Summer is well and truly upon us so what better excuse to get out of Brussels and explore the rest of Belgium?
Notwithstanding the unpredictable Belgian weather, here are a few ideas, compiled by EUToday, to help fill your summer diary.
When the sun is out it’s good to “mess about” on the river and landlocked Gent offers some particularly great opportunities to indulge yourself. Minerva boat company (www.minervaboten.be) allows you to rent a boat for an hour or longer. You don´t require a boating license or any experience so anyone over 18 years of age can have go on their easy-to-navigate boats. You’ll encounter no swing bridges and qualified staff provide all the necessary info and advice.
S and R Rozebroeken (www.sr-rozebroeken.be),a subtropical swimming paradise with water rides, tyre slides, wave pool, outdoor children´s pools, plus sauna and steam bath, is also a very popular family attraction in Gent.
Down in Wallonia, meanwhile, the Euro Space Center (www.eurospacecenter.be), just off the E411 motorway near St Hubert, is a science museum and educational tourist attraction. It is devoted to space science and astronautics. The centre includes simulators of space flight and micro-gravity on topics like weightlessness and its effects and even has space adventure camps.
With the never-ending Belgian school holidays continuing you may be desperate to keep the kids occupied. If so, check out Aventure Parc (www.aventureparc.be), an `amusement park´ with a difference at Wavre.
This really is ideal for people of all ages and, located in a particularly lovely setting, it offers the chance to climb on various games located on the 14 courses of the park.Everyone gets an outfit and equipment (harness, pulley and tether) to complete the activity. There are always lots of new activities and don´t forget to take sturdy shoes!
Nearby is the ever-popular Walibi and Aqualibi amusement park (www.walibi.com). Neither of these will disappoint.
Another energy-sapping afternoon out is offered by Dinant Evasion (www.dinant-evasion.be), which is ideal for fans of sports and boating activities, relaxation and the Great Outdoors. It offers everything from kayaking and adventure walks on suspended bridges to a peaceful boat cruise on the River Meuse which winds around and through beautiful landscapes, medieval castles, natural parks, prehistoric caves and daring rocks. It all makes for a great day out - and helps you keep fit in the process. The kayaking is available for 12 or 21kms while all activities are suitable for young and old alike.
Summer would not be complete really without a visit, however short, to the seaside and you can enjoy some great sea adventures, ranging from sea trips to harbour tours, with Franlis (www.franlis.be) at Ostende.
The company has experience of over 45 years in passenger sea transport and its vessels have state of the art navigation equipment. There is the possibility to charter an entire ship exclusively for receptions, company events… and even sea burials!
While at the coast, check out Sunparks (http://www.sunparks.com/in). Featuring a covered aquatic park called Aqua fun, the Sunparks De Haan village is just 1 km from the North Sea coast. The park is immersed in greenery and includes a spa and two restaurants. Sunparks is also not far from Bruges and Ostend. There’s so much going on here that it is impossible to get bored even when the weather turns sour.
Down at Namur there’s also plenty to keep visitors busy including the Citadel, a must see with plenty of possibilities (underground galleries, touristic train, Delforge Perfumes, amusement park for children) while a tour with the “Pousse-Pousse” is a really cool and original way to discover the city-centre and old town.
If the weather is good, having a drink on the floating terrace at a local café is also a must (or maybe rent a motor boat or try a stand-up paddle trip on the river). Namur also has two artisanal breweries , both worth a visit (L’Echasse et Brasserie du Clocher). More info via: www.namurtourisme.be
If you’re missing winter and a touch of snow, then why not venture a bit further afield to Snow World (www.snowworld.com) at Landgraaf, just over the Belgium/Dutch border, which is renowned for being the world’s largest indoor ski resort. Here, you can find the best snow, winter specials and après-ski, 365 days a year. Five slopes (with a length of up to 520 meters), 8 lifts (with a six person chair lift), an original Austrian Almhütte on the snow and several cosy restaurants and bars complete your snow experience.
Hainaut region is sometimes overlooked but one “must see” place is the fantastic Pairi Daiza (www.pairidaiza.eu), rated “best zoo of Belgium and Netherlands” which is home to two Giant Pandas and lots of other endangered species.
In the same region is Aquacentre, the Lacs de L’Eau d’Heure (www.lacsdeleaudheure.be) with its amphibian Red Crocodile and various amenities.
Just the other side of the Brussels Ring at Mechelen is Planckendael (www.planckendael.be) where you can walk among the penguins in the “America” section.
For science buffs, few kilometres away is the terrific Technopolis (www.technopolis.be), showcasing 350 interactive displays.
Not to be outdone Brussels, of course, has plenty to offer, including the Belgian Comic Strip Centre (firstname.lastname@example.org) which pays homage to the country’s enduring love affair with comics and, of course, Tintin. It’s been honouring creators of the 9th Art for over 25 years and the Smurfs are the latest to draw the crowds to its impressive collection.
Nearby is another ever popular attraction: Autoworld (www.autoworld.be) which currently showcases an exhibition on Ferrari. More than 35 sports and luxury cars recall the fabulous history of this famous car maker which was launched by Enzo Ferrrari at the ripe age of 49. The expo runs until 3 September.
Train World is a railway museum (www.trainworld.be) and the official museum of the National Railway Company of Belgium. It is situated in the buildings of Schaarbeek railway station, Belgium’s oldest surviving station.
Meanwhile, Paleis 2 Brussels Expo hosts Expo Dino World (www.expodinoworld.be), an entertaining and child-friendly exhibition featuring over 60 lifelike, animated dinosaurs. Twice the size of the 2013 edition, you will be enthralled as you’re transported back 65m years to when these giant beasts ruled the planet.
If you’re looking for a spot of summer culture, the ruins of a beautiful Belgian abbey will be transformed on 25-26 August when it hosts a musical spectacular.
Abbaye de Villers-La-Ville is one of the most historic sites in the country and makes a perfect setting for the latest edition of Nuit des Choeurs (www.nuitdeschoeurs.be), an annual musical show featuring a range of top-rate international acts, this year including Le Meilleur Du Choeur de L’Armee Rouge, better known as the Red Army Choir. This promises to be one of the cultural highlights this summer.
Looking further ahead Cirque Du Soleil perform Totem under the Big Top at Brussels Expo from 8 September (www.cirquedusoleil.com)
The image of Belgium took a real hit after the 2016 terrorist attacks but the tourist industry is now bouncing back with a real bang.
So, come on, with the better weather finally here, there really is no excuse for not getting out and exploring this fine, if often under-rated, country of ours.