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4 days itinerary in Belgium

The perfect itinerary around Belgium includes good food, good beer, sleep and exploring. A country that is cultural and artistic all in one, will never get you bored. Our 4 days itinerary in Belgium included the cities of Brussels, Bruges and Ostend. For me, it was the best choice for the short holiday that we had to get a little bit of taste from all of them, the artistic Brussels, the fairy-tale city of Bruges and the beachy Ostend. I am not saying that is the best itinerary in Belgium, but it is a pretty damn good one.



MONT DES ARTS in Brussels, Belgium

4 Days itinerary in Belgium:



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TRANSPORT


The trip of Belgium was kind of a surprise trip because we were not planning to go anywhere, but a commercial for really cheap transport in Europe led me to the website of Flixbus and with a few searches to check the prices, I was convinced by the 10£ ticket to Belgium. We never went on a trip to a different country by bus and probably will never do it again, unless it is very close. The positives of taking the bus to Belgium were, of course, the price, the views from Belgium and France and the fact that was pretty comfortable. On the negative side (at least for me), the Flixbus company disappointed me by having 3 hours delays, tired drivers and also the fact that you are losing a whole day of exploring especially when you have delays. I don’t want to imagine if I had a connection how long it will take to get to the destination. The company has pretty good reviews, so maybe I am just an unlucky person, so just give it a try! We also used the company for the internal routes and was better than the long ones.



ACCOMMODATION


Moving past the long road in the bus, the accommodation we used was actually an Airbnb, because they had better prices than all the hotels around Belgium, so if you are on a tight budget definitely try it. We actually got lucky and arrived in an artsy apartment with a lovely owner in Brussels and a new and stunning apartment in Bruges. We booked an Airbnb within the city centre area, so we had everything in walking distance, and we paid around 60£ for 2 nights in both Brussels and Bruges. I think it’s a personal matter of choice where you decide to sleep and what works for each of you, my only suggestion is to stay close to the city centre.



FOOD AND DRINKS:


Related to food and drinks, the country is full of choices of where to eat and what to drink, but some things need to be tried while in Belgium for the sake of the culture and traditions.


THINGS THAT YOU NEED TO TRY:


1. Flemish food - traditional Belgian food such as the Flemish beef stew and Vol au vent that we tried at Drug Opera in Brussels, the Flemish rabbit stew that we tried at ‘T vageuur in Bruges, all the Belgian food is so full of flavour and usually come accompanied by fries. Some traditional foods that you may try are:

- Waterzooi – Flemish soup, that traditionally is made from fish, butter and eggs but you can easily find it in different variations and with varying types of meat such as chicken.

- Rabbit with prunes – it is precisely what it says it is, the combination is really interesting because the prunes add sweetness to the dish.

- Carbonnade flamande – the Flemish beef or pork stew made with onion and beer and seasoned with different condiments, usually accompanied by fries.

- Vol Au Vent – puff pastry filled with various ingredients that can be either sweet or prepared as a main with meat, vegetables and sauces and served with fries.


belgian food in Brussels, Belgium
belgian food in Brussels, Belgium

belgian food in Brussels, Belgium


2. Belgian beer – You can go to any restaurant or craft beer shops and chose a random one to try, as we did in the beginning, or ask the bartender to recommend you one. By asking the bartender to surprise me with a sweet beer, I discovered one of my favourite beers in the world, the Lindemans raspberry beer. Another interesting beer to try in Belgium is the Trappist beer that has been brewed by monks for centuries with the same recipe, and there are only 6 monasteries that are still making this beer, opposed to Leuven Institute for Beer Research where scientists and robots are perfecting beer and the production processes.



3. Belgian fries – Belgians are really serious about their fries, and you will find a lot of food trucks selling fries, the food in the restaurant will be served with fries, and you can get anywhere a cone of fries, usually served with sauce and explore the city. Some things you probably don’t know about the Belgian fries is that they are less than 1cm thick, at a perfect temperature before being fried and they are fried twice in a special oil made from a mix of horse and cow fat. They also have in Bruges a Frietmuseum – yes, the story of the Belgium potato fry.


Fries in Brussels, Belgium


4. Waffles – The waffles are one of the most famous food in Belgium and there two types of waffles that you have to try: The Brussels waffles and the Liege Waffles. The Brussels waffles are the ones that everybody already knows as the Belgian waffles, but actually in Belgium, the Liege waffle is more popular and well-known for its sticky texture. I recommend you try both of them to see the difference. In Bruges you have to try the waffle on a stick, that is very photogenic and also, Go.fre has so many options that you have to keep going back, and it’s just on the right side of the Belfry Tower.


