Belgium's Best Chocolate, Beer, Cheese and More

The Grote Markt/Grand-Place in Brussels, Belgium. Photo by <a href="http://www.frommers.com/community/user_gallery_detail.html?plckPhotoID=8c5cef7d-bb0b-4f5a-b0c7-43f847f371c7&plckGalleryID=c0482941-0d2d-4cca-b8c4-809ee9e20c72" target="_blank">Liat Noten/Frommers.com Community</a> Frommers.com Community
By Jennifer Reilly

Spanning the fertile Meuse River valley and the forested Ardennes, Belgium's Wallonia region is decidedly slower-paced and less populated than the country's northern region of Flanders, but no less packed with things to see and do.

Wallonia is filled with Trappist breweries and crumbling ruins; restaurants and markets selling fresh local produce, gourmet chocolate, and artisanal cheese; historic battlefields; and outdoor activities that maximize the southern region's relaxed, bucolic vibe.

From cheese to chocolate, here are the 10 best reasons to explore the lesser-known region of Wallonia.

For more information on Wallonia, as well as the country's capital of Brussels, check out www.visitbelgium.com.

Photo Caption: The Grote Markt/Grand-Place in Brussels, Belgium. Photo by Liat Noten/Frommers.com Community
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Produce at Marche&eacute; du Midi, Brussels Jennifer Reilly
Most trips to Wallonia begin in Brussels, Belgium's multilingual capital. Straddling French-speaking Wallonia and Dutch-speaking Flanders, the city is a melting pot of international cuisines. Food markets abound here: At Sunday's outdoor Marché du Midi, by Midi Train Station, you can sample artichokes, strawberries, and other fresh produce. At the market, you can also browse everything from handbags to North African herbs and spices.

Photo Caption: Produce at Marché du Midi, Brussels.
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A comic mural in Brussels. Jennifer Reilly
As the source of famous comic creations like Tintin and the Smurfs, Belgium is practically bursting with graphic art. Many buildings in Brussels are decorated with multi-story murals that add a welcome dash of color to the cityscape. At the new Hergé Museum (tel. +32/10/48-84-21; www.museeherge.com) in the town of Louvain-la-Neuve, about 30 minutes south of Brussels, you can study original drawings and films by the artist who created Tintin.

Photo: A comic mural in Brussels.
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Abbaye Notre-Dame d'Orval, a brewery in Belgium. Jennifer Reilly
At Abbaye Notre-Dame d'Orval (tel. +32/61/31-10-60; www.orval.be), one of six Trappist breweries in Belgium, visitors can both learn about modern-day brewing and explore haunting ruins and a small museum. Though the brewery and the working monastery here don't normally offer tours, the site itself is ethereal and fascinating. The brewery's dry, slightly tangy ale is available at restaurants and bars throughout Belgium and beyond.

Photo: Abbaye Notre-Dame d'Orval
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Edouard at Les Chocolats d'Edouard in Florenville, Belgium. Jennifer Reilly
Located in the charming village of Florenville, Les Chocolats d'Edouard (tel. +32/61/50-29-72; www.leschocolatsdedouard.be) is both a restaurant and a gourmet chocolate shop. Its chef introduces cacao into his dishes in surprising ways, including as a marinade for steak, and his pralines mix exotic flavors like Earl Grey tea and sesame. 

Photo: Edouard at Les Chocolats d'Edouard in Florenville, Belgium.
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The bucolic landscape in Herve, a region south of Brussels. Maison du Tourisme de Pays de Herve.
The lush pastures of Herve, a region about an hour south of Brussels, have helped produce famous cheese for centuries. Situated inside a converted rail station, the restaurant Le Quai des Champs (tel. +32/87/33-32-22; www.quaideschamps.be) is a great place to sample the region's namesake cheese and other local delicacies like fruit syrup. For details on gastronomic tours in the area, visit www.paysdeherve.be.

Photo Caption: The bucolic landscape in Herve, a region south of Brussels. Courtesy Maison du Tourisme de Pays de Herve.
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The lush grounds of Jardins d'Annevoie. Jennifer Reilly
Jardins d'Annevoie (tel. +32/82/67-97-97; www.annevoie.be), about 17 miles south of the Walloon capital of Namur, features French-, English-, and Italian-inspired ornamental gardens and an 18th-century chateau. The 136-acre estate is an idyllic spot to see some of the region's bounty, like raspberries, up close.

Photo Caption: The lush grounds of Jardins d'Annevoie.
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L&igrave;ge-Guillemins Rail Station. OPT
One of the largest cities in Wallonia, Liège boasts both ancient attractions like the 12th-century Romanesque church Eglise St-Barthélemy (tel. +32/4/221-89-44; www.st-barthelemy.be) and contemporary sites like a stunning new rail station designed by Santiago Calatrava.

The city is also home to a growing number of eco-minded restaurants, including the sandwich shop Terre Mère (tel. +32/4/221-38-05; www.terremere.be).

Photo Caption: Liège-Guillemins Rail Station. Courtesy OPT
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The chambre blanc room at La Vigie in Spa, Belgium. Jennifer Reilly
La Vigie (tel. +32/87/77-34-97; www.lavigie.be), or "The Lookout," sits atop a hill in Spa, the town that invented relaxation. The owners of this four-unit property are interior decorators. From the antique French furniture to the signature colors for each unit, every design detail has been carefully selected. This B&B offers multiple wellness packages, and rates for doubles start at €105.

Photo Caption: The chambre blanc room at La Vigie in Spa, Belgium.
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Le Château d'Arlon in Belgium. Jennifer Reilly
Set amid 539 acres of land close to the Luxembourg border, Le Château d'Arlon (tel. +32/63/23-34-41www.chateau-arlon.be) may be the coziest castle you'll ever sleep in. It's a popular place to rent for weddings.

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Leger mural in Bastogne, Belgium. Jennifer Reilly
At the Bastogne War Museum (tel. +32/061-21-220www.bastognewarmuseum.be) in Bastogne, visitors can pay homage to the American soldiers who died during the Battle of the Bulge, and see the World War II battleground firsthand. The on-site crypt, with murals designed by the artist Fernand Léger, is a beautiful and moving complement to the massive star-shape memorial that dominates this site.


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