From next month Eurostar will transport travellers to northern Europe in record time from their new terminal at London’s St Pancras station.
Taking the train through the Channel Tunnel has become commonplace in recent years, but there is more to see than just Paris and Brussels.
Belgium boasts a range of attractive destinations, prime among them the beautifully preserved medieval city of Bruges.
A major European destination since the 11th century, the historic centre of Bruges, a World Heritage Site, is a time capsule of a prosperous medieval trading hub.
What is it like?
Bruges is a perfect destination for a weekend of culture and relaxation.
The centre is small, all accessible on foot and within a day you know your way round.
Friendly locals, stunning medieval buildings, world-famous chocolate, calorific waffles and hearty Belgian food make Bruges a great place to take your parents, your lover or your friends.
What is there to do?
Walk to the Market Square and take in the imposing 13th century Belfry. The 366 steps to the top are tiring, but worth it for the stunning views over Bruges.
Have lunch in one of the many cafes lining the square and watch tourists go by in horse-drawn carriages.
Take a canal trip around the centre of the city.
It is the perfect way to get your bearings and see some of the most stunning tourist attractions from the water.
Informative guides will talk you through some of the history of the city while you idly take in the medieval grandeur of one of Europe’s former trading hubs.
The city’s wealth, built on the Flemish cloth trade, is evident in its fine religious and civil buildings.
Visit the churches and cathedrals of Bruges, from the Sint-Salvator Cathedral to the Basilica of the Holy Blood.
There, if you turn up at the right time, you can touch the relic of the Holy Blood, reputedly that of Jesus himself. The relic was brought to the city during the First Crusade and paraded annually through the streets.
See great works of art. The 13th century Church of our Lady houses a Michelangelo marble sculpture, Madonna and Child.
Take an afternoon to visit the impressive collection of six centuries of Belgian and Flemish art at the Groeningemuseum.
It houses works by Bruges resident Jan Van Eyck and other renaissance masters as well as Baroque and modern masterpieces.
Explore the museums of lace, diamonds or chocolate and finally, take a tour round the Civic Buildings for a real understanding of the power and wealth of this once-great city.
Also, Bruges loves a celebration – there seems to be a festival for every week of the year.
Check visitflanders.co.uk for more details.
Where to stay
The centre of Bruges has scores of hotels, but highly recommended is the Montanus Hotel. 24 romantic rooms set round an intimate garden so quiet it is easy to forget you are in the city
Friendly, helpful staff make the atmosphere a homely one. A modern, boutique hotel, it is located a few minutes walk from the centre.
As a major tourist destination, Bruges has a range of hotels and hostels to suit most budgets.
Where to eat
Moules frites. Waffles with ice cream. Local Belgian beers. Mouth-watering handmade chocolates. Bruges is a great destination for foodies, with several top-rated (and suitably expensive) restaurants alongside traditional cafes where the locals congregate for beer and seafood.
How to get there
From November 14th 2007 Eurostar will operate up to 10 daily services from London St Pancras to Brussels with return fares from £59.
Fastest journey time to Brussels will be one hour 51 minutes.
All Eurostar tickets to Brussels are valid to/from any Belgian station at no extra cost.