Tips for Traveling to Belgium

Although Belgium is still often skipped by visitors to Western Europe, the country is in fact slowly becoming a bigger tourist destination. It is a pity that Belgium is sometimes regarded as a crossroads or passing-through country, because there is so much to see and do. People who are actually traveling to Belgium and take their time to stay in Belgium for a while are often surprised by the number of activities and sights on offer.

There is enough to see and do in Belgium to keep visitors occupied for years.

Belgium Travel Tips: View from St Michaels Bridge to St Nicholas Church and the Belfort Tower on the far right
View from St Michaels Bridge to St Nicholas Church and the Belfort Tower on the far right

It’s probably good to know that I’m writing this as a Belgian. I’d like to promote my country a little bit, because I truly think it’s too bad that not more people visit. So, allow me to show you a few Belgium travel tips.

Belgium Travel Tips

Essentials

There are three official languages in Belgium. And no, French is not the main one. 6.5 million people speak Dutch (Flemish); 3.5 million speak French and a tiny minority speaks German. Belgium is an incredibly complex country and it’s not even worth trying to explain the political and governmental system. Let me just say that at the moment there are two kings, three queens, seven governments, three separate communities (Flemish, French-speaking and German-speaking) and three separate regions (Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels-Capital). That’s the boring stuff, but still kind of good to know.

Food

Belgium’s main export products are food. Everyone knows about Belgian waffles, Belgian chocolate and Belgian beers. A little less-known is that Belgium is the actual place where ‘French’ fries were invented. Bruges even has a fries museum. Another fun fact is that Belgium even has its own fast food chain, called Quick.

Belgium Travel Tips: Belgian Waffle
Belgian Waffle

Located on the border between southern and northern Europe, Belgian cuisine and mentality is a fun mix of the luxurious abundance of France and the Roman countries and the more sober and to-the-point view on things of the northern European countries.

There are more than one thousand different Belgian beers. It’s fair to say that Belgium is the world’s beer capital.

Belgium Travel Tips: Belgian Beer
Belgian Beer

History

While the country itself didn’t appear on maps until 1830, most of its cities are much, much older. The oldest towns date back to Roman times and the larger cities all used to be major trading cities in the Middle Ages. Ghent, for example, was the second-largest city north of the Alps for a while. Bruges and Antwerp used to be two of Europe’s major ports and both had an office of the Hanseatic League.

Belgium Travel Tips: Flanders Fields
Poppies in Flanders Fields

The region of present-day Belgium has always been a preferred battlefield of the large European powers. Waterloo is where Napoleon Bonaparte was defeated by the Duke of Wellington; Ypres and Flanders Fields were on the frontline during World War 1; and Bastogne is famous for the Battle of the Bulge in the Second World War.

Sights and Activities

Listing all of Belgium’s fascinating sights and activities would take an entire blog post, so let me just share some for now.

Grand Place in Brussels, town center of Bruges, diamond shops in Antwerp, battlefields in Flanders and Wallonia, castles in the Ardennes Forest, beers in brown cafés and hundreds of summer music festivals.

Belgium Travel Tips: Grand Place in Brussels
Grand Place in Brussels

I hope my Belgium travel tips will encourage you to explore my country next time. Do you have other tips to share?

About Bram

Website: http://www.travel-experience-live.com

Bram is a Belgian guy who's currently living in the USA. For over four years now, he has been wandering the globe, with jobs here and there in between. So far, his travels have taken him to four continents and twenty-two countries. Bram likes to try different styles of travelling: from backpacker and adventurer to tourist and local, he has been all those stereotypes and probably will be many more in the future. You can follow his adventures on his travel blog, on Twitter and on Facebook.

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