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Your ultimate Belgium travel guide: The best things to do & see

Aug 30, 2023 by The Go Ahead Tours Team

Considered the unofficial heart of Europe, Belgium is a diverse and artistic country with world-renowned cuisine and beer. Visitors are never at a loss for what to do in Belgium, from enjoying romantic canal cruises to taking breathtaking architecture walks and lively brewery tours.

If you’re wondering how to plan a trip to Belgium, this travel guide will show you the best things to do, see, and eat in the country. Of course, when you join us on one of our guided Belgium tours, we’ll take care of all of the logistics for you—all you need to do is decide whether you want to try the waffles or the chocolate first.

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When to visit

Where to go

What to see

What to eat and drink

What to do

Souvenirs to buy

Packing tips

Currency: The Euro

Language: Belgium has three official languages: French, Dutch (which is known as Flemish in Belgium), and German. Many Belgians also speak some English.

UNESCO-listed sites: Belgium is home to 15 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the Grand-Place of Brussels, the Historic Center of Bruges, and the Flemish béguinages.

The best way to get around: Cities in Belgium are very walkable, and most people drive or take the train between towns. When you join us on one of our Belgium tours, we’ll take you around in the comfort of a private motor coach.

Fun fact: We might call them French fries, but those delicious fried potato sticks were actually invented by the Belgians. The frites, as they call them, are usually served with mayonnaise and are some of the best in the world.

The best time to visit Belgium

We think that the best time to go to Belgium is as soon as possible, but you can certainly plan your tour of the country around the seasons. It experiences four distinct seasons, but on average, temperatures are mild—average lows in the winter are around 32 degrees Fahrenheit, and summer highs average in the high 70s. Below is our list of what to do in Belgium to make the most of each season.

  • Visit in the fall for crisp mornings and changing leaves. There’s truly nothing better than enjoying a hot espresso on a cool morning in Belgium. Somehow, the medieval streets feel even more charming and romantic this time of year. When you visit Belgium in the fall, sit on a cobblestone patio under the copper-hued leaves of trees that arch over a nearby canal and enjoy a quiet moment of relaxation.
  • Visit in the winter for dazzling Christmas markets. Christmas markets are already one of the biggest reasons why you should visit Europe during the holidays, and Belgium boasts some of the best. The market in Brussels is one of the largest in Europe, hosting millions of