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Taking an alternative tour of the country's sights has never been more fun
Spice up your visit to Bruges by exploring it on a Segway – a motorised, upright scooter-type vehicle. If you’ve never been on one before, there’s even a little initiation included before the tour starts. It’s said to be a highly intuitive experience and most people enjoy the novel way of travelling as much as the sights they get to see. Segways travel at 6km/hour on these tours, an ideal speed for gliding across the city, covering more ground than by foot. It’s a fun way to explore Bruges and learn a new skill too! Tours last either one or two hours.
You’ve gone shopping in Antwerp, strolled down the Meir in the bright light of day, but have you seen the city by night? Antwerp Ghost Walk takes you on a chilling discovery of the darker side to the city. This four-kilometre tour is introduced by local historians and inspired by the Anglo-Saxon tradition of ghost walks. Taking place in English once a month, and more frequently in Dutch, the tour reveals the folk culture and folk tales of Antwerp over a bewitching two hours. It starts at the castle where you’ll be met by a guide in a top hat.
If you want a night of real Belgian cuisine while simultaneously touring the streets of the capital, you can’t do much better than Brussels’ Tram Experience. Michelin-star chefs offer up their finest fare as you enjoy a tram journey with a difference! A little pricey and requiring advance booking, this trip is nevertheless ideal for a special occasion. Let the food and the changing scenery guide you through a culinary understanding of Brussels!
Reg Jans’ tours of the Battle of the Bulge and Bastogne battlefield sites are highly acclaimed. Describing himself as a researcher and not an historian, his knowledge of World War II has nonetheless won him a legion of fans from around the world. Book early though, as tours tend to fill up at least two months in advance. Recommended for true history buffs.
Cost: varies according to tour
This newly opened museum has been described as a companion piece to Ellis Island, given that it focuses on the US immigration story from one of its sources in Europe. Thousands of US-bound emigrants boarded the Red Star Line ocean steamers at Antwerp, and the museum tells their personal stories spanning over 60 years. Albert Einstein was one notable passenger on this famous route! Daily quotas apply at the museum, so be sure to book your ticket in advance if you’re visiting during peak hours. A gentle stroll around the neighbouring Antwerp Port will complete your trip.
For those who want to combine sightseeing with exercise, City Running Ghent is the perfect fit. The brainchild of Ghent native Wim Van de Putte, joggers can get to know the culture, architecture and history of the city while pounding its streets on this one-hour tour. Starting by the waterfront at the Marriott Hotel, tours are held on Wednesday evening and Sunday mornings, rain or shine!
The ‘Greeter’ concept started in New York over 20 years ago and has since spread to Brussels. Greeters are volunteers who enjoy showing off favourite parts of their city to tourists and locals alike. This non-profit organisation links volunteers with tourists or residents who want to explore different parts of the city. A good bet for an authentic and friendly ‘off the beaten track’ experience! The initiative recently extended to Mons and Namur.
For the more adventurous tourist, skip the canals and choose to see Bruges from above by hot-air balloon. With magnificent views of both the city and the coast, a balloon ride is a magical experience; and we’re assured that even nervous fliers are put at ease once airborne. Each balloon can take a maximum of 10 people, but you can also book a romantic trip for just two.
This article was first published in The Bulletin Best of Belgium 2014