The hundreds of reenactors who come together annually to remember Napoleon’s illustrious defeat on the fields near Waterloo prove that the eponymous battle very much lives on in the collective imagination. Besides the yearly spectacle, the Lion’s Mound and a plethora of other memorials recall the French general’s fateful day two centuries ago.
Often exalted as the father of the Art Nouveau movement, Victor Horta has left Brussels dotted with innovative townhouses that changed the face of late 19th-century architecture in the West. When in a time crunch and having to choose between his four UNESCO-labeled townhouses, the Maison & Atelier Horta honors the artist in his former home, while UNESCO describes the Hotel Solvay as “the most ambitious and spectacular” of his work in the Art Nouveau period.
Spring forests overflowing with bluebells aren’t just a British privilege. They exist all over Europe, and Belgium’s Hallerbos puts on a particularly lovely display. Timing is everything on this one since its purple flower carpet can start blooming anytime in April and May and only sticks around for a couple of weeks.
Since the Beaufort Project started, Belgium’s coastal towns have grown exponentially in surreal sights. From Arne Quinze’s giant, indented orange rocks (Rock Strangers) to Jan Fabre’s self-portrait that has him riding a massive bronze turtle (Searching for Utopia), the exceptional pieces that earned a permanent spot at the end of the public art triennial make the country’s seaside a more exciting place to explore.
Tiny Durbuy is a cheery storybook town on the banks of the Ourthe River in the forested Ardennes region. This “smallest city in the world” is an ideal base for long hikes or kayaking trips, and their artisan jam factory and quirky topiary park can’t help but up the cute factor considerably.
In a natural, no man’s land straddling the Belgian-German border, the High Fens nature reserve, with its mysterious moors and rare wildlife, makes for a hiker’s dream.
An accidental ghost town in the shadows of a nuclear power plant and, thus, a graffiti haven, the village of Doel has long ago been slated for demolition to expand the harbor of Antwerp. So far, however, the town is still there, having become an unofficial urban canvas for Belgian and international street artists in which to go hog-wild. As would befit the post-apocalyptic movie Doel seems to come straight out of, a dwindling handful of rebel inhabitants refuse to leave.
Talking about urban explorers’ pilgrimages, the abandoned IM power plant of Charleroi is one for the books. Entering its sky-high cooling tower and looking up from its moss-covered bowels is enough to send shivers down the spine. Security guards are often on-site to prevent explorers from entering the aging construction, though, as safety can’t be guaranteed.