A weekend in 'Japanese' Hasselt

Kimono's, geisha's, zen gardens... No one can deny Japan has something fascinating. Luckily you don't need to fly 9.000 km to get a taste of the Land of the Rising Sun. The beautiful city of Hasselt not only offers culture, gastronomy and fashion, it also has many assets with a Japanese touch and 2017 is the most perfect year to experience all of it. To celebrate the 25th birthday of the Japanese Garden in Hasselt, they organize the Yokoso Festival (Japanese for 'welcome') with lots of special events. High time to plan a 48h city trip to the Belgian Capital of Taste!

A day in Waterloo

Did you know there are over 100 places in the world called Waterloo? And they all got their name from the Belgian location where Napoleon was defeated in 1815. The memorial dedicated to the historical battle that would change Europe's destiny is reason enough to visit this city in the Walloon Brabant, but there's more to it. Its commercial center is really pleasant and home to a few great spots that I gladly share with you. Follow me!

Royal Greenhouses of Laeken

I guess it's very clear by now I have a thing for tropical plants and architecture. So what if I told you there is a place where these two loves come together in the most splendid way? The Royal Greenhouses of Laeken form a magnificent complex of glass and steel and house some true botanical gems. This Belgian landmark is only open for 3 weeks a year for people who aren't royals so take out those agendas and write this down.

Hallerbos

Every year in April, the magic of spring turns the Hallerbos into an enchanted place. Countless wild bluebell hyacinths bloom to form a purple blue carpet that reaches as far as the eye can see. The sight of it is breathtaking and as such it is considered as one of the most beautiful natural phenomenons of Europe. This fairy tale scenery only lasts for a few weeks so hurry over there!

A day in Mons

The Hainaut province can use a little P.R. to enhance its image, so I guess it was a great bargain Mons was picked as European capital of culture in 2015! The truth is this small city definitely has some cultural assets and plenty of history. Its traffic-free center is the perfect backdrop for a chill day doing some shopping, some eating and a little sightseeing. You might bump into a few marginal people on the street, but you'll discover that the 'Montois' are really nice people!

Plantentuin Meise

As nature comes back to life, so does my obsession with flowers. It is usually around this time of the year that I go back to the 'Plantentuin Meise' located just outside of Brussels. With its 18 000 plant species, Belgium's botanical garden is one of world class. It lies on the Bouchout Domain that is 94 hectares big so you can easily spend an entire day walking the trails, soaking up the floral fragrances and relaxing next to the water. The perfect plan on a sunny Sunday if you ask me!

A day in Brussels • Dansaert

A Brussels' neighborhood that I love but where I don't spend enough time (which is probably for the best for my finances) is Dansaert! The most Flemish part of Brussels' is all about fashion of the unique, alternative kind. This area is the epicenter of the Brussels' fashion scene and it's packed with unconventional shops and Belgian designs. Plus there are plenty of cool spots to hang out with a drink. This way fashionistas!

Brunch & Culture • Museum of Fine Arts Ghent

Ghent is a wonderful city to visit and I'll surely write some more about it when the sunny days are back, but for now I want to tell you about one of its museums: the MSK, short for 'Museum voor Schone Kunsten'. Thanks to my research I learned the museum had a rich and varied collection spanning centuries, still I had no idea I would enjoy my visit so much! But more about that in a second. First, in true 'Gerrit and the City' fashion, let's have some brunch.

A day in Dinant

If you're a fan of natural elements, then you'll definitely enjoy Dinant. The Walloon city is all about water and stone, as it is set on the Meuse river and overlooked by its famous citadel standing on top of a high cliff. The city isn't very big, nor is it very modern, but its setting in the Meuse valley confers the city with a huge advantage for people looking for a change of scenery. You got it, Dinant is more proof that our Kingdom is rich in potential discoveries!

A day in Brussels • The European Quarter

The old Leopold Quarter might appear as of no interest to some as it is home to the European institutions and frequented mostly by Eurocrates, making it a little sterile. But actually there are plenty of interesting spots hidden in those supposedly soulless streets, such as parks, museums and ancient architecture that survived. Again, this is an area of Brussels with a very distinctive feeling, almost New York-ish if you ask me. And it is definitely worth a visit!

