Belgium is one of the most interesting countries when it comes to Europe. The country where the fries were invented, country of the Smurfs and Tintin (for everybody not knowing: famous comics ;)), home to to best waffles and chocolate in the world, and much more! Last spring I went to Belgium and (re)discovered all of this. In the following I want to give you tips and suggestions what to see and visit when your are in Belgium! Venez avec moi and Kom met mij mee! (Quick fun fact at the beginning: French and Flemish are both the official languages of Belgium). 🤓
How to get there?
The most relaxing (and nowadays most importantly) most eco-friendly way of traveling to Belgium from Germany is by train. As Thalys, a private train company from Belgium, has a direct route from Cologne to Brussels, we were very honoured to be travelling first class and enjoy a delicious meal on board, since we were traveling during lunch time. The journey from Cologne to Brussels Midi doesn’t even take you 2 hours which is really convenient! And the seats are really comfy hehe 😜
Arrived in Brussels Midi, the biggest and most important train station in town, we took the metro (underground) to get to our hotel, the Radisson RED Brussels, in the European Quarter. The underground network in Brussels is not that big but sufficient for the city! There are 6 metro lines bringing you from one place to another in the city, I really recommend taking the metro, it was clean and fast! We had a 72h ticket for bus, tram and metro and it only costs 18,00€. Thank you to VisitBrussels to have sponsored it us!
Where to stay?
We stayed at the Radisson RED Brussels for the two first nights. The hotel is located only a few steps away from the European Parliament and Brussels Luxembourg Station. As the name says it, the design of the rooms is red and white but still quite minimal, which I like a lot. The breakfast buffet was perfect as well! The category of the hotel is four stars.
Radisson Red Brussels, Rue d’Idalie 35, 1050 Brussels
🚍 LUXEMBOURG lines 34, 38, 71, 80, 95
🚇 TRÔNE lines 2 & 6
🚈 LUXEMBOURG STATION regional trains
What to visit?
Brussels is full of beautiful sites to visit! Here are my favorite places I visited during my time in Brussels:
For me it is one of the most beautiful squares in entire Europe. It is surrounded by beautiful houses decorated with golden details and much more. Did you know that this square is part of the UNESCO World Heritage since 1988? In my opinion, truly deserved! Come here in the morning if you don’t want to have a crowd in your photos. And if the weather is nice, you can play with the light at sunrise. 🤗
In the middle of the square on one side: the City Hall. It reminds me a bit of the ones that you can find in Vienna or Munich. Daniel and I even got the chance to visit from the inside. We had a guide who showed us around different offices and halls. Unfortunately this part of the City Hall is not open for public. But you can sneak in here through my photos. 😉
HOW TO GET THERE?
🚃 Bourse/Beurs (tram lines 3, 4, 42)
🚇 De Brouckère (metro lines 1 & 5 ) > 5 min by foot (400m)
🚍 Grand-Place/Grote Markt (lines 33, 48, 95)
GALERIES ROYALES SAINT-HUBERT/SINT-HUBERTUSGALERIJ
If you follow me on Instagram, you will surely know that I LOVE galleries! 😍 This one, actually these ones, got my heart immediately. They are called the King’s gallery and the Queen’s gallery. On the photo you can see the Queen’s one. In these galleries you can find shops like chocolate shops or jewelry shops, cafés and restaurants. It is ALWAYS open, so 24/7! 😄 Together with the Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele II in Milan, Italy and the Passage (Пассаж) in Saint-Petersburg, it is one of the galleries which was taken as a model for future galleries. By the way, of all these three, the one in Brussels is the oldest! It was opened back in 1847!
HOW TO GET THERE?
