Bruges is not to be missed - suggested Belgium itinerary for 3 or 4 days

See the Best of Belgium in 3 or 4 Days – Recommended Itinerary

In Belgium, Europe, Trip itineraries by JurgaTHIS POST CONTAINS AFFILIATE LINKS

If you are visiting Belgium for the first time and are not sure where to start with planning your trip, then this post is for you. I made two sample three- and four day itineraries that bring you to the most beautiful places in Belgium.

Our tiny country is squeezed in between the top-tourist destinations like London, Amsterdam, or Paris and is therefore often overlooked. But Belgium has a lot to offer to any type of traveller!

Since I know that many people don’t have a lot of time to explore Belgium deeper, here are my very best recommendations for a short trip to Belgium. Even if you are visiting for just one or two days, you will be able to use some tips. But if you have the time, I recommend spending at least 3 or 4 days in Belgium.

My recommended three day Belgium itinerary includes the capital city Brussels and the most beautiful towns of Flanders – Antwerp, Ghent, and Bruges.

If you have four days in Belgium I also strongly recommend visiting the WWI battlefields near Ypres.

TIP: The distances in Belgium are not big and there are good railway connections between all major towns. Therefore you can base yourself in any city and make day trips from there – that way you don’t have to pack/unpack all the time. But you can, of course, stay in a different town every day as well. Find out!

Since most of the main highlights of Belgium are towns, you can visit Belgium in any season. 

Best Belgium itinerary for 3 or 4 days - tips by a local #Belgium

 

Day 1: Brussels

Brussels is the capital of Belgium and a city every tourist has to see at least once. In my opinion, one day is plenty of time in order to see the main highlights of Brussels. If you want to visit museums (Musical Instruments Museum is my favourite) and less centrally located areas you will of course need more time.

Here is my suggested itinerary for Brussels in one day:

In the morning make a walk in the town centre and don’t miss the following places:

  • Grand Place and the Town Hall. The central square of Brussels is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most beautiful town squares in the world. Surrounded by the decorative 17the century guild houses, the impressive City Hall and the Maison du Roi (now the Brussels City Museum) it’s a place not to be missed. My favourite time to go is in the evening when the crowds are smaller and the buildings are nicely lit.
  • Manneken Pis. The little ‘peeing boy’ is said to have saved the city from the fire and is an ultimate symbol of Brussels. The iconic bronze statue will surprise you with its small size. Depending on the day you visit, you might see him naked or dressed. Manneken Pis has over 960 costumes for all kinds of different occasions. The little guy even has his own website.
  • Les Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert. The 19th-century pedestrian gallery with numerous boutiques and restaurants is not to be missed.
  • St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral. Finished in the beginning of the 16th century, the impressive Gothic cathedral took over 300 years to build. It is here that all significant Belgian monarchy’s celebrations take place: coronations, weddings, and state funerals.
  • Royal Palace of Brussels. The official palace of the Belgian King in the centre of Brussels is used for all kinds of official events and can be visited from the end July till beginning of September. The Royal family itself lives in the Castle of Laeken, on the outskirts of Brussels.
  • Mont des Arts. This ‘hill of the arts’ is a nice garden overlooking the Sablon area and the City Hall of Brussels.
  • Brussels Stock Exchange. Impressive architecture.
Royal Palace in Brussels Belgium

Royal Palace of Brussels

 

In the afternoon take a metro to the Heysel area and visit the Atomium. If you have an hour to spare, you may want to see Mini Europe as well. It’s one of the nicest family-friendly attractions in Brussels. Combination tickets are available for both attractions.

In the evening head back to the city centre of Brussels, see the nicely lit Grand Place and check out the famous dining area – Rue des Bouchers. I don’t advise dining here as the restaurants are real tourist traps, but this street has such a unique atmosphere that no visit to Brussels would be complete without passing by here.

A bit hidden out of sight, the ‘sister’ of the Manneken Pis – Jeanneke Pis can be found in a small alley next to the Rue des Bouchers.

Atomium is not to be missed in Brussels

Atomium

 

Some practical tips for visiting Brussels:

  • Brussels is a good base for exploring Belgium. There are direct train connections to all the major towns.
  • Where to eat. Like in many cities, there are many good restaurants in Brussels, but there are real tourist traps as well. One of our favourites for traditional Belgian food in the centre of Brussels is ‘t Kelderke located right on the Grand Place. Despite its central location, this restaurant managed to maintain high quality standards for many years. Last weekend we discovered a really nice Italian restaurant – Spago that I would also recommend.
  • Where to stay. If you decide to use Brussels as your base for exploring Belgium, I would advice to stay close to the Central Station (e.g. Hilton Grand Place, Novotel Grand Place or Ibis Off Grand Place) – from there you can easily get to the airport and to the other towns. Here you can find the best deals for accommodation in central Brussels.
Grand Place is not to be missed in Brussels

Grand Place during winter holiday season

 

Day 2: Antwerp

Antwerp is my personal favourite Belgian town. It’s not as big as Brussels, not as touristic as Bruges or Ghent and therefore has more authentic feeling. I strongly suggest that you spend the whole day in Antwerp. Since we live nearby, I have quite a few more detailed blog posts highlighting best things to do in Antwerp with kidsexploring Antwerp by bike, etc.