5. Belgian chocolate – We all have heard about the famous Belgian chocolate and although you can find some versions in all the stores around the world, the best one you find it in the home country. If you want to learn more about the making process, you can even visit The Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate in Brussels’ central square.





SOME EXTRA RECOMMENDATIONS:


  • Spot the rabbits in the park. For me, the first time I came to the UK I was following the squirrels around the parks and the same thing happened to me in Belgium when I started following rabbits, they amazed me with their fluffiness.

  • Comparing to other countries, in Belgium, you will find most of the businesses and shops closed on Monday and Tuesday. Even some of the attractions, except for the big ones, are closed these days.

  • Enjoy the artistic spirit of the people that you can see everywhere on the streets, shops, homes, especially in the small details.

  • Have cash on you! I am used to paying almost everything with my phone and I was actually surprised by the fact that a big number of places were not accepting card payment.


Rabbit in the park in Brussels, Belgium

 

2 days itinerary in Brussels, Belgium: Art and culture


Belgium’s capital, Brussels, is an exciting city where you can discover your inner artist. Everywhere you look you see some kind of art, from paintings to graffiti, sculptures to galleries, markets and people, the city has a very bohemian feeling overall. I must admit that for me it was my favourite city from this trip. You can’t leave Brussels without trying their waffles, their chocolate, their artisanal beers and the fries. Also, traditional Belgium food is delicious and worth trying. If you are not already full of the chocolate, their traditional food will leave your mouth watering. Talking about experiences, the things you must see in this city are the art, that lays everywhere, the street and the nightlife, the creativity and bohemian character of the people and the Atomium experience.

We only stayed 2 days in Brussels, and I must admit that I was tempted to stay at least one more day. If you walk around the city centre, you will find something interesting in every street, in every corner, and you won’t even need this little guide. I will share some of the places that we found interesting in Brussels, but my recommendation for one day is to forget about the list and just walk in the city centre as much as you can. You will end up finding most of the attractions below and even other small, but lovely places.


COMIC BOOK TOUR


One of the first things you will notice without even trying is street art. What most of the visitors don’t know is there is actually a brochure that will help you find all the 60 murals in Brussels and tell you their story. You can buy this brochure from the Visit Brussels checkpoints or find all the information on the Visit Brussels website. Try to spot as many as you can while visiting other attractions in the city.


Comic Book Tour in in Brussels, Belgium

GRAND PLACE/ GROTE MARKT

The central square of Brussels is one of the most stunning places in the city. And I am not the only one who says that, considering the fact that is known as one of the most beautiful places in the world and was registered on the World Heritage of the UNESCO.

It is surrounded by the guild houses, the City Hall and the King’s House. Every 2 years this market is covered in a carpet of flowers with nearly 1 million begonias, and it is one of the most beautiful things to see. Unfortunately, this year was not one of those years, so we missed it, but it is definitely worth coming back for.

If all of the above didn’t convince you yet, just wait until you see those lavish, covered in gold buildings around the square. But I thought for this part I better show you with photos.


Central Square in Brussels, Belgium



Manneken pis in Brussels, Belgium

MANNEKEN PIS


Manneken Pis is a landmark sculpture of a child pissing in a fountain that is representative to Brussels, and it is dressed and accessorised around holidays or national days. To be honest, it is something that you can easily miss if you are on a tight schedule, but if you are in the city centre, you may get to it without even wanting. For me, the imitation of the sculpture from across the street, made entirely from chocolate, was more impressive than the actual Manneken. Some people may not know, but you can also find Jeanneken Pis, which is the female version of the Manneken Pis and also, a dog version called Zinneke Pis.



GALERIES ROYALES SAINT HUBERT in Brussels, Belgium





GALERIES ROYALES SAINT HUBERT


After the luxury that is the market square, we arrived with even trying to find them, to the Royal Galleries, another luxurious scenery with the designer shops, elegant cafes and cultural spaces. I can definitely say that Brussels treated us very nicely and we felt a little spoilt by the fantastic views and the great food.





MONT DES ARTS

Too much luxury needs a break for some Belgian fries and beer. After we walked a little more through the city centre, we stocked ourselves with the best fries and a craft beer, we stopped in one of my favourite spots in the city to enjoy the sunset. Mont des Arts has, in my opinion, the third-best view after the Atomium and the Royal Palace. For someone like who loooves to take photos of beautiful places, Brussels is a very photogenic city.


