BERGEN-OP-ZOOM, only 30km north of Antwerp, is an untidy town, a jumble of buildings old and new that are the consequence of being shunted between various European powers from the sixteenth century onwards. Unless you're coming for the town's famous February carnival, there's little reason for more than a passing visit. Walk straight out of the train station and you'll soon find yourself on the Grote Markt, most cheerful during summer when it's decked out with open-air cafés and the like. The Stadhuis, on the north side of the square (May– Oct Tues– Sun 1–4.30pm), is Bergen's most attractive building, spruced up in recent years and comprising three separate houses: to the left of the gateway an alderman's house of 1397, to the right a merchant's house of 1480 and on the far right a building known as "De Olifant" whose facade dates from 1611. All of this is a lot more appealing than the blunt ugliness of the Grote Kerk, a uniquely unlucky building that's been destroyed by siege, fire and neglect innumerable times over the past four hundred years.
Left of the Stadhuis, Fortuinstraat leads to the Markiezenhof Museum, Steenbergsestraat 8 (Tues– Sun 11am–5pm; 5; Web: www.markiezenhof.nl ), a first-rate presentation of a collection that has a little of everything: domestic utensils and samplers from the sixteenth century onward, sumptuous period rooms, architectural drawings, pottery and galleries of modern art. All this is housed in a palace built by Anthonis Keldermans between 1485 and 1522 to a late-Gothic style that gives it the feel of an Oxford college.