Considered to be quintessentially ‘Europian’, Belgium is a country with a complex history. It’s a popular trip for people interested in the World Wars, military history or medieval culture. And with more castles per square mile in Belgium than anywhere else in the world, you can see why!
Dive into our (free) travel guides below!
The key info
A country with an misplaced reputation for being boring, Belgium makes the ideal weekend break, city getaway or sightseeing trip. It is one of the smallest and most densely populated countries in Europe. What it lacks in size, it makes up for in influence, and it is a nation that has played a significant role in the shaping of Europe.
Bordering the Netherlands to the north, Germany to the east, Luxembourg to the Southeast and France to the South West, this Western European country has a population of around 10 million. It is responsible for producing some of the world finest beers as well as legendary decadent chocolates, waffles, world-renowned mussels and original French fries (frites). One of the culinary highlights of Europe, Belgium is a great vacation destination for those who appreciate great food.
Country in numbers
- Population number: 11,420,163
- Total size of the country: 30,688 km2
- Capital city: Brussels
- Currency: Euro (€/ EUR)
- Languages: French, German and Dutch
- Religion: Christianity (60.7%), No religion (32%), Islam (5.2%) Other (2.1%)
The 5 largest cities in Belgium
Belgium’s capital, Brussels is a premier city located along the River Seine in the north-central part of the country. Home to the Headquarters of both the European Union and NATO, the city has been built around the Grand Place. This is undoubtedly a highlight of Belgium, and it has been the city’s commercial hub since the Middle Ages. Visit one of the city’s famous breweries, marvel at the colors of the fragrant flower markets, and revel in the ample nightlife available. Don’t forget to take pics of the city’s most famous statutes, Mannekin Pis, and Jeanneke Pis!
Set amongst the flat countryside in the Flemish-speaking region, Antwerp is a sprawling city, whose skyline is dominated by medieval churches and fine architecture. Antwerp is known as the Diamond district, with 85% of the world’s rough diamonds passing through the city. As the center of the international diamond trade, this is a wealthy city, with excellent shopping, and a top selection of local food and drink. If you appreciate fine arts, the Royal Fine Arts Museum houses one of the best collections of Rubens’ masterpieces, with the artist spending the vast majority of his career in Belgium’s second-largest city.
This centuries-old city has a large student population, and it is known as one of the hippest places in Belgium. Combining the contemporary and the old, this is one of the best places to live in the country, with around a quarter of a million inhabitants. Ghent was one of the wealthiest cities in Europe, and as a result, it is a beautiful picturesque city, with imposing buildings, and medieval architecture. Known as the Castle of the Counts, the Gravensteen fortress was first built in the late 12th century and imposes a watchful eye over the city below.
Located in the Walloon province, Charleroi is a rarely visited and underrated city, which was once voted as one of the ugliest places in Europe by a Dutch newspaper. Although it may not have as much to offer as some of the larger cities, this used to be the industrial epicenter of the country and Charleroi has a unique charm of its own.
Set along the River Meuse, Belgium’s fifth-largest city Liege is worth a visit. Although not as pretty as some of the others, the city has great food and drink, an excellent nightlife, and a choice of museums and galleries. Clamber up the steps of the Montagne de Bueren for a phenomenal view of the landscape below.
Top tourist attractions
This fairy tale town is considered to be one of the best-preserved medieval cities in the world, and it is easily Belgium’s most visited tourist destination. With secret gardens and beautifully designed buildings, the city is crisscrossed with canals, bridges, and waterways. Climb the 366 winding steps up the Belfry and Halle for a wonderful view of Bruges and the surrounding areas, marvel at the superb collection of Flemish art, and wander down the winding cobblestone streets. Offering a unique old-world charm, take your time exploring Bruges; there are hidden gems to be discovered around every corner.
2. Grand Place, Brussels
The Grand Place, or Grote Markt, is located at the center of Brussels. The huge square is a blend of styles, with Baroque, Gothic and Louis XIX architecture, beautiful guildhalls and a selection of bars, cafes, restaurants, and shops. Historically a market place, the Grand Place has a lively atmosphere and remains to be the commercial hub of the capital.
The Battlefield of Waterloo is situated in the South of Belgium and it was the site of one of the most important battles in European history. The battle was fought mostly between the French and the British and marked the final defeat of the French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. Although there is not much to see at the battle sight itself, apart from the Lion’s Mound and a large panoramic painting of the battle, this continues to be one of the most visited sites in Belgium.
