6 Reasons to Visit Belgium Next Time You Go to Europe

If you are thinking about places to visit in Europe, you won’t want to miss Belgium

It may not be the first European country you think about visiting when planning a European vacation, but there are lots of reasons why Belgium is a great place to travel. This small country, located in the geographical and political center of Europe, has long been a favorite place of mine to recommend to everyone from the experienced and to the novice European traveler.

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The Grote Markt (Market Square) in Antwerp

1. A visit to Belgium packs a whole lot of travel potential in a small area. As my Dutch friend, Hans somewhat cheekily says about traveling around Flanders (the northern part of Belgium and all of The Netherlands), “It’s similar to traveling around the United States except the roads between the major cities are shorter.” Cities in this region include the multicultural Brussels, stylish Antwerp, medieval Brugge, and the university town of Gent (or Ghent.) Whether looking for history, museums, shopping, or food and drink delights, you will find your just right combination here.

2. Most everyone you meet, even in the more rural areas is likely to speak some English. Notice Hans’ perfect English? Don’t be too impressed  – his wife Ella, speaks five languages fluently, and can switch between them in a manner that always makes my head spin. Out of necessity both Belgium and Holland as smaller European countries, have long grasped the importance of conversing with the world, while at the same time preserving their native language and dialects. Belgium is actually one of the few countries to have three official languages. In the Flanders region the official language is Dutch and in Wallonia, the language is French. German is also spoken by a small number of Belgians who live along the German border.

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One of my favorite discoveries last week was Kriek (cherry) beer. Over a 1000 kinds of beer are brewed in Belgium. Belgian beer is believed by many connoisseurs to be the best in the world. This shot was taken in Brugge.

As a matter of being respectful of a host country’s culture, we always recommend learning a few words of the host area’s language. But truthfully, even if you say “good morning” in Dutch and then start speaking French because you think it will be your common language with Belgians, it’s likely hotel personel and even people on the street will guide the conversation in English. When compared to visiting many other European countries, it’s a low stress language scenario in any case.

3. The public transportation system in Belgium is great. From the main airport in Brussels to almost the front door of most hotels, getting around Belgium is remarkably easy. The facility with which people are moved about from place to place in Belgium belies the fact that the Flanders region (Holland and Belgium) is the most densely populated spot in Europe. (Cool fact: NASA astronauts even have named  the concentration of lights that can be seen from outer space the “Belgian Window.” ) Despite the large numbers of people, the queues for public transport are fast moving; the ticket prices are reasonable, and best of all the learning curve for catching on to a country’s public transport system is a relatively easy one.

Besides you can always ask the person standing next to you if you’re getting on the right tram. If he or she doesn’t speak English, odds are another person standing nearby will. Although somewhat reserved, Belgians seem to enjoy getting you pointed in the right direction. And if you miss your train – no worries – it’s likely another one will be along shortly.

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Brugge, Belgium

4. Day trips are not just possible, but the way to go. The cities of Brussels, Antwerp, Gent and Brugge are all well connected by frequent inter-city trains, with the maximum train ride between them being an hour or less.  Unpack just once or twice, perhaps choosing the two cities that best suit your travel personality and what you are seeking most in your travels.

5. Of all the places to visit in Europe, Belgium can be easily combined with stops in other countries, including The Netherlands, France or Great Britain. Remember what Hans said about the distance between major cities? Well it applies here as well. The train ride via the high speed Thalys from Paris to Brussels is just under one and a half hours, while the ride from Brussels to Amsterdam is less than two hours. Besides being very relaxing, train travel provides the additional benefits of giving you a better sense of a a country, and a look at the landscapes outside the major cities.

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A tantalizing display of Belgian waffles in Brussels that I deemed worthy of every single calorie.

6. As the extra inch or two on my waistline suggest, Belgium is indeed for foodies. Belgian chocolate, Belgian waffles, Belgian endive, Belgian beer, Brussel sprouts: There’s a reason why “Belgian” is associated with so many food and beverage products. With tons of local specialties that’s just the beginning of it. Dutch, German and French influences result in food and drink culture that runs from voracious to refined. Whether you are looking for Michelin starred cuisine, hearty bistrot fare, cafes or simple, but impressive waffle and French fry stands (which according to many Belgians, should be called “Belgian” fries), or all of the above, it comes together deliciously.

