BELGIUM TRAVEL GUIDE
Besides being one of the most beautiful countries in Europe, Belgium is also the tastiest. That is, if you’re into beer, chocolate, chocolate covered waffles, and french fries. And if you’re not, you may wanna get yourself checked out–just a thought. I think you have a fever…
Belgium’s main cities include:
- Brussels – the capital of the European Union (and Belgium for that matter)
- Bruges – Unbelievably picturesque medieval village and the most beautiful place to have a canal-side beer.
- Ghent – home of the Ghent Altarpiece, considered a masterpiece of European art and one of the world’s greatest treasures. Also, the best frites on the planet–a masterpiece of potato frying.
- Antwerp – the capital of the Flanders province and Belgium’s most populous city proper
BELGIUM TRAVEL GUIDE: THE BASICS
CURRENCY | Euros (Check out xe.com for the most up-to-date currency conversion–they have a mobile app too!)
TIME ZONE | GMT+1, The entire country of Belgium is six hours ahead of the Eastern time zone.
VISA / PASSPORT REQUIREMENTS | If you’re planning to spend less than 90 days in Belgium/the Schengen area, you can get by using just your U.S. passport–no Visa required. (Except for all those waffles you’re planning on buying, ba-dum-tshh!) However, your passport must be valid for at least 6 months from the date you leave the Schengen area.
LANGUAGE(S) SPOKEN | Unlike many other European countries that speak languages of their own, Belgium residents speak many. Depending on where you are in Belgium, you’ll hear French, German, and a variation of Dutch known as Flemish that you won’t be able to understand a word of.
WHAT DO YOU NEED TO LOOK OUT FOR? | As with almost all of Europe, pick-pockets are probably your biggest safety concern though I’ve personally never experienced anything in Belgium that would warrant mentioning. However, do look out for empty plates of frites–they’ll sneak up on you so hard. Good thing you can just get more.
Obviously, always take standard safety precautions (don’t travel alone, don’t travel at night, don’t flash your wads of cash you baller you). For more information on Belgium safety concerns, see this page and always pick up travel insurance before you go.
WHERE TO STAY IN BELGIUM
Even though I visited four different cities during my 4 days in Belgium, I stayed in Brussels three of those nights. After much consideration, I chose to stay at the Meininger Hotel Brussels City Center.
It’s sorta like the anti-European hostel in that this place—located in a former brewery—is ENORMOUS. The rooms are enormous; the hallways are enormous; the common areas are enormous; but your total bill will be teeny-tiny. There’s a (you guessed it, enormous) hotel bar area, I could walk everywhere I needed to go, there’s no need to compromise for personal space, and I felt totally safe there.
The picture is of the private room my friend and I booked – seriously so much space!
During my one day in Bruges I stayed at St. Christopher’s Inn at the Bauhaus, a European hostel chain with locations all over–even in Bruges, complete with a Belgian beer bar. Even better, they have a nightly beer tasting led by a professional beer guide.
The location is perfect–far enough away from the center to be quiet and calm, but not so far that you need to take any transportation more than your own two feet. AND, it’s right by the outer ring of the city complete with adorable windmills and hills with sunset views.
And even though it’s a hostel, they do offer private rooms (thankyouverymuch), $5 pizzas at night, and free breakfast in the morning.
Brussels and Bruges aren’t the only amazing places to visit in Belgium though. The country may be small but it’s packing tourism destinations out the wazoo. After you decide where in Belgium you want to visit, read reviews on Tripadvisor and then go ahead and book your room!
And don’t forget, there’s always Airbnb and I can help you save $40 on your first Airbnb stay. Just click here to activate the no-strings discount and shop away!
BELGIUM TRAVEL GUIDE: RECOMMENDED TOURS
➤ INTREPID TRAVEL | If planning an entire trip sounds overwhelming, popular tour company Intrepid offers these multi-day tours that include Belgium as well as many other popular European cities. Intrepid tours include all accommodation, some meals, and your own personal, knowledgable Belgium travel guide.
➤ VIATOR TOURS | If you’re just looking for day tours to various attractions in and around Belgium, Viator is my go-to tour company. They’ve got tours for chocolate eating and beer tasting, day trips to Luxembourg, hop-on/hop-off bus tours, World War II sites, and every single thing in between. Their tours include pickup and dropoff and offer those from all different parts of Belgium depending on where you are.
BELGIUM TRAVEL GUIDE: PACKING ESSENTIALS
➤ BELGIUM GUIDEBOOK | I’m a big believer in travel guidebooks – they’re great for historical and background information, practical information like phone numbers, addresses, and opening and closing times, as well as restaurant recommendations and pretty pictures ’cause I’m a dainty little girl. Consider them your portable Belgium travel guide.
Rough Guides and Rick Steves are my personal go-to brands for Belgium but Lonely Planet has their own loyal followers as well. If you’re also planning on a day trip to Luxembourg, go for the Rough Guides! And if you’re interested in a different kind of guidebook, check out Culture Smart! Belgium. Culture Smart! guidebooks focus less on hotel recommendations and more on getting you acquainted with the local customs and culture of your destination. I LOVE these guidebooks and find them to be 100% accurate.
Besides guidebooks, here are a few more things you may want to pick up before visiting Belgium:
I’m not saying you need to learn French, but being able to speak and understand even a little is the best ice breaker. These pocket-sized guides are my favorite and their menu guides are highly necessary! And for Belgium, depending on where you’ll be, you could also grab the Dutch and German versions.
Outlets in Belgium follow the typical, two-pronged European style so if you plan on plugging in any of your American electronics while you’re in Belgium, you’ll need one (or, let’s be real, several) of these. I always recommend the 6-pack: for your phone, your camera, your curling iron, and your friends’ too because you know they didn’t bring one.
If you’re headed to Bruges, Belgium, you must absolutely catch up on all things In Bruges–dark comedy starring Colin Farrell, Mad Eye Moody, and Voldemort. This movie takes places in Bruges and gives you a good little preview into the city. But, unlike what Colin Farrell’s character repeats, Bruges is not a shit hole.