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.
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. 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 stores and cafes, many specializing in chocolate and waffles. 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, it’s perhaps the most impressive church I’ve ever visited anywhere.
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. 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.
Amsterdam, the Netherlands, is known for its flat landscape, canals, tulip fields, windmills and cycling routes. It’s city center streets with small bridges are a hustling with people walking and riding bicycles… Amazingly there are more bikes in the city than people! Amsterdam, is home to the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum. Also the Anne Frank house, now a museum, where she wrote her dairy while the family hid during WWII. Canal side mansions and a many works from artists including Rembrandt and Vermeer remain from the 17th-century “Golden Age” of Dutch art.
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. You don’t have to be a nature lover to be fascinated by these magnificent gardens that seem to never end.