Derek Blyth visits the Sahara of the North.
Derek Blyth points out a unique Belgian phenomenon, the trade in paper beach flowers.
Derek Blyth expresses his love for the carillons of Flanders and the Netherlands.
Derek Blyth urges you to visit the old-fashioned pubs of Flanders, while you still have the chance.
The author sets off on the longest tram ride in the world, all the way along the Belgian coast from De Panne to Knokke: 67 kilometers, 68 stops. A strip of fantasies. Now and then he gets out of the vehicle to glance at a nudist beach, a f...
The comic strip started in daily newspapers as a funny story at the back of the page. But is has evolved in the Netherlands and Belgium into a subtle and subversive art form. The Fleming Ever Meulen loves cars, houses and women. His illust...
The plan was to drive from Ghent to Kortrijk on the old Kortrijksesteenweg. Houses in various eclectic styles, hypermarkets, car showrooms, roadside brothels, bars and forgotten hotels, churches and a statue of a caribou perced on a rock. ...
On a trip to Mechelen, Derek Blyth discovers lost mediaeval rivers, Beethoven’s Flemish roots and the world’s oldest carillon school.
Derek Blyth discovers a monument to an English martyr, a traditional horsemeat restaurant and a waterfront that looks like Brooklyn.
Derek Blyth goes on a literary pilgrimage in Willem Elsschot’s Antwerp.
Derek Blyth ends up in a deserted village that refuses to die.
Derek Blyth hits the road in a very Dutch phenomenon, the caravan.
Visit any town or city in Belgium and you will find fries. Derek Blyth pays tribute to the humble fritkot.
Derek Blyth visits a church that looks more like a pyramid from a science fiction film than a house of prayer.
Derek Blyth invites you to walk in the footsteps of stanley brouwn, the first artist who claimed walks as art.
Derek Blyth discovers a wedding that changed history, the world’s most complex clock and some of life’s sweet pleasures.
Derek Blyth lets himself be overwhelmed by the multi-talent Rubens. Or is it by his love for the human flesh?
Whenever Derek Blyth visits Amsterdam, he can't help but pop into the iconic Athenaeum Boekhandel. ‘Buying a book there is almost a religious experience.’
When in Amsterdam, Derek Blyth likes to travel by ferry. It's free and fun.
Derek Blyth visits the oldest city in Belgium, where he discovers a Roman road sign, a lost river and a hoard of antique hunters.
Derek Blyth discovers a battlefield that shaped European history, a cafe dedicated to cycle racing and a tapestry with a secret message.
On a visit to the Flemish coastal town of Ostend, Derek Blyth discovers grand architecture, a world-famous soul singer and the perfect shrimp croquette.
On a visit to the Flemish city of Genk, Derek Blyth discovers restored coal mines, cosmopolitan chickens and one of the world’s great love songs.
On a trip to the capital of the Belgian province of Limburg, Derek Blyth finds comforting food, innovative architecture and 25 places to be happy.
Walking through Brussels, sooner or later you will come across Pieter Bruegel the Elder and his enigmatic art. Derek Blyth would join you in a minute.
On a trip to Geel, Derek Blyth discovers a murdered Irish saint, a community that cares for strangers, and a mellow city that is simply crazy about reggae.
Looking for exciting places in the Low Countries, British journalist Derek Blyth stumbled upon the castle where baroque painter Rubens spent the last years of his life.
Derek Blyth invites you to discover the Jewish Community of Antwerp, one of the largest in Europe.
In Bruges, Derek Blyth dwells on a brilliant sixteenth-century mathematician who was also known as 'the Belgian Archimedes' or 'the Leonardo Da Vinci of the Low Countries'.
On a visit to the Flemish city of Sint-Niklaas, Derek Blyth discovers the largest market square in Belgium, the biggest cigar in the world and the greatest atlas ever printed.
On a visit to the Flemish city of Aalst, Derek Blyth discovers a Carnival parade that likes to shock, a priest that took on the factory bosses and a utopian library.
On a visit to the university town of Leuven, Derek Blyth discovers one of Europe’s smartest cities, some of Belgium’s best bars and a walk that takes you to the edge of time.
On a visit to the Flemish city of Ypres, Derek Blyth discovers a museum dedicated to the horror of war, a beer brewed in an underground fortification and a nightly ceremony that might go on for ever.
