Brugge in Belgian Flanders is a great place to experience great cuisine and taste dishes from Michelin star chefs. There are various Michelin star restaurants in Bruges. But this little town is also a very touristic place with 2 million visitors every year so it’s very easy to mistake quality over typical tourist orientated dishes. This kind of restaurants and cafés are mainly located in the centre of the town but the best ones are spread around. One of them is the exclusive and unique Gastrobar Hubert.
Gastrobar Hubert is one of my favourite places and doubtlessly one of the best restaurants in Brugge. First of all this hidden treasure is located on the quiet Langestraat 155-159 close to the ring road and park with the beautiful windmills. Secondary in the restaurant you will notice love for eye-catching design and interesting details. As a guest you immerse into a cozy and relaxing atmosphere, it literally feels like visiting your friends. All these factors make Gastrobar Hubert the ideal restaurant to have lunch in Bruges. If you stay longer than just one day in Bruges then you should definitely have a dining experience in Gastrobar Hubert.
Actually you will find 2 restaurants under one roof ran by Michelin star chef Henk van Oudenhove and his charming wife-hostess Veronique Bogaert: Sans Cravate and Gastrobar Hubert. Only the door with pants-less security guard (see the picture) is dividing the 2 concepts of dining. Sans Cravate has been offering sumptuous and creative dishes for 15 years and is very popular among locals. Gastrobar Hubert is more of a new concept resembling an English gastropub with more affordable prices but still high quality meals served for lunch and dinner.
Let me tell you more about the most important part of Gastrobar Hubert: It’s phenomenal food! The dining experience in Bruges has been brought to a new level. Even the traditional Belgian food is served here in a much more creative and delicious way. There are various options, you can enjoy a great selection of tapas or share some plates but also order main dishes. If you come in the evening and you would like the chef and his team to guide you through the best of the menu then I would definitely recommend to choose the set 6 course menu. There is also an impressive choice of wines and beers. Hubert Gastrobar also has the rare Hubert beer which is brewed in a limited amount in the whole country.
We decided to open our taste pallet with a glass of champagne and first bites to share. We decided to taste the Mangalica, a Hungarian breed of domestic pig, croquettes “Re-Belges” and a sophisticated terrine of rabbit in riesling with goose liver. The dishes come from an open kitchen where you can see how the magic is happening. Our starters were so good so even I, who is actually not a huge fan of croquettes didn’t want to share the last one with my boyfriend! Everything was fresh and full of flavours.
After waking up our appetite we decided to tickle our taste buds with two different main courses: Golden bream cassoulet with chorizo served with beans and muscles and the steak haché “Txogitxu” accompanied with fries and fresh salad. I was positively surprised that the meat that is being served in Gastrobar Hubert comes from the Basque area. Animals from there are not bred for slaughter, they live their life from 6 to 20 years (depends on an animal of course) and afterwards their meat is used for culinary intentions.
In Gastrobar Hubert meat is prepared on the slow spit so it stays succulent, flavourful and much healthier then fried in the pan. The phenomenal chef Henk van Oudenhove always adds interesting herbs and ingredients to make the best out of his creations. So even classics like French fries (which were served with my tartare) cooked in ox fat are delicious and not overcooked nor oily.
The culmination of our amazing dinner was a “Crepe Normande”, a caramelised pancake with apples flambeed in calvados and served with a scoop of home-made vanilla ice cream. A dessert that is just melting on your tongue and leaves you speechless! That was a perfect sweet ending to our memorable visit that we will soon repeat again! And you should too!
Lille in the Northern part of France, which is close to the Belgian border is an ideal day trip city. It’s very easy and inexpensive to travel to Lille – around 80 minutes by one of the European bus lines from London or less than 2hours from Bruges or Brussels. There is also an opportunity to visit Lille by train.
Lille is not at the top of most European bucket lists but it’s fifth largest urban area in France with a rich history. It’s the centre of French Flanders with crucial influence of Belgian and Flemish culture. It has a compact size so you easily reach everything by feet, you can also rent a bike. You can also enjoy a bus tour through Lille which introduces you to the main sightseeings. All in one 1 day in Lille is enough to discover the best of it.
There are some interesting facts about Lille like it was Cultural Capital of Europe in 2004. Moreover the name “Lille” evolved from “L’Île”, meaning “island”. The French city originated on a tiny island in the river Deûle.
