Welcome to our ultimate Belgium travel guide. From its rich history and architectural wonders to its delectable cuisine and warm hospitality, Belgium offers a tapestry of experiences for every traveler. In this blog post, we’ll provide essential insights into fast facts, the best time to visit, top attractions, money-saving tips, culinary delights, and meaningful souvenirs.
Fast Facts About Belgium
- Climate: Belgium experiences a temperate maritime climate, characterized by mild summers and cool winters. Average temperatures range from 3°C to 23°C (37°F to 73°F) throughout the year.
- Local Currency: The official currency of Belgium is the Euro (EUR). ATMs are widely available, and credit cards are widely accepted in major cities and tourist areas.
- Power Voltage: The standard voltage in Belgium is 230V, and the power sockets typically fit plugs with two round pins. Bring a universal adapter if your devices use a different plug type.
- Language: Belgium has three official languages: Dutch, French, and German. In Brussels, you’ll find a mix of all three, but English is commonly spoken in tourist areas.
- Religion: The majority of Belgians are Roman Catholic, and the country is known for its impressive cathedrals and religious heritage. However, Belgium is known for its religious tolerance.
- Safety: Belgium is considered a safe country for travelers. However, exercise usual caution, especially in crowded tourist areas and public transportation.
- Cultural Etiquette: Belgians value politeness and respect. Greet people with a handshake, and it’s customary to use “Bonjour” or “Goedendag” in Dutch-speaking regions and “Bonjour” in French-speaking regions.
- Tipping: Tipping in Belgium is not obligatory but appreciated for good service. Leaving a 10% tip in restaurants and rounding up the bill for services like taxis is customary.
Best Time to Visit Belgium: Seasons and Festivals
- Spring (March to May): Spring is a wonderful time to visit Belgium, with blooming flowers and pleasant weather. Be sure to visit the Royal Greenhouses of Laeken, usually open to the public in April and May.
- Summer (June to August): Summer is the peak tourist season in Belgium, offering various festivals and outdoor events. The Gentse Feesten in July and the Brussels Summer Festival in August are highlights.
- Autumn (September to November): Fall brings beautiful foliage and milder weather. The Knokke-Heist International Fireworks Festival takes place in August and September.
- Winter (December to February): Winter in Belgium is magical, with Christmas markets and festivities. The famous Brussels Christmas Market usually opens in late November.
- Carnival of Binche (February): Witness the vibrant and UNESCO-listed Carnival of Binche, an iconic event with colorful parades and traditional Gilles costumes.
- Tomorrowland (July): Dance music enthusiasts shouldn’t miss Tomorrowland, one of the world’s biggest electronic dance music festivals held in Boom, Belgium.
Top Attractions and Things to See and Do in Belgium
- Grand Place (Grote Markt), Brussels: Marvel at the architectural beauty of the Grand Place, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, surrounded by opulent guildhalls and the iconic Town Hall.
- Bruges’ Historic Center: Step into a fairytale in Bruges, a medieval city with cobblestone streets, charming canals, and well-preserved historic buildings.
- Atomium, Brussels: Visit the futuristic Atomium, a unique structure representing an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times, offering panoramic views of the city.
- Ghent’s Gravensteen Castle: Explore the imposing Gravensteen Castle in Ghent, a medieval fortress with an intriguing history and stunning city views from its ramparts.
- Antwerp’s Cathedral of Our Lady: Admire the splendor of Antwerp’s Cathedral of Our Lady, showcasing stunning architecture and housing masterpieces by Rubens.
- The Belgian Chocolate Experience: Indulge in the world of Belgian chocolate with tasting tours, workshops, and visits to renowned chocolatiers.
- Ardennes Region: Discover the picturesque Ardennes, a region of rolling hills, dense forests, and charming villages, perfect for hiking, cycling, and outdoor adventures.
- Belfry of Bruges: Climb the Belfry of Bruges for panoramic views of the city and to hear the melodious bells that inspired the movie “In Bruges.”
The Best Ways To Get Around Belgium
- Train Travel: Belgium has an excellent rail network connecting major cities and towns, offering efficient and comfortable transportation.