Below are my suggestions for the main places you have to see in Antwerp. Here you can find more detailed information about the best things to do in Antwerp including suggested city walk with the map.

  • Central Station
  • Antwerp Zoo
  • Rubens House
  • Groenplaats
  • Cathedral of Our Lady
  • Grote Markt
  • Steen Castle
  • Vleeshuis
  • MAS rooftop terrace
  • The New Port House

Some practical tips for visiting Antwerp:

  • Antwerp is very well located and has excellent connections to Brussels Airport and Brussels city centre (35-40 min), but also to Ghent (50 min) and Bruges (1h30).
  • In my view, Antwerp is as good a place to base yourself for exploring Belgium as Brussels. Depending on when you visit, it’s likely that it will be somewhat cheaper to stay in Antwerp than in Brussels. You can find the best deals for Antwerp accommodation here.
Grote Markt in Antwerp Belgium is not to be missed

Grote Markt town square in Antwerp

 

Day 3: Ghent and Bruges

While some people choose to spend the whole day in each Ghent and Bruges, you can see the very best these cities have to offer in just half a day as well. So if you are short on time, you can visit Ghent and Bruges on the same day. The train between the two towns only takes 35 minutes. Alternatively, you can take an organised day trip from Brussels – they will take you to the most beautiful spots of these two must-see Flemish towns.

I suggest that you go to Ghent first (you’ll see why later). The Dampoort Railway Station is the one closest to the old historic town centre.

Here are the main places not to be missed in Ghent:

  • Gravensteen. The 10th century castle is worth a short visit.
  • Leie river. Take a walk along Graslei and Korenlei and past St Michael’s Bridge. A great way to explore Ghent is by taking a short boat trip.
  • Saint-Bavo’s Cathedral. Inside you can opt to visit the famous Ghent Altarpiece, aka the Mystic Lamb painting.
  • Belfry and Cloth Hall and St. Nicholas Church are also worth a short visit.
Ghent is one of the most beautiful towns of Belgium

Ghent is beautiful in any season

 

Have lunch in Ghent, then head back to the Dampoort Railway Station and take a train to Bruges.

I always advise to visit Bruges towards the evening because it’s crowded with tourists during the day. Bruges is a fairytale-like place, but it’s difficult to truly appreciate it if you have to squeeze your way through the crowds. However, only a very small percentage of tourists actually stay in Bruges, so in the evening the city is completely deserted, and you can have the whole place to yourselves. If you come by train, plan to stay late in the evening and explore the beautiful canals after all the day tourists have left. It’s my very best tip for anyone visiting Bruges for the first time.

Here are the main things to do in Bruges for the first-time visitors:

  • Lake of Love – Minnewater.
  • The old beguinage Ten Wijngaerde.
  • Belfort – you can climb this medieval tower for beautiful views.
  • Market Place – the central town square of Bruges.
  • Burg Square is really beautiful too. Take a narrow passageway left from the City Hall towards the Vismarkt (Fish Market), then go right (South) and follow the canals in the direction of the Church of Our Lady.
  • A real must-do in Bruges is a boat ride on the canals.
  • If you have some time left, you could visit one of the breweries – De Halve Maan brewery or Bourgogne des Flanders brewery.

Have dinner in one of the many restaurants in Bruges and head back to the canals. As I said, it’s a very different atmosphere in the evening.

Bruges - the fairytale-like town in Belgium

Bruges is just magical at night

 

TIP: if you are planning to visit the WWI battlefields (see below), then it’s best to stay in Bruges to avoid driving up and down too much.

Day 4: World War I Battlefields near Ypres

To many, WWI battlefields is the main reason to visit Belgium. But the majority of tourists never even consider it. I have to admit that it took us many years to get there (and we live in Belgium), but it was so worth it! There is so much history in those war cemeteries, fields and trenches! We visited Ypres and the WWI battlefields with our kids and it’s an experience I would recommend to everyone.

Here are the main places not to miss when visiting the WWI battlefields:

  • Ypres: In Flanders Fields Museum and the Menin Gate
  • Tyne Cot Cemetery and Memorial
  • Langemark German War Cemetery
  • Yser Tower – IJzertoren Diksmuide
  • Trench of Death, Diksmuide
  • Essex Farm Cemetery
  • Vladslo German War Cemetery

Some practical tips for visiting the WWI battlefields:

Day trip to Ypres and the World War I Battlefields in Belgium - Tyne Cot

Tyne Cot war cemetery

 

If you only have three or four days in Belgium, then this itinerary is all you need. If you have more time and are looking for ideas on what else to see, check our other blog posts about Belgium for more inspiration.