The battlefield of Flanders is one of the most visited spots in Belgium, with many tourists choosing to come and pay their respects. The cemeteries and miles of preserved trenches around the town of Ypres serve as a long-lasting reminder about the dangers of war. It tells the story of the enormous sacrifices that were made in World War 1, with several museums and memorials in the area.
5. De Haan
If you are looking for a coastal getaway, the seaside village of De Haan is a popular getaway destination for Europeans. Located in the north of Belgium, De Haan is characterized by its sandy beaches, beautiful Bella Époque buildings, and a long and lively promenade with restaurants, bars, and cafés.
Best time to travel
Due to the small size of the country, there is only a little variation in climate across the country. The weather is relatively moderate, but there are definitely four distinct seasons. Plus, Belgium has a bit of a rainy reputation for a reason and on average; the country gets around 30-40 inches of rainfall per year. July to August is the warmest time of year, but it does not get too hot, with average temperatures of around 72°F (22°C). If you are looking for a warmer getaway, the Flanders region does tend to experience higher temperatures.
Holidays in Belgium
- 1 January: New Year’s Day
- 22 April: Easter Monday
- 1 May: Labour Day
- 30 May: Ascension Day
- 10 June: Whit Monday
- 21 July: Belgium National Day (Belgian Independence Day)
- 15 August: Assumption Day (Assumption of Mary)
- 1 November: All Saints’ Day
- 11 November: Armistice Day
- 25 December: Christmas Day
Similarly to other countries in the European Union, traveling to Belgium is easy, with many countries not requiring a specific visa for a short stay in the country. EU Citizens have freedom of movement in Belgium and can enter the country without a visa. If you are from Canada, the USA, New Zealand, or Australia, you are permitted 90 days travels in the Schengen area. If not, you may need to apply for a Schengen visa, which will allow you to travel freely across the Schengen Zone.
Like many other countries in the continent, Belgium uses the Euro and has done so since 2002. All major credit cards are accepted throughout the country. However, although you can pretty much use your card just about anywhere in Belgium, it is always a good idea to carry a little cash just in case. Tipping is not expected, and often gratuity is included in your bill. However, it is always welcome, especially if you have received excellent service.
The rainy weather means that you will definitely want to take a waterproof jacket, regardless of what time of the year you are visiting. An umbrella is also recommended. It is also advised that you make sure that you pack at least one outfit for hitting the bars and restaurants at night, with some bars, clubs, and restaurants having rules regarding clothing. You are likely to spend a lot of time wandering around the quaint cobblestone streets that characterize Belgium cities, so comfortable shoes are also a must. Take a secure bag to store your belongings, and try to only carry enough cash for the day.
DOs and DON’Ts in Belgium
|Use public transport: Belgium is well connected and their public transport is amongst the best in the world. Try |
hop-on and hop-off buses.
Visit a brewery: With well over a thousand different types of beer in the country, a trip to a brewery should be on everyone’s Belgian bucket list.
Go on a free walking tour: It’s a great way to get to know a city and make some new friends in the process
Indulge: Belgium is well known for its chocolate, waffles, and beer, but they are also the inventors of fries and Belgian mussels are world-renowned.
|Get scammed: be careful and be aware of the risk of tourist traps.|
Attempt to try every beer: There are so many different beers in Belgium, and we definitely advise taking it slow on some of the stronger options.
Talk about money: In Belgium, it is considered rude to talk about your money or to flash your wealth!
Leave all your shopping until Sundays. In Belgium, most shops will be closed. (But museums and places for culture should still be open!)
Secret tips from bloggers
- The abandoned Château Miranda in the forests of Ardennes is an urban explorers dream location, enthuses the Culture Trip.
- Marvel at the Cherry Blossoms in Hasselt, it’s worth the experience says Solo Sophie.
- Take a ghost tour of Bruge to learn more about the haunted nature of the city – St Cristopher’s
TOP 7 Instagrammable places
- #atomium (352k)
- #grandplace (346k)
- #doel (63k)
- #brugescanal (60k)
- #antwerpencentraal (20k)
- #mannekinpis (11k)
- #galleriesroyalesthubert (7K)
Fun facts about Belgium
Did you know…?
- Belgium produces more than 220,000 tons of chocolate per annum
- In the 1970s, Belgian kids were served light beer with their school lunch
- Antwerp is the diamond capital of the world
- You could drink a different Belgian beer every day for four years before you had the same one twice