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Belgium

Belgium Travel Guide

Belgium is the country of grand market squares, crow-stepped gables, comics, and peeing statues. Belgium is also a vastly underrated country, too often overshadowed. While living in Germany, we made three separate trips to Belgium. You could say that we’re hooked on the medieval architecture and the Trappist beer. In a land where every beer has its own glass, drinking is elevated to high art.

We recognize that this low country is more than just beer, mussels, waffles, frites, and chocolate. But, if you don’t relish all those things during your visit, you’re also missing the point. So, please eat and drink until you’re silly. We’ll be with you in spirit.

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Belgium Travel Guide

Belgium Travel Guide Overview

  • Belgium Travel Basics
  • Where to Go (Interactive Map)
  • What to Experience in Belgium
  • What to Drink in Belgium
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Ghent Storefronts, Belgium

Belgium Travel Basics

Official Name: Royaume de Belgique / Koninkrijk Belgie (Kingdom of Belgium)

Capital: Brussels 

Government: Federal parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarch

Regions: Belgium is divided into three regions: (1) Flanders, (2) Wallonia, and (3) Brussels-Capital.  Flanders (Flemish Region) and Wallonia (Walloon Region) are both subdivided into five provinces. 

Population: 11.35 Million 

Language: French (Wallon), Dutch (Flemish) and German.

Currency: Euro

Tipping Etiquette: On a restaurant bills, you can round up the bill. For exceptional service, tip 5-10%.

Water Quality: Tap water is safe to drink.

Something Interesting: Belgium has more comic strip artists per square kilometer than anywhere else in the world.

 
Grote Markt in Brussels

Where to Go in Belgium

Click the dots to explore specific destinations.
Destinations
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Who knows why geese go barefoot?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flemish Saying

That’s just how it is.

What to Experience in Belgium

Our favorite things to see and do
Brabo's Monument in Antwerp in front of City Hall
Brabo's Monument

Antwerp: The City of Giants and Diamonds

Antwerp (Antwerpen in Flemish) is a multi-cultural city in Flanders that boasts the second largest port in Europe. Local legend credits the city’s rise to a Roman soldier who killed the Giant Antigoon. This particularly nasty giant terrorized the local population by cutting off the hands of sailors and tradesmen who didn’t pay his steep river-crossing toll. The Roman soldier, Brabo, challenged the giant to a duel and after defeating him, cut off his hand and threw the hand into the Scheldt River. The city’s name, Antwerpen, is derived from “hand werpen,” which means “hand throwing.” Brabo is commemorated in a giant fountain facing the City Hall in the middle of Antwerp’s Great Market Square (Grote Markt).

Learn More: How to Spend a Weekend in Antwerp

This Flemish city has a special relationship with giants. Throughout the city, you’ll see images and statues of the Virgin Mary, because her image was said to ward off giants.

Antwerp is also the city of diamonds, as it’s the most important diamond trade center in the world. Diamonds have been traded here since the 15th century. It’s really interesting to walk through the diamond district and watch diamond traders negotiate deals in the streets outside world-renowned diamond institutions. You’ll also see many Jewish Orthodox-owned businesses (diamond retailers, bakeries, Kosher grocery stores) next to African textile shops. Interestingly, Yiddish continues to be the primary language of the Jewish community in Antwerp, which is one of the largest in Europe. And, 30 of Belgium’s 45 active synagogues are in Antwerp.

Where to Stay in Antwerp

 
Bruges Canal
Bruges

Bruges: The Medieval City of Swans

Bruges (Brugge in Flemish) is an enchanting city in Flanders that was once a thriving trade center in the Middle Ages. Replete with swan filled canals, cobblestone streets, and crow-stepped gables, Bruges retains its medieval character most beautifully. UNESCO thinks so too. The whole Historic Centre of Brugge is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

There’s a very vindictive reason why swans grace the canals of Bruges. The legend goes that the oppressed people of Bruges revolted against their ruler Emperor Maximilian of Austria in the 15th century. They captured and imprisoned the emperor and his advisor, Pieter Lanckhals. Pieter was condemned to death, and Maximilian was forced to watch the beheading. The Emperor managed to escape and returned to the city with an army to take his revenge. He mandated that the city at its own expense must keep swans on all canals for all time. Why swans? The long-necked creatures served as a reminder of what the people of Bruges did to Pieter Lanckhals, or  Pieter the “Long Neck.” To this day, long necks continue to glide through the medieval city center.

Bruges deserves more than a day. Stay the night, visit the vibrant Basilica of the Holy Blood, learn about the 12th-century Belfry, drink Brugse Zot at a beer café, visit De Halve Maan Brewery, and shop for chocolate. To learn more legends about Bruges, we recommend the free walking tour: Legends of Bruges.

Where to Stay in Bruges

 
Flea Market in Ghent
Flea Market

Ghent: The City on Two Rivers

Ghent (Gent) is a historical city in Flanders that has a young student population, a thriving flea market culture, and an architecturally rich city center. The city is located on the confluence of the rivers Leie and Scheldt, and according to Flemish folklore, Ghent was borne out of the divine love of the god Scheldt and goddess Leie.