You could also consider visiting the French-speaking part of Belgium with the beautiful places like Namur, Dinant, Durbuy, etc. And then there are also the WWII memorials like Bastogne.

Winter TIP: If you are visiting Belgium in winter, don’t miss our Christmas markets. Here you can find our selection of the best Christmas markets in Belgium.

Summer TIP for families: If you are visiting Belgium with kids, take them to a theme park. Here you can read about our recommended Belgian theme parks.

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Suggested itinerary for Belgium in three or four days

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Comments

  1. Dear Jurga

    Thank you very much for your clear explanation.

    Have a nice day.

    Flo

  2. Dear Jurga

    Thank you very much for your prompt reply.
    Is it easy to buy train tickets at the station on day of travel from Bruges to Paris ? Do I need to buy the tickets in advance ? Will the train tickets be more expensive if I buy them on the day of travel ?

    Thank you again for your enthusiasm to introduce your country to others.

    Flo

    1. Author

      Hi Flo, yes, you can easily buy tickets at the station. There are tickets machines and bigger stations also have cashiers, although they tend to be quite busy.
      We usually buy our train tickets online. For local rides, you just need to indicate the date on which you’ll travel and then you can take any train that day. So buying online can be a simpler option if you already know which day you go where.
      As far as I know, prices are the same online or at the station, it’s only if you buy it on a train itself that it’s much more expensive. In that case you also need to go and find the conductor before he finds you, or you’ll get a fine for riding without a ticket.

  3. Dear Jurga

    Thank you very much for your invaluable suggestions and insider tips for foreign visitors. Your blog is really helpful, and your photographs are so professional!

    We plan to visit Belgium for 4 days in mid-February. Although it is cold and may be windy and rainy, we have to choose that time because of limitation of our holidays.

    We plan to take the train from Paris and arrive to Brussels in the evening..
    On day 2 we will spend a day in Brussels to visit some of the place you have suggested plus the Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique.
    We will visit Ghent and Bruges on day 3, and
    WWI battlefields near Ypres on day 4 (taking a day trip from Burges).
    On day 5 we have to go back to Paris to take our international flight.

    Please advise:
    1. is our itinerary too tight?
    2. Is it possible to squeeze Antwerp in my itinerary?

    Thank you very much.

    1. Author

      Dear Flo, your itinerary looks very good and perfect for the time that you have. I wouldn’t try to squeeze Antwerp in it, because you’ll just run from one place to the other, whereas now you can really enjoy each town and explore at a more leisurely pace. Sometimes less is more 😉
      Enjoy your trip!

  4. Hi, this is Linda.

    Greetings from Singapore. I am thinking of visiting Belgium with my son (22 years old) from the Wednesday, 26th December to Friday, 28th December 2018. That would be 3 full days but only 2 nights. We can stretch it to 4 days and 3 nights. What kind of itinerary would you suggest us to go to? Moreover, is there some kind of an economical train pass that we can use it for The Netherlands, Praque, and Belgium?

    Thank you so much.

    1. Author

      Hi Linda, my suggested itinerary for 3 or 4 days in Belgium is already in this post – just choose the places that interest you the most.
      In winter, I would definitely visit Christmas markets – every big town in Belgium has one, and almost all of them stay open during the holiday season. Here you can find more information about Christmas markets in Belgium.
      As for the train pass, I can’t help you with that. Here in Belgium we have a 10-ride pass for young people under 26 (it’s called Go Pass), that is quite economical, but for the rest I can’t really help you with this. In general, train travel here in Belgium isn’t very expensive, not like in the UK for example.
      Hope this helps. Have a great trip!

  5. Such a good read. Could you advise me what the best options would be for me. I arrive in Brussels Friday 11th Jan and flight back is Monday evening. Would you suggest staying in Brussels the whole time and do day trips or maybe just 2 nights Brussels and 1 night Bruge and get our flight home from there or do this the other way around?

    Thank you.

    1. Author

      Hi Lynnette, if you don’t want to travel up and down all the time, then yes, staying in Brussels is a good option. You can easily take a train to Bruges, Antwerp, or Ghent. The big advantage of staying in one place is that you can decide which day you go where, depending on the weather. I’d go to Bruges on the day when there is least chance for rain, as you mostly spend your time outdoors there. Whereas in Brussels you can easily hide inside a museum or a shop if it’s really cold and wet.
      PS if it’s of any difference, in Bruges the shops are usually open on Sundays, whereas in Brussels they are normally closed, unless there would be any special sales events that weekend.