Sunset at Mont des arts in Brussels, Belgium
Palace of Justice in Brussels, Belgium

PALACE OF JUSTICE

I can’t really decide which is the best view between the view from the Royal Palace or the one from the Atomium. The best views are found on Poelaert Square, which is at the main entrance of the Palace. That was our favourite spot to finish the day with an artisanal beer and watching the sunset, and it was 5 minutes away from our Airbnb.

Except for the views, the building itself is one of the largest and most impressive buildings in Europe and the most important court building in Belgium. The architecture is also breathtaking, and the building can be seen from almost everywhere in the city.



Marolles neighbourhood in Brussels, Belgium



MAROLLES NEIGHBOURHOOD

It’s an old neighbourhood that often is not showed as a place to visit for tourists, but we absolutely loved the bohemian feeling that it has, the flea markets, antique and vintage shops and small galleries. We enjoyed our coffee in the morning at a little pub near our Bnb and then we went for a bit of shopping around the markets before heading to the metro station near the market.




ATOMIUM

Atomium is already known worldwide as an icon of Belgium, but I didn’t think of it as more than a tall, pretty building. We were not even sure if to buy the tickets to actually visit it, and we didn’t plan to stay too long there. I couldn’t be more wrong and now is of the first things that I recommend to people going to Brussels.

It is not only an attraction to visit, but it is an experience. The history is also surprising because Atomium was built as part of a world exhibition, and it was not planned to be kept after. The building represents an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times. The interior has the best 360 views of Brussels, offers an incredible experience, a fine dining restaurant and a few expositions.

After visiting the Atomium, you can opt to visit Mini Europe, a nice place with miniatures of the iconic attractions in Europe in a miniature version. Or you go further for a walk in the park.



Parc de Laeken in Brussels, Belgium


PARC DE LAEKEN

After visiting the Atomium, you have to walk through this beautiful park for a stroll and see how many bunnies hide in that park. Unfortunately, they were shy, and we didn’t have food to lure them, but it was worth the walk. Even if we took the metro to arrive at the Atomium, after a long walk in the park we found some Lime scooters and decided to go back to the city centre on a scooter. It was an enjoyable experience because the streets were not very crowded, and we had fun.



Sacre Coeur in Brussels, Belgium







SACRE COEUR


This is one of the places that I am sorry that we missed because from the photos it is a stunning Basilica, the interior looks fantastic, and you can even climb the dome for a beautiful view of the city. I am also sorry that we missed it because we didn’t have the chance to see the one in Paris either.





Related to food, Belgium was really generous to us, especially in junk food and sweets. We divided the traditional food from Belgium to all the cities that we visited, and I want to make another post more in detail about everything related to Belgium, from our itinerary to transport, accommodation, food and so on.

Except for the food you have to try the artisanal beer. Either you go to a beer shop, as we did, and ask the nice seller what to choose or try one of the many beer tours in the city. We preferred to buy a few different types of beer and try them while watching the sunset, and we saved time to see other places in the city.

Also, you have to try Brussel’s waffles, and the fries. Two of the best places that we tried are near each other, a place called Gaufre de Bruxelles and Belgian Frites.

As an overall conclusion or ending to this lovely experience, I absolutely loved Brussels and Belgium in general, it is a very welcoming country and Brussels is an experience. The art and the bohemian feeling around the city made me feel like home. I can definitely say that I can see myself living in that city, at least for a while.


High Street in Brussels, Belgium

 

1 day in Bruges - The fairy tale city of Bruges


Bruges was probably the most recommended city when asking people and researching for our trip to Belgium. We decided to go on a short trip, five days overall, and excluding the travelling time, we were left with a full four days to visit. We decided to have a full day and an afternoon for Bruges. I can’t say it was enough to fully see the beauty of the city, but we managed to do at least the most important spots.

Some things that impressed me in this city are the fact that every little corner in Bruges has a story and the fact that because of the significant number of around 80 canals it is called the Venice of the North. The best way to enjoy the city is by walking or by riding the bike around. There is no need for a car in the city.

The city centre of Bruges is not that big, so the best way of seeing this area is just losing yourself on the little streets, wandering around and discovering hidden gems of the city. The city centre has a circular form so you will know when the street is over because you will probably end up back at the centre in the Market square. If you only have one day to visit this city, I suggest taking first a boat trip on the canals and then start wandering.

Another thing you should consider is the opening and closing time of different attractions. We arrived in Bruges late in the afternoon, and we had the surprise that most of the places were closing soon, so had the night to enjoy and relax.


