Médiacité (Bd. Raymond Poincaré 7, Liège) – a multi-functional complex combining commerce, leisure, culture, media and economic activity, Médiacité has achieved the tremendous feat of making the old deprived Liège district of Longdoz an attractive place to visit, and it has attracted 5.3 million customers and visitors the first year. There are currently 124 shops within this mall.
Archiduc (Rue A. Dansaert 6, Brussels) – this is an Art Deco bar that is home to artists and hosts many concerts, especially during fall & winter. Saturday’s “Jazz After Shopping” and Sunday’s “Round About Five”, both from 5-7 pm.
Autoworld (Parc du Cinquantenaire 11, Brussels) — if you’re a vintage-auto lover, don your pilot goggles and helmet because this is old-timer land! Parked under a high glass roof, you’ll be greeted by no less than 450 beautifully preserved old cars. Part of Ghislain Mahy’s prestigious car collection, it’s one of the best in the world. You’ll find cars used by former US President John F. Kennedy and Franklin Roosevelt. Are you familiar with the Minerva, FN, Imperia, Nagant, Germain and Vivilus? They were once top brands in the Belgian car industry, but have now completely vanished. Admission: Adult (€9), Seniors, Disabled & Students (€7), Children (6-12 years) (€5). Children under 6: free. Hours: 10 am – 6 pm (weekdays) (April – Sept.), 10 am – 5 pm (weekdays) (Oct. – March); 10 am – 6 pm (weekends all year round).
Bistro Kok au Vin (Ezelstraat 19/21, Brugge) – this restaurant is near the town’s central square, and serves a variety of items – from garlic & onion soup, to pumpkin risotto. Popular with both locals and tourists.
Atomium (Square de l’Atomium, Brussels) — Built for the 1958 World Fair, the Atomium represents a molecule’s nine atoms – magnified 165 billion times. Something of a symbol of the city, it provides a panoramic view of Brussels and its surroundings. The 9 spheres that make up the “atom” are linked by escalators. The Atomium hosts a museum and is also a venue for special events. During the Summer, take part in a unique activity: a Death-Ride from the top sphere of the Atomium — a breathtaking descent of more than 100 meters!
Admission: Adult (19 – 64 yo): €11; Students (with student ID), Teens (12-18 years) & Seniors (age 65 & above): €8; Children (6 – 11 yo): €6, Children under6: free. Hours: open every day, from 10am until 6pm.
Belgium is located in northwest Europe – sharing borders with France, Netherlands, Germany, and Luxembourg. Even though the country goes as far back as the Roman era, when that empire annexed that country as “Gallia Belgica” (a northern extension of Gaul – ancient France), Belgium as an independent country didn’t actually come into existence until 1830 (after a period when it was the “Royal Netherlands”, a part of that country’s empire). A member of European royalty, Leopold I, became Belgium’s first king in 1831.
Over the years, Belgium was known for its African colonies (in particular the Congo – a major producer of rubber and ivory, as well as Rwanda and Burundi). Its relatively small geographic size (next to neighbors such as France and Germany) meant that it fell victim to the times during the 20th century – having been invaded by Germany twice (during both World War I & World War II). With the Belgian King abdicating his throne after World War II, that country granted independence to its African colonies by the early 1960s, and staked its future as a member of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) and later in the formation of the European Union (EU). Brussels is the de facto capital of the EU (hosting the official seats of the European Commission, Council of the European Union, and the European Council).
Belgium stands apart because of its bilingualism: it has two official languages (French and Dutch). Belgium’s southern region (Wallonia) is French-speaking, while its northern region (Flanders) is Dutch-speaking. With much of Belgium’s economy being industrialized, tourism is just over 5% of the country’s GDP, with the majority of visitors coming from nearby countries. Apart from Brussels (which is a tourist attraction by virtue of being the nation’s capital), the town of Brugge is a major draw of international visitors, because it’s a pristine medieval city.