Merckx, Lucien Van Impe and Tom Boonen.

Flanders is a festival

Flanders is the ultimate place to experience the festival atmosphere during summer. Every year millions of happy people gather to enjoy some of the 280 festivals. The biggest bands, the most original settings and world’s best atmosphere put Flanders at the top of the bill as a music destination.

From Flanders with food

A love of food and flavour is a part of living in Flanders. We have turned French fries, beer and chocolate into art forms, but there is so much more to discover. With its 97 Michelin-starred restaurants, Flanders has one of the world’s highest densities of top-class eateries. And venues suited to every budget. Want to whet your appetite?

Handmade in Flanders

Flanders has a rich history in arts and crafts. The authenticity and traditional production methods have been maintained over the centuries. Thanks to their high quality and extensive use of colour, Flemish tapestries soon rose in popularity throughout Europe. Sophisticated craftsmanship and elegant fashion meet each other in the art of lacemaking. In the Lace Museum in Bruges you’ll discover the history of this elegant craft and can even learn some of the tricks of the trade.
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Nature

If you love a healthy beach walk, a rejuvenating swim in cool, salty water, or if you enjoy cycling along the coast and occasionally stopping for an ice cream or a trappist beer, you will not be able to resist the call of the seaside in Flanders! The sandy beaches gently stretch out to sea, while the salt in the air clears your mind and sets you on a path to relaxation.

Traveling in Flanders

Since Flanders is about the size of the state of Connecticut in the US, it’s no surprise that it’s an easy place to travel around. All of our cities are at a stone’s throw from one another and accessible by train or car.
English is widely spoken and Flemish people are always ready to help out!

Train travel time

  • Bruges – Ypres1h -47 km
  • Ypres – Ghent1h – 80 km
  • Bruges – Ghent30 min – 40 km
  • Ghent – Antwerp1h – 50 km
  • Ghent – Brussels38 min – 23 km
  • Antwerp – Mechelen25 min – 23 km
  • Antwerp – Hasselt1h – 73 km
  • Mechelen – Brussels25 min – 20 km
  • Brussels – Leuven30 min – 20 km
  • Leuven – Hasselt45 min – 45 km
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