The market square in Bruges, Belgium

THE MARKET SQUARE/ GROTE MARKT


The market square is one of the most famous places in Bruges and the place where you will find one of the best views in the whole city if you dare to climb one of the tallest buildings around, the Belfry tower. Bear in mind that the tower is open every day from 9:30 to 18:00 and it costs around 12€ for adults, and it is free for children up to 5 years.

This place looks like it has been taken from one of the stories that we were told when we were children. The colourful houses with their incredible architecture, the significant number of people enjoying the place, the weather and the food, the carriages with the horses aligned waiting for their customers and so many more details. I tried portraying this image in the photos below, but I wish I could also share somehow the feeling that I got while I was there.



THE CANALS


Another great thing to do to see more of Bruges is to take a boat trip on the canals. Be aware that they close at 18:00, and they only accept cash. We learned that because we wanted to take the last trip at 18:00 o’clock and because we didn’t have any cash and the cash machine was pretty far, we didn’t manage to get back in time and we lost the last trip. The trip costs 10€ for adults, 6€ for children up to 11 years old and free for children under 3, and they open at 10:00. It is something that I would definitely recommend because the views are stunning. We end up walking around the canals, but we lost a lot more time like this and we got way more tired.



ROZENHOEDKAAI/ QUAY OF THE ROSARY VIEW

It is a lovely spot because of the fact that two canals, the Groenerei and Dijver, meet and create a beautiful corner, you can see all the pubs, bars and restaurants on one side and in the middle to complete the picture, a beautiful willow lays on the side of the canal. One interesting thing to know about this corner is that in the Middle Age it was a salt port. Back then, the salt was almost as expensive as the gold. Bruges has exciting stories in all the corners of the city for the people who are interested in finding out more.

This is one of the most famous spots in Bruges when you look beforehand on your trip. Even if it is a cute spot, I was expecting more, because of all the publicity online. My mistake is that I tend to research a place before the trip a little too much.



BURG SQUARE


Just around the corner from the Rozenhoedkaai, we found by mistake a beautiful square with a gothic look, and we wanted to know a little more about it. One of the most beautiful buildings here is the actual Town Hall, that is one of the oldest buildings in the Low Countries.

The square is full of history, as the whole city of Bruges and it is one of the earliest inhabited places in the city. It is the second busiest market square in Bruges and during the summer you can assist concerts and other activities.


Burg Square in Bruges, Belgium

Windmills of Bruges, Belgium

THE WINDMILLS

We finished our walk around the city with a walk around the windmills and we got some incredible views of the city by walking the stairs up on the windmill. It is a really short walk from the city centre, but it is very interesting because it is different.

In the 16th century there were around 23 windmills here guarding the city by being part of the town wall. Nowadays, there are only 4 left, but it makes a nice walk and view. There are not functional, but one of them is a corn mill, one is an oil mill, one is a flour mill that also has a museum inside that you can visit and the last one is a grain mill.

After you visit all these mills, you end up in a beautiful park called the Minnewaterpark.




MINNEWATER PARK/LAKE OF LOVE

This park is one of the prettiest in the city and it definitely has the most beautiful story. A legend says that Mina and Stromberg were two young people who were in love with each other, but Minna’s father didn’t agree with their relationship because he was from a neighbouring tribe. He wanted Minna to marry another man and she escaped into the forest. She ran so much that when she met Stromberg, she died in his arms from exhaustion. The bridge and the park were named in her memory. It is said that if you walk over the bridge and kiss your loved one, the love between you will become eternal.

Another beautiful story from this magical city, an enjoyable walk around the lake and park and you get the chance to see many bunnies wandering around the park. This was the perfect end to our day.


MINNEWATER PARK rabbit in Bruges, Belgium

ENJOY WAFFLES AND BEER


I know that this a recommendation for the whole of Belgium, but why miss the opportunity to enjoy a little more artisanal beer and some waffles on a stick in Bruges’ style. Just near the Market Square, there is a place called Go.Fre where they make waffles on a stick and the variety of flavours and toppings is so impressive.

One of the beers that I discovered and really loved in Bruges is the raspberry flavoured beer from Lindemans. While having lunch in a restaurant, I asked for their best sweet beer and the waiter recommended this one, that became my favourite. It is a sweet, bodied beer, but it is sooo good. If anyone is visiting Birmingham from Belgium, please bring some for me!!!