Where to stay in Lille
There is a different price range of hotels and B&B places in Lille, France. You can definitely find a budget staying but also very fancy accommodations. I would definitely recommend Hotel Ambassadeur. This hotel located in the centre of Lille just next to the Hospice Gantois and less than 1km from Grand Place Lille. Rooms are small but tidy and cozy. Ah and of course the price is unbeatable!
One day in Lille – Top things to do
Start with the Place du Théâtre
When arriving at Lille Flanders Station the first beautiful sightseeing of Lille that you will discover will be the Place du Theatre. This is where you can start to absorb some of the Lille’s main sights.
To recharge your batteries in the beginning of your day have a delightful breakfast at one of the cafés at the Place du Theatre. All of them look very charming and serve delightful croissants and coffee. We stopped by We are ARA, which is not very traditional but still worth of visiting.
Opera De Lille
Take a quick look around at the Place du Theatre and you will discover Lille’s grand Neo-classical Opera House, officially inaugurated in 1923. The architecture and opera’s facade are pretty impressive, which has been designed originally by Lille architect Michael Joseph Lequeux but because of a fire accident in 1903 Opera de Lille has been redesigned by multiple architects.
The best view of the city from Beffroi de Lille
The symbol of Lille and also a must-do attraction is definitely the 104 metres high Beffroi de Lille or Belfry. You can climb over 100 steps to cherish the 360 degree view from the top of the UNESCO heritage site. On a clear day you can observe Mountains Flanders and the valley of the Lys. Try to buy ticket online and you will save 1,50€!
The Place Charles de Gaulle
One of Lille’s first attractions that you are going to see is the Place Charles de Gaulle, named after the French general and later president De Gaulle. It’s the central square in Lille Old Town surrounded by charming bars and restaurants. Ideal spot to immerse into the vibes of the city. From here you can also easily explore the entry city of French Flanders.
Unfortunately the view of Lille might be obstructed by the amount of homeless people with dogs and also beggars. Looks like it’s a significant issue that the city struggles with. Nevertheless locals are very kind to the minorities by giving them food and water.
Palais Rihour is a flamboyant example of gothic buildings in Lille, built in 1453. On the ground floor you will find Lille’s tourist centre in the Salle des Gardens. Upstairs the Sacisity are venues for various public events and also exhibitions. If you travel to Lille in the winter then don’t hesitate to visit the Christmas Market on the square in front of the Palais Rihour.
Book Market on Vieille Bourse
The Vieille Bourse or also known as “Old Stock Exchange” is the building of the 17th century which consists of 24 identical houses built around an inner square. It’s considered to be one of the most beautiful architectures in the square, and probably in Lille.
Notre Dame de la Treille Cathedral
On your day trip to Lille you should doubtlessly visit the beautiful Notre Dame de la Treille Cathedral. Located in the heart of Lille you can step into the extraordinary scenery of gothic architecture without paying any entrance fee. Don’t be foolished by the underwhelming exterior made from concrete and stone and lacking on aesthetical appeal. Inside is a completely different story: colourful stained-glass windows and amazing interior artwork.
Where to eat in Lille
There are plenty of nice places where you can have a bite or try something sweet. And yes, because Lille is located on the border of two countries Belgium and France it combines the best of both. It means you will discover various delicious chocolate creations and amazing dessert stores.
If you’re on the hunt for something savoury I would recommend to visit the Place aux Oignins just next to the beautiful Notre Dame de la Treille Cathedral. It’s a hidden square with charming cafés where you can enjoy your lunch or dinner.
Musee de l’Hospice Comtesse
If you are curious to get to know more about local architecture then don’t miss Musee de l’Hospice Comtesse. It’s hidden behind the shops and small streets but worth visiting. It was founded by the Countess of Flanders in 1237 as a charitable gesture to poor people but now it has been transformed into an interesting museum with many Flemish paintings and Lille tapestries.
The Palais des Beaux Arts
If you have an affinity for the fine arts then don’t hesitate to visit famous the Palais des Beaux Arts. The permanent collection, taking in 22,000m², implements mainly art works from the 17th until the 19th century.
