Located in the center of Western Europe, Belgium is a multi-lingual country that’s home to a number of medieval cities making it a perfect blend of modern and traditional. Belgium has a large number of palaces, castles, cathedrals, abbeys, art museums, upscale cafes and so much more for visitors to discover and enjoy.
You can easily spend a few days soaking up the culture and getting lost in the ancient towns, preserved for hundreds of years in Ghent and Bruges. What do most visitors look back on most fondly about their time in Belgium? The food of course! Belgium is famous for it’s perfect waffles, frites, and the world’s very best quality chocolate.
Belgium Travel Info
Language: The official languages of Belgium are French, Dutch, and German. English is also widely spoken, especially in the tourism industry. Communicating with the locals will not be a problem as most people speak fluent English.
Visa: Belgium is a member of Schengen Agreement, which provides free visa to travel to any EU country including the ones, not a part of Schengen as well as those approved by Schengen like America, New Zealand, and Australia for a period of 90 days. Citizens of South Africa, Asia, and Russia, need to apply for Schengen Visa before going to Belgium.
Electricity: Belgium operates on 230 V electricity supply. The power sockets are usually two-pronged and round. I recommend bringing a Universal Travel Adapter so you don’t need to keep buying new adapters for each country you visit.
Belgium Festivals & Celebrations
Carnival de Binche: This festival has been described as a ‘Masterpiece of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity’ by UNESCO. A three-day traditional extravaganza takes place where you would be bombarded with oranges by thousands of masked Gilles parading on the streets. The carnival is celebrated all across Belgium and has some weird and surprising local traditions in store.
Zythos Beer Festival: Held in Leuven, the beer capital of Belgium, this is the by far the best Beer festival in the country. It takes place in April, and you can taste more than 500 delectable beers using a 10cl glass that is specially designed for the purpose. You can keep the glass as a souvenir.
Battle of Waterloo: Every year in June, a re-enactment of the historic ballet of Waterloo takes place precisely at the same spot as where it was actually fought. The battle took place between the British, led by Duke of Wellington and the French, led by Napoleon Bonaparte. It ended after 23 years and its 200th anniversary was celebrated in 2015.
Safety In Belgium
Safety is not a concern for people traveling to Belgium. Apart from the occasional few minor bag snatching and pickpocketing incidents, Belgium is in general a very safe country to visit. Based on my own travel experiences around Europe I wouldn’t leave home without travel insurance no matter how safe the destination I’m visiting is. You can still miss flights, lose your luggage or break a leg, especially if you’re as accident prone as I am. For this reason I recommend checking out the travel insurance plan that World Nomads can offer you a few weeks or months before you plan to visit Belgium.
Top Things To Do In Belgium
Visit the Royal Palace of Brussels
The king and queen of Belgium officially reside in the Royal Palace which is located in the heart of Brussels, although the royal palace is not the primary residence of the royal family. A very important part of the royal collection can be found here which includes silverware, furniture belonging to King Louis Philippe, Napoleon, and Leopold I & II, and beautiful crystal. During summers, every year visitors are allowed into the palace and given access only to certain rooms.
During Expo 58, the Brussels World Fair held in 1958, this 355-foot tall building was built, and then it became the city’s symbol. The structure is iconic and is built in the shape of an iron crystal’s unit cell with nine 60 foot spheres made of stainless steel. The building is now a museum that has Expo 58 permanently on display on two floors. On three floors you will find temporary exhibits on design and architecture. On the top is a panoramic restaurant serving gourmet dishes.
Taste an Array of Crafts Beer
When it comes to beer, Belgium is the best with every region having its own variety of local beer to try. You will find a beer bar in every corner of the city with different types of beer. Let the owner guide you regarding what you should try because some beers have a higher percentage of alcohol than the rest and might knock you off your feet. So Beware.
Go for a Canal cruise in Bruges
Bruges is frequently called the Venice of the North as it has a large number of canals, but what I feel is that Venice is the Bruges of the South. There is so much to do in Bruges that it is by far the most fun city in Belgium. Cruising through the city on a boat is the best way to enjoy its beauty. This is one city that must top your bucket list.
Explore the ruins of Gravensteen
This castle in Ghent dates back to the middle ages. Gravensteen is a Dutch word meaning ‘castle of the counts.’ In 1180, count Philip built the castle on the remains of another wooden castle. It was officially used by the counts of Flanders, but when they abandoned it, it was transformed into a prison, and then a courthouse and was finally left altogether to decay. In the 20th century, the castle was restored and opened for visitors.
Visit the Flanders Fields Museum
This museum is devoted to WW I and is situated in the town of Ypres. It is named after a poem written by John McCrae. In the museum you will get to learn about the invasion of Belgium, events of the war, and an emphasis is put on remembering the war. Special attention is paid to topics like the effect of the war on the lives of the citizens and the repercussions of the war. Some goods related to the WW I are also sold in the museum shop.
Relax in Mini Europe
Below the Atomium in Brussels is a miniature park which features mini versions of many monuments from across the European Union. Nearly 350 structures from about 80 cities are put on display on a scale of 1:25. Some live action in the form of cable cars, mills, trains, and even an active Mount Vesuvius is also available. If you take a guided tour, it will provide you with details of each monument. At the midpoint of the tour, you can refill yourself at the European Tavern providing snacks, ice cream, drinks and much more.