  6. Hi! I loved reading your blog on Brussels. My fiance and I are doing little “minimoon” in Brussels / Brugge dec 21-26. We are spending the whole time in Brussels but one night we will spend in Brugge. Can you help me by suggesting which night you think you be best? We are thinking Dec 23 or 24th? Also I know many things are not open around Christmas. Do you you have a list of nice restaurants you think might be open on Christmas? We’d like to make Christmas reservations.
    Thank you so much!

    1. Author

      Hi Daniela, sounds very romantic. Also, 5 days is quite a lot for Brussels, so if you feel like exploring more I really recommend Antwerp, also Ghent, and smaller towns like Mechelen and Leuven (all very easy to reach by train). There will be Christmas markets everywhere.
      It’s hard to say which day is best for Bruges. 24/12 is in general very quiet everywhere in the evening (just as 25/12) as Belgians celebrate Christmas Eve/ Christmas day with their families. I’d look for a hotel with a nice restaurant for that evening, so that you don’t have to wander around the city looking for a place to have dinner, as many places might be closed. If you are looking for something really special, check Duke’s Palace hotel.
      I don’t really have a list of restaurants, no, I’m afraid you’ll have to check them one by one and just contact to see if they are open. It’s best to make dinner reservations in that period indeed, especially if you are interested in any specific restaurants. Why don’t you try looking on TripAdvisor and then just give them a call to confirm? Here’s a great selection of restaurants in Brussels, here you can find restaurant recommendations for Bruges and here is a list of fine-dining restaurants in Antwerp.
      Hope this helps

  7. Dear Jurga,

    Your blog is amazing and very helpful. Thank you so much for all the information you are sharing. We’ll be visiting Belgium next week (on the beginning of November) and we need to decide where to go on Sunday. Bruges or Antwerp? Would be shops open on Sunday? We will visit Ghent on Monday and trying to decide which place on Sunday and Tuesday between Bruges and Antwerp.. Thanks. 🙂

    1. Author

      Hi Maria, sorry for a late reply. I think the shops are open in Bruges every Sunday, and on November 4 they are also open in Antwerp (more info here), so I think both towns will be lively enough to enjoy them. Also, this week is school holiday in Belgium, so lots of people everywhere. Next Monday and Tuesday will be quieter, but also much more traffic jams and commuters. Not sure if it helps you much to decide where to go when, but in general Antwerp will be easier to get to on the weekend than on a weekday (especially if you are driving, as there are major works in the city and the traffic is terrible), so if I were you I’d probably go to Antwerp on Sunday and to Bruges on Tuesday.

  8. Thank you for the post. My wife and I will be taking a short trip to Belgium at the end of November. We have never visited before and have a couple of days planned around Bruges and Ghent. Afterwards we are meeting friends from Bonn and were hoping to find a nice small town in eastern Belgium to “meet in the middle”. Do you have any destinations you would suggest. A beautiful small town with a couple of excellent breweries and a good local restaurant is all we are looking for.

    Thanks

    1. Author

      Hi Keb, I’m not really sure what to suggest as I don’t know what exactly you’re looking for. Somewhat in the middle between Bruges and Bonne you have the place where three countries meet with several nice towns. For example, Hasselt in Belgium, Aachen in Germany, or Maastricht in the Netherlands. My personal favourite from these three is probably Maastricht, but I have no idea about breweries and similar. Hasselt has lots of boutique shopping and dining options as well. But these are all rather small towns that can easily be seen in half a day, so it depends how much time you have.
      If your friends don’t mind coming further into Belgium, I’d recommend to try Antwerp, close to where we live. It’s a beautiful town and has everything: shops, museums, breweries, restaurants, etc. You can read more about it here: Best things to do in Antwerp.
      Hope this helps.

  9. Hi Jurga, Good evening. Thanks for this very informative post. We used to chat in Instagram. Me and wife are planning to visit Belgium from 2nd November to 5th November. Will it be a nice time? Thanks for yor advice..
    Madhu menon
    Instagram: mdhkmr

    1. Author

      Hi Madhu, nice to see you here on the blog as well ;). I can’t say that November is the best time to visit Belgium, not at all because it can be rainy and grey. But we had years when August was worse… 🙂 So you never know – sometimes beginning of November can be really beautiful and sunny… In any case it will be a warm jacket weather and do pack an umbrella.
      I wouldn’t worry about the weather too much though – there are so many restaurants, museums, and shopping centres – plenty of opportunities to escape bad weather if need be.

  10. Hello Jurga!

    Your post about Belgium was very helpful! I am currently planning a trip to visit Belgium during Christmas (12/23 – 12/27). We are planning to stay in Brussels for approx 3-4 days and intending to make day trips to Antwerp and Bruges. We plan to be in Brussels on Christmas Day and perhaps travel to Antwerp or Bruges on Christmas Eve. I will be traveling with my husband and 15 month old daughter. Do you have any recommendations/tips for visiting these three towns during Christmas? Also, is there anything we should consider since we will be traveling with a baby?