Looking for remarkable places in the Low Countries, British journalist Derek Blyth ends up eating fast food from the wall in Amsterdam.
Utopia is not always an imaginary place. That is what Derek Blyth discovered when he entered the stunning city library of Aalst.
Derek Blyth pays tribute to the man who has shown us the way for more than four hundred years: the Flemish cartographer Gerardus Mercator.
Did you know there is a Dutch town called Austerlitz with a pyramid nearby, built by Napoleon’s soldiers?
Have you ever wondered where those cargo bikes come from?
Abraham Ortelius’ map, inspired by Thomas More’s book, is dotted with amusing place names that suggest the whole thing was a joke.
In the midst of nature, in the East Flemish municipality of Stekene, you can visit one of the largest private art collections in Europe.
The bicycle and car sharing that we know today can be traced back to the ‘White Bicycles’ and ‘White Cars’ initiated by the Provo movement.
Most people assume the sensible Dutch have always cycled. But the story is more complicated.
Utrecht is so much more than a pleasant day trip from Amsterdam. Discover its picturesque canals, lively pub culture, the world’s largest bike parking garage and a cute little rabbit that pops up everywhere in town.
Calling Kortrijk a hidden pearl along the river Lys might be too much honour. Yet there are numerous treasures to be found.
Get to know Amsterdam and its inhabitants through its carved façade stones decorating the canalside houses.
In a country with five billion trips by bicycle a year, special roundabouts are no luxury. No wonder the Dutch make roundabouts look like design masterpieces. And now they are spreading to progressive cities around the world.
Heisteeg, one of the narrowest streets of Amsterdam, has sparked off a furious debate about overtourism.
The overgrown Campo Santo cemetery clings to a low hill in the Ghent suburb of Sint-Amandsberg has been described as the Flemish Père Lachaise.
The people of Groningen would like one of their city gates to be handed back.
People all over the world crave a Flemish speculoos biscuit based on wheat flour and candy syrup or caramelised sugar.
The pretty beach town of De Haan in West Flanders is dotted with reminders of its most famous visitor.
The British have a longstanding love affair with the Duffel coat. It is named after the cloth made in a small Flemish town, though it is hard to establish a link between the town and the coat.
The most famous dictionary of the Dutch language is named after its creator, a nineteenth-century teacher from the Dutch border town of Sluis.
Although its roots date back to 1515, Café Vlissinghe in Bruges is anything but sleepy.
The American Protestant Church of The Hague was originally built for the 1958 World's Fair in Brussels.
Discover the tiny village of Zennegat, one of the most remote spots in Flanders.
Few people know that the British Grenadier Guards got their start in Bruges.
Perhaps the most bizarre bridges ever built in the Netherlands can be seen in Spijkenisse.
An abandoned sixteenth-century chapel in Ghent was given a new lease of life thanks to internationally renowned artist Berlinde de Bruyckere.
A dusty plaque on the wall of a Brussels sandwich shop marks the site where Multatuli wrote his classic novel Max Havelaar.
It is still something of a guilty secret, but Middelburg grew prosperous from the slave trade.
What was once Belgium's finest cinema is today a vibrant cultural centre and performance venue in the heart of a multicultural neighbourhood.
The reading table is a piece of Dutch heritage that has survived in lots of cafes, including the one named after writer Harry Mulisch in Café Americain.
The oldest Dutch department store chain De Bijenkorf is celebrating its 150th year.
Rotterdam used to be a tough industrial city. Not any longer. It’s now got the energy of New York combined with the liveability of Copenhagen.
Amsterdam has overtaken London as Europe’ main share trading hub for the first time since the 17th century.
In the past 'Praathuisjes' were only used by old men and sailors to catch up with a cup of coffee. Now everyone is welcome.
75 years ago, a German V2 bomb hit the popular Cinema Rex in Antwerp. 567 people were killed. It took more than a week to recover their bodies from under the rubble.
The small cemeteries in and around Ypres provide a unique way of understanding the First World War.
Whoever visits the Netherlands, can't ignore them. Sooner or later you walk into one of the 550 Hema shops to buy a bicycle bell, sandwich or stapler. The brand is as Dutch as the tulip.
Since it was established in 1971, ‘De Engelbewaarder’ has been known as the first literary café in the Netherlands. Not only John Irving once drank a beer there.
