Belgium is the perfect country to explore on a one or two week holiday – its rather small size means you will spend less time traveling and have more time left over to actually explore the places you’re visiting. You can easily get around the country in a small car like the MINI Cooper Hatchback car, which would also be a cheap option if you want to save on fuel. Here are five cities not to miss!
Brussels – A Quirky Capital
Self-proclaimed as the capital of Europe, Brussels is a vibrant city with a lot to offer, from amazing cuisine to beautiful architecture and a lot of quirky history. Whether you want to follow the comic strip walk or visit historical places such as the peeing statue, you will find that Brussels is a city with a tongue in cheek humor. A must visit is the Grand Place, the most beautiful square in Europe (in my opinion anyway), and a stop at one of the many chocolate shops to stock up on Belgian pralines (Leonidas is a good place with fairly cheap prices, around €5.60 for 250g).
Ghent – Best of Both Worlds
When visiting Ghent for two days last summer we fell head over heels for the city. With medieval architecture, beautiful canals and history around every corner, Ghent also has a great city atmosphere and is rapidly growing as the country’s premier foodie city. Combining historical beauty with culinary expertise and city atmosphere it’s has the best of Bruges and Brussels while being less touristy than both of them!
Bruges – Historic Idyll
If you visit Bruges in summer you will likely be a bit overwhelmed by the many tourist crowds filling the streets, but they’re certainly there for a good reason: few towns are as picturesque as Bruges, which looks as though it’s taken out of a fairy tale. Sit down at one of the cafes by the many squares, take a beer tour at the brewery (highly recommended!) and enjoy the beautiful surroundings along the river.
Antwerp – Fashion Center
If you’re a shopaholic, forget about Brussels and head to Antwerp instead. Being the designer hub of Belgium, Antwerp is proud of their local designers and the shopping streets are some of the best I’ve seen in Europe, showcasing not only local designers but international brands that are rare elsewhere in Europe. Many shops in Antwerp have combined Belgian culture with shopping by having a café selling Belgian sweets and coffee so you can shop even during your coffee break. A small car like the MINI Hatchback makes it easy to navigate the narrow cobbled streets of Antwerp, stuffing the trunk full of shopping bags as you go. But there is more to Antwerp than just shopping. Besides being a beautiful city, it has some of the best nightlife in the country.
Leuven – Beer Capital
Finally, you can’t write a whole post about Belgium without praising its beer. Belgian beer is by far the best beer I’ve had throughout my whole travels, beating even Bavarian pints. While you can quench your thirst with Belgian beer in just about every city in the country, Leuven is the brewing capital of Belgium. Leuven is the headquarters of Inbev, the second largest brewery in the world, famous for Stella Artois beers. Centuries of Flemish tradition and craftsmanship lie behind Leuven’s premium brews. Take a brewery tour at Stella Artois or Domus, do some beer tasting at one of the many pubs such as De Blauwe Kater or De Metafoor, or why not take a whole workshop about food matching beer or cooking with it?