Visit the Antwerp Zoo
Just next to the Antwerp Central lies the Antwerp Zoo. It is located in the center of the city and was opened in the year 1843. This is the oldest zoo in the country and houses more than 7000 animals from about 950 species. The most popular exhibits of the zoo are Vriesland, where many species of penguins live, Egyptian temple-themed exhibit housing Baringo Giraffes and Asian Elephants and a fantastic monkey house, a cat house and the Zoo Aquarium.
Royal Museum Of Fine Arts, Belgium
This museum is a collection of a number of Art museums of Brussels. These museums are located on the Coudenberg, and the collection includes six other fine art museums of great repute. All the six museums are located either in the Royal Museum of in its proximity. The museum houses about 20,000 pieces of art dating from 15th century till today.
Try some Belgian Chocolate
Belgium has some of the best chocolates in the world, and some famous brands like Guylian and Neuhaus can be found at the airport as well. But I feel that the best Belgian chocolates can only be found at the specialized chocolatier shops in Brussels. Almost every Belgian Village has shops where they make their own chocolates. Belgium produces about 220,000 tons of chocolate every year… so clearly people love it and it’s well worth trying!
Other than these top things to do in Belgium, there is so much more to see and experience in this amazing country. Be prepared to be flexible because sometimes other travelers that you meet on your travels will have the best suggestions for things to do in Belgium that are off the beaten path.
What To Eat In Belgium
Although food is a big deal all over Belgium, the country has only recently gained recognition as a top gastronomic destination. The most recognized items from the Belgian cuisine are chocolates, waffles, and beer. But there is a lot more to the traditional Belgian cuisine than this. I am listing a few dishes that you must try during your visit to the country.
Mussels: Mussels with fries is a traditional Belgian dish that is available at almost every café or restaurant in Brussels. Mussels are steamed in white wine inside big mussel pots. Shallots, parsley, and butter are added to the preparation before serving.
Fries: You can call fries the national dish of Belgium. No one knows who invented this particular dish, but it is for sure that Belgians have perfected it. Once you have tasted fries in Belgium, your life will never be the same.
Meat balls: These are a favorite among Belgians and are usually a mixture of pork and beef. In Flanders, the balls are smothered in tomato sauce before serving. They are also butter fried and served with Belgian cherry sauce. You can have them sweet or savory depending upon your palette.
Flemish Stew: This is a typical Belgium dish made of beef cooked slowly in beer until it becomes super soft. To thicken the sauce, slices of bread are soaked in mustard, some onion, and then seasoned. The stew is rich and a little tart as it is cooked in beer.
Belgian Waffles: When you think of something sweet to eat in Belgium, waffles are the first thing that comes to your mind. They are sweet, a little thicker than the regular waffles and super crispy. They are served with whipped cream, ice cream, chocolate and some fruit toppings. A combination to die for!
Where To Stay In Belgium
Belgium can be quite an expensive place to visit. Finding excellent accommodation in Belgium is easy but finding affordable accommodation, if you’re on a tight budget, is the hard part. Luckily Belgium hostels and dormitories make travel here affordable for backpackers and any travelers on a shoe-string budget.
Don’t wait until you arrive to see what’s available or you may be disappointed to find that all the best accommodation options have already been snapped up. Belgium is a very popular year-round destination with business travelers and sight-seeing tourists alike.
Jetset Bunny recommends using Booking.com for the best accommodation deals in Belgium.
If you’re backpacking in Belgium or traveling on a tight budget then Hostel World is another great option. Staying in hostels makes travel in Europe much more affordable and is also a great way to meet new travel buddies.
Belgium Trip Planner
Best Time to Visit Belgium
The best time to visit Belgium is between April and October, this is if you want mild, reasonably warm or if you’re lucky hot weather. If you want to see Belgium with hot weather and blue skies then aim to visit between June and September, even during the Summer though, good weather can’t be guaranteed. For skiing, go between October and March.
Belgium Travel Budget
Belgium is an expensive city but it’s still generally an affordable destination for travelers on a tight budget. The cost of your trip to Belgium really depends on the level of comfort you will want while here. If you’re backpacking and planning on staying in dormitories, hostels and eating fast food then budget between 35 to 50 euros a day. If you prefer to stay in 3-4 star hotel rooms and eat in mid-range restaurants you could spend anywhere between 50 to 100 euros per day. If you want to enjoy luxury 4-5 star accommodation and gourmet restaurants in places like Brussels and Antwerp then budget about 250 euros plus a day.
- Budget: €35 – €50
- Mid-range: €50 – €100
- Splurge: €150 +
Meal For One
- Budget: €8 – €25
- Mid-range: €25 – €60
- Splurge: €60 +
Belgium Packing Guide
Packing for a trip to Belgium, like most other places in Europe is easy, just remember to pack lightweight and breathable clothing for Summer trips and warm, waterproof clothing for trips in Autumn and Winter (and Spring too). Be prepared for the weather to get extremely cold during the winter. You will need high quality, durable thermal wear plus scarves, woolly hats, gloves and a thick winter coat. If you forget to pack something you can buy anything you need while you’re in Belgium. Prices are generally high so expect to pay a premium if you don’t have the option of ‘shopping around’ due to time restraints.
Other essential items to pack for a trip to Belgium include a good quality travel backpack. Choose the brand carefully and make sure you find the right size backpack for your torso. Believe me, doing this will make all the difference and prevent major backache. Smaller items to pack include a padlock, sleep sheet and a money belt to keep important documents close to you.
For the full list of everything you need to pack for a trip to Belgium check out the Jetset Bunny Ultimate Europe Packing List For Female Travelers.