OTHER RECOMMENDATIONS

Well, unfortunately, we only had one day and a half to visit Bruges and we enjoyed it by walking around the city and having tasty food, but if you have more time and want to explore some other things, here a few ideas that sounded pretty interesting to me:


- Frietmuseum – or better said the heaven for potato lovers. This is a museum dedicated to potato fries. If you are interested in finding out the history of the potato, head there asap.

- Choco-Story – another exciting museum in Bruges is the museum of chocolate. There you can find out why chocolate is good for your health and watch chocolate being made.

- Bruges Beer experience – a museum where you discover the most fascinating aspects of beer in an innovative way. You can taste, smell and feel every beer ingredient.

- Old Stone – guess what? Another museum? Yess, but this one is not that funny. The torture museum is one of the oldest prisons in Europe restored in a museum which offers realistic wax figures and a system of torture where Justice justified the means.

- The Historium – is the classical museum where you will find all the information and history of Bruges starting from the Middle Ages.


Some people are describing Bruges as a fairy tale city, mostly because of the architecture and the history around the area. Even if it is different, interesting and full of history, I can say that it is the second city on my list of preferences from Belgium, after Brussels.


Couple of travellers in Bruges, Belgium

 

Beach vibes in Ostend, Belgium


Being in Belgium everybody thinks about waffles and beer, maybe art and culture, but we wanted to change a little the scenery and decided to enjoy the beach on a day trip to Ostend. We took the train from Bruges, and in 15 minutes we arrived. One of the first things that I liked was that the train station is between the Marina and the beach, not like other stations, in the middle of the city. We started with a walk in the city searching for some food and enjoying some sightseeing before heading to the beach. I loved the fact that they have music everywhere on the streets, around the shops, in the city centre and it was a lovely walk admiring the street art, watching people, more locals than the touristic Bruges.

Ostend is the largest coastal town in Belgium and the beach is huge, so we rented a 2-person bike and walked across the shore to see the beach, and in one hour of pedalling, we didn’t finish the beach. They had a designated area where people were doing water sports like windsurfing and surfing, and I absolutely loved the feeling of visiting a city that has a beach, a unique vibe and mood. It is probably because I was born and lived my whole in a city with a beach, so it kind of feels like home and I love that feeling.


Train station in Ostend, Belgium

For a day trip from another city, I would definitely recommend enjoying a day on the beach combined with good food and exploring a little the city. Some ideas to do in a day in Ostend are:


THE BEACH


As I said before the beach is really big and if you go walking you will get tired faster than you think. With a little luck, you will get weather good enough to tan a little and maybe take a deep in the sea. In the summer there is also a lot of sand construction that you can admire on the beach, stop and have a drink in one of the pubs on the seaside, enjoy some water sports or do like us and go cycling around the promenade.


the beach of Ostend, Belgium

Cycling in Ostend, Belgium


CYCLE AROUND THE PROMENADE


Because we are a couple, we rented a two-seat bicycle and cycled all around the shore, with a stop for some drinks. We rented the bike for more than one hour and we still didn’t get to see the end of the beach, but we went from the crowded area of people enjoying the sun to the area with little huts and water sports. If you don’t have too much time in the city, the bicycle is a nice way of covering more and still enjoying the outsides.


Saint Paul's church in Ostend, Belgium





SAINT PAUL’S CHURCH


The first thing that we saw when we arrived in the city was the Marina and the church of Sint-Petrus-en-Pauluskerk. It was kind of a surprise that the train station was at the entrance of the beach, with the Marina on the left, the beach on the right and the city in front of you. This church is impossible to miss because of its dimensions and its gothic character.





ADMIRE STREET ART


Street art and art, in general, is everywhere in Belgium, so it is impossible to go around and not stop to admire the beauty of the paintings especially when they are the size of a house. Except for the graffiti, there is art all the around the city such as the Rock Strangers at the entrance to the beach, different sculpture in the sand and multiple sculptures. The city is perfect for sightseeing.


Street art in Ostend, Belgium

ENJOY LOCAL PEOPLE


After all the walking that we did in Bruges and Brussels, it was the perfect way of relaxing, enjoying the sun and see a new city. Having some nice food at the end of the day and observing the people walking around us, imagining how their days could’ve been and what they will do now while waiting for the train to take us back to Bruges for the night.


Traveller in Ostend, Belgium

As a little conclusion, Belgium was a country that I loved getting lost in, the art and the culture, the interesting people, the food and drinks, all of this made me love the country and feel like home. I can see myself as a struggling artist living in Brussels and who knows maybe I will someday!


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