    Your feedback would be much appreciated! Thank you!

    1. Author

      Hi Florence, in general many places will be closed early in the afternoon on the 24th and the whole day on Christmas day. You’ll probably find that even some restaurants and Christmas markets will be closed at that time. So just to be on the safe side, maybe make dinner reservations (at your hotel or some restaurant) for those two evenings in advance. For the rest, the cities are always nicely lit, there is usually an ongoing music and light show at the Grand Place in Brussels every evening. Also, the Christmas markets are in general still open even after Christmas.
      As for the baby, you might find it difficult to navigate the busy streets and Christmas markets with a stroller. Many people do that, we did several times as well, just beware that it will be busy. You may also want to pack a rain cover for the stroller and a warm blanket for her.

    2. Hi Jurga,

      My boyfriend has 5 days of work in Eindhoven, Netherlands and since we’ve been there several times, we elected to fly into of Brussels a week in advance (Sept 30th-Oct 6) and see as much of Belgium as possible before he heads to work and I head home. We have 6 full days to spend in Belgium together and all of the towns sound so wonderful, but I don’t want to lug my suitcase to too many hotels. Is it possible to sleep in Brussels each night and do day trips to Bruges, Ghent, Ypres and Antwerp or do you recommend staying overnight in at least one of these towns?

      We also seem to like odd or quirky things, such as a ghost tour to hear the history instead of a traditional day-tour, so any suggestions there would be appreciated. I’m having a hard time putting our itinerary together and wonder if 6 days is too much time to be in Belgium or if it’s just right and will allow us to take it easy as we take in the country.

      Thank you in advance,
      Amanda & Wes

      p.s. I liked your Iceland blog as well, it made me want to go back!

      1. Author

        Hi Amanda, yes, you can easily stay in Brussels and take a train to the other towns. Just in Ypres you can’t see everything if you don’t have a car, because many cemeteries are outside the town. Here you can read more about visiting Ypres and WWI Battlefields. You can also take a tour from Brussels.
        Brussels is also a good place for taking tours, many more options than anywhere else. In addition to ‘regular’ tours, there are tours for beer tasting, waffle baking, etc.
        Nice places to see are the smaller towns like Leuven or Mechelen (both very close to Brussels).
        If you like ghost towns, Doel near Antwerp is an interesting place, but I think you can only get there by car. A really nice place is also Villers La Ville Abbey, also easiest to reach by car.
        Hope this helps. Enjoy your time in Belgium.

  11. Hi Jurga,

    Thanks for posting such great information. Can you tell me what to expect, weather-wise, in October?

    1. Author

      It’s very difficult to say, Maria. A lot depends on the year and obviously beginning of October is very different than the end of the month. Last year we had beautiful autumn weather with lots of sunshine and up to15-18°C even mid October. But often it can be much colder and rainy. Just check the weather forecast the week before your trip and you’ll have a good idea of what to expect.

  12. Hello!! I am going to Belgium next month and your post was really helpfull!
    I have (only) almost 3 days to spend in Belgium and I want to see evereyting!!!
    So, I’ll left here what I am planning for my trip and I want your advice, if possible…

    First day:
    Arriving at Charleroi at lunch; go by train to Leuven and then go to Antwerp.
    At night, go to Brussels

    Second day:
    Brussels all day
    At night: go to Ghent

    Third Day:
    Morning: Ghent
    Afternoon: Bruges
    at night, go to charleroi by train

    What do you think?
    Thank you

    1. Author

      Hi Catarina, honestly I think this is a bit stretched, also because you need to take into account the traveling times between the towns, your flights times, etc.
      1st day – I’d skip Leuven and go straight to Antwerp. There is a much better train connection from Charleroi if you go directly and half a day won’t be too much in Antwerp. I’d also advice to spend the night there. If you really really want to see one more town, then hop off the train in Mechelen. It has a nice centre that can be visited in a short time and it’s on the same train line making it very easy and quick to get to Antwerp afterwards.
      2nd day – Go to Brussels for a day and then go to Bruges in the evening. Spend the night there. Why? Bruges is a typical town where people come for a day, so it’s crowded. But in the evening everyone is gone and you can enjoy the beautiful surroundings without the crowds. If you feel that you didn’t have enough time to see all you wanted, see the rest in the morning of the next day.
      3rd day – See Bruges and go to Ghent. Make sure you get to Charleroi on time – trains can get cancelled, there might be delays, so don’t leave it for the last minute.
      These are just my suggestions, of course. Enjoy your trip!

      1. First of all, thank you so much for you help 🙂
        We are now planning our deslocations between towns, and we realize that we can go by train or bus (flibco/flixbus), the last is the cheapest. Initially we planned to rent a car but after reading your post, we changed our minds.
        What’s the best option in your opinion?

