Belgium is an ideal location for a luxury break; famous for its fine cuisine, vast range of beers, chocolate and lace, the nation also boasts beautiful scenery and medieval architecture. If you want to experience all this and more, consider booking a boating break that stops at some of Belgium's best-known towns and cities.
If you haven't got long to spend in Belgium, you'll want to make sure you take in the best destinations the country has to offer. Read our guide to discover which spots are simply unmissable.
The Gothic city of Ghent was once the largest in Europe after Paris and, despite its historic centre measuring just one square kilometre, the city boasts more listed monuments than any other in Belgium.
Among the landmarks worth admiring during your Belgium boating holiday is the Cathedral St Bavo, built in the Gothic style on the site of a wooden chapel that stood here around the year 942. Also boasting Romanesque features, the cathedral's crypt retains sections of the former wooden structure, while you can also admire the Van Eyck brothers' famous painting the Adoration of the Mystique Lamb when exploring the interior.
Call in at the Chateau des Comtes de Flandre, a restored medieval fortress, and the Castle of the Counts, Gravensteen, where you can see various implements of torture, before heading to the medieval houses of the Quai aux Herbes.
Wander along the Pont St Michel bridge to admire impressive views of the old town and call in at the Groentemarkt, which is a flea market, bird bazaar, fruit and vegetable souk and flower sale all in one. Admire the masterpieces on show in the local contemporary art museum and sample some beer at the Dulle Griet Bar. The latter gives you the chance to drink from a 1.2 litre glass complete with wooden stand, however, you have to give up one of your shoes and watch it hoisted to the ceiling in a wire basket for the privilege!
The capital of the West Flanders region in Belgium is Bruges, a medieval city renowned for its historical architecture. The settlement is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in light of its many old and well-preserved buildings, which include a belfry that measures 83 m. From the pinnacle you can take in breathtaking views that are sure to be reward for the 366-stair climb.
Call in at the Church of Our Lady next, where you can admire Michelangelo's Madonna and Child as well as the tallest spire in Belgium, and take a tour of the Straffe Hendrik Brewery, which is the only family brewery left in the city. You can sample a number of beers during your tour, and perhaps pick up a couple of bottles to enjoy back on your boat later.
There are chocolate shops dotted all over the city and these handmade sweet treats could make perfect gifts for friends back home, while you could also head to the Brangwyn Museum to take a look at examples of lace-making throughout the ages.
If a getaway isn't a real holiday for you without sand, you'll want to make a stop at Nieuwpoort, a seaside town with a 2 km long promenade. You can relax on the sand here, or rent bicycles and pedal along the prom, admiring the views over the water as you travel.
The lively town has a couple of landmarks worth seeing; the Gothic church Onze-Lieve-Vroukerk can be found behind the town hall, while the belfry - which is listed by UNESCO - is located at the Grote Markt.
If you're travelling with little ones, they're bound to love a visit to the De Lenspolder farm, where they can meet and stroke a number of animals, while nature fans should head to Prince Mauritspark, which comprises 18 show gardens in 10 hectares.
The bustling town of Deinze is another great spot to visit if you have children in your group; the local Brielmeersen park offers opportunities for walks amid beautiful scenery in addition to a mini golf course, a bamboo labyrinth, play area for youngsters and a French Bowls playing field.
Visit the old local church and spend some time admiring Ooidonk Castle, which is renowned as one of the most stunning fortresses in all of Belgium. The Renaissance structure has moats and is surrounded by vast woodland.
There's also an interesting museum in the town, full of art, historical artefacts and other exhibits relating to the heritage of Deinze.