Because of its magnitude, this museum is often called the Second Museum of France, with the Louvre being the first. Nevertheless you will need quite some time to cherish the collection of paintings. The building is also a distance away from the Old Lille that’s why I would recommend to take a city bike to save some time.
Walk through the Porte de Paris
Not far from the Palais des Beaux Arts you will find another Lille’s impressive tourist attraction: The Porte de Paris (“Gate of Paris”). It’s an Arc de Triomphe which was build in the 17th century to commemorate Louis XIV conquering the city. Great spot to take Instagram pictures!
To be honest, you won’t make it to see everything in one day but you can decide whether you explore the last two sights or Lille’s beautiful Citadel.
The Citadel is a French military base. You can’t enter it but you can admire the various gates and outer walls on a ramble in the canal-side park, in Esquermes. The star-shaped citadel was built in just 3 years after Louis XIV conquered Lille in 1667. Not only the speed of the project was incredible but also a fact that three million stone blocks, 70,000 lumps of sandstone and 60 million bricks were needed to build this construction.
Belgium offers numerous amounts of wellness hotels, spa experiences and outdoor saunas. Nevertheless to find one which would satisfy all your wishes, let you have the ideal relaxed weekend getaway and also won’t cost you a fortune is definitely not so easy. Believe me, I’ve been there. Sometimes renting some private sauna in Belgium cost so much just for few hours that it’s cheaper to have holidays abroad. My exaggeration is not far from reality but let me introduce you to the amazing wellness hotel in Kortrijk, Wu Wei.
We wanted to have a romantic getaway in Belgium and got the chance to stay at the modern 4-star wellness hotel Wu Wei. “Wu Wei” means the art of non-doing and life to the rhythm of things by the way. And this is definitely a little paradise oasis where time stops and you feel like you are not in Belgium anymore. Isn’t it something that we all want to have sometimes? Just to escape from reality and be far from our daily routine.
Wu Wei is a day Spa and wellness hotel which is located just 10 minute walk away from the train station in Kortkrijk. There is also a free parking spot in case you’d decide to come by car. The architecture of the old industrial building is based on the idea of the simple, the clear with calm colours and plenty of light. It reminds me of Scandinavian modesty and basic design with wooden elements. The rooms in the hotel are spacious with oak parquet floors and equipped with all necessities, free Wi-Fi and toiletries. In the beginning it might feel a bit empty but after some time you start to appreciate these minimalistic elements because your mind doesn’t get distracted and you can fully relax.
The best part of Wu Wei hotel is it’s impressive spa area with outdoor swimming pool at 32 degrees, Canadian sauna at 80 degrees, outdoor Finnish sauna at 89 degrees and traditional 3 room Hammam. Just bring your towels, slippers and swimsuit to be able to access the area. You can also rent it at the hotel for a small price. We we’re staying over night at Wu Wei hotel that’s why we could find all essentials in our room.
In my opinion Wu Wei wellness hotel is a perfect combination of tranquillity, water and greenery. The various relaxing rooms with wood fires and dimmed light let you experience relaxation to it’s purest. There is also an interesting shower that will bring you to life in 4 different ways: With warm, cold, hard and soft water streams. Great experience! There is also salt scrub in the showers that everyone can use.
On the rooftop terrace it is possible to book a private spa with plunge pool, hot water bath, another sauna and relaxing room. In case it’s not booked you can also access and use it from the public spa. This is what we did because we were visiting during the weekdays. The wellness hotel was pretty empty, lucky us!
Last but not least there is a cafeteria with essential drinkable water which is gratis. This is very important to stay hydrated after all the healthy sweating in the saunas. It is also possible to order delicious snacks and soup which are served on beautiful wooden plates. In the evening after 6pm we were able to order a delicious and healthy dinner from the restaurant.
We wanted to accomplish our magical spa break with one of the treatments that Wu Wei offers. There is an extensive range of massages but we decided to book duo treatment of the back to relax our muscle tissues. Did you know that massage therapy has health benefits like reduction of pain caused by tight muscles, it can improve sleep and even increase endorphins levels. The duo treatment was performed by one person. I would prefer to be massaged separately so there wouldn’t be any waiting time in between but of course I was covered in scrub for some time. It was a good experience though!