        Thank you

        1. Author

          Hi again, I’d always suggest a train over a bus or a car for visiting cities in Belgium. There are such easy connections between all the main cities, it’s definitely the best option for traveling around in Belgium. Trains don’t stand in traffic jams ;).
          Not sure how old you are, but if you’re under 26, you can get a Go-Pass. It allows you to ride 10 times for just 52 EUR and can be used for several people at the same time. So one journey costs just 5,2 EUR. If you are older, it’s more expensive, but still very affordable and so much easier than a car or a bus.
          I also recommend to stay close to a railway station, so you don’t have to walk around with your bags too far. So for example following the itinerary that I suggested to you, spend 1 night at a hotel Park Inn by Radisson in Antwerp (or check the map on the booking website for alternative hotels nearby). And then 1 night in Bruges. There aren’t many hotels close to the station there, the only one is ibis budget Brugge Centrum Station. But if you don’t have much luggage and don’t mind walking a bit, there are many more options in the centre.
          Hope this helps.

  13. Great review and you have helped me decide on a few places and thrown more into the mix. We are coming second week of September (for 1 week) and bringing our van (which we will sleep in) do you have any recommendations to base ourselves or should we move around to each destination and try and find a new place to stay? Any Aires or campsites you can recommend would be appreciated. Cheers.

    1. Author

      Hi Chris, I’m sorry, but I really know nothing about campsites in Belgium. One thing I know is that traffic is really busy here and parking a big van in the cities will give you headaches. Ideally you should leave it somewhere at a railway station outside any of the big towns and take a train for day trips to any of the towns in Flanders; it will be so much easier.
      It might be nice to base yourself at the coast. Oostende, Blankenberge, Knokke, or De Panne have quite good railway connections and I’m sure there are campsites there.
      Hope this helps a bit.

  14. Hi! I was contemplating coming to Belgium and after reading your post, it’s now a definite yes! Thank you so much for your detailed version of what to do and when best to do things to get the most out of the experience!
    Also, any chance you do couchsurfing!?

    1. Author

      Hi Kirra, glad you found inspiration for your visit to Belgium. Unfortunately no, we don’t do couch-surfing (we live outside of town so it really wouldn’t make sense for anyone), but I’m sure there are many people who do that in the cities.

  15. This is a very well explained itinerary it was very helpful
    I am playing to go there on 1st week of October for 6 days and would be staying in Antwerp n would be doing day trip from there
    Had few questions likes
    Is it advisable to go on a day trip to Paris from antwerp or do you suggest to stay in Paris for a night?

    1. Author

      Hi Prishi, glad you found this itinerary helpful. You’ll love Belgium! And yes, Antwerp is a good place to stay as you can easily do day trips.
      As for Paris, I really don’t know what to tell you. There is a direct Thalys train from Antwerp to Paris and in the best case it will take you 2hrs (has to be booked in advance), so it’s possible to go there for a day. On the other hand, Paris is a big city and there is so much to see, so one (not full) day isn’t really enough. If you just want to see the Eiffel Tower and maybe one or two other places, it’s doable, but I think that indeed you’ll enjoy it more if you spend at least one night in Paris. That being said, we sometimes take a car to Paris (which takes much longer than 2 hrs) for just a day and come back late at night, so who am I to tell you that it can’t be done… 🙂

  16. Jurga,

    your Itinery is very helpful

  17. Planning a 4 day trip to Belgium in August. This posts is great help, I’m very inspired!

    1. Author

      Glad to hear that, Brooke. Enjoy your trip to Belgium and don’t forget to try some of our famous fries with mayo!

  18. Now I have a better idea of what I am expecting from Belgium. I probably plan a trip for the end of August 2018 as a gift to myself for my master program completion.

    1. Author

      Good to hear you found this useful for planning your trip to Belgium. Enjoy it and congratulations on your diploma!

  19. Dear Jurga,

    Love your article -very practical and indeed I could relate in the sense that I have 3 children myself! And yes, am starting to deeply fall in love with Belgium!

    Btw, we would be visiting Begium, for the first time, next week. Kindly recommend what and where to eat popular/traditional Belgian Food. Where to buy popular/traditional chocolates and which brand, but of course wont cost our kidneys :). What/where to buy Belgian items that i could bring back home as a keepsake and to give my friends, too. Fridge magnets, accessories. But those which are not bulky and not pricey, too?

    Thank you and looking forward to your advise..

