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Must-see of Benelux
Canal, Bruges (© Stan Rippel - iStockphoto.com)
Bruges.

Must-see destinations in the Benelux

Eupedia strives to provide a fair and objective rating for all destinations and attractions in its travel guides using well-defined criteria. We compare all sights against each others, not just within a same region or country, but between European countries as well. This is why our ratings have the same value in every country. A must-see destination (indicated by must-see) is a must-see destination, no matter where you are. Some regions don't have any, while others boast many of them. Since objectivity is essential for us, we did not attempt to be "politically correct" by giving a balanced number of must-see places in every region.

Amsterdam
Rijcksmuseum, Amsterdam (© Luciano Mortula | Dreamstime.com)

Vibrant capital of the Netherlands and historical capital of Holland, Amsterdam is an tolerant, free-thinking and cosmopolitan place, where cannabis coffeeshops and red light districts don't appear out of place along its neat canals and bourgeois boutiques. A jewel of Dutch Renaissance architecture, Amsterdam is rightly famous for its Rijksmuseum, which could be described as a Dutch Louvre, but also museums dedicated to two of the best known local artists: Van Gogh and Rembrandt.

Antwerp
Groenplaats & Cathedral, Antwerp (© Eupedia.com)

City of arts and commerce, Antwerp is Europe's second largest port, one of the world's main diamond trading centres, but also a city of fashion designers, theatres and museums. Indeed, Antwerp possesses one of the highest density of cultural venues per capita in Europe. Its architecture is no less stunning, with a Renaissance market square and town hall, a great Gothic cathedral (the tallest in the Low Countries), a medieval castle, many Belle Epoque buildings, and Europe's first skyscraper. Antwerp also boasts one of the oldest and largest zoos in Europe.

Bruges
Rozenhoedkaai, Bruges (© Jakez - iStockphoto.com)

Preserved almost intact since the 1500's, Bruges is as pretty as it gets when it comes for medieval cities. Once one of Europe's great textile manufacturing and trading centres was twice the size of London in 1500, and twice more populous than it is today. When the river linking it to the sea silted, the merchants left Bruges and the 'Venice of the North' froze in time. Picture postcard Bruges, crisscrossed by lazy canals for romantic escapades, attracts 2 millions visitors annually. As if it wasn't enough, Bruges tops it all with an exceptional culinary scene, featuring some of the Benelux's best restaurants, including two out of three restaurants in Belgium awarded 3 stars by the Michelin Guide.

Brussels
Grand Place, Brussels (© Eupedia.com)

Capital of the EU, seat of NATO and numerous other international organizations, Brussels is a multicultural and multilingual city. It is renowned for its wide array of architectural styles, from the Renaissance extravaganza of its Grand Place to the postmodernism of the EU Parliament, from the curvy and nature-inspired Art Nouveau town houses to the grand and solemn Victorian-era monuments and museums, or the surreal Atomium built for the 1958 Expo. With over 100 museums, Brussels has enough to satisfy just about any interest, be it fine arts, cinema, automobiles, beer or comic books. Brussels also hosts no less than 11 film festivals, and many other festivals such as the Brussels Jazz Marathon or the historical Ommegang parade. Food lovers could come to Brussels just for the restaurants without forgetting the numerous waffle and chocolate shops.

Ghent
Belfry, Ghent (© Eupedia.com)

Ghent is the historical capital of the County of Flanders. Like Bruges it was one of the largest European cities in the Late Middle Ages. Ghent managed to preserve some of its medieval centre. Although not as perfect as Bruges, its monuments are more impressive, notably its moated 13th-century castle, its cathedral and its belfry. Ghent was the birthplace of Charles V of Habsburg (Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain) and of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster.

Keukenhof Gardens
Keukenhof Gardens (© Nicole Aletta Planken-Kooij | iStockphoto.com)

Keukenhof is the world's largest flower garden. Every spring tourists from around the globe come to gaze at the 7 million tulips and daffodils spread over 32 ha (80 acres) of impeccable tended gardens set between ponds and canals. Among the various styles of gardens are an English landscape garden and a Japanese country garden.

Luxembourg
Grand-Ducal Palace in Luxembourg City (© Mihai-Bogdan Lazar - Fotolia.com)

Capital of one of the world's richest nations (per capita), Luxembourg is the seat of several important EU institutions. The city grew around the early medieval Luxembourg Castle, built on a rocky promontory. A blend of German, French and Belgian cultural influences, Luxembourg is unique and full of charm. Key attractions include the Grand Ducal Palace and the Benedictine Neumünster Abbey. With more Michelin stars per capita than any other city and a local culture of both beer and wine, it is one of the best places to wine and dine in Europe.

Maastricht
Mosan architecture, Maastricht (© Eupedia.com)

More Belgian than Dutch in spirit, history and geography, Maastricht is a delightful walled city filled with 17th and 18th-century brick-and-stone houses, old medieval churches and a Dutch Renaissance town hall. Most of the inner city are pedestrian shopping streets with boutiques, cafés, pubs and restaurants. The Bonnefanten Museum is renowned for its collection of Renaissance and Contemporary works of art, such as Brueghel the Younger or Rubens. Maastricht hosts the European Fine Art Fair every March, widely regarded as othe world's leading art fair.

Namur
Places d'Armes and Belfry, Namur (© Eupedia.com)

Namur is to Wallonia what Bruges is to Flanders, a small, beautifully preserved historical city with a relaxed atmosphere, pedestrian shopping streets and excellent restaurants. Namur was built on the site of the oldest known Celtic fortification in the Low Countries. Overlooking the Meuse Valley, with its sheer granite cliffs, looms Namur's mighty citadel, one of the largest in Europe. The old town dates from the Renaissance and is lined with boutiques embellished with English-style wooden and glass shop-fronts. Namur's Baroque cathedral, the only one in the Benelux, wouldn't be out of place in Italy.

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