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Belgium Itinerary: How to See the Best of Belgium in 3 or 4 Days

Belgium Itinerary: How to See the Best of Belgium in 3 or 4 Days

Visiting Belgium for the first time and are not sure where to start with planning your trip? Then this post is for you. In this article, we feature a suggested Belgium itinerary that brings you to the most beautiful places in Belgium in three or four days. Read on!

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 traveler!

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 first trip to Belgium.

Even if you are visiting Belgium for just one or two days, you will be able to plan your trip using our tips below. 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 one of the historic war sites in Belgium – either Ypres and WWI battlefields or Bastogne and its WWII museums and monuments.

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!

Good to know: 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
 

Recommended Belgium itinerary:

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 favorite and there are so many more) 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, take a walk in the town center 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 favorite 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 at 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 center of Brussels is used for all kinds of official events and can be visited from the end of July till the 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 in 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 visit 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 center 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.

LEARN MORE: Best Things to Do in Brussels

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 favorites for traditional Belgian food in the center 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.
  • Safety. Brussels is a rather safe city, but – as in any other big city – there are some areas to avoid and simple safety tips to follow. For more information, please check our guide – Is Brussels Safe?

READ ALSO: Brussels Christmas Market & Brussels Flower Carpet

Brussels Grand Place lit during Christmas period
Grand Place during the winter holiday season
 

Day 2: Antwerp

Antwerp is my personal favorite Belgian town. It’s not as big as Brussels, not as touristic as Bruges or Ghent, and therefore has a 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 the 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. Below, you can find a link to our more detailed guide to the best things to do in Antwerp, including a 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
  • Starline Museum

LEARN MORE: Best Things to Do in Antwerp & Antwerp Hidden Gems

Some practical tips for visiting Antwerp:

  • Antwerp is very well located and has excellent connections to Brussels Airport and Brussels city center (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 organized 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 center.

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
 

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

I always advise visiting 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 first-time visitors:

  • Lake of Love – Minnewater.
  • The old beguinage Ten Wijngaerde.
  • Belfort of Bruges – 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.

LEARN MORE: Best Things to Do in Bruges

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.

Bruges - the fairytale-like town in Belgium
Bruges is magical at night
 

Day 4: World War I Battlefields near Ypres

To some people, WWI battlefields are 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 now visited Ypres and the WWI battlefields several times, with our kids, and it’s an experience I would recommend to everyone. Below, you can find a link to a detailed guide for your visit.

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

LEARN MORE: Ypres and the WWI Battlefields

Some practical tips for visiting the WWI battlefields:

TIP: If you are interested in the history of the Second World War, you may want to visit Bastogne town in the French-speaking part of Belgium.

LEARN MORE: Bastogne War Museum & Mardasson Memorial

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 beautiful places like Namur, Dinant, Durbuy, etc. Luxembourg is also just a 2,5 hours drive from Brussels and there are lots of beautiful places to visit near Luxembourg.

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.

Belgium FAQ

Here are some frequently asked questions that our readers ask about visiting Belgium:

How many days do you need in Belgium?

As a minimum, we recommend 3-4 days in Belgium. With 3 days, you can briefly visit the most beautiful cities such as Brussels, Antwerp, Ghent, and Bruges. If you have 4 days, you can also visit some of the famous Belgian war sites.

What is the best time to go to Belgium?

Belgium is a year round destination and because most landmarks are located in the cities, you can visit at any time of the year. For the best weather, come between April and September. In summer, Belgium hosts lots of festivals and events. From mid-November until January, you can visit Belgian Christmas markets.

Where should I stay in Belgium?

Belgium is a small country and it’s possible to stay in one place and see everything. For that, Brussels is probably the best place to stay. Alternatively, Antwerp or Ghent are also well located for exploring the main cities in Belgium. If you decide to stay in Brussels, we recommend staying close to the Central Station. That way, you can easily make day trips to other destinations in Belgium.

Is Belgium worth visiting?

Yes, Belgium is absolutely worth visiting! There is so much history, stunning architecture, and arts. Also Belgian food is worth a trip in itself.

What are the best places to see in Belgium?

The main highlights of Belgium are its cities. Don’t miss Brussels, the canals of Bruges, Antwerp city center, and charming Ghent. If you are interested in war history, Belgium has some interesting war sites, especially around Ypres and Bastogne.

Does it rain a lot in Belgium?

Belgium has a reputation for being a rainy country. However, in recent years, we often have very long periods with no rain at all. While there is always a chance that it will rain in Belgium, you can also have the most beautiful sunny weather during the entire trip. In principle, the driest months in Belgium are between April and September.

READ ALSO: Fun & Interesting Facts About Belgium

 

More tips for visiting Benelux:

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Belgium itinerary
Photo by Rudy Balasko/Shutterstock.com
Plan a perfect trip to Belgium with this itinerary for 3 or 4 days
Photo by Catarina Belova/Shutterstock.com
 
Suggested itinerary for Belgium in three or four days

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Marc

Thursday 30th of September 2021

Hi there. Really cool, informative post. I've thrown in the towel on a visit in 2021. Looking forward to 2022 and possibly getting over. How difficult is it to score a Westvleteren 12 in Brussels or Antwerp? I don't mind making the drive to the Sixtus monastery but...since I can't just drive up to the monastery and pick up a six pack, I was hoping that it's possible to walk into a pub or store and acquire a few bottle there. Thanks in advance.

