Belgium has a cultural diversity that belies its rather dull reputation among travellers.
Its population is divided between Flemish speakers (about 60%) and French speaking Walloons (40%), with a few pockets of German-speakers in the east. The north and south of Belgium are visually very different. Marking the meeting of the two, Brussels, the capital, is a culturally varied city at the heart of the European Union.
The north, made up of the provinces of West and East Flanders, Antwerp, Limburg and much of Brabant is mainly flat with a landscape and architecture not unlike Holland.
Antwerp is the second city, a bustling old port with doses of high art, redolent of its sixteenth-century golden age.
Further south and west are the great historic cities, Bruges and Ghent, with a stunning concentration of Flemish art and architecture.
Another enjoyable inland Flanders town is the cathedral city of Mechelen, halfway between Brussels and Antwerp. The southern reaches of Brabant are French speaking, and merge into the Walloon province of Hainaut - rich agricultural country, scarred by pockets of industry and boasting the historic city of Tournai.
East of here lies Belgium's most scenically rewarding region, the Ardennes , an area of deep, wooded valleys, high elevations and dark caverns.