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BELGIUM TRAVEL, ACCOMMODATION & HOTEL GUIDE

Self-Catering/Vacation Rentals in Belgium:
Grand Place, Floral Carpet, Brussels, Belgium
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Building Covered with Ivy, Brugge, Belgium
Building Covered with Ivy, Brugge, Belgium
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BELGIUM TRAVEL GUIDE:
Belgium Travel Guide:
An Overview of Belgium for Travelers
Antwerp Travel Information
Bruges (Brugge) Tourist Information
Bruges Travel Information
Brussels: Chocolate Capital of the World
Discovering Antwerp
Gent (Ghent) Tourist Information
Holidays In Brussels - How To Get There & Navigate The Public Transport System Of Europe's Capital City
Namur Tourist Information
Oostende (Ostende) Tourist Information

An Overview of Belgium for Travelers   by Richard Monk

Located on the European mainland, Belgium often is short-shifted in discussions of Europe. Following is an overview of Belgium for travelers.

Belgium is located on the coast of the North Sea between Holland, German and France. The name comes from the Belgae, a celtic tribe. 
Belgium's geographic location places it at the crossroads of much of Europe, particular in relation to the United Kingdom and mainland Europe. As a result, the country has been heavily influenced by the powers that be in Europe during certain periods of times. You can find aspects of Romans, Celtics, Germanic, French and Spanish influences. 

Ruled by various European empires, the cities of Bruges, Brussels and Antwerp were major commercial trading posts. They also produced some of the more spectacular artists in Europe, including Eyck and Rubens. 

In modern times, the country is really three separate states with significant autonomy. The country is divided up into Flemish, Walloon and a smaller Germanic area. The Flemish are Dutch speaking while the Walloon are oriented to French. 

The Central Square in Brugges, Belgium
The Central Square in Brugges, Belgium
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The divisions between these areas are significant and they have significant autonomy from the federal government. One might argue they are countries unto themselves. 
 
Beautiful Sunny Morning on the Canals of Bruges, Bruges, Belgium
Canals of Bruges, Belgium
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The official name of Belgium is the Kingdom of Belgium. The country is located in Western Europe and covers approximately 12,566 square miles. Brussels is the capital of the country and has a population of approximately 922,000 people. The second largest city is Antwerp with 452,000 residents. 

The people of Belgium are known as Belgians. Total population for the country is 10.4 million with a paltry annual growth rate of less than one half of one percent. The country is divided into three linguistic regions, Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels. French is the dominant language in Wallonia, Dutch in Flanders and German in the Brussels area. Most people of Belgium claim Roman Catholic as their faith, but Protestant, Jewish, Muslim and Anglican communities exist. The literacy rate is 95 percent. 

Belgium is an odd hodgepodge of influences. That being said, everyone seems to get along in these modern times and Brussels is a major financial center in the Europe. 

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About the Author - Richard Monk is with FactsMonk.com - a site with facts about everything. Visit us to read more about Europe.

NAMUR FEATURED HOTELS, BELGIUM

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Ibis Namur Centre
The Ibis Namur Centre hotel is located 300 m from the railway station and 60 km from Brussels National Airport and is in the city centre, only a few steps from the theatre and casino. Book one of our 92 airconditioned rooms with WiFi Internet (three adapted for guests with limited mobility) and make the most of our amenities, a bar, 24 hour snacks and undercover pay parking. Enjoy visiting Namur (capital of Wallonia) and its citadel or take a river cruise or stroll along the banks of the Meuse river.
Leonardo Hotel Namur
This Wepion hotel is situated on a river. Area attractions include Castle of Namur. Leonardo Hotel Namur has an outdoor pool, an indoor pool, and a sauna. Business amenities at this 3.0-star property include a business center, wireless Internet access (surcharge), meeting rooms for small groups, and secretarial services. Leonardo Hotel Namur has a restaurant and a bar/lounge. 24-hour room service is available. This property provides an airport shuttle (surcharge). Event facilities consist of a ballroom, exhibit space, conference rooms, and banquet facilities. The staff can arrange wedding services, event catering, dry cleaning/laundry services, and tour assistance.
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OSTENDE (OOSTENDE) FEATURED HOTELS, BELGIUM