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Honorary reason number 7: Shopping. I mostly window shopped this time out. With any of you with me, I could have made quite a bit of trouble. With the strengthened dollar maybe that means we should go back?

Have you traveled to Belgium? What did you think? I have another question for you: There are so many things to write about from my trip last week I don’t know where to start. What would you like to hear or learn about?

My visit to Belgium was hosted by Tourism Flanders-Brussels as part of the Flanders is a Festival bloggers’ campaign. As always, all opinions are my own. If any extra enthusiasm is detected, it may be because I have been recommending Belgium as an ideal first time European destination for years.

All photos Margo Millure © 

6 Reasons to Visit Belgium Next Time You Go to Europe travel tips for women fiaf12 Europe Belgium
Margo Millure currently lives on the South Carolina coast. She is a writer/photographer, builder of Genesis websites and the founder of Travel Belles. She also runs http://www.HerMyrtleBeach.com and her writing and website building business site is http://www.BelleWriter.com
6 Reasons to Visit Belgium Next Time You Go to Europe travel tips for women fiaf12 Europe Belgium

@gomarwrites

Writer, editor, website maker, content strategy. Empty-nesting, yin & yang. Travel & labradoodle lover. Also @travelbelles @hermyrtlebeach.
@andrewghayes thankfully, yes! It's this meandering middle that's making be testy. - 1 day ago
6 Reasons to Visit Belgium Next Time You Go to Europe travel tips for women fiaf12 Europe Belgium

Comments

  1. says

    I have been to Belgium, but my visits were limited to WWII sites and one Andre Rieu concert. :-) I would love to know more about A) historical buildings and B) food. :-)

  2. says

    I have been to Belgium 2 or 3 times but mostly in Brussels and I traveled through Antwerp. I would like to know more about the country and taste the famous fries and waffles! :)

  3. says

    I am abjectly ashamed to say that despite living a mere eurostar ride from Belgium, I have never been! I think I have more or less circled the country in various travels, but I will now make a conscious effort to go! I think from what you have said, Brugge and Antwerp will be top of my day-trip list :) Lovely, lovely post Margo!

  4. says

    I visited a friend in Lille, France, and I took a day trip to Brussels. I loved it and have always wanted to go back!

  5. says

    Good to know there’s so much on offer in Belgium! I’ve never been there, but I might be going soon. I’m really looking forward to it!

  6. says

    I used to think Israel was good in teaching languages in school until I found out how many languages my Dutch friend used to learn in school! I always thought that a visit to that part of Europe would include Holland and France, as I have people to visit in both countries, yet Belgium is starting to sound great. Love that the distances are so short, so perhaps I could schedule a quick visit between these countries when I finally make it there.

  7. says

    John – I visited Liege and the Ardennes ages ago, and really enjoyed them… very different feeling I hope to get back to that region sometime soon!

  8. kim says

    Hi Margo, Just reading through all your wonderful trip posts and was so excited to see your Belgium posts. I am going this Summer and can’t wait.

    Love your writing and your blog!
    Kim

  9. Jonathan says

    I love it that you like our country. We think as Belgians that other countries look down at us. But when I read this, it feels special that you all love our country. I live in Aalst, a city in East Flanders, so I speak dutch, or actually Flemish, because Dutch is what they speak in Holland. But it’s mostly the same. You can see it as the difference between American en British English. In my town we didn’t have many tourist. But 3 days in a year they are here all over the place. Then we Celebrate Carnival. And that is where we are famous for. Mostly in Belgium, but since we stand on the list of the UNESCO, also in China and Japan. Here is a compilation of our famous Sunday. But when you search on youtube “Aalst Carnaval”, you will find a lot of video’s of the 3 days. But I want invite you all to see our Carnival. We build the cars, costumes, music and many more all by ourselves. When the sun go down and it’s dark the lights of our Cars go on and then you have a spectacular light show. => http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G7XS_CU3Jpw

    So, I hope you all liked it and you can always come over and take a look live. I want to say it again. For me, it’s a great pleasure that you all like Belgium. Sorry for any mistakes in my text. My English is not so good, I think… :)