Amsterdam, Bruges, and Brussels—the three greatest cities of the Low Countries—are a delight to experience. Rattling on your bike over the cobbles, savoring fresh pralines, lingering in flowerÂ carpeted squares, you’ll find a slow-down-and-smell-the-tulips world that enchants. Any time of year, you can enjoy the intimate charms of these cities.
Amsterdam is called “the Venice of the North,” both for its canals and for its past position as an economic powerhouse. Bruges—once mighty, now mighty cute—comes with fancy beers in fancy glasses, lilting carillons, and lacy Gothic souvenirs of a long-gone greatness. Brussels—the capital of Europe, with a lowrise Parisian ambience—exudes a joie de vivre, from its famous cuisine to its love of comic books and chocolate.
Belgium and the Netherlands are called the Low Countries because nearly half their land is below sea level. Surrounded by mega-Europe, the Low Countries are easy to overlook. But travel here is a snap, the area is steeped in history, and all the charming icons of the region—whirring windmills, Dutch Masters, dike hikes, one-speed bikes, and ladies tossing bobbins to make fine lace—line up for you to enjoy. If ever an area were a travel cliché come true, it’s the Low Countries.