Belgium is famous for many things — exquisite chocolates, fried mussels, the artist Rubens and, of course, the intrepid little explorer with a quiff, Tintin. First created in 1929 by Georges Prosper Remi, aka Hergé, the comic strip kid has since appeared in 24 albums, selling 350 million copies, in over 70 languages. The new film, the Adventures of Tintin - The Secret of the Unicorn, is already causing a stir in cinemas around the world. Directed by Steven Spielberg, it's a 3D-animated marvel. Tintin is a product of Belgium and there is no better time than now to discover all that this small but lively European country has to offer.
Brussels - It's a Grand Place
Brussels has rightly gained a reputation as one of Europe's must-see destinations. Start off in the spectacular Grand Place dominated by the 17th-century City Hall. Pause for a pick-me-up hot chocolate and a Belgium waffle at Funambule Waffles (5 Rue de l'Etuve) before heading to the Belgian Centre for Comic Strip Art. (www.comicscenter.net). The collection is housed in an Art Nouveau architectural masterpiece designed by Victor Horta and visitors can discover what it takes to put together a comic strip. There are also wonderful displays of cartoon art from artists around the world and, of course, from Belgium's most famous cartoonist Hervé. Have a relaxed dinner at Leon (18, rue des Bouchers), one of Brussels best restaurants. Don't miss the fried mussels with French fries or the chicken with onion and white cheese sauce.
Louvain La Neuve - Hergé Museum and Tintin
Tintin fans are well looked after with a special museum dedicated to the fearless little adventurer and his creator, Hervé. It's just a short train ride from Brussels to the town of Louvain La Neuve where the Hergé Museum (www.museeherge.com) traces Tintin's evolution from an almost featureless line-drawing in the original newspaper strip to a fully-formed, full-colour character in later editions. He gained his trademark quiff after a ride in an open-top car in the 1929 adventure, The Land of The Soviets. The modern museum also charts the introduction of sidekicks Snowy the dog; the cursing Captain Haddock — named after the reply Hergé received when he asked his wife what was for dinner; and the vain, glass-shattering opera star Bianca Castafiore — a dig by Hergé at his opera-loving wife.
Antwerp - The Charm of Rubens
Art reigns supreme in Antwerp and there are plenty of opportunities to discover the work of the city's most famous son — Peter Paul Rubens. Ruben's House (www.rubenshuis.be) still maintains the ambience of the 17th century and the studio, where he painted is one of the most impressive rooms. Back outside on the cobblestones, spend some time wandering around the exquisitely preserved medieval streets lined with high, gable-roofed buildings with ornate façades. But not everything in Antwerp is old. MAS Museum (www.mas.be) is a stunning contemporary building where you can admire the works of some of the great European artists from across the centuries. Finish your visit on a sweet note with a treat of rich Belgian chocolates from Le Château Blanc (1 Turfbrug).
Bruges - Picture-Postcard Perfect
You'll find one of Europe's best preserved medieval towns bursting with life and adventure. Set around a number of picturesque canals, it's perfect for romantics who wish to linger taking in the views. For a relaxed experience, hire bicycles and pedal your way around.
Diamond lovers will adore the special museum dedicated to this sparking stone. The Diamond Museum (www.diamondmuseum.be) has special exhibitions covering all aspects of the precious gem. Get panoramic views across Bruges after climbing the 366 steps of the belfry connected to the Cloth Hall on Grote Market Square. On the way down, pause for a moment to admire the clock mechanism and the carillon of 47 bells.
- Scott Adams is a Madrid-based freelance writer
Prisoners of the Sun
- Destination: Andes, South America
- What to see: Inca ruins of Machu Picchu, Peru; and Eva Peron museum in Buenos Aires, Argentina
The Blue Lotus
- Destination: Shanghai, China
- What to see: Jade Buddha Temple, Huangpu River and the Bund
Destination: Indonesia and islands around it
What to see: Kalimantan tropical rainforests; Coral fringed Gili Islands; and volcano-dominated Berastagi in Sumatra
Tintin in America
- Destination: Chicago
- What to see: Chicago History Museum; MIllennium Park; and All about chocolate at Field Museum
Cigars of the Pharaoh and The Red Sea Sharks
- Destination: Egypt
- What to see: The Pyramids; Gebel el-Shayib at Hurghada; and Deir Mar Boulos or St Paul's Monastery
Tintin in the Congo
- Destination: Congo
- What to see: Nyiragongo Volcano; Loufoulakari Falls; capital city Brazzaville
The Black Island
- Destination: England
- What to see: Cadbury chocolate factory and museum, Birmingham; Buckingham Palace, London; and Westminister Abbey
The Calculus Affair
- Destination: Geneva, Switzerland
- What to see: European headquarters of the UN; the romantic Rousseau Island; and the idyllic charms of The Old Town
The Shooting Star
- Destination: Iceland
- What to see: Aurora borealis (northern lights); New Year's bonfires and fireworks display in Reykjavik
Tintin in the Land of the Soviets
- Destination: Moscow
- What to see: The Kremlin and Red Square; Bolshoi Theatre; and the State Tretyakov Gallery
Tintin in Tibet
- Destination: Tibet
- What to see: Mount Kailash and Lake Mansarover; Samye, the first Tibetan monastery; and Guge kingdom's Buddhist relics
Best beds in Brussels
Hotel Amigo: Set right in the heart of Brussels, next to Le Grand Place and the fascinating antiques district, the Hotel Amigo brings together elegant style and pure luxury. Bocconi, the hotel's Italian restaurant, serves creative Italian and Mediterranean cuisine created by Chef Adriano Venturini within a relaxing, comfortable and contemporary atmosphere, while the Lounge Amigo is perfect for a relaxed coffee. For more information log on to www.hotelamigo.com