After strolling through the medieval streets and hopefully treating yourself to some Gentse Strop beer, head to the moated Castle Gravensteen (Castle of the Counts). This grim 10th-century castle is a haunting reminder of the darker side of medieval times. There’s a torture instrument exhibition inside the Castle.

For something less gruesome, head to STAM City Museum. If you’re in Ghent on a Sunday morning, there are bird, book, antique and flower markets throughout the city.

We did the Free Walking Tour by Gent Free Walking Tours and loved it. We learned about historical buildings, Ghent’s historical prominence and later demise, and the city’s culinary treasures. Meeting Place: Sint Michielsplein 21, Outside the Uppelink Hostel.

Where to Stay in Ghent

 
Grote Markt in Brussels
Grote Markt, Brussels

Brussels: The Capital of Europe

Brussels (Bruxelles, Brussel) is the capital of Belgium, the headquarters of NATO, and the seat of the European Union. Though Brussels may sound like the playground for bureaucrats, it’s a jovial city with a lot of soul. From its beating heart, Grote Markt, to it’s comic-strip painted walls and peeing statues, Brussels is a captivating place. Only in Brussels have we experienced getting an entire restaurant bill footed by the owner. 

Though Brussels sits in the Flanders region of Belgium, the capital is predominantly French-speaking. Every street name is written in both Dutch (Flemish) and French. In many ways, Brussels represents the divisions of its country, as it endeavors to hold it all together.  

During our visit, we spent lots of time walking through flea markets and gawking at chocolate concoctions. We also did a Free Walking Tour by SANDEMANs New Europe that was truly excellent.

Where to Stay in Brussels

 
Belgian Beer Store in Bruges

What to Drink in Belgium

Belgian Beer

There are more Belgian beers than days in the year. Or, we should say in 4 years. Aside from the sheer quantity, it’s the creativity that makes Belgian beer the best in the world. Unlike Germany, Belgian brewers aren’t subjected to a beer purity law (Reinheitsgebot), which means that they can add various herbs, spices, and fruits to their beers.

The beer that you absolutely have to try in Belgium is a Trappist beer. A Trappist beer is a beer made by or under the supervision of monks of the Cistercian order. The beer must be made in or near an active Cistercian monastery. Money made from the beer goes directly to the upkeep of the monastery and living expenses of the monks. Any extra profit goes to charity. There are 6 Trappist breweries in Belgium: Achel, Chimay, Orval, Rochefort, Westmalle, and Westvleteren. Our favorite is Westmalle.

 
August, Antwerp, Belgium
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External Resources
@moonhoneytravelers
  • Julian Alps, Slovenia.

Three years ago, we hiked hut-to-hut from Vršič Pass to Lake Bohinj, a trip which cemented our love for this region. We’ve revisited every year since, unable to resist the call of these gorgeous limestone mountains.

Have you hiked in the Julian Alps?
  • 5 things to do before going on a hut-to-hut hike:

1. Download a few books on your Kindle or preferred e-reader.

2. Download relevant maps on Map.me, so you can navigate offline.

3. Cut your toe nails.

4. Pack your passport and Alpine Club Membership Card.

5. Print train/transit tickets.

#hüttenleben #hüttentour #hüttenwanderung #weitwandern #weitwanderweg #hüttenrunde #huttohuthiking #huttohut #huthiking #hüttenzauber #hüttenurlaub #hüttenleben #hüttensommer #huttohuttrekking #huttohuthikes #hikingblog #hikingeurope #hikingthealps #alpshiking #rgphoto #afarmag #hikingtrip #hikingvacation
  • New Dolomites Trail Guides on www.moonhoneytravel.com:

🥾Lago di Braies to Hochalpenkopf

🥾Val di Funes to Tullen Summit

🥾 Gran Cir 

🥾Alpe di Siusi to Rifugio Bolzano and Rifugio Alpe di Tires

🥾Santa Maddalena Panorama Trail in Val di Funes

Happy hiking!
Sabrina & Kati
  • Sunrise walk on Alpe di Siusi (Seiser Alm, Mont Sëuc).

One of the luxuries of staying on the plateau is being able to easily experience sunrise. 

From @hotel_steger_dellai, we set out on an early morning walk, savoring the solitude and stillness of the plateau. It’s the most magical time of day. A few hours later, the same trails are overrun with e-bikes, cyclists, large groups, and even horse-drawn carriages.
  • Rätikon High Trail Circuit in Austria and Switzerland.

We‘d do this hike again in a heartbeat.

What’s the most beautiful hut to hut hike you’ve trekked?
  • Alpe di Siusi (Seiser Alm) in South Tyrol, Italy, is the largest alpine pasture in Europe. The rolling plateau is home to wonderful huts, hotels, and of course hiking trails. Here are some places/trails we recommend: 

1. Rauchhütte is a gourmet hut well-known for their fine selection of wine and food. This is a great place to eat when hiking the Hans and Paula Steger Trail.

2. Alphorn concert. Each week, an ensemble of alphorn players casually gathers together at a hut on Alpe di Siusi to play. You can show up and listen (no fee/no registration needed). The destination changes each week. You can ask @alpedisiusi.seiseralm when and where the next concert is.

3. Gostner Schwaige (alpine pasture hut). They produce their own dairy products. If you visit, you have to try their Heublütensuppe (hay flower soup).

More tips in our Alpe di Siusi Guide (Link in bio).