Today, the Flemish landscape still looks like it did in the old oil paintings by the flemish masters.
The green fields are so flat and sparse, there are only a few scattered old farmhouses and cows between alleys of wind-bent trees. The sky seems bigger above this plane land, while thin rays of light shine through the clouds like pillars. While it’s a green and rural region, the coast and the sea, where wind and waves form the sandy beaches and dunes are not far away as well.
Spread in the countryside along the dutch-beligan border are many small and pretty towns. There are for example Retranchement, and Damme. Damme is a lovely village with old buildings and a functioning windmill. You can sit in the back garden of restaurant and patisserie Tante Marie or rent bikes and cycle along the canal and tree-alley to Sluis. The town is a little bit bigger, not as picturesque as Damme but has some nice boutiques and the good restaurant La Trinité. A very pretty, traditional country inn that sits right in the flemish countryside close to Damme and the border is Siphon, they serve simple and delicious lunch and dinner during the week.
Directly at the Belgian border you find Retranchement, a lovely village with the nice cafes De Parlevinker and The Bliss, the restaurant Rotisserie Grenzeloos and the very sweet antique shop Saskia Boxy. Another nice little village is Groede, there is a flea market-shop inside an old church on Schuitvlotstraat and the cozy, delicious restaurant and pub De Drie Koningen, where they also brew their own beer. Or if you want to enjoy a lovely gourmet dinner you can go to Etablissement 1880 in Groede.
Arguably the most famous town in Flanders is Bruges. The medieval town attracts many tourists and can get very busy, but there are enough small lanes to get lost between the old buildings and canals. On the main square Markt and the Burg square right behind it you already find Bruges main historic attractions, the town hall, the Belfort and the Basilica of the Holy Blood. But only five minutes away by foot there is also the Church of Our Lady, where you can see the Madonna of Bruges, Michelangelos magical marble sculpture. Right across lies the very interesting Sint-Jansspital hospital-museum. When it’s sunny, a touristy but still very enjoyable way to see the city is by boat, because you see so many picturesque canals, hidden gardens and bridges. Boats start at Rozenhoedkaai, only a minute away from the busy fish market. Apart from the sights, it’s also nice to go for a shopping stroll along streets like Noordzandstraat, Zuidzandstraat and Steenstraat, between the big brands and chocolate shops are still some local fashion and shoe boutiques. A good place for a break and a coffee are the small Vero Cafe, Patisserie Academie or Le Pain Quotidien in a restored historic building.
From Bruges it’s only about half an hour by car to the coast. The windy beaches of the north sea might not be the most beautiful, but it’s nice to stroll along the shore, collect shells or just sit in one of the beach cafes. Groede aan Zee is a good beach restaurant where you can enjoy a beer and something to eat. There are also some nice beach spots in the Netherlands, just across the border, around Nieuwvliet, Breskens or Cadzand. In Cadzand you find cool lounge bars directly at the beach and the lovely Strandhotel. In the hotel you also find two amazing restaurants by chef Sergio Herman, Pure-C and Blueness, where you get great Japanese fusion cuisine. Middelburg is another bigger city across the Westerschelde. Here you have an historic city center with a big market and many shops and cafes. There is modern bakery Luuks Brood & Patisserie, sweet cafes like Honey Pie and Expresszo or plant shop Plantaardig and fashion boutique Maison de la Mer.
About fifteen minutes by car you can visit the picturesque village Veere. There are lots of sweet historic buildings, a big church, nice gardens and cute shops. The region is also perfect for short hikes and walks.