Actually, it is only a one minute walk from the Grand-Place/Grote Markt! So, you can use the stations I listed above, but these connections are possible as well (the only change are the bus lines):
🚃 Bourse/Beurs (tram lines 3, 4, 42) > 3 min by foot (280m)
🚇 De Brouckère (metro lines 1 & 5 ) > 2 min by foot (130m)
🚍 Arenberg (lines 26, 66, 71)
Go there in the evening or in the morning if you don’t want to have dozens of tourists you. 😉
One of the best places to shoot views from the city centre from above is definitely Mont des Arts! It is located very close to Grand-Place and the Royal Galleries. Come here at sunset to shoot the city in a fantastic light! You can even spot the Basilica of the Sacred Heart behind the tower of the City Hall 😄. It is also very close to the Central Train Station of Brussels (not Brussels Midi!!!). So if you only have like 40-50 minutes to change, why don’t you check out this view?
HOW TO GET THERE?
🚃 Royale/Koning (tram lines 92 & 93) > located at the top, from there you can walk down 😊
🚇 Gare Centrale (metro lines 1 & 5 ) > 3 min by foot (250m)
🚍 Bibliotheek (lines 33, 48, 95)
WHAT IS CLOSE TO THIS PLACE?
ROYAL PALACE (PALAIS DE BRUXELLES)
When you are at the top of Mont des Arts, you can just walk a few meters more up and then you will soon the Royal Palace where the Belgian Royal family lives. The current King of the Belgians is Philippe (since 2013). Did you know that the front of the Royal Palace in Brussels is longer than the one of Buckingham Palace in London? 😛
CATHEDRAL OF ST. MICHAEL AND ST. GUDULA
If you are into churches, you need to visit this one. It’s a cathedral since 1962 and it since then a co-cathedral in Brussels. Yes, things like these exist 😅. I have also been to another co-cathedral, to the one Valletta, Malta. But that’s a different story. 😉
PALAIS DE JUSTICE/JUSTITIEPALEIS
This may be the most impressive in Brussels. The Palace of Justice is a massive building, not very far from Mont des Arts. It is told that the renovation of the whole monument will only be finished in 2040!!! This is in more than twenty years… 👀 There is a middle part which is not completely inside but not outside either, which is perfect for Instagram photos 🤗. It is the biggest Palace of Justice in the world!
HOW TO GET THERE?
🚃 Poelaert (tram lines 92 & 93) // Louise (tram lines 8, 92, 93, 97)
🚇 Louise (metro lines 2 & 6 )
🚍 Poelaert (line 33)
Around 30km from Brussels is located the town of Leuven (Louvain). We took the train from Brussels Central and the train ride was not even about 30 minutes with the IC. Leuven is in the Flemish part of Belgium, so different as in Brussels, which is bilingual, people in Leuven only talk Flemish, which can be considered as a Dutch dialect. Leuven is actually quite big. It has more than 1oo,000 inhabitants. 🤓 We decided to visit on our road trip through Belgium because we heard a lot of positive opinions about the city and the architecture is really typical for Flanders, so definitely a MUST SEE! 😊 The place I liked best was the Town Hall with its many many details, a perfect example of Gothic architecture in Flanders.
🚄 Train-Station: LEUVEN Time to Brussels: 27 minutes (IC)
Welcome to the Venice of the North, or at least one of them 😛. As you know cities like Amsterdam or Saint-Petersburg are also called as „Venice of the North“, but Bruges really is one. From Brussels by train you can reach Bruges within an hour. So can easily think of a day trip to Bruges as we did it! 🤗 You have canals everywhere, you have cute houses everywhere, we had good weather, what do you want more?! 😅 Here are some places in Bruges I really liked! Just click on the names to see the location on Google Maps.
🚄 Train-Station: BRUGGE Time to Brussels: 65 minutes (IC)
As we combined Bruges and Ghent in a day trip from our „base“ Brussels, we didn’t have much time in both cities. However we managed to see some parts of Ghent as well! Here are the places we visited in Ghent, one of the biggest cities in Belgium.
FRIES, FRIES AND EVEN MORE FRIES!