All in one I can say that we found our perfect spa wellness in Belgium, Wu Wei in Kortrijk. Everything is just lovely there, tranquil atmosphere and cozy surroundings. In the morning we had a simple breakfast and could enjoy another day in the idyllic and peaceful spa.
Planning to explore surroundings of Belgium? Find out more about other wonderful hotels and hidden gems in a wonderful Belgium.
If you want to explore Caribbean islands then travelling to Curacao would be a great idea. This tranquil oasis is located outside the hurricane belt, about 90 miles away from Venezuela. It has over 35 beautiful beaches, great diving spots, great weather all year around and amazing Dutch colonial architecture in the historic old Willemstad which is also UNESCO’s World Heritage since 1997. The name of the island is derived from the Portuguese word for heart (coração) which means this beautiful paradise will remain deep in your heart after you visit it!
Curacao feels like a small but very colourful piece of Europe dropped in the Caribbean Ocean. Everyone around speaks mainly Dutch or the local language Papiamento nevertheless everyone communicates fluently in English and even Spanish. This little heaven on Earth is a habitat for friendly iguanas, cute hummingbirds and lovely sea turtles. The 444 square kilometres long island welcomes it’s tourists but never becomes overwhelmed with travellers, which is great!
All you need to know when you travel to Curacao
First of all when you plan your visit to Caribbean’s paradise island, Curacao choose the best time to fly. Curacao is located close to the Equator and has about 27°C all year around with a refreshing wind. It’s advisable to bring very strong sunscreen with SPF 30 or 50. The rainy season starts from October to February but has only occasional showers mainly at night. The most popular vacation months are December through March. Low season and in my personal opinion the best time to visit Curacao is May.
The local currency of Curacao is Netherlands Antillean Guilder but American Dollar is also accepted everywhere. Nevertheless if you purchase something in Dollars you might get Guilders back.
Important to mention that tap water in Curacao is drinkable. Furthermore you can have free cold tap water at every beach bar.
Driving in Curacao
The best option to explore Curacao is by driving a car. Public transport doesn’t have particular timetables so there is a chance that you will wait for hours for the next ride. I need to assure driving in Curacao is easy, it’s done on the right hand side of the road and you can use your foreign issued driver’s license. However drive very carefully because islanders have a tendency to forget about the rules and sometimes drink and drive.
We rented a car with Right Side Car Rental and were happy with our choice. They offer affordable daily rates which are even cheaper then with most car rentals and if you book a car for a longer period you will get a discount too. And great news, all cars have an automatic transmission and fuel (gas) costs only 1$ per litre.
Where to stay in Curacao
Curacao offers numerous resorts, hotels and even hostels. Of course it depends on your budget where would be the best place to stay for you. If you travel with more then just 2 people I would recommend to go through AirBnB options. There you will find plenty of beautiful houses with swimming pools so you will feel like home. We were staying at Marly’s place “Casa Vita, close to beaches and shopping” which I would doubtlessly recommend especially if you travel with your family or kids. The price is fantastic and her accommodation is clean, modern and has everything you need for a great holiday.
For those who would like to experience something different should book a room at the oldest hotel in Curacao, Avila Beach Hotel. This is also where the Queen and King of Netherlands prefer to stay if they need a vacation from their hard working days.
Top things to do in Curacao
Visit Curacao’s capital, Willemstad
Historic old Willemstad is the capital of Curacao but also a UNESCO World Heritage City. At first glance Willemstad looks a little like a brightly coloured mini-version of Amsterdam. The famous historical waterfront is lined with the colourful buildings in Dutch colonial style. The law requires that they be kept in a vibrant colour palette and repainted every two years.
Willemstad is divided into two sections, Punda and Otrobanda. Punda’s streets are full of people walking through narrow pathways packed with galleries, shops and cafés. At Pietermaai you can find various restaurants and bars. You can also do The Blue Curacao Experience tour and try this legendary blue drink from Curacao gratis.
Pedestrians who want to go the other side need to use the Queen Emma Bridge, the longest and oldest floating bridge in the world. This bridge is a great spot to take pictures, observe the impressive Queen Julianna Bridge or watch how the floating bridge opens to allow large ships to pass through. At night the whole bridge is lit up and every Thursday between 8pm-9pm you can take a look at the fireworks from it.
