Traveling the countries of The Benelux: Belgium & The Netherlands by Ray Raposo

The Grand Place is the central square in Brussels
The BeNeLux is an economic union in Western Europe. It includes three neighboring monarchies, Belgium, The Netherlands, and Luxembourg.
These three small counties are in the northwestern European region between France and Germany. The name is formed from the beginning of each country’s name.  Our travels took in two of the three countries: Belgium and The Netherlands and several cities.
By the Atomium, constructed for the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair (Expo 58).

Belgium is divided into three regions and three communities, that exist next to each other. Besides it’s strongly globalized economy the country is famous for beer, chocolate, waffles and french fries. French fries were actually first made in Belgium. It’s capital and largest city is Brussels.

The famous Manneken-Pis the emblem of the rebellious spirit of the City of Brussels.

Brussels’ ornate Grand-Place at the heart of the city has shops and cafes inside 17th-century guild houses, and the intricate Gothic Hotel de Ville (town hall) with its distinctive bell tower. The surrounding area has numerous stores and restaurants, many specializing in chocolate and waffles.

The Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula

The Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula is a huge Roman Catholic church that features statues depicting the stages of the cross as well as numerous saints. The stone facade with it’s imposing Gothic style towers are 64 meters tall. Outside of the Vatican in Rome and Sevilla’s Cathedral, this sculpture filled Cathedral is right up there with the most impressive Cathedrals I’ve ever visited anywhere.

One of the canals and buildings of beautiful Bruges

The picturesque Bruges is the capital and largest city of the province of West Flanders in the Flemish Region of Belgium, in the NW of the country. Along with a few other canal-based northern cities, such as Amsterdam and Stockholm, it is sometimes referred to as The Venice of the North. Bruges has most of its notable medieval architecture buildings still intact. A must do is to take a canal tour.

Central Bruges Main Town Square
Bruges canal & bell tower

You can walk the beautiful pedestrian friendly streets and town square, all full of shops, numerous restaurants and take an enlightening canal boat tour. Visit the many historic churches, like the Church of Our Lady, as well as it’s most famous landmark the 13th-century belfry, housing a municipal carillon comprising 48 bells. It is one town not to miss!

Typical central Amsterdam street with cafes and bicyclists.

Amsterdam, the Netherlands (also known as Holland), is famous for its flat landscape, many canals, tulip fields, windmills and cycling routes.

An Amsterdam canal
Outside the Rijksmuseum Art Museum

It’s city center streets with small bridges are filled with people walking and riding bicycles… Amazingly there are actually more bikes in the city than people! Amsterdam, is home to numerous museums, two special ones are the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum. For any fan of Vincent van Gogh, this is a must visit. This high-tech museum has not just hundreds of his works, but a detailed timeline history of his life as a painter.  Also don’t miss the Anne Frank house, now a museum, where she wrote her diary while the family hid from the Nazis during WWII.

Typical buildings by Amsterdam canal

Canal-side mansions and a many works from artists including Rembrandt and Vermeer remain from the 17th-century “Golden Age” of Dutch art. Amsterdam is also known for its coffee houses that legally serve pot, as well as the “Red Light” district, where legalized prostitution is located. Standing behind large glass windows these ladies will try to entice walkers by to go inside and join them.

A short train ride from Amsterdam is the town of Lisse, home to the world famous Keukenhof Gardens which date back to the 15th century. The focus in the park is on the 7 million spring-flowering bulbs of tulips, daffodils and hyacinths that fill over 32 hectares with color and fragrance. The best time to see the tulips in bloom starts around mid March and ends mid May.

Keukenhof Gardens tulips
One of the many different blooms

You don’t have to be a nature lover to be fascinated by these magnificent gardens that seem to never end. Set in a forest-park atmosphere, it truly is a marvelous experience, while the flowers almost look unreal, they’re all real… really nature at it’s best. There’s also a windmill you can visit and restaurants to sit and enjoy the beauty. I can’t stress enough that this is one place not to miss if you ever visit Amsterdam during the bloom season.

These cities of Belgium and The Netherlands make for quite an entertaining trip, one you’ll surely enjoy visiting the counties of the Benelux.
Ray on top of the letters that spell out Amsterdam
Nighttime view of an Amsterdam canal