Antwerp: Antwerp, daughter of the River Scheldt and second largest city of Belgium. The 500.000 inhabitants call it the 'Metropolis' (People from Antwerp are known in Belgium for not being too modest). This city has so many different facets that it takes a while before one gets to know it thoroughly. Antwerp has the second largest harbor of Europe (after Rotterdam). Moreover, Antwerp is a splendid city with numerous architectural highlights, most of which date from the 16th (the golden era of Antwerp) and the 17th century. The destructions of the Second World War, unfortunately, have scarred somehow the fair face of the old town. Still there are enough monuments left for those who like monument hopping to spend a few days adm iring them. The past is also represented by the numerous paintings of Peter Paul Rubens who lived in the Antwerp in the early 17th century. Antwerp, the diamond center of the World If diamonds really are a girl's best friends, than a lot of ladies will not leave out a visit to the diamond district around the Railway Station. This area is also the Jewish part of the city. The presence of many 'Chassidic' Jewish people gives the city a flair that cannot be found in other Belgian cities. Antwerp, however, does not only live from the past. Nowadays, Antwerp has earned a place among the fashion cities of the world thanks to the efforts of numerous young Flemish fashion designers (e.g.: Walter Van Beirendonck, Nadine Wynants, Ann De Meulemeester, Dirk Bikkembergs, Kaat Tilley and others). Visit the fashion area of Antwerp near the Meir shopping street. Leuven: For those looking to find the most beautiful medieval buildings in the world: look no further! You will find it in the Belgian city of Leuven (Louvain). The magnificent 15th century town hall alone is worth the trip. Leuven is situated in the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium, at about 20 km east of Brussels. Where it not that Leuven is renowned all over the world for its University (the K.U.L = Katholieke Universiteit Leuven -Catholic University of Louvain), one of the oldest still existing catholic universities in the world, founded in 1425. All through the year the city of Leuven presents a lively atmosphere because of the many students from all over Belgium (and the world). Especially in the evening, and certainly at night, the many bars and student pubs, spread all over the town, guarantee that there is always something happening. Very popular is the area around the 'Oude Markt - Old Market. Ghent: Ghent is the fourth largest city of Belgium with about 250.000 inhabitants. It is not as big as Antwerp but bigger than Bruges. It is also less famous among tourists than the often praised Bruges. However, for some people Ghent is the real diamond of Flanders and Belgium. In a unique way, Ghent has managed to preserve its medieval power while keeping up with the times. The city center alone is a showcase of medieval Flemish wealth and commercial success. Modern Ghent certainly cannot be overlooked in Belgium. The city has an important harbor, thanks to the canal Ghent-Terneuzen which allows sea-going vessels to bring their products to the city and its industrial hinterland. Because of the central location in the country, the 'Flanders Technology' fair can regularly be organized. The Belgian State University (RUG = Rijksuniversiteit Gent) continues to grow in importance. The presence of so many young people and students has turned Ghent into an important Flemish cultural center. Ghent is also the flower city of Belgium. Flower growers from the region around Ghent sell their beautiful begonia's and azalea's all over the world. Every 5 years the successful 'Gentse Floraliën" (Ghent Flower Show) attracts thousands to the city. The tourist will not have eyes enough to admire the awesome architectural wealth, which offers a splendid combination of impressiveness and idyllic charm of the proud and (in former times) often rebellious city of Ghent. Bruges: Today's Bruges has a population of about 45.000 people (the old center) or 120.000 people (center together with the suburbs). These numbers clearly show that Bruges is not a tiny miniature city. It ranks, even today, among the important cities of Belgium. It is also the capital of the Belgian province of West-Flanders. A lot of people take day-trips from Brussels to Bruges, but there is to much to see here to fill only 1 day. The best way to visit Bruges is to spend at least one night in one of the many beautiful and cozy hotels. Later in the evening, when all the tourists have gone, Bruges finds back its charm and quiet of old times. When one is lucky with the weather, a stroll through the tiny medieval streets can be an enchanting experience. Bruges is always beautiful, in the summertime as well as in the wintertime. Lucky visitors will never forget the city after they have seen it on a snowy December or January day. Bruges is unique, in the sense that here the town authorities have done the utmost to preserve the medieval-looking image of the city. Of course, not every stone in Bruges has come to us straight from the Middle-Ages. The 19th century neo-gothic style is more present than one should think. Because of these 19th century renovations, some critics have put Bruges down as a 'fake' medieval city. Nevertheless, the combination of old, not so old and new fascinates everyone who first sets foot in Bruges. Ostend: The city of Ostend, protected from the North Sea by a network of dikes, is the largest population center on the Belgian coast, with 67,000 residents. Ostend received a city charter in the 13th century, though it is unclear how much earlier the site had originally been settled; at the time it was a small fishing village. Plagued throughout its history by a constant onslaught from seaborn invaders, it was the decision by the first two Belgian Kings, Leopold I and Leopold II, to spend their summers in Ostend that raised the town's fortunes and transformed it into a fashionable 19th century resort. Sadly, in the twentieth century, destruction came again, this time in the form of World War II aerial bombardment. Modern Ostend is a transportation hub and resort town. Waterloo: Waterloo, is a small city of about 20.000 inhabitants in the Belgian province of Walloon-Brabant (Brabant-Wallon). It was originally a hamlet of the village of Braine-l'Alleud However, at the end of the 18th century Waterloo became an entirely separate town. Today Waterloo plays an important economic, touristic and cultural role due to the enthusiasm of its many national and international companies, its trades-people and the high cultural standards of its residents from all corners of the world. The city owes its fame to the Duke of Wellington and to.the battle which took place on the 18th of June 1815. The Battle of Waterloo was fought between the French, under the command of Napoleon Bonaparte, and the Allied armies commanded by the Duke of Wellington from Britain and General Blücher from Prussi a. At his headquarters (now the Wellington Museum) the Duke of Wellington drafted the message announcing the defeat of Napoleon after the battle of Mont-Saint-Jean or the "Belle Alliance". Although the fighting mostly took place in Braine-l'Alleud and the surrounding areas, history commemorates it under the name of the "Battle of Waterloo" with its monument, the "Butte du Lion" (the Lion's Mound). The actual battlefield lies at about 5 Km south of the city, in the nearby village of Mont-Saint-Jean. The French defeat at Waterloo drew to a close 23 years of war beginning with the French Revolutionary wars in 1792 and continuing with the Napoleonic Wars from 1803. There was a brief eleven-month respite when Napoleon was forced to abdicate, exiled to the island of Elba. However, the unpopularity of Louis XVIII and the economic and social instability of France motivated him to return to Paris in March 1815. The Allies soon declared war once again. Napoleon's final defeat at Waterloo marked the end of the Emperor's final bid for power, the so-called '100 Days', and the final chapter in his remarkable career.