Flanders’ Most Unexpected Must-Try Activities
Looking for experiences beyond the beers, chocolates and canals in Flanders, the northern region of Belgium? Here we enlist the 5 most Quirky experiences for that offbeat adventure enticing the curious traveler.
Brussels Street Art Trail (Graffiti)
The street art scene in Brussels emerged in the 1990s when the city, modeling itself on Berlin, took a more tolerant attitude towards graffiti. Many of the best street artists flocked to the abandoned ‘Kapellekerk’ railway station in the Marollen where the art organization Recyclart was based.
The artists were given permission to create works in the tunnels that run under the railway viaduct. Here you can have a visual treat of the striking works by local artists such as Bonom and ROA as well as Greek artist Sonke. From the station, head into the Marollen district where vibrant street art can be found in cobbled alleys off the Hoogstraat.
World’s Longest Tram Ride
According to the popular belief, Flemish coast is flat and permanently rainy. But, taking this coastal Tram ride is the best way to add something else to that belief as, the view from the tram alongside the coast line of Flanders can charm almost anyone.
The 67-kilometre route is the longest in the world and costs just a few Euros for a day ticket. You can cover the entire route from southern De Panne to northern Knokke in a couple of hours, but it is more fun to get off at different stops along the way.
One can choose to wander among the fish shops in Nieuwpoort, drink a coffee in Ostend’s grand cafe Du Parc and walk out to the end of the wooden jetty in Blankenberge. But the best part of the trip is the stretch between the sea and the dunes just west of Ostend.
The Dark Secrets of a Brabant Castle
The strangely overlooked Gaasbeek Castle lies just outside Brussels in the rolling Pajottenland countryside of Flemish Brabant. Here you can explore dark Neo Gothic interiors, including a dining hall, round tower and luxurious Art Deco bathroom installed by the last countess to live here.
These romantic rooms are often the setting for contemporary art exhibitions on creative themes like sex and death. After a visit, you can wander around the wooded estate, visit the walled vegetable garden and drink a beer in one of the taverns at the castle gates, all of which qualifies for a perfect quirky adventure in Flemish style.
A Bizarre Belgian Enclave
The village of Baarle-Hertog is described as a Belgian enclave within the Netherlands, but it’s a lot more complicated than that. The village, population 2,300, is broken up into 20 little enclaves located inside the Dutch village of Baarle-Nassau. But there are also seven Dutch exclaves within the Belgian enclaves.
The result is a baffling border town with two fire stations, two town halls, a cafe split between two countries and a house with the living room in Belgium and the bedroom on Dutch soil. Once a den of smuggling, it is now a lively tourist town with a curious split identity making it a perfect trip.
A Museum where You Don’t Want to be Alone
The strange and haunting Dr Guislain Museum occupies the 19th-century psychiatric institution founded by Dr Jozef Guislain. Visitors can wander through chilling deserted wards still furnished with iron beds and old medical equipments.
One room contains a terrifying mechanical saw used in operations to remove the top of the skull. The temporary exhibitions are always fascinating, as is the extensive collection of outsider art.
Almost no one leaves this museum untouched making it one of the best horrific experiences in Flanders.