Smack-bang in the middle of Western Europe, this compact multilingual country effortlessly blends the historic with the new; from countless castles and medieval belfries to innovative art museums and hip cafes. And with some of the best comfort food on offer, you'll need to pack an empty stomach for gorging on waffles, chocolate, frites and piles of steaming mussels, all washed down with the country's famous frothy beer.
My childhood bedroom in Sydney was decorated with postcards of Van Eyck Madonnas, but it wasn’t until a couple of decades later, during one of Europe’s coldest winters, that infatuation turned to love. My first impression of Antwerp was one of sheer wonder, the guildhalls of Grote Markt glinting as snow fell at the Christmas markets, and the dimmed, richly cosy interiors of the Rubenshuis and the Museum Plantin-Moretus. This sense of quiet magic has accompanied each subsequent visit, whether it’s to galleries or gigs in Ghent or for family time in a 17th-century farmhouse.