Here are our top 10 Belgium must see travel sites:
One of the world’s best medieval towns, Ghent is small and cozy yet vibrant and full of life. The people are friendly, the quirky bars are lively, and the architecture is really stunning. The canalside is a great place to people-watch and enjoy the sights. No visit to Belgium would be complete without a visit to Ghent!
2. Westvleteren Trappist Brewery
Belgium is home to 6 of the world’s 10 trappist breweries. Trappist brews are where beer is brewed within the walls of a monastery by the monks themselves, whose profits are made only to cover essential living expenses. The Trappist Abbey of Saint Sixtus in Westvleteren is not only home to one of these sacred trappist breweries, but it has actually received the title of the world’s best beer.
These label-less black bottles are highly coveted: a crate can only be reserved by 4 lucky people per day via a hotline that recieves over 1000 calls in this time. If you can track it down in your home town, you often pay over $40 CAD per bottle.
But do not fear, there is a way to get your hands on this very unique brew! Travel to the Saint Sixtus monastery in Westvleteren, Belgium and the monks are happy to serve you a sample of all their beers along with some tasty snacks.
3. Beach Getaway in Ostend
Find yourself a glorious stretch of beach full of waterside resorts in Ostend. Who knew you could be frolicking on the beach on your visit to Belgium? This lively port city is also known for its shopping and nightlife.
4. The Ardennes
The Ardennes is a forested, hilly region that extends from Belgium into Luxembourg and France. Towns are perched among the cliffs and winding rivers are beautifully picturesque and serene. Rent a car, drive down the tree-lined winding roads from one perfect little town to another. For adventurers, there is also plenty of hiking and kayaking.
Two must-see stops in the Ardennes include: (1) Dinant – a town precariously carved into a wall of rock and placed on a thin edge of the riverbank:
The other is (2) Bouillon – with a fortified castle perched perfectly above the town and a winding river at its base.
5. See-Through Church
This hidden gem is located in the town of Borgloon (check out the bottom of our post for clear directions… this baby is hard to find!) just west of Brussels. Titled “Reading Between the Lines”, this church is a work of art nestled in the middle of Belgian farmlands. Depending how you look at it, this church can completely dissolve into the horizon.
6. Chocolate Wasted: Pierre Marcolini
Arguably the best chocolate truffles in the world, Pierre Marcolini travels the world every year in search of the best cocoa beans. Though he now has stores worldwide, we visited the original chocolaterie in Brussels and were pleased with the amazing service and delicious flavors of his cocoa creations.
7. World War I Battlefields
Flanders Fields in Belgium was where WWI history was created, and is a definite must-see. There are many sights to choose from that can be reached via car, tour, or even bike, but some better known stops include Ypres (home of the In Flanders Fields Museum) and the Menin Gate, a tribute to the lost soldiers whose bodies have never been found.
8. In Bruges
Ok, ok, this is tourist mayhem. We weren’t as enthused by Bruges as we expected – perhaps because it is overrun by visitors, souvenir shops, and we couldn’t help but feel bad for the town’s actual inhabitants. However, it seems somehow wrong not to include this cute little town on a Belgium trip.
Our advice? Stay overnight or catch a later train out of town. Then you have a chance to see the town without the mass tourists and appreciate its charming nature.
Also, we recommend a stop at the Chocolate Line, home of chocolaterie (or “shock-o-latier” as he calls himself) Dominique Persoone’s unique creations: he fills his chocolate with wasabi, tobacco leaves, sundried tomatoes, and fried onions. This fun shop is definitely worth a visit!
9. Grand Place in Brussels
This central square in Brussels truly is grand and bedazzled in gold. It is a bit of tourist nightmare to visit, but definitely worth the stop, especially if manage to time your visit with Brussels Flower Carpet – an event that occurs every 2 years where the square is covered in beautifully arranged begonia flowers.
One of Belgium’s more modern cities, Antwerp is the capital of cool and world’s center of diamonds. Visit funky cafes and nightclubs, shop the day away, or buy some jewels in the Diamond District where more than 70% of the world’s rough diamonds are traded.