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