Dutch artists painted a giant bookcase on an apartment building in Utrecht featuring residents’ favorite books.
Every evening since 1928, a group of buglers has sounded the Last Post in Ypres to honour the soldiers who died in WWI in Flanders Fields.
After having stood empty for 22 years, the Antwerp Stock Exchange building or the Handelsbeurs, opened to the public again.
Back in the 1960s, the Germans had their VWs, the Italians their Fiat 500s, the French the Citroën 2CVs, and the Dutch? A sensible car called the DAF.
Art photographer Athos Burez tackled 'The Baths of Ostend', the famous painting by James Ensor, and gave it his own interpretation.
The only remaining medieval castle in Flanders with a virtually intact defence system faces a new threat.
In 2002, the Dutch poet F. Starik came up with the idea of the Poule des doods – a pool of poets who write and read a poem for the people who have no mourners at their funeral.
It's early morning in Mechelen and the streets are empty. Derek Blyth is looking forward to wandering down the cobbled lanes, looking inside gothic churches, passing some time in the municipal museum, and ending up, as everyone does, in one...
In Hasselt there's no big square, no great art collection, none of the sense of ancient history you feel in nearby towns like Tongeren or Maastricht. Yet it's somehow quietly appealing. At the end of his day in Hasselt, Derek Blyth took a f...
Beer drinking in Flanders goes back a long way. The rich heritage of Flemish beer used to be a well-kept secret, but the efforts of café owners and writers have helped to promote the image of Flemish ales. As word gets around, the names of ...
You can find them in the Old Hack drinking De Koninck or Leffe, the foreign correspondents covering the European Union in Brussels. They have little inclination to seek out stories outside the European “bubble”. But the Brussels press corps...
When the author of this piece decided to drive from Brussels to Antwerp on the old N1 road, it was partly an attempt to discover the other Flanders, the space between the cities. He imagined that the whole journey would take a day at most. ...
To the author, it is impossible to imagine living in the Low Countries without talking Dutch. Deprived of the Dutch teaching he had as a native speaker of English, he would remain baffled by Dutch street names, like Beenhouwersstraat, Hands...
Some people have gone to France or Italy in search of passionate romance, but others have fallen hopelessly in love in the unpromising dampness of the Low Countries. The stories of James Boswell and Belle van Zuylen, Charlotte Brontë and he...
Utrecht seemed in 1979 like Utopia compared to the crumbling island monarchy the author had left behind. He was living in Maastricht when Thatcher went to war with Argentina. After Amsterdam he finally landed in Brussels. Sometimes Belgium ...
Many Brontë experts have described Charlotte’s impressions of Belgium, but few have considered what the Belgians thought of Charlotte. The Brussels-based writer and translator Helen Mac-Ewan now fills this gap with her second carefully res...
In December 1516, thanks to help from Erasmus, the first edition of Thomas More’s Utopia came off Dirk Martens’ presses in the university town of Leuven. Originally published in Latin, the fable begins in Antwerp, where More bumps into Gil...
Back in the 1880s, when Van Gogh was plodding through the Brabant potato fields, Eindhoven was just a small Catholic town. Now it is the fifth largest city in the Netherlands, with an acclaimed modern art museum and a world-class design ac...
When I visited Middelburg for the first time, back in the early 1980s, the town was an old-fashioned, religious place. It was a Sunday and everything was closed, except for the churches, which were full. It felt twenty years behind Amsterd...
Review of Derek Blyth's 'Flemish Cities Explored. Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp, Mechelen, Brussels & Louvain' (London, 1996)
British journalist Derek Blyth travels through the Low Countries and stops in cities that are worth visiting. Each time he looks at the place and its inhabitants through curious glasses.
You think you know Flanders and the Netherlands. But take it from us, you haven’t seen anything yet. British journalist Derek Blyth takes you on microadventures to L-Spots, hidden and exciting places in the Low Countries.
You may know the beautiful art cities Bruges, Antwerp, Ghent and Brussels. But Flanders also has many other places that are well worth a visit. In this series, British journalist Derek Blyth crosses through the provinces and discovers the c...
Join us in bidding goodbye to 2022 with seven of the finest stories we published this year about Dutch and Flemish society that are worth re-reading or listening to again.
Our best society stories of 2019, handpicked by the editor.