Where to eat in Curacao
Curacao offers numerous amounts of various lovely cafés and restaurants where you can have tasty lunch or dinner. That’s why sometimes it’s a bit of a struggle to decide where to go. I would definitely recommend two must visit places on the island of heaven.
One of them is famous romantic beach restaurant Karakter. It’s a bit out of the way because it’s located at Coral Estate, outside of the busy touristic area. Which creates a unique and peaceful atmosphere. Karakter is extremely popular on the island of Cuaracao that’s why it’s important to reserve a table especially if you would like to enjoy the view from the seashore. We went there to have a dinner and watch the sunset. The food was good and the service was very relaxed, typical Caribbean style, no one is in a hurry.
Another incredible restaurant with delicious Caribbean food and amazing views is Gouverneur de Rouville. You will find it in the heart of Willemstad on the historical waterfront. Definitely reserve a table so you will get a spot on the balcony with an imposing view of the famous lined up colourful houses in Dutch colonial style. Gouverneur de Rouville restaurant is not only spectacular from outside but also impressive inside. There is a bar with a gentlemen’s club atmosphere and a garden with a fountain where you can also enjoy your lunch or dinner.
The Gouverneur de Rouville’s menu offers a great variety of international and local dishes like famous chicken in prune stew and tasty banana soup. However every meal that we’ve tried was very fresh and flavourful. Doubtlessly leave some space for the dessert. My favourite was homemade brownies with pistachio ice cream, divinity on the plate! Last but not least the outstanding Gouverneur de Rouville’s staff. Everyone is very polite, friendly and amusing. We asked for suggestions and drink tips and received great recommendations.
The best beaches in Curacao
Curacao is mainly famous for it’s colourful architecture and interesting bridges. However it’s a dream destination for beach lovers. Curacao counts more then 35 beautiful lagoons with white sandy beaches and crystal clear warm water. Every single beach on the island could be the perfect location for a Bounty ad. The major difference between the beaches is not their quality but if it’s free or charged.
Kokomo Beach is a beautiful natural bay with crystal clear water and white sandy beach. It offers lounge chairs, palm trees providing shade and moreover there is no entrance fee. If you want to use chairs you just need to buy a drink or something to eat at the restaurant. Food and drinks are delicious and for a reasonable prices. There is also a spot where you can see and even feed plenty of friendly iguanas. Don’t forget to stop on the way to Kokomo Beach at the lake Salina Sint Michiel to observe flamingos in their natural habitat.
Jan Thiel Beach is one of the most famous commercial beaches in Curacao. It’s big and very crowded. Here you will find different areas to swim and also an infinity pool. There are 5 restaurants to eat but I personally didn’t like the food though, it’s overpriced and very simple. Fees for the Jan Thiel Beach apply for parking, beach chairs and beach entry unless you are staying at a participating resort or joining one of the offered boat tours. It was my least favourite beach but worth of visiting at least once.
One of my favourite commercial beaches is Mambo Beach in the East of Willemstad. It offers everything from white sand, turquoise calm water, shopping area, cafés and house music beats. As any other commercial beach entering the Mambo Beach requires a fee of $3,50; beach chairs are lined up all over this beach and are available for rent for around $4.
Blue Bay Beach Resort located on the southwest coast in Willemstad and offers lovely beach with white sand and calm water. The entrance will cost you $6 per person so you can use the facilities on the beach. The beach is relatively small and might be very crowded but there is a nice restaurant with relished dishes and even a spacious playground for kids.
Grote and Klein Knip are perfect destination for those who would like to enjoy a wild and free public beach with beautiful crystal clear water. It’s located close to Westpunt which is a less populated part of island. That creates a unique and the least crowded atmosphere. There is only one little restaurant that’s why I would recommend to bring a lot of water with you to stay hydrated.
Enjoy Spa & Massage at Kokomo Beach
A beach holiday on an island paradise like Curacao is not complete until you’ve had a massage or any other enjoyable spa treatment. I decided to spoil myself and book some treatments at Natural Blends Estheticks at Kokomo Beach. The location is ideal just next to the turquoise water where I can listen to the sound of the Ocean and feel a lovely breeze on my skin. Which is essential for the memorable and beautiful massage experiment.
