Belgium: Travel tips

Belgium is an incredibly beautiful country with medieval cities. The unique architecture and cobblestone streets are evoking a feeling of history and cultural heritage. Belgium is a small country and it’s very easy to go from one city to another. This is so convenient because you can explore more places for a limited period.     

We visited Belgium in the fall. It was an ideal time: tourist season was almost over, streets and cafes weren’t crowded, no line for attractions or tours. It was very quiet, peaceful, and cozy. The fall weather was absolutely lovely and refreshing. Nothing, but just perfect!   

We had only 8 days of vacation and with my “tourist appetite,” it’s problematic. I always want to see everything what possible and this time we actually did it. We visited four cities without rushing. We went to Brussels, Bruges, Ghent, and Leuven.  

8 day vacation plan:   

We arrived at Brussels Airport and from there took the train and went directly to Bruges. A train stops in Brussels, but you don’t need to change it. It will take you right there. Riding time is about 1 hour 10 minutes.    

First destination: Bruges.   

After our busy working months, Bruges has been just an ideal destination. Very cozy and quiet, but at the same time lots of things to explore. Exactly what we were needed. We stayed there for 3 days.   

Bruges is a remarkable and historic city and there is so much to see: arts, magnificent castles, ancient cobbled streets, medieval architecture, and nice boat tours.   

Bruges have been known as “The Venice of the North. ” The city has lots of canals, and the boat tour took us through enjoyable the historic and colorful city. 

The next stop is Ghent. 

We took a train to Ghent and in 30 minutes arrived in the city. We stayed there for 2 days. 

Ghent is the third-largest city in Belgium. During many centuries Ghent was one of the important cities in Europe for trade and manufacturing clothing. Now it is a port and a very energetic university city. You can notice lots of young people and social life just boiling there. This city will be a pleasant discovery for tourists. Remarkable architecture, magnificent castles, riverside and another amazing boat tour… just beautiful! 

Must see things: the Saint Bavo Cathedral with the Ghent Altarpiece, created by Flemish painters and brothers, Hubert and Jan van Eyck. The altarpiece is a masterpiece of European art and one of the world’s treasures, the Belfry, the Gravensteen castle, and old Graslei, which is in the historic city center of Ghent. Absolutely charming city! 

Next was Brussels.  

We had about 40 minutes ride on the train from the Ghent to Brussels. We stayed there for 3 days.   

Brussels has been a major political city since the 15th century. But don’t worry, Brussels has lots of interesting museums, restaurants, and galleries to visit. The main tourist attraction is The Grand Place-Grote Markt which is a central square of Brussels. I think it is one of the most beautiful squares in Europe. You should see it during the day and definitely in the evening. Absolutely remarkable and memorable landmark.  

Leuven

After exploring Brussels, we took a day trip to Leuven. Only 25 minutes from Brussels to Leuven. Fast and easy.  

Leuven has been a university city since 1425. Also, the world’s largest beer brewer.

You should definitely see the Leuven Town Hall. It is located on the square and right across from the monumental St. Peter’s Church. Also, you should visit the Groot Begijnhof. This is the University Residential Area and it is a historic place. I think it is a unique place and probably a hidden gem in Leuven.  

Belgium is famous for lace making. Flemish lace has been made since the 15th century and it is not just craft; it is part of the cultural heritage. There still lots of Lacemaking workshops and classes. You might be interesting to visit the Museum of Costume and Lace in Brussels.  

Also, Belgium is best known for chocolate, waffles, fritters, and beer. And you should try it for sure. And don’t forget to try the mussels. They are so good! 

I also noticed lots of humor in Belgium: decor on the window, signs, sculptures… I never thought of Belgium as a country of humor, but there so many things that made me smile and giggle. The humor was everywhere. I just love it!  

We enjoyed our trip a lot. It was really fascinating. I think, unlikely, the Belgium underestimates destination. In reality, the country just amazing, incredibly beautiful, easy to explore and I am sure you will like it too. 

Traveling tips:  

TIP 1: If you plan to use a train to explore numerous cities, then consider buying Standard Multi (Rail Pass), which will give 10 one-way trips anywhere in the country. It is valid throughout the Belgian rail network, and several people can use it. The passes can be purchased at the ticket office right at the airport. 

Before taking a train, you have to fill out your ticket and write where you are going. The controller will validate your tickets during your ride. However, you will need to purchase separate tickets to get out and back to the airport and don’t lose it or throw out. To get inside to the airport you need to scan the train ticket at the airport gate and pass security.

 We use this pass and it was very convenient and easy.  

TIP 2: Belgium is a biking country. This is an efficient option to go around. There lots of companies that offer bicycles for rent. It’s fast, convenient, and fun. But keep in mind that some streets, especially in the historic parts of the cities are very narrow and might be full of tourists then you will be unable to ride. You will merely walk beside your bike.  

Hotels:  

NOTE: I want to make a note that I am not working for any hotels or other travel companies. I don’t do advertising. I am just sharing my experience and maybe it will help you to make your own choice.  

Bruges:

We stayed at a very stylish Filemon&Baucis Bed and Breakfast. This was my first time staying at Bed and Breakfast and it was a great experience. The hotel is run by the family. It has only four rooms. Every room was furnished differently and with a unique style. And breakfast has been absolutely amazing! One of the best hotel’s breakfast so far. It was not only delicious and freshly made food, but the way how it was served. Every detail was matter. You feel so special and like in a fairy tale. I can say only, “Thank you for the hospitality! It was great!”      

Location of Filemon&Baucis was convenient too. Only about 15 minutes’ walk to the main attractions in the Bruges and 15 minutes’ walk to the train station. For us works fine.  

Ghent:  

First, we booked the Best Western Hotel Chamade. It’s a decent hotel, close to the train station, but inconvenient to get to the historical center of the city.    

Then we found a beautiful and luxurious Hotel Harmony. And we choose it right away. Good things are the Best Western Hotel had a free cancellation option. 

Hotel Harmony located on the waterfront right in the historical center of the city. To get to the hotel you will need to take a tram #1. Purchase tickets right on the tram stop, which is only 3 minutes walk from the Gent-Sint-Pieters train station and ride 20 minutes until you get to Gravensteen stop, then walk 2 minutes to the hotel. 

Modern, luxury hotel with a beautiful view. Walk around, explore, have a beer on the Graslei with an amazing view, and when you become exhausted from the walking, your hotel just right there. Highly recommend!  

Brussels:

 In Brussels, we stayed at the Citadines Apart Hotel Sainte-Catherine. The Citadines Apart’Hotels are chain hotels and residences around the world. Usually, they are located in prime locations, and are good for a long or short stay.   

We stayed at the Citadines Apart’Hotel several times in different countries and it was always a pleasant and comfortable stay. The room is big, has a little kitchen and everything that you need.   

The Citadines Sainte-Catherine Hotel located in Old Brussels. The hotel at this location doesn’t have an air conditioner. Of course, at fall, we didn’t need it, but summer…

It was a very clean hotel and a pleasure stay. We like it.   

I hope my tips are helpful and inspiring.   

And…  

Maybe you can plan a trip to Belgium!  

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