    Liz xxx

    1. Author

      Hi Lizette, just a short answer as I have to run. You can find Belgian food everywhere. In Brussels one of our favourites for Belgian food is ‘t Kelderke .
      Make sure to try some Belgian fries with mayo when in Belgium – you’ll find little ‘kiosks’ (we call them ‘fritkot’) selling them in every town.
      As for chocolates, you’ll find them everywhere as well. If you like pralines, try Leonidas, Neuhaus, or Godiva – just google it at any location where you are and you’ll see the closest shops. Our kids’ favourite chocolate is Cote d’Or that can be found in any supermarket. They have many flavours, try anything praliné.
      Souvenirs are widely available in all main towns, plenty of choice. Belgium is mostly known for the beer, chocolates, waffles – all make great gifts.
      Have a wonderful time here!

    2. Dear Jurga,

      Spot on! Most helpful, indeed…

      Would definitely follow your itinerary and advise by the dot.

      Thank you and getting ecstatic at this very moment :-0

      Love,Love, Love,
      Lizxxx

  20. Thank you Jurga. Thats so helpful. I’m going to give more consideration to Antwerp and the other places you mention. I have 5 days to fill and basing myself at the Radisson Blu in Brussels to be close to station and go to all these other lovely places seems like a good start.

    I read that Antwerp is great for children so i want to come back and do more trips to these parts. I haven’t been to the region since 2001! Time to start discovering…

  21. Thank you for this insight. I am planning a 40th birthday trip to Belgium at the end of October for 5 days. I am unsure if i should stay in Brussels or Bruges. I plan to day trip to Ghent.

    I am definitely going to the fine art gallery in Brussels. I want to see a classical music concert which I thought Brussels would be best for. I also like the idea of having the benefit of seeing beautiful Bruges in the evenings when its quiet. Im not keen on places stuffed with tourists. Food is another priority and i thought Brussels might be cheaper with more cosmopolitan options. I have been told to stay in Bruges and day trip elsewhere. Would I be best staying in Brussels instead? Thanks if you can reply, you seem pretty clued up!

    1. Author

      At the end of October I think I’d go for Brussels or Antwerp as a base for day trips in Belgium. Many more options in terms of things to do, places to eat, also hotels in all price ranges, etc. Bruges will not be overly busy that time of the year in fact it might feel really deserted. I think in that period I’d suggest to just go there for a day (can even be combined with Ghent in the same day). If you want to stay longer, you can easily do that – there are trains running quite late in the evenings too.
      Antwerp is my personal favourite of the Belgian cities, not just because we live nearby, but because it has better atmosphere and just feels like a better place to hang out. But if you are looking for concerts, Brussels will probably have more options.
      If you have more time, consider a short half day trip to Leuven and/or Mechelen. Both are just 20 min from Brussels by train, less known, but really nice towns with great atmosphere.

  22. Jurga – thank you for these tips. My husband and I are planning a trip for 6 days in November. I know, not the best weather. I’m Thinking Brussels first day we get there, To Bruges in morning, stay there, Ghent the next day, stay there, to Antwerp, stay there and 1 more day in Brussels. All by train. Belgium looks so beautiful. Which is the best city to see bands?

    1. Author

      Hi Mara, yes November isn’t usually the best time to come to Belgium, but you never know… Bring your umbrella, a sweater and a rain coat and you should be fine. There are many museums and other nice places where you can hide from the rain…
      Your itinerary sounds good if you don’t mind changing hotels every night. Alternative would be to stay in just one or two places and do the rest as day trips, but it’s all easily doable either way, so it really depends on your preference.
      I’m not sure if November is such a good time to see the bands. Now in summer we have music festivals all over Belgium. Many cities have street music festivals, etc. You won’t find that much in November I’m afraid. So you’d have to do some more research as to where you can find performances indoors. I’m sure there are always options, but it’s not something I am very familiar with.
      One of the best places to start is probably by checking the websites of official tourism boards of Brussels, Antwerp, Ghent, and Bruges and check the events calendar.
      Enjoy your trip!

  23. Hello I am travelling with my family in July. Please suggest for moving around in Brussels and seeing places is rent a car better. We just have 2 days there.
    We want to see brussles,antwerp, breges.

    1. Author

      Hi Rabia, renting a car for visiting the cities is really not such a good option in Belgium. Traffic here can be really bad, parking is limited and expensive. It is somewhat better in July because it’s holiday, but still, there are many road works planned around Brussels this summer…
      It’s really easy to travel between Brussels, Antwerp, and Bruges by train. I can’t really help you with itinerary, it depends on where you stay, how much time you have exactly (two full days/ three nights or less). I think that Antwerp and Brussels deserve a day. If you still rather go to Bruges, then maybe just Brussels city centre in the morning and then go to Bruges in the late afternoon. Then take the whole day for Antwerp. You can find some suggestions on the best things to see in Antwerp here. I don’t have blog posts published about Bruges or Brussels, but any guidebook will have the main highlights mentioned.

