Bergen-op-Zoom, just 30km north of Antwerp, is an untidy town, a jumble of old and new buildings that are the consequence of being shunted between various European powers from the sixteenth century onwards. In 1576 Bergen-op-Zoom sided with the United Provinces against the Spanish and as a result was under near-continuous siege until 1622. This war-ravaged theme continued thereafter: the French bombarded the city in 1747 and took it again in 1795, though it managed to withstand a British attack in 1814. Bergen-op-Zoom’s saving grace is its famous February carnival when almost every inhabitant – as well as revellers from all over Europe – joins in the Tuesday procession. It’s a great time to be in the town, although you won’t find any accommodation – the whole place gets packed out – so just do as the locals do and party all night.

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