The massage area was just like from a postcard: soft and comfortable looking massage tables with a breathtaking sea view. My therapist Ann-Marie was very professional and knew what she was doing to relieve all the tension in my muscles. And I need to admit, I’ve experienced one of the best massages in my life! All my muscles could finally relax after our long flight to the Caribbean island.
It’s essential to take care of your feet and nails while enjoying the white sand of the beach. Also the constant exposure to the sun might burn or dry your skin. Moreover your feet are constantly on display to everyone else so I think it’s nice to have beautiful and healthy feet with a neat nail polish. That’s why I decided to restore the look of my toes and get them treated at Natural Blends Estheticks too. And it was a great choice just look at the result! Loved it!
I also believe it’s important to take care of your face after the sun heat. We all know that it can lead to the skin damage, wrinkles and dryness. Ann-Marie recommended me to do Hydro Mini Facial to improve my skin after one of the day on the beach and I decided to follow it. The treatment consisted cleansing, exfoliation, steam, application of a mask, toner and moisturizer and was just extremely relaxing. My skin felt much better and was glowing afterwards. Amazing 75 minutes of quality time were added to my holidays!
Spend a day at Avila Beach Hotel
Avila Beach Hotel is the oldest luxury hotel in Curacao located in Willemstad at the spectacular beachfront. It has witnessed hundreds of years of the island’s history and has also hosted important people. Still it’s one of the most favourite places to stay for the King and Queen of The Netherlands when they visit Curacao. Couples and honeymooners love this place too! Now and then you can also gorgeous weddings. Furthermore this beautiful landmark offers almost 150 modern rooms divided over 3 different hotel wings with a various price range.
Great news about staying at Avila Beach Hotel is that you can also purchase a Day Beach Pass and enjoy a private strip of white sand beach and two bays with crystal clear calm water. Choose one of the beach chairs or hide in the shade of the beach umbrella and immerse into the relaxing experience facing beautiful lagoons. This is what we did on our very first day in Curacao.
During the hottest hours between 11am-2pm the best decision is to hide from the vicious sun at the bar or have lunch at open-air restaurant. This is a feeling of an ideal vacation when you hold a refreshing cold drink with views of surreal turquoise-coloured waters of Curacao. Foodies should definitely try the scrumptious traditional Caribbean food like Kashi Yena.
Visit Klein Curacao
If you are visiting Curacao then it’s a must to join a boat tour to the uninhabited island, Klein Curacao. It’s 25km off the coast of Curacao and it’s the perfect getaway. There are various companies that offer a day trip to Klein Curacao. We decided to go with PowerBoat because it promised to get to our little heaven in less then an hour while other bigger boats need over 2 hours. Furthermore because of the strong winds and currents travellers on the big boats have tendency to get sea sick.
We were picked up at 10am from Jan Thiel Beach. The sea wasn’t as rough as usually so we could get to our powder-white beach with turquoise waters, and sea turtles within the time. The trip might be a bit bumpy for some people, I would compare it to a ride on the wild horse but if you are an adrenaline junky then it’s definitely something for you. Travellers with back, neck or knee problems should choose another option.
One half of the island is a picture perfect beautiful beach side. The other half is a rugged, rocky coast with shipwrecks and an abandoned lighthouse. The two sides of Klein Curacao are perfect opposites of each other. The sun is very strong on this tranquil little island but there are also awesome shady shelters to protect you from it’s heat. We could stay and explore the island for half the day. PowerBoat tour also provided us with a great amount of different drinks so we all stayed hydrated.
Explore Spanish Water by stand up paddling
Spanish Water is another beautiful highlight of Curacao that is worth of visiting. The best way to explore this terrific lagoon, characterized by mangrove forests and outlined by villas and the Tafel Berg is by paddle boarding. It’s exciting and fun, furthermore you can get into the narrow parts of the lagoon where it’s impossible to get by the boat.
We decided to book our tour with SUP Curacao and we were very happy that we went for it. Paddle boarding is not complicated but we still received great instruction on how to manoeuvre it. After a few tries you feel very confident with the paddle and are ready to travel through the Spanish Water. All in one the tour takes around 2 hours with a little snack break and lovely chats in-between. The tour guide also takes pictures of everyone which we all got on the same day!