Oostende Tourist Information   by Meredith Booney

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Originally a small fishing village, the city of Oostende received its city charter in the 13th century and now has a population of 91,000 people, the largest population on the Belgian coast. Set half way along the 40 mile Belgian coastline, it became popular as a resort in the 19th century, when Kings Leopold I and II spent their summers there. During World War II the city was badly bombed.

The city is protected from the North Sea by a series of large dikes built in the late 14th century. However, the city often fell victim to invading armies. Its importance as a harbour rose in the 18th and 19th centuries, and a railway link to Brussels was built in 1838. In 1846 it became a transit harbour to England, sending its first ferry boat to Dover. Today, hundreds of passengers travel between Oostende and England in a space of just two hours, which makes it a good weekend resort for British travellers.

Named 'The Queen of the Belgian sea-side Resorts, Oostende boasts a long and sandy beach and is a popular beach resort for locals as well as visitors to Belgium, many of whom come to surf and sail. The old town and fishing harbour are popular attractions, and Oostende has much to offer in the way of shopping, eating and entertainment.

Places of interest:

The twin-towered church of St Peter & Saint Paul, close to the railway station, is a neo-gothic building built of sandstone in 1904-5. It houses the mausoleum of Queen Louise-Marie, Belgium's first Queen, who died in 1850 in Oostende.
 
The 'Fort Napoleon', north of the city centre, is the only Napoleonic fortress still intact in the whole of Europe. Built by Napoleon during the French occupation in 1810 and completed in 1812, it housed 260 soldiers. In the Second World War it was used as a German barracks.

Between Oostende and Middelkerke, near the beach, lies a large group of dunes known as the 'Raversijde Domain', which is a natural nature reserve. Here also is the 'Atlantikwall', a complex of tunnels and bunkers built by occupying German troops in the First and Second World Wars. Nearby is also an archaeological site of a medieval fishing village from 13th to 15th centuries.

For garden lovers, the Japanese Garden in the Koningspark is worth a visit and can be found opposite the swimming baths, near the sea wall.

Boats and Harbour, Ostend, Belgium
Boats and Harbour, Ostend, Belgium
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Things to do:

A walk along the splendidly clean and unspoilt beach, with a swim or paddle in the sea, is one of Oostende's pleasantest activities, but there are plenty of further activities in the centre and close to Oostende.

Oostende has several shopping centres, including the traffic-free Kappellestraat, Adolf Buylstraat and Witte Nonnestraat. Also, at the Alfons Pieterslaan and the Torhoutsesteenweg you can shop all year round. Market day in Oostende is on Thursdays on the Wapenplein, Groentemarkt and Mijnplein.

For those interested in history and culture, Oostende has several museums and galleries to visit. The Museum of Local History holds collections from the Neolithic and Roman times, a maritime section and sections on the two world wars. The Museum of Fine Arts holds works from the Belgian Masters, and at the Museum of Modern Art you can see a wide range of paintings, sculptures and objects from Belgium's recent history. Other places are the Museum Sint-Pieterstoren, the Museum of Religious Arts, the North Sea Aquarium and the Schooner Mercator which is a former Merchant Navy training ship now restored as a nautical museum. James Ensor House is where the famous impressionist painter lived.

One of the most popular places for families with children is the Maria Hendrika Park. Here you will find minigolf, rowing and pedal boats, playgrounds and woodland walks. Refreshments are available at the café.

You can also take a horse-drawn carriage tour around the city, where you will be shown the interesting sights of the city.

