ART AND CULTURE IN BELGIUM: THE ART CITIES OF FLANDERS
Discovering art and culture in Belgium means first of all slowing down your pace, filling your eyes with beautiful landscapes and visiting art cities rich in history and masterpieces.
My first time in Belgium was dedicated to Flemish painting and the masterpieces in the museums of Ghent and Brussels.
I returned home with the feeling that I would have to come back because I still hadn’t seen everything, and I did.
In this post I share with you a trip to art and culture in Belgium, discovering the cities of Flanders.
Art and culture in Belgium
Antwerp, Bruges, Ghent, Leuven, and Mechelen are the ideal cities if you love a leisurely visit to the cities of art, strolling through unfamiliar streets and roads on foot.
The small size of the art cities of Flanders allows you to follow your own pace and discover all the richness of the landscape in a sustainable and relaxing way.
Water terraces, ancient abbeys, high towers and Unesco World Heritage museums are just some of the experiences that you can have while discovering art and culture in Belgium and that you can experience in the art cities of Flanders.
ANTWERP: BETWEEN PAST AND PRESENT
History flows through the waters of the Scheldt River that flows through Antwerp.
To get to know the city, you must start from Het Steen, a centuries-old fortress that now houses the visitors’ centre, and then get lost in the streets of the old city centre among the façades of ancient buildings and narrow characteristic streets where you will find the house-museum of the painter Peter Paul Rubens, the imposing cathedral and the unmissable Plantin-Moretus Museum, the only one in the world to be classified as a Unesco World Heritage Site.
Don’t forget, however, that there is also “another Antwerp”, the modern and contemporary one, of the old docks, with the MAS and the trendy neighbourhoods, that blends perfectly with the 17th-century one in an exciting contrast.
Take a break in a café and pick up your pace to reach the Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp KMSKA, which reopens on 24 September 2022 after extensive renovation and expansion.
An event of extraordinary importance for the city of Antwerp and for Flanders, a grand re-opening with an innovative, refined and contemporary look and an excellent opportunity to discover one of the city’s most interesting neighbourhoods: Het Zuid.
BRUGES: ROMANTIC AND ON A HUMAN SCALE
Cosy, on a human scale, Bruges captivates you at every step and is a treasure trove of iconic places that take you back 600 years into the past, to the time when merchants, art patrons and artists crossed paths here, leaving traces that can be seen today in every building in the city.
The cobbled streets of the old city centre that connect the Rozenhoedkaai to the Market Square, the Lake of Love and the Beguinage, instantly captivate and invite you to discover the city at a slow pace, in total relaxation, perhaps at the water’s edge.
With a relaxing boat trip, discover secret gardens, romantic bridges and medieval facades reflected in the water of the canals that have been the beating heart of Bruges for centuries. There is no room for frantic running and stress in this city, not even when it looks to the future as in the ultra-modern Concertgebow, where you can find the best of contemporary dance and classical music with excellent acoustics.
There is also room for new openings: Musea Brugge from spring 2022 offers a brand new concept at the Salon Arnts, a historical location where events with current topics and temporary exhibitions are organised, a meeting place to reflect on the future of heritage, art and museums.
GENT: WHERE TO ADMIRE VAN EYCK’S MASTERPIECE
It won’t take long for you to fall in love with Gent (Ghent).
Take a leisurely stroll along the river, past tourists and students sunbathing and sipping a Kwak beer. Pick up the pace to reach one or more museums or the street art route, then take a break in one of the city’s green spaces, enjoying the artistic and culinary offerings of the unusual art city of Flanders.
Gent is the city of the Polyptych of the Mystic Lamb, Van Eyck’s masterpiece.
Speaking of art, the Museum of Fine Arts Ghent – MSK, the oldest museum in Belgium, will start a whole year of celebrations for the 225th anniversary of its foundation in September 2022.
The celebrations include three exhibitions, a historical gallery tour and a series of art projects around the city, the MSK will take stock of its fascinating history, while also addressing the question of what it means to be a museum in today’s world.
LOVANIO: THE BEST DESTINATION IN EUROPE
Famous for its beer and its Gothic town hall, Leuven thrives on the contrast between the richness of its past and the liveliness and freshness of its young university students.
The city was recently ranked among the five ‘European Best Destinations’, a distinction owed not only to its cultural richness but also to its excellent quality of life and its focus on sustainable development. It was also voted the best ‘Open-Minded’ destination for its tolerance and inclusiveness.
On foot, you can admire the four important abbeys just outside the city centre, get lost in the greenery of Belgium’s oldest botanical garden and be fascinated by the history of the university and its library, with its beautiful all-wood reading room.
An innovative activity you absolutely must try in the completely restored Saint Peter’s church: here, since 2020, works of art from the collection, including the Last Supper by Dieric Bouts, are preserved in their original frame and, thanks to tablets and Hololens, come to life with astonishing results.
MECHELEN: IT WILL MAKE YOU WANT TO LIVE IN FLANDERS FOREVER
Mechelen has been the capital of the Netherlands and is a continuous discovery between historical churches, richly decorated houses, vestiges of the Burgundian era and the multicultural community that inhabits it today.
From the top of the 97-metre-high St. Rombald’s bell tower, it is possible to admire the entire city from above in a unique experience of seeing, hearing and experiencing Mechelen.
In just a few steps you reach the magnificent Palace of Margaret of Austria that takes you back to the Renaissance, a court where arts and sciences flourished while you discover the turbulent yet fascinating life of the sovereign.
Then slow your pace to take a boat ride on the river Dyle and immerse yourself in the Great Beguinage for a visit to one of Belgium’s oldest breweries, Het Anker, known the world over for its ‘Gouden Carolus’ beer.