I initially wrote this as a guest post that was originally published on Travel Optician, one of my favorite blogs all about travel and lifestyle. I thought I would also share this post on my blog, so I hope you enjoy!
Belgium is the beautiful country of chocolate, waffles, and fries. It is located in Europe, sitting between France and the Netherlands. A few years ago, my family and I went on a trip to three of the most popular cities in Belgium: Brussels, Bruges, and Ghent. We explored tourist attractions, historic sites, as well as the unique culture of each city, so I’m going to give you some of my tips for traveling around Belgium!
When & how to go
The summer of our trip, we went to Amsterdam for a few days and then took a train to Belgium. We were there during late June/July, and the weather was pretty rainy and gloomy during our visit. However, when we checked the weather for the next couple weeks it was sunny, so luckily the clouds cleared up quick! It was obviously very crowded during the summertime, so I would recommend going in the fall and winter months to avoid the massive crowds.
Transportation & language barriers
Trains and buses are always the best ways to travel around Europe. Besides from taking a train from Amsterdam to Brussels (which is where we stayed in our hotel), we took trains to and back from Bruges and Ghent. It was a really fast and convenient way to get from city to city, and it’s honestly super relaxing! When you’re traveling within the city, buses and city trams are great options because walking around under the sun can be pretty tiring. But, at least for us, walking can get definitely you to most of the places you need to go.
Waffles & Chocolate
The first thing you will notice about Brussels, possibly without even arriving at your hotel, is the endless array of chocolate and waffle shops densely packed among the narrow streets. These are, by far, the most elaborate waffles you’ll ever see, and they’re a huge part of Belgian culture. If you don’t taste a waffle, then did you even go to Belgium?
This one was definitely not a must-see attraction for us, but we found that it was actually super popular. Although it’s hidden amongst the streets of waffle shops mentioned above, there’s no way you can miss the massive crowd surrounding this “peeing boy.” Apparently the original was created in 1618 and is now in the Museum of the City of Brussels, but the current statue was built in 1965. It is meant to symbolize the sense of humor and open-mindedness of people in Brussels. They also dress up the statue in different costumes every day, which is very interesting but also very odd at the same time!
The Atomium is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Brussels. It was built in 1958 for the Brussels World Fair, and it’s known for its amazing architecture, temporary exhibitions, and a panorama overlooking the city and its surroundings. The attraction was just a short train ride from our hotel, and we loved seeing it in person because it is actually so huge! We didn’t go inside, but many people went to the restaurant at the very top and said it was an amazing experience.
This is the main plaza of the city, and it is surrounded by beautiful, rich architecture mostly built in the late 1600’s. It’s a very open space and the perfect spot to take a short break from walking around to take some pictures and enjoy a pastry in a nearby coffee shop. Some of the buildings in the area include the Town Hall as well as many elegant guild houses (and a few modern restaurants, such as Hard Rock Cafe).
How to get there & about the city
In order to get to Bruges, which is a city in northwest Belgium known for its lovely canals and medieval style, you can take an hour long train ride from Brussels. This was a bit of a spontaneous day-trip for us, but at the end of the day we were all beyond happy that we visited this gorgeous town.
The Belfry of Bruges
The Belfry of Bruges, a medieval bell tower, is probably the most well-known landmark in the city and it is located in the Main Square. Because it is 83 meters tall, it was previously used as an observation post. Although we didn’t go inside (for the sake of time), there are museum passes available and you can even climb the stairs to the top of the tower for a one-of-a-kind panoramic view of Bruges!
What my family and I enjoyed the most about this city was its inner beauty and homely environment. After being there for just a few hours, we already felt like we knew the city so well; there were not many tourists (outside of the Main Square) so our whole experience with the city was very intimate. I would suggest you just take a few hours out of your day to wander around the city and see what beautiful streets and canals you can find. There are a few chocolate shops (that were giving out heavenly samples) and clothing stores that were very fun to look through, so I would definitely suggest traveling to Bruges with a very open and flexible schedule.
How to get there & about the city
From Bruges, we made a very spontaneous stop in Ghent on our way back to Brussels. We definitely didn’t have as much time to explore the city as I would have liked, but I really enjoyed seeing the city as a whole. It is extremely pedestrian-friendly since it is currently a university town.
Food & community life
And we’re back to the waffles! My family and I found a cute (yet slightly overpriced) waffle stand near a quite busy canal, so we decided to enjoy a few waffles and a coffee. We sat on the steps by the canal and looked out to the city while we ate, and it was such a lovely experience. There were many other people who were doing similar things, and overall I’m really thankful for this last moment of our trip.
Thank you so much for reading, and I hope this could give you a little glimpse into Belgium!