Food & Drink:

Whatever kind of food or restaurant you are looking for you are likely to find it here. Oostende has plenty of restaurants, cafes, bars and taverns both within its lively city centre, and along the promenade. Wherever you go, you will find kiosks selling mussels, fresh fish restaurants, and the ice cream is not to be missed.

There are several bars selling real ale, including the Café Botteltje and the Ostens Bierhuus. Oostende also has a selection of English style pubs.

One of the most popular restaurants in the city is the James Tavern in James Ensor Galerij 34, off Vlaanderenstraat. In its friendly atmosphere, you can sample a wide range of local cuisine, including their specialty, garnaalkroketten, or shrimp croquettes.

Of course, Oostende's best-loved food is fresh fish, and you do not have to look too far to find a wide choice of places specialising in seafood. One of the best fish restaurants is the Old Fisher on the Fisherman's Wharf. This has a relaxed but elegant atmosphere where you can sample a wide range of local fresh fish dishes. Another fish restaurant is the David Dewaele, a family-run restaurant serving French cuisine and fish fresh from the North Sea.

Hotels & Accommodation

Alpha Hotel 
Hotel Ter Kade 
Royal Astrid 
Hotel Princess 
Hotel Burlington 
Ambassadeur 

Entertainment:

If you are seeking the local nightlife, the first place to head for is Langestraat where you will find cabarets, night clubs and bars, as well as the famous Kursaal Oostende, one of the largest casinos in Europe. The casino contains gaming rooms, a concert hall where you can regularly hear concerts, operettas and ballet, disco, rooftop restaurant and gaming rooms.

Many of the bars and pubs offer live performances, including jazz, blues or contemporary music. There are English pubs, at least one Irish pub, and, of course, good strong beer.

Between May and September is the racing season and anyone interested in the sport must take a trip to Wellington Racecourse.

Every year in the first week in March, Oostende holds a carnival with a different theme each time and in October there is the annual fun-fair.

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About the Author  -  Meredith Booney is a freelance travel writer with over 20 years of experience writing for travel journals, newspapers and magazines. Website
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Empire Hotel Ostend
Located in a modern red-brick building, this friendly hotel provides a homely base with simple, elegant guest rooms and a relaxing lounge area. Benefit from free Wi-Fi. The Hotel Empire is located within 100 metres from the beach, just off the boulevard. Each room is decorated with modern details and a blue-and-white colour scheme. Wake up every morning with a free breakfast buffet and plan your day at leisure. The restaurant serves traditional Belgian cuisine in an attractive and intimate setting. Unwind with a cup of coffee in the lounge or have a local draft beer in the warm atmosphere of the bar.
New Astoria Hotel Ostende
This Ostend property is close to Ostend Beach and Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. In addition to a restaurant and a bar/lounge, New Astoria Hotel features a television in the lobby and concierge services. Guests are served a complimentary breakfast each morning. The front desk is open 24 hours a day. Business-friendly amenities include direct-dial phones. Bathrooms feature shower/tub combinations. 
Ramada Ostende
This Ostend hotel is close to Ostend Beach and Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. Ramada Ostend has a restaurant and a bar/lounge. Guests are served a complimentary breakfast each morning. 24-hour room service is available. Business amenities at this 3.0-star property include wireless Internet access, meeting rooms for small groups, and audio-visual equipment. Event facilities consist of exhibit space, conference rooms, and banquet facilities. The staff can arrange dry cleaning/laundry services, currency exchange, and express check-out. Additional amenities include laundry facilities, multilingual staff, and complimentary newspapers in the lobby. This is a smoke-free property. 
The Royal Astor Ostende
The hotel is located a few metres away from the sea, close to the casino and the beach.  The Rooms are medium in size and kept in very good condition. They are decorated predominantly in blues and greens. The bathrooms are of good size with blue and white tiles. The restaurant is located on the ground floor. The color theme is blue throughout the hotel and continues into the restaurant, along with a nautical theme with modern, pale, wooden furniture. The bar area is very modern. The hotel is a very pleasant, superior tourist hotel.
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