- Brussels Metro: Navigate Brussels easily with the city’s metro system, covering the main areas and tourist attractions.
- Trams and Buses: Trams and buses are convenient for getting around cities like Ghent and Antwerp, providing access to various neighborhoods and landmarks.
- Car Rental: Renting a car is ideal for exploring the countryside and smaller towns, providing flexibility and independence in your itinerary.
- Biking: Embrace the bicycle-friendly culture of Belgium by renting a bike to explore cities and scenic routes, enjoying a leisurely and eco-friendly experience.
Accommodation Tips: Belgium
- Hotel Options: Belgium offers a wide range of accommodation, from luxurious hotels to budget-friendly hostels. Research and read reviews to find the best fit for your preferences and budget.
- Bed and Breakfasts (B&Bs): Experience Belgian hospitality by staying in charming B&Bs, often run by friendly hosts who can provide local insights and tips.
- Agritourism and Farmstays: Embrace the countryside charm with agritourism and farmstay accommodations, offering a unique experience away from the city.
- Hostels: For budget-conscious travelers, hostels are a great option, especially for solo travelers or those seeking a social atmosphere.
- Booking in Advance: During peak tourist seasons, it’s advisable to book accommodation in advance to secure your preferred stay and avoid last-minute inconveniences.
- Safety Considerations: Belgium is generally safe, but it’s essential to exercise standard precautions and choose reputable accommodations.
- Hotel Locations: Consider staying in central areas to be close to major attractions and public transportation, providing easy access to explore the city.
- Eco-Friendly Options: Look for eco-friendly accommodations that promote sustainable practices, reducing your carbon footprint while traveling.
Belgium Travel Guide: Money-Saving Tips
- City Tourist Cards: Invest in city tourist cards that offer discounts on attractions, transportation, and dining. These cards often provide excellent value for money.
- Free Attractions: Take advantage of Belgium’s many free attractions, such as exploring public parks, historical sites, and vibrant city squares.
- Picnics and Street Food: Save on meals by enjoying picnics in parks or trying delicious street food, like waffles and frites, from local vendors.
- Happy Hour Deals: Enjoy drinks during happy hours when many bars and cafes offer discounts on beverages.
- Discounted Train Tickets: If you plan to travel between cities, consider purchasing discounted train tickets in advance for substantial savings.
- Student and Youth Discounts: If you’re a student or a young traveler, check for discounts at museums, attractions, and transportation options.
- Timing for Flights: If flying to Belgium, be flexible with your travel dates and book flights during off-peak times to find better deals.
- Tap Water: Save on bottled water expenses by opting for tap water, which is safe and readily available throughout the country.
Culinary Delights and Traditional Cuisine in Belgium
- Moules-frites: Indulge in moules-frites, a Belgian classic of succulent mussels cooked in flavorful broth and served with crispy fries.
- Belgian Waffles: Treat yourself to authentic Belgian waffles, served with a variety of toppings like fresh fruits, whipped cream, or warm chocolate.
- Beer: Sample Belgium’s world-renowned beer, with over 1,500 unique varieties to choose from, each offering distinct flavors and aromas.
- Chocolates: Experience the divine taste of Belgian chocolates, crafted with expertise and tradition, making them a delightful souvenir too.
- Stoemp: Try stoemp, a comforting dish of mashed potatoes mixed with vegetables like carrots or leeks, often served with sausages.
Souvenir Ideas: Bringing a Piece of Belgium Home
- Chocolates and Pralines: Bring home a box of delectable Belgian chocolates and pralines from renowned chocolatiers as a sweet reminder of your trip.
- Beer and Glassware: Purchase a variety of Belgian beers or beer glassware, such as tulip or chalice glasses, to enjoy a taste of Belgium back home.
- Lace Products: Consider buying delicate lace products, such as lace tablecloths, handkerchiefs, or lace-trimmed clothing, reflecting Belgium’s lace-making heritage.
- Artisanal Crafts: Support local artisans and shop for handmade crafts like ceramics, wooden figurines, or leather goods, displaying Belgium’s craftsmanship.
- Comic Books: Belgium is famous for its comic book culture. Pick up iconic comic books or graphic novels as unique souvenirs.