Official language:Dutch is the official language, with French being widely spoken. German and English are also spoken
Currency: The official currency is the Euro (€)
From the perfectly preserved medieval sights to the mass collection of breweries, the delectable chocolate fair (yes Belgium is the world’s chocolate capital) and the grand designs and haute couture of Antwerp, this country seems to pack a mighty punch! Brussels is home to a cosmopolitan atmosphere and multicultural beats, making it much more than just a European administrative city. Brimming with museums, world-class restaurants, architecture and art, Brussels is full of marvel and splendor and is as big a deal as visiting Belgium in its own right. Then there’s also Antwerp, the place where all the cool kids go to get the shopping done. Don’t forget Bruges and Gent with their beautiful ancient towns, quaint cobbled streets medieval monuments and fantastic dining options. As a small nation playing a big role in European life and world history, Belgium has millions of sights to keep you more than entertained during your stay. Whether you head here for the natural beauty, the man-made architectural marvels or the fine beer, chocolate and fries, you’re bound to be forever touched by the Belgian way of life.
Must see places in Belgium
Since Bruges is the second biggest attraction in Belgium (next to Brussels off course), it offers just as much to see and do and definitely requires an extended stay to explore all it has to offer.
The fortified French-speaking town of Namur is surrounded by one of Europe’s largest ancient citadels but it’s also well known for its array of high-end boutique shops. Just outside of Namur you’ll find the towns of Dinant and Wepion which make for great day-trip destinations. Head over to Wepion during the summer months for their tantalizing strawberry crops sold in the street stands by local farmers. Dinant is best for a tranquil day out as you explore the waterfalls of the Grotto of Dinant or the Sanctuary of Beauraing.
Antwerp is Belgium’s second largest city, and like we already said, this is where the cool kids go to play. It’s one of the best shopping locations around and has an array of food, shopping and plentiful beer on offer. You might also want to check out the Royal Fine Arts Museum is you’re an art lover! Antwerp Zoo is another great destination while you’re in town, but make sure you’ve got enough time since the Zoo is a full afternoon attraction. It’s one of the oldest and most renowned zoos in the world, and it’s been around since 1843!
The capital of Belgium (which happens to be the administrative center of the European Union) has A LOT on offer for the avid tourist. Make sure you set aside a few days to explore this classy city.
It might be small, but the town of Mechelen is big on charm, history and picturesque natural beauty. What was once the capital of present day Belgium and Holland, Mechelen has become a modern day charming old town lined with quaint little shops, car-free areas and little squares where you can just catch up with life itself again. Make sure you take some time to sit down, feast on local delicacies at a café and just enjoy the beautiful sounds that fill the sounds as the Carillon School students learn to play the church bells. For its small size, Mechelen has a lot on offer. 336 buildings and monuments that include 8 gothic and baroque churches from the 14th to 17th century are the main attractions. The Toy Museum is a definite must see for families and the Tivoli Children’s Farm is another unmissable sight!
The largest French-speaking city in Belgium, Liege, is a pretty awesome historical sight in its own right situated along the Meuse River. Liege is crammed full of historical sights and celebrated collections. The Grand Curtius is home to archeological findings, decorative arts, religious and Mosan art museums, a glass museum and a weaponry museum. Walk the Coteaux, a winding path of steps and courtyards that lead up to Liege’s citadel, for an incredible view of the surrounds. Just outside of Liege lay the Blegny mines and the Henri Chapelle American Military Cemetery which are also well worth seeing.
Often overlooked when compared with the big cities like Brussels and Bruges, Ghent is actually a very charming little university town that’s not as tourist-packed as most other Belgian cities. Ghent is home to the largest cultural outdoor festival in Europe during the month of July, and Gentse Feesten is best known for its masses of food, music and awesome street entertainment. Ghent is essentially where Belgian people travel to in their own country, and since most of the town center is closed to cars, the best way to explore the friendly city is by bicycle or a boat trip on the canals. There’s a lot to see here, including the Gravensteen Castle or the Castle of the Counts, an Opera House, 18 museums, 100 churches and 400 historical buildings.
Just an hour away from Brussels you’ll find the historically and traditionally rich town of Mons. There’s the town hall building located on the Grand Place of Mons, which is beautifully preserved from the 1470’s and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You’ll also find Vincent Van Gogh’s authentic and preserved house here, which now houses a permanent exhibition of reproductions and audio-visual shows about the painter and his works. The month of June sees the town of Mons fill up with visitors flocking here to see the reenactment of Saint George slaying the Dragon. The event - Ducasse de Mons - is an age old tradition, dating back to 1349 and the Fraternity of Saint George. It’s a UNESCO organized festival as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
No, we’re not talking about a spa day here, but the town of Spa, located less than an hour away from Liege. It’s a picturesque little Belgian town which really lives up to its reputation as being the “Pearl of the Ardennes”. The stunning natural landscape with wooded valleys and rolling hills, a vast collection of rivers and springs and the tranquil atmosphere make Spa an unmissable destination in Belgium. Spa is renowned for its amazing hot springs with their healing water treatments, and visitors from across Europe have been indulging here since the 14th century. If you’re keen on one of the best spa treatments around, make sure you stop by Thermes de Spa for the day.
The Ardennes is home to one of Belgium’s most fascinating castles, Castle of Bouillon. It’s a spectacular sight which is sure to take your breath away. If you’re keen on more castle-hopping, Belgium is the place to get down to serious business. With more than 3000 castles to explore, like Beersel and Gravensteen among the more popular, the sky is literally the limit here. The Ardennes is also where you’ll find the Ardennes Forest, best known for skiing and hiking opportunities.
Pick the time right!
Tourists travel to Belgium from April to October
Since Belgium enjoys a fairly moderate climate, it has warm (mildish) summers and moderately cold winters. The further south you go, the more the temperature rises. Rain is always a possibility, but the most rainfall occurs in the Ardennes and upland regions on the northern plains. Belgium cities like Brussels, Flanders and Antwerp are typically year-round destinations, but some like Bruges on the other hand has the best weather during the month of August, but then you’ll have to deal with massive crowds. April through October is known as the best time to visit Belgium.
Did you know?
Hallo is the Dutch word for Hello
- Moules Frites - mussels and French fries
- Stoemp - mashed potatoes with leeks and carrots
- Witloof en Oven - endives wrapped in ham and covered in a cheesy sauce
- Waterzooi - delicious chicken or fish vegetable broth
- Filet américain - raw minced meat mixed served with egg, onion and capers
- Salade liégeoise - a salad made with boiled potatoes, bacon bits and green beans
- Make sure you’ve packed comfy footwear because you’ll be walking along many miles of cobblestone streets
- Belgian stores operate between 10AM and 4PM from Mondays to Saturdays and most of them are closed on Sundays
- Theft and pickpocketing is a reality, especially in crowded areas, so make sure you keep your personal belongings safe and secure at all times