Marc

Monday 4th of October 2021

@Jurga, Thanks! I really appreciate the detailed reply. I'm from the U.S. by the way and I'll have to check but I believe the U.S. is no longer on the EU's "safe countries" list. Regarding Westvletren...it's one of those "holy grail" beers...at least to geeks over here in North America. And you're right...St. Bernardus, Chimay and Westmalle are all awesome beers and easy to find in the U.S. But hey, if I'm gonna be in Belgium, I figured why not see if I grab a Westy and knock it off the bucket list.

Thanks again!

Jurga

Friday 1st of October 2021

Hi Marc, I'm not sure where you are from, but traveling to/within Belgium is actually quite simple at the moment. From today on, we don't even need face masks at the restaurants and shops anymore here in Flanders, and everything is now open as usual. Anyway, Westvleteren beer is really hard to get unless, indeed, at the abbey itself and you have to reserve it in advance (see their website for all the info). They normally only sell to individuals and nowadays you can also order one crate to get it delivered at home in Belgium. But as a foreigner, you would have to reserve in advance and drive there to pick it up yourself (really hard to time this, not to mention that they also need your car number plate in advance - not easy if you have a rental..). Furthermore, it's a really far trip from any bigger city. But if you go in that direction, you could visit Ypres and the WWI sites nearby. From what I understand, there is also one (just 1) café that is officially allowed to sell Westvleteren beer and that's café 'In de Vrede', which is also located just near the abbey. So either way, you have to go really far for this beer.

In all honesty, I just don't understand all the fuss around it. :) There are so many other similar beers (also made by Trappist monks of other abbeys all over Belgium) that you can easily get in shops and bars, and they are just as special. There are literally hundreds and hundreds of different beers in Belgium and even my husband who's a big fan of Trappist beers has long stopped buying Vestvleteren beer because it's just become so complicated. It would never occur to us to drive 2-3 hours one way just for a few crates of beer. :) But, of course, you have to figure out for yourself if it's worth it just for the experience to say that you've tasted it... Good luck!

Leo

Thursday 21st of January 2021

Hi Jurga, do you know if it's possible to visit Belgium and other countries around it in spring this year?

Jurga

Thursday 21st of January 2021

Hi Leo, it's really hard to say how the situation will evolve. So much depends on the numbers (which are not good in Europe at the moment). But it's even more important when exactly and where you are coming from. If you are traveling from other European countries, then I think the chances are high that it will be possible in late spring. If, however, you are coming from outside of Europe, I wouldn't count on it yet. At the moment (January 2021), restaurants are closed in Belgium and there is a curfew (hours depend on the region). Most museums and shops are open now, but tourism isn't encouraged and there are also restrictions for people who arrive from abroad (obligatory forms to fill in before arrival, tests and quarantine, depending on where you are coming from). We are all hopeful that life gets back to somewhat normal by late spring, but nobody really knows how it will turn out to be.

Darina

Monday 9th of November 2020

Hello, Jurga, I loved your tips! I was in Brussels once but unfortunately, l didn't see Atomium. So thank you for the short guide. Hopefully, next time l will be able to visit all the beautiful places there. By the way, the first time it was a challenge to reach the city from the airport, so maybe if someone will be struggling with a choice: bus or taxi, I wanna recommend ... company. Anyway, thank you again for the article!!

Jurga

Monday 9th of November 2020

Hi Darina, it seems that your comment was meant to promote a company and we don't allow this on our blog, so I deleted the name. Btw, Brussels is extremely easy to reach from the airport by train! It's both cheap and convenient with frequent train rides right to the heart of the city in 17 minutes. Taking a taxi is also ok, depending on where you have to be, but it costs multiple times more than a train and usually takes much longer because of all the traffic jams. As for the bus, there are lots of buses from Brussels Airport to various places. It's not the best way to get to the city as it takes a long time, so I'd only recommend it if your hotel is close to the airport.

Patti

Tuesday 18th of February 2020

Hi Jurga! I’ve enjoyed many of your trip recommendations and reviews and am especially excited about this one. My husband and I are going to Belgium for our 40th anniversary in August 2020! We are spending the first 5 nights in Bruges, and the last 2 in Brussels and will have a car. We will make day trips to Ghent, Ypres, and maybe Dunkirk. I have a few questions: Should we see Antwerp as a day trip from Bruges or on our return to Brussels? Any other day trips? And can you recommend a restaurant in Bruges for our anniversary? Thanks so much and happy travels!

Jurga

Friday 21st of February 2020

Hi Patti, I really have little time now, so just a quick answer. Antwerp is a place where you should best spend the whole day. If you visit it just for a few hours and by car, you'll spend more time getting there and trying to park than sightseeing. Also, traffic in Belgium is really busy, especially around the biggest towns in Flanders so it's much better to visit cities by train. If you have a car, better visit smaller towns and other places that aren't easy to get to by train. As for a restaurant in Bruges, best ask at your hotel. They'll know the best spots. Alternatively, check here on the Visit Bruges website - they have quite some suggestions for really special restaurants. Enjoy your trip!

Mehrnaz

Saturday 18th of January 2020

Hello

thank you for the travel itinerary. it was very useful.

Anant Gaitonde

Friday 21st of February 2020

Thanks for the wonderful itinerary and tips. I and my wife plan a 6 day visit to Belgium in April 2020 and plan to stay 3 days each in Antwerp and Ghent (or Brugge) to cover Brugge, Ghent and Antwerp leisurely and enjoy. We had been to Brussels in 1999 (our first European trip) and had spent two days there. Would you advise a stay in Ghent or Brugge. We decided on Ghent as we will be going to Paris via Brussels.

Jurga

Monday 20th of January 2020

Glad to hear that. Have a great time in Belgium!

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