I didn’t count how many times I ate fries in Belgium (the best in the world!) but too much I suppose 😂 But it is so handy! Everywhere you look in Belgian cities there is ALWAYS a Friterie or Frituur 🍟 Did you know why fries were invented? So, the Belgians invented the „French Fries“ , how obvious haha! As Belgium is located near the North Sea and there are many rivers people used to eat much fried fish back in the 1600s. Though in winter, as the rivers were frozen, the Belgians had a genius idea and took potatoes as a substitute! Since then you can eat fries all year long, not only in winter 😛. On the left you can see a typical portion of fries sold in a friterie. In the back you can see Gravensteen, an old castle from the 10th century.
Ghent is known for its channels as well as Bruges. It’s the second largest city in Flanders and it is also a university city, over 25 % of the inhabitants in Ghent are students. 📚 We only spend two hours in Ghent but I can really recommend to walk around Sint-Niklaaskerk, Ghent’s most famous church, because there is the channel to walk along etc. Really nice atmosphere! 😊
🚄 Train-Station: GENT SINT-PIETERS Time to Brussels: 30 minutes (IC)
Yes, I think we had the same reaction. As we arrived to our last stop on our road trip with the SNCB at Antwerp Central we were so impressed by this beautiful and breathtaking building which a train station! I don’t even want to compare it to the train station of my hometown (because it is really ugly haha). But this is a great start to start visiting Antwerp, the second biggest city (population) in Belgium! Thank you to VisitAntwerp for organizing this stop of our trip! Please let me show you around in Antwerp ☺️
GROTE MARKT & CITY CENTRE
I love these big central squares in Belgium, typically there are called Grote Markt or Grand-Place. The thing that I like about the one in Antwerp are these façades who are all the same but yet different! ☺️ These houses are also typical for Flemish architecture which can be found all over Belgium and also in the North of France, which also once was Flemish. 🤓 Do you know the French name for Antwerp? It’s ANVERS. But French is apparently not so important in Flanders. Even when you watch TV in Belgium, the Flemish programme is Flemish Television and the one in French names itself Belgian Television. There is no real unity between these two parts of Belgium (Wallonia and Flanders). But not only can you find beautiful façades in Grote Markt but also Handschoenmarkt, which you can see here on the right. From there you can go for walk through the entire city centre.
HOW TO GET THERE?
🚃 Groenplaats (tram line 4) –> In Antwerp the tram does also go underground!
🚍 Groenplaats (lines 22, 180, 181, 182, 183)
Next up is a museum, but not only. You can go up to the top for a panoramic view over the city. To the south you see the city centre with the Cathedral (Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal), to the west you see the river Schelde and you can even spot the Loodsgebouw, to the north you can spot the harbour and to the east you can see Antwerpen-Noord.
HOW TO GET THERE?
🚃 MAS (tram lines 7 & 70)
🚍 Van Schoonbekeplein (line 17)
OPENING HOURS OF THE MUSEUM AAN DE STROM
Monday closed, every other day of the week: 10:00-17:00
Hanzestedenplaats 1, 2000 Antwerpen
PORT AUTHORITY & STREET ART
This building is simply impressive. It’s the Port Authority Building in the north of Antwerp. It is a Neo-futurist architectural masterpiece designed by the one and only Zaha Hadid. Very nice place for photographers who are into architecture! I love the combination of old and modern! Just have a closer look!
When you continue walking around you will see some street art in this area. Here are some of the works I found.
HOW TO GET THERE?
🚍 Royerssluis (lines 763 & 764)
🚄 Train-Station: ANTWERPEN CENTRAAL Time to Brussels: 70 minutes (IC)
HOW TO TAKE THE TRAIN IN BELGIUM
Thanks to SNCB we had the chance to use the GoUnlimited Pass. During school holidays for people under 26, the SNCB proposes a pass that allows you to travel with ANY train of the SNCB in Belgium. This was so amazing for us because like that we could easily jump on a train to discover different cities in Belgium. It only costs 15€ for one week (all school holidays) and 25€ for an entire month (only summer holidays). Click on this link to get more information! Really recommend it!
DISCLAIMER: Thank you to all my partners who made this trip possible. For transparency, here’s a list of all organizations and hotels who provided me help during my trip in Belgium. I got sponsored, but didn’t receive any money.