Doel, the ghost town

I love discovering new places that are beautiful, inspiring and lively. But every now and then, I enjoy discovering places of a different kind. Doel is one of those. This little village near Antwerp has been abandoned for years and has faced the same faith as the remains of the Berlin wall: it became an urban, open-air museum; a canvas for street artists to show their talent. And by doing so, this ghost town developed its own kind of beauty. But first, let's stop in Antwerp for some late breakfast, shall we?

Brunch & Culture • Ursuline Winter Garden

It is no secret I have a thing for Art Nouveau, as I mentioned in a previous article dedicated to a part of Brussels. So you can imagine how thrilled I was when I discovered there was a genuine Art Nouveau jewel hidden somewhere outside of Mechelen. The convent complex of the Ursuline nuns has many hallways and rooms to be discovered, but the masterpiece is without a doubt its Winter Garden with colorful canopy! I'm happy to walk you through it, but first, let's have some brunch!

Brunch & Culture • Middelheim Museum

Typically, when you're in search of an inspiring, quiet thing to do on the weekend, you go to a museum or a park. But what if you could do both at the same time? The Middelheim park in the South of Antwerp is actually an outdoor museum where hundreds of sculptures are scattered across paths and trees. The perfect cultural activity on a sunny day, but not before you had some brunch. Follow me!

A day in Antwerp • Belgian Fashion

I love Belgium and I love fashion, so I guess it's only natural I developed a passion for Belgian Fashion. And there is no better city to experience it than our own fashion capital, Antwerp. For mere mortals like you and me, high end fashion is often out of reach, but keep in mind: not shopping at Zara for a few months and saving up that money for a unique, Belgian item is totally worth it!

A day in Bruges

There is no other place like Bruges in Belgium. With its authentic medieval architecture and picturesque canals, the so-called "reien", the city really is fairy tale material. Thanks to its water connection to the sea, the "Venice of the North" has been wealthy for centuries, having its golden age in the 15th century. Fortunately the inner city stayed intact ever since, making it a World Heritage Site of Unesco for everybody to enjoy. Go ahead and be a tourist in your own country, it feels wonderful. And there are even some hotspots to discover. Follow me!

A day in Mechelen

If I had to describe Mechelen in three words they would be small, charming & picturesque. Thanks to its record number of classified buildings, the city has a strong historical character. But in recent years, Mechelen has seen the appearance of many hotspots, attracting a new public. There are numerous lunch places and cute boutiques for you to enjoy and they're all on walking distance from each other. It is safe to say Mechelen has something for everyone!

A day in Brussels • Brugmann & Chatelain

The funny thing about Brussels is that it has so many different areas, each with a distinct atmosphere. The Brugmann quarter, sometimes referred to as "Little Paris", is a peaceful and rich neighborhood with an almost village feeling to it. Whereas the Chatelain quarter is very lively and attracts many expats, making it a joyful place to hang out. Both flow into one another and both offer unique shopping venues and beautiful architecture, making them the perfect backdrop for an inspiring afternoon.

Brunch & Culture • Villa Empain

Brussels is famous for being the capital of Art Nouveau, the art movement that's all about organic motifs. But there's more to Brussels. Just think of the Flagey "liner" building, the Palais des Beaux-Arts or the Basilique de Koekelberg. Characterized by symmetry and rectilinear shapes, these are all Art Deco monuments, the art movement that flourished in the roaring twenties. The Villa Empain is another Art Deco jewel of Brussels that will surely take your breath away.

A day in Namur

If you're looking for a relaxed day out of shopping and eating, Namur might just be something for you! The atmosphere in the capital of Wallonia is very easy going and laid back, and because the center is rather small everything is on walking distance. It used to be difficult to find trendy places in Namur, but luckily newcomers put an end to that. Discover all my favorite spots in this city guide, as well as some of the most beautiful sights that testify of the rich history of the city!

A day in Ostend • Sights

In Dutch there is this word "uitwaaien", which literally means "to walk in the wind". That is exactly what the seaside is all about for me. Walking on the beach and forgetting everything. More than any other place, the coast gives me a real feeling of getaway inside my own country. And Ostend is one of my favorite cities on the coast because it has so much to offer. Not only is the city really alive, with lots of great initiatives, but it also has a rich history. During the Belle Époque, Ostend was the place to be for the rich and famous and you can find architectural gems reminiscent of Ostend's glorious past all over the city. Follow me!