  24. Hello Jurga.
    Being a single active woman (mid-age) can sometimes require a bit of different planning for safety reasons etc- besides the added costs of single supplements. Do you have any thoughts on this?
    My planned trip to Belgium is short since I am adding it on to a Baltic cruise and my itinerary will include Brussels, Bruge&Ghent, Ypres with travel days before and after. Much appreciated Cheryl.

    1. Author

      Hi Cheryl, are you asking me if it’s safe to visit Belgium alone? Of course it is! We live here and it really is a very safe country. I wouldn’t walk around at night in Brussels alone as a woman though, unless in main tourist areas. But even then, it’s not really dangerous, but you may encounter some men with loose tongues. Bruges, Ghent, and Ypres are definitely ok even late at night. Just use regular precautions like you would anywhere else.
      You will love it here and the biggest danger is that you will add a few pounds from all that chocolate and waffles 😉

  25. Thank you for your excellent review of Brussels and the major tourist cities in Flanders. Many English visitors to Belgium do not realise that three languages are spoken there, Flemish in the east and north, French in the south and German in the east, mainly around the towns of Eupen and Malmedy, close to the German border. If you ask for moules marinieres or omelette au jambon avec frites, you get a rude look from the waiter although he knows damn fine that what you want is mosselen or omelet. I found that driving across Brussels, the only way one could tell which language area you were in was to look at the petrol stations, station ouverte meant French and open meant Flemish ( Vlaams). You make no mention of beer which the Belgians exce at brewing. My favourite is Chimay brewed by the local monastery. Regards Keith.

    1. Author

      Thanks for your insights, Keith. Yes, indeed, Belgium is a bit complicated that way. But I can assure you that as a tourist you’ll have less trouble with the different languages than a local. 🙂 Sadly enough it’s often easier to find an English speaking person in Brussels than one who speaks Dutch, let alone German..
      As for the beer, we have so many beers here that it would require quite a few several articles to cover them all… Same with chocolate, tens of kinds of waffles, etc. You can read more about these things here: Fun Belgium Facts You Probably Didn’t Know

  26. Belgium is a simply picturesque country which is definitely worth exploring, Jurga. These are all great suggestions and your post can serve as an ultimate guide for there. When’s the best time fo the year to explore Belgium?

    1. Author

      As I said in my post, any time of the year is good for Belgium. Unfortunately, you can have rain any time too… April-June and September-mid October are my favourite months. It’s usually nice weather and not as many tourists as in summer. Christmas holiday season is always great too because of all the decorations, light shows and Christmas markets… There’s always something happening in the cities here, so I think people will enjoy Belgium in any season, Agness.

  27. I am wrapping up a week in Belgium now and did similar things to this post. Most people didn’t have nice things to say about Brussels, but I love the city. I don’t always do normal tourist stuff, sometimes just like to sit with my laptop in a cafe, or just wander the streets. I loved Antwerp as well, and would love to return and just stay there a few days.

    1. Author

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Leigh. Glad to hear you visited Antwerp as well. As I said, it’s my favourite town in Belgium. Hope you come back to explore more…

  28. Belgium does have so much to offer! My family and I really enjoyed our time there and hope to go back. The people are friendly, helpful, and English is widely spoken. We flew in/out of Brussels, and traveled around Belgium by car and train, both of which were very easy to do. Jurga is right… the distances between various cities and sites are not that far, which is another advantange when traveling with children as we are. Thanks for all your tips, Jurga. We hope to use more of them on a return trip to Belgium. 🙂

    1. Author

      Good to hear that you enjoyed Belgium so much. There’s so much more to see and do here than these few highlights, so if you come back for a repeat visit, let me know and I might give you some more off the beaten path tips.

  29. Hasselt heeft je lijst niet gehaald, Jurga? ? Is onze thuisstad en eigenlijk wel een beetje een off the beaten path bestemming in België hé? ? Wij moeten er dringend ook eens werk maken om ons eigen landje eens fatsoenlijk te ontdekken en te promoten op onze blog!

    1. Author

      I’ll answer in English just in case our readers think we have something to hide, Birthe 🙂 Yes, indeed Hasselt (and also Leuven, Mechelen, etc.) didn’t make my list. All beautiful towns, but as much as I like them all, I honestly don’t think they are the best that Belgium has to offer for the first-time international visitors. Sadly, but most people I meet abroad never even spend 4 days in Belgium and most only know Brussels and Bruges, sometimes Ghent. Even Antwerp is still very much under the radar and most tourists here come from the Netherlands and Germany… Let’s hope that the fact that it’s been selected as one of the Lonely Planet’s Best Cities to visit in 2018 will make people realise that Belgium has so much more to offer.
      That’s also the purpose of this itinerary – to show travellers from all over the world that Belgium deserves more than just one or two days. And once they come and see what an amazing country it is, I am sure they will want to stay longer and come back to visit the hidden gems such as Hasselt. 😉

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