So you have booked your holiday to Belgium, or you are considering one but don’t know what to expect. Or maybe you are an expat who has just moved to our country, and have no idea what to see or do first? Let us enlighten you!
1. Where is Belgium?
Belgium is a tiny country in the middle of Western Europe. We are surrounded by France, Germany, the Netherlands, Luxemburg (who are even smaller) and – across the Channel – the UK. It’s quite possible you had never heard of Belgium before, but we’re certain you know our capital city, Brussels.
2. Why would I come to Belgium?
We might be small, but rest assured, we have plenty to offer. Belgium is most famous for its chocolate, beer and fries (no, they’re not French).
We have a rich history, our cities are jam-packed with art and heritage, we love cycling and festivals, and you might also know this adventurous reporter called Tintin and his little dog Snowy. Fashion and design fans will also most certainly feel at home here.
And we admit, we don’t have tropical beaches or mountains, but that doesn’t mean our nature won’t surprise you!
3. What is there to see?
The medieval city of Bruges is where most tourists flock to once they’ve set foot on the ground. Its canals and historic centre are picture-perfect, and really, you can’t miss this ‘Venice of the north’ when you’re here.
Another must is our capital, Brussels. It has the most beautiful Grand Place of the country (see the big picture at the top), a little weeing boy called Manneken Pis, 80 museums and the palaces of the royal family. Brussels is also the capital of Europe – as it houses the headquarters of the European Union and of NATO – and the spirit of art nouveau genius Victor Horta is still very much alive.
Personally, we are very big fans of Ghent, not the least because the majority of the This Must Be Belgium team live here. It is as pretty and historic as Bruges, but is much more lively as it is one of the oldest student cities in the country. Ghent has also been dubbed ‘Europe’s Best Kept Secret’, and we can only agree with that title. The stubborn and free-spirit mentality of the Gentenaars also makes this a city like no other.
Antwerp is our fashion and diamond capital, and you will also find some of the most incredible architecture here. Legendary painters as Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony Van Dyck called Antwerp home, and so did the famous fashion designers of the Antwerp Six.
As we are currently in the middle of the centenary of the First World War, we can also recommend the humbling sites in Flanders Fields. We have listed ten places to visit in this article.
And last but not least, the Ardennes. Aaaah, the land of rolling hills, tiny villages, medieval castles and forests as far as your eyes can see. The Ardennes are a very popular holiday destination for Belgians, whether it’s in the summer (to go kayaking) or in the winter (to go skiing when we are lucky enough to have a few flakes of snow).
4. When should I visit Belgium?
Like many other European destinations, spring and summer are the times of the year that Belgium is the most pleasant to visit. That does not mean, however, that you can’t pop around in winter.
From April onwards, the average temperature in the country should be a nice 15 degrees – that’s 59°F for the Americans in the room – and with a bit of luck, it might be sunny! Between June and September, it might even get as warm as 30 degrees (86°F), but those days are quite exceptional. Our winters are usually quite mild, but with a bit of rain.
5. Do I take shorts or an umbrella?
That depends on when you’re planning to visit, but it’s always good to come prepared for all kinds of weather.
If your trip is booked for the summer, bring some shorts, a sundress and a hat, but make sure you also have a warm sweater and a raincoat, just in case. Are you visiting in winter? Do bring a warm coat and warm shoes, but leave the thermal underwear and the skiing goggles at home, you won’t need them.
6. Do I have to take a language class?
Of course not! Hop on the plane/train and get over here. Belgians speak either Dutch, French or German, and most of them a combination of those three. Why that is, we explain right here. But thanks to the subtitles on Belgian TV, we also know an English word or two. So don’t panic, as long as you know a few words in either of these four languages, you’ll be fine!
7. How do I get there?
If you come from outside of Europe, we recommend you book a flight to Brussels Airport (a horse and carriage might take an awfully long time). Europeans can also fly to this airport, but Brussels South Airport in Charleroi is often a slightly cheaper option. Do we have the pleasure to be neighbours? Then hop on a high-speed train (Eurostar, Thalys, ICE, TGV) to Brussels-Midi station. We tell you where to go once you’ve landed/arrived in this article.
Now you are ready to visit Belgium! Have more questions? Ask us here and we’ll make it the topic of our next post! Hope to see you soon!