English author Michael Morpurgo poignantly described the Belgian settlement of Ypres as “a sad town, but an enormously positive one”. Located in Flanders, Ypres will forever be fettered to its tragic past. It is known first and foremost for being the site of three colossal battles during the First World War, the biggest of which was the Battle of Passchendaele, which took place in 1917 and claimed the lives of 325,000 Allied and 260,000 German soldiers. Thousands of people visit Ypres each year to pay their respects to the fallen at monuments such as Menin Gate and Tyne Cot Cemetery. Learn about the area during the Great War years with a visit to the displays and bunkers of the In Flanders Fields Museum, arguably the world’s most comprehensive exhibition on the First World War. But while remembering the past, the inhabitants of Ypres prefer to think of their town as a homage to peace. The whole area has been lovingly pieced back together since the war years, and the medieval core of Ypres features the restored Ypres Lakenhalle, one of the most remarkable buildings in Belgium.

The perfect mix of heritage and modern styles, the sparkling 'City of Diamonds' certainly makes an impression. You'll remember the city's extravagant Grote Markt and the towering Cathedral of Our Lady long after your visit, while Antwerp Zoo is a beautiful stop the whole family will love. Hire a bicycle and explore the city's striking architecture before stopping for freshly-brewed coffee and a spot of window shopping in Antwerp's majestic Diamond Quarter.

Perched proudly on its mound in the heart of the Hainaut province, the Belgian city of Mons is the perfect location for an enriching city break. This characterful place is compact but beautiful, and what it lacks in size it makes up for with its unique ethereal charm. The city pulses around its ancient Grand-Place, a large cobblestone square lined with gorgeous terraces, shops, cafes and restaurants. The sumptuous Gothic town hall, or Hôtel de Ville, is a big draw for architecture fans, who stop by to marvel at the intricate details on the façade. Curiously, it is custom to pat the head of a bronze monkey - of disputed origin - that resides in front of the building. Doing so is said to bring good fortune. The Hôtel de Ville is topped with a stunning 17th century UNESCO-listed Baroque belfry, which you can climb for panoramic views of the Mons skyline. As well as sightseeing, visitors can explore a handful of modern museums, an abandoned castle and catch a live concert at L'Alhambra music venue. Visit after Easter and partake in the festivities of the Ducasse de Mons, a peculiar but unmissable religious festival where locals recreate the combat between Saint George and the Dragon.

With miles of sandy beaches as far as the eye can see, Flanders is the perfect place for a European escape. Head to the east of this region and you’ll arrive at some of Belgium's largest and most frequented cities. Ghent is a popular choice for its collection of early Flemish art, while Antwerp attracts many families with its world-class zoo. History buffs should head south-west to the city of Ypres, where many of the key battles in World War 1 were fought, while the principal city of this part of Flanders, Bruges, is awash with fun things to do – from taking a canal tour around the city’s walkways to tasting sweet treats at the Chocolate Museum. Although technically a region in its own right, Flanders also surrounds Brussels, making a trip to the Belgian capital an easy feat.

With majestic buildings steeped in centuries of history, five-and-a-half miles of golden beaches and a host of museums and nightlife options, Ostend is a hub of art, culture and adventure. Beautiful murals cover walls throughout the city, and the intricate Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul is a stunning feat of neo gothic architecture. Be sure to relax in the lush greenery of Maria Hendrikapark, which holds tranquil walking routes, as well as its own miniature island.

The picturesque city of Dinant is found in the heart of Belgium's spectacular Walloon region, just an hour's drive southeast of Brussels. As well as playing a huge part in the evolution of jazz (saxophone inventor Adolphe Sax hails from this city), the local area is widely celebrated as an outdoor paradise, with great hiking, kayaking and caving activities widely available. With its lush green valleys and fairytale castles, a trip here offers a real escape from the hustle and bustle of urban life.

The timeless allure of Bruges is found in its medieval buildings, flowing canals and cobbled streets full of horse-drawn carriages. Scour the many fine chocolateries for that perfect praline, explore the vast array of Trappist beers in the many alfresco bars before delving into the city's history in its fascinating museums.

Brussels, the vibrant capital of Belgium, is a historic city which boasts dazzling architectural splendour at its core in the Grand Place, as well as top-notch attractions and eateries at every turn. Take in stunning views of the city from the Mont des Arts or while away some peaceful hours in the beautiful greenery of Parc du Cinquantenaire.

Ghent is a treasure trove of pretty canalways and cycle-friendly streets, art from the Flemish masters and fine local cuisine. At the heart of the city's stunning medieval core is the imposing Gravensteen castle, built in the 12th century and magnificently restored.

Antwerp at Christmas is a traditional affair, with festivities kicking off at the historical Grote Markt where over 90 stalls selling hand-crafted wooden treats and delicious gastronomical delights awaits. Be sure to catch the magical light show at the City Hall before heading to the ice skating rink and winter bar beneath under the stunning Rubens House museum. With events happening across the festive season, there's plenty of things to do for all the family.

Few places encapsulate a winter wonderland as well as Brussels at Christmas. Surrounded by elegant 17th century guildhouses and a Gothic town hall, the market square will feature a huge Christmas tree and a dazzling sound and light show. The enormous 2.5-kilometre market – which includes a huge ice rink – begins at the Ferris wheel in Place Sainte Catherine and stretches across the city. Boasting over 240 vendors this market will be bringing chilly visitors joy with sparkling trinkets, spiced wine and even a Swiss chalet where you can enjoy some cheese fondue.

Christmas in Bruges is like nowhere else in the world. Take to the ice rink underneath the city's magnificent belfry tower, then warm yourself up with a mug of gluhwein from one of the beautiful wooden chalet stalls of Grote Markt. It’s no secret that the cobbled stone streets of Bruges look magical over the winter period, so half the fun is wandering around the city streets and soaking up the festive cheer. You'll find Belgian chocolatiers by the dozen here too.

Each Christmas in Ghent, the locals and tourists all flock to Gravensteen castle, which transforms into a winter palace of market stalls, lights and music. Ice skate and ride the Ferris wheel in the city pavilion then head out to enjoy the festive atmosphere at the many fantastic local bars. The oldest quarter of Ghent, a visit to The Patershol's mini market offers a less frenetic, more intimate setting, while all the family can enjoy night of The Nutcracker at the Opera Vlaanderen, performed by Royal Ballet Flanders.

Ypres, Belgium

Antwerp, Belgium

Mons, Belgium

Flanders, Belgium

Ostend, Belgium

Dinant, Belgium

Bruges, Belgium

Brussels, Belgium

Ghent, Belgium

Antwerp, Belgium

Brussels, Belgium

Bruges, Belgium

Ghent, Belgium