24 HOURS IN ANTWERP

Years ago, Antwerp established itself as a hot bed for diamonds and avant garde fashion, but it isn’t just a place to buy your engagement ring and shop for trousseau. The city is blooming in a million forms – from cuisine to culture, art to architecture and ideas to innovation. The infrastructure here makes it easy to reach most places on foot or bike around. To uncover its true essence, saunter the streets near the port or sit quietly at the riverfront for some people watching.

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If you just have a day to go around this Flemish city, here’s a map to help you make the most of it:

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ROMANCING BRUGES

Saunter around cobblestone streets, gaze at the milky white swans swimming in vivid canals or take a ride in a horse-drawn carriage to soak in the bucolic landscapes; just hanging around Bruges makes you want to be in love

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When you think of romantic getaways, you think of candlelit dinners, luxurious, pampering accommodations and long walks on the beach. But some destinations need none of these; just a certain je ne sais quoi about them makes them insanely enchanting. Bruges, the capital of West Flanders, is one such out-of-a-fairytale, dreamy set up. There’s just something in the air here that makes you desperate to hold hands with your partner. Even if you’re one of those least expressive couples, you’re bound to find yourself woo-ing your significant other, when in the beautifully-preserved medieval city.

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RELIVE YOUR CHILDHOOD WITH TINTIN IN BRUSSELS!

Homeland of comic strip heroes, Brussels in Belgium surprises you with an itinerary of colourfully-painted walls

Brussels is the birthplace of Tintin and Spirou, the worthy forerunners of many generations of comic book heroes. The Smurfs, Lucky Luke and the Daltons Blake and Mortimer, Largo Winch and The Cat were also born here. So, it’s only natural that, in Brussels, comic strip is everywhere: events, museums, shops, bookshops, galleries and street gables all celebrate the 9th art, which is an integral part of its cultural genetic make-up. But comic strip can also be found in places where you least expect it: railway and metro stations and balloons filled with creativity and conviviality burst into the scene.

A must-do in the city is a comic-strip trail. As you come across forty or more monumental frescoes, you’ll get to know these legendary characters and their talented authors. This one-of-it’s-kind walk won’t disappoint the comic-strip fan in you!

Here are a few I spotted during my trail in Brussels:

Broussaille

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Broussaille was the very first comic strip mural in July 1991. Brussels author Frank Pe does not deny that Broussaille is an alter ego. Both city boys are sensitive souls, curious nature lovers and avid dreamers. In their philosophical vision, they see fauns, whales flying over the grey city and giant turtles crossing the street.
Where: Plattesteen, 1000 Brussels

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TASTING GHENT

The city of Gothic architecture, Ghent in Belgium, is a place that should not only be visited but also tasted

WORLD’S BEST WAFFLES

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We tried a strawberry waffle at Max, Goudenleeuwplein 3 – an 1839 establishment famous for inventing apple fritters and Brussels waffle – and it was like eating a bit of history

If waffles have always been your weakness, leaving the Flemish city without sampling a home-baked warm waffle would be a serious offence. Belgium’s street food, classic Ghent waffles are crisp on the outside and airy on the inside (literally; even the ones with a micro appetite can easily gobble down two to three king-sized waffles without complaining of overeating) and to be had with a sprinkle of snowy powdered sugar. These waffles are so well made that they don’t really need a mask of maple syrup or any extra-sweet toppings to make them inviting. They are pure happiness all in their crisp, plain form; just the waft of these waffles can transport you to seventh heaven. But if you fancy a waffle meal, try one with a dollop of whipped cream and freshly-sliced strawberries or even Belgium-special dark chocolate.

PUNGENT MUSTARD

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Located in the heart of the city at Groentenmarkt 3, Tierenteyn-Verlent sells its own freshly-made mustard and I bet you’ll love it

Some hate it, some love it, Ghent mustard with its strong piquancy can set your mouth on fire! But after the initial sharp taste, you quite tend to crave its distinct spiciness. Located in the heart of the city at Groentenmarkt 3, Tierenteyn-Verlent produces arguably the best preservative-free mustard in Ghent since last 200 years (since 1790 without the slightest change in its taste). And it’s never more than three days old. What you see is barrels filled with freshly-prepared mustard. Pick one of the signature stone jars or glass bottles in your preferable size (price ranging from โ‚ฌ1.80 to โ‚ฌ8.80 depending on the size of the bottle) and get your mustard skilfully ladled in it. Ghent mustard makes for a great souvenir for yourself as well as your foodie loved ones as it goes well with everything from different varieties of cheese to meat platter and, of course, beer. Yes, you heard it right. Almost anything is edible with a dab of Ghent mustard on it!

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MY LOVE AFFAIR WITH CHOCOLATE IN BELGIUM

It’s really hard to not love a place that offers the three most delicious things in the world – chocolates, waffles and beer.

Even before I booked my tickets to Belgium, I already had my chocolate-crazy friends making special requests to get them all possible varieties of Belgian dark chocolates. And this made me even more curious about what these oh-so-special “Belgium Chocolates” tasted like.

My romantic rendezvous with Belgian dark chocolate began the very moment I landed at Brussels airport. One of our co-travellers was yet to arrive and we decided to kill time by sipping a cup of hot chocolate at a trendy coffee bar. For a perpetual dark chocolate lover like me, it was almost close to experiencing one of life’s greatest joys.

Whirling it in my mouth, I could easily distinguish the Belgian choco drink from any other I’d had before. Decadently rich. Smooth in texture. And just the right amount of sweetness; nothing less, nothing more.

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AUTUMN IN ANTWERP, BELGIUM

Every season has its own charm but the beauty of Autumn somehow leaves me speechless. Trees look radiant as they shun the greenery of summer and adopt the hues of fire – yellows, reds, browns and burnt oranges. This November, Belgium treated me to the most stunning fall foliage on the planet. I decided to simply sit in silence on a small wooden bench at the park opposite Leopold Hotel, Quinten Matsijslei 25 and submerge in the beauty of nature. The weather being just ideal, neither too chilly nor too warm, I wish I could sit there for hours staring at the landscape in idleness…

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