Visit Hato Caves
Hato Caves in Curacao is another unique geological element of the island that definitely must be seen. It’s one of the caves where you need to go upstairs to reach the entrance which is very seldom. We joined the guided tour to get to know more about the wonder of nature.
The tour was very entertaining and informative. Now we know that the Hato Caves are 300.000 years old and consist of marine coral limestone. These caves used to be a shelter and hiding place for slaves but nowadays you can find only numerous amount of cute long-nose fruit bats. The tour through the Hato Caves is impressive and memorable.
After the Cave tour you can stroll through the park to get to know the flora and fauna of Curacao. There you will see big cacti, little lizards running around and slowly walking iguanas.
Durbuy is a hidden gem of Belgium, located in the French-speaking community of Wallonia. You can find this beautiful region in the Ardennes, south of Belgium. It’s not only famous for it’s magnificent old charm and tranquil atmosphere but also for being the “smallest city in the world” with it’s population of 11.ooo inhabitants.
It’s very easy to fall in love with the medieval city of Durbuy, filled with cobbled streets, authentic ancient stone houses and a beautiful castle at the centre. The city is surrounded by impressive hills that used to be one whole structure. But overtime the river carved a path through them by eroding the strong stones. After some time the river changed it’s direction and people built the impressive little town that welcomes around 2 million tourists every year.
Top Things to do in Durbuy
Explore the Old Town
The magnificent Old Town of Durbuy enchants only 50 inhabitants, the majority live in the surroundings of the Durbuy region. Nevertheless the historic centre has plenty of interesting things to discover. There are a few lovely shops with local goods such as Durbuy’s dandelion jam, artisanally brewed beer and of course famous Belgian chocolate. The most prominent one you will find at Rue Alphonse Eloy.
Furthermore mesmerising Durbuy is the perfect place for photography lovers. Every corner is a great spot and opportunity for an impressive picture. Especially if you visit it during late spring or summer time.
Dine in a nice restaurant
Durbuy has a great reputation for hosting high quality food. You will be surprised how many restaurants and cafés this tiny town accommodates. You will be spoiled for choice, wherever you choose will be a good choice. We enjoyed our lunch at Saint Amour. It offers a relatively simple and old-fashion ambience but don’t judge book by it’s cover. Their lunch menu was voluptuous and sumptuous including a delicious variety of starters with paté and quiche. Furthermore there were unexpected refreshing surprises between the dishes. I would recommend to visit this restaurant and be prepared to spend at least 2 hours of happy feasting there.
If you are searching for a more over the top fancy dining experience then reserve a table at La Bru’sserie. You won’t be disappointed with the modern beauty of the interior and the quality of dishes.
Enjoy Wellness & Spa at Azur en Ardenne
The Ardennes are an ideal region to get away from chaos and immerse into tranquil nature surrounded by greenery. It’s perfect to unwind in one of the spas and recharge your batteries. We were staying at Azur en Ardenne, the wellness oasis surrounded by a beautiful forest. It’s also perfectly situated close to Durbuy’s Old Town and various activities, which you can easily reach on foot.
We booked the Comfort Room for 2 nights to disconnect from the outside world. The room was simple but well equipped. We received bathrobes and a welcome chocolate bar from the local chocolatery. I really liked the spacious white bathroom with a nice shower and a big bath. There was also tea, instant coffee, kettle and paper cups. I would definitely recommend to take some body cream with you after visiting sauna because hotel provides only with soap.
The best part of the Azur en Ardenne is the wellness area with a lovely indoor swimming pool. Furthermore there are 2 saunas, jacuzzi, hydrogen massage and a great panoramic view. The atmosphere is very relaxing and peaceful, accompanied with soft background music.
Wait until you see the breakfast that is served at Azur en Ardenne! It’s an epitome for the perfect start of the day. You can find everything what your foodie soul can crave for: muesli, fruits, warm waffles and pancakes, eggs, proper bacon, cheese, all kinds of teas and soft drink and even almond milk. It’s wonderful to wake up with beautiful views and voluptuous choice of treats.
There is also a restaurant that unfortunately didn’t approved my expectations but I got an insider tip: Just down the road there is place where all the chefs of Durbuy go to dine: Gastropub Gaspard . If you plan to visit this restaurant definitely reserve a table in advance because it’s small and always full!
Radhadesh Retreat Centre
You will be surprised to discover that in the middle of the Belgian Ardennes, in a fairytale castle you can find the spiritual community and one of the most important Hindu centres in Northern Europe. The beautiful castle Château de Petit Somme is home to the largest community of Hare Krishna, a Gaudiya Vaishnava Hindu organisation in Belgium. It’s an interesting experience to see the contrast between the grey cold stones of the huge castle and colourful interior and sculptures held in Indian tradition.
Radhadesh is a non-profit organization administered by a democratic general council and is the main center for the International Society for Krishna Consciousness in the Benelux. Additionally it’s also a retreat where you can join various courses and even cultural festivals like popular Holi Festival. I personally enjoyed visiting the Museum of Sacred Art where you can observe Indian art traditions and enjoy various exhibitions. Also worth visiting the vegetarian restaurant and cafeteria.
Mystical Megaliths: Menhirs and Dolmens of Weris
There is a lot of mysticism around the Durbuy area and one of them is the 8 km rows of megaliths made of huge conglomerate, nature’s version of concrete stones. These stones are well anchored into the ground and date back to the Neolithic era, that means they are over 5.000 years old. Scientists are still asking themselves how people could put these massive stones in alignment with almost no tools?
There are two main sites which are categorised as Weris 1 and Weris 2. The purpose of the menhirs is still not clear but there are some conclusions that it once was a spacious megalithic center for religious ceremonies, astronomical observations, healing of people and manipulation of the Earth’s energies. Nowadays people are still coming to immerse into the strong field of energies.
Interesting building: La Maison de Hary Cot
Close to the mystical megaliths you will discover La Maison de Hary Cot. A house that resembles Tim Burton’s crazy and intriguing creations. I was surprised to find out that it’s actually one of the finest restaurants in the region of Durbuy. Unfortunately it was not open when we were passing by but I would doubtlessly recommend to try to reserve a table at this admirable establishment which by the way belongs to the young couple Gael Colinet and Fanny Perreaux.
Visit Durbuy’s local brewery
Every town in Belgium is famous for their local beers. That’s why it’s a must to taste Durbuy’s own locally brewed beer, La Ferme au Chene. The brewery was established in 1560 by Philippe Marckloff and it’s located along the river Ourthe. Here you can also dine in the the local cuisine restaurant.
Sensation seekers should visit Adventure Valley
Adventure Valley in Durbuy is an amazing and challenging park with various activities for young and old. You can choose between climbing the side of the mountain with different difficulties, free fall from 32m high, going through the 3D labyrinth or enjoying the tumbling slide. There is also a possibility to crawl and climb between trees at different heights but also experience mega zipline.
Additionally all this fun is very safe, everyone receives a professional explanation in addition to helmets, security belts etc. You can see little children of age 5 and 6 being much braver than their parents and fearlessly climbing the various heights. It’s definitely memorable fun for the whole family! There is also a huge and gratis playground next to the café in case you don’t feel like spending money on an adventure.
Admire the World Largest Topiary Park
Have you ever heard of Topiary? It’s a beautiful practice of shaping or better to say clipping trees into ornamental figures. Since 1997, Durbuy Topiary Park has numerous amounts of tree figures, 250 masterpieces to be exact, on a 1-hectare garden. Moreover there are 39 flower bed and a breathtaking view over the river Ourthe and Durbuy castle. It’s truly a highlight and a must visit in Durbuy so plan to spend a few hours admiring the green art!
Nature and sport lovers will be surprised about the amount of outdoor activities that Durbuy can offer. You can enjoy the river with canoeing, rafting and kayaking. Moreover there is a possibility for horse riding and mountain biking. Last but not least Durbuy has incredible hiking trails with beautiful views. Just get more information at the tourist info point in the Old Town or at hotel Azur en Ardenne.
Best places to visit in Belgium
If you are spending a week or maybe even longer in Belgium then definitely visit the following cities:
Bruges, the fairy tale town of Belgium. The romantic atmosphere, smell of waffles and chocolate, mesmerising houses, bridges and swans on the canals will doubtlessly let you escape reality.
Brussels, as the capital of Belgium, attracts it’s visitors with beautiful historical monuments and world-class museums.
Ghent is a student city with beautiful and impressive medieval architecture and surprisingly un-touristy atmosphere.