Romance, history, food – and chocolates – Belgium offers it all. It is a country that is simultaneously cosmopolitan and provincial. Shrouded in history, some of the most fierce battles in World War I were fought on Belgian soil at Flanders.
Belgium features a well-connected International airport and all corners of this petite country can be reached within two hours from the capital. There is no better way to get around than by train. Here are 10 reasons to explore all that Belgium has to offer:
1. Romantic Canal Tours of Bruges
Belgium is one of the ‘low countries’ in Europe and just like the Netherlands features an extensive network of canals. Get out on the water in the oh-so-romantic city of Bruges and admire the UNESCO protected medieval core from the comfort of your open air boat.
2. Vertigo-inducing Views in Ghent
Take a trip to Ghent and marvel at the architectural masterpieces of castles, cathedrals and old merchant houses. Climb the Belfry for spectacular views of the city and surrounding countryside. The Belfry of Ghent dominates the old city centre of Ghent and was constructed between 1313 and 1380. The tower stands as a symbol of the city’s autonomy.
3. Diamond Shopping in Antwerp
Belgium is known for its diamonds, especially in Antwerp. Get your bling on and window-shop your way from the train station to the centre of town, past countless diamond merchants. Photo Credit: Sidewalk Safari.
4. Stunning Gothic Architecture in Leuven
Leuven, a University town in Belgium is less than an hour’s ride from Brussels. Stand in awe at the over-the-top Gothic Town Hall that took three architects and 30 years to build! Erected between 1448 and 1469, this magnificent construction has three main stories and six octagonal turrets. If you are interested you can also take the guided tour to learn more about the history of the Town Hall.
5. The Landmark Manneken Pis
Explore the warren of alleyways near the Grote Markt in Brussels in search of the Manneken Pis, the popular fountain featuring the statue of a little boy. You’ll know you are getting close when you see his likeness everywhere, including one sculpted from chocolate! Photo Credit: Sidewalk Safari
6. World War I History in Ypres
The 100th anniversary of World War I is just two weeks behind us and Ypres was one of the most hotly contested pieces of land during the War. Consider a day trip to Flanders Fields to pay your respects to the brave souls who lost their lives.
7. Chocolate Overload
Decadent chocolate truffles will tempt you as you walk down the street in every major town, from Grand Sablon Square in Brussels to the more than 50 chocolate shops lining the cobbled streets of Bruges. Marvel at the wonderful chocolate displays in every store and don’t forget to take these delicious treats for friends and family back home. Photo Credit: Sidewalk Safari
8. Monastic Belgian Brews
Belgium is also known for its beer; not just any beer but beer brewed by Trappist monks! Beware as some of the concoctions can be quite strong. At 10+% alcohol, they pack a punch as strong as wine. Photo Credit: Sidewalk Safari
9. Piping Hot Frites
Frites (more commonly known as chips or French Fries outside of Belgium) are also an indulgent treat. Served in a paper cone and smothered in mayonnaise, curry, or a variety of other sauces that you can choose from, Belgian Frites are not to be missed.
10. World-class Cuisine
Brussels is the seat of government for the European Union and historically the nation has had interests in Africa as well. For this reason you’ll find an amazing variety of cuisines on offer, from European fare like Spanish and Italian to more exotic offerings like Couscous from Tunisia and Ethiopian dishes served on spongy Injera bread.
Belgian Rail offers a discounted ‘10 ride ticket’ which makes it super easy to get around. You simply need to fill in your destinations and show it to the ticket taker on the train. The rail pass can save you a ton of time as you don’t have to stop at a ticket machine every time you wanted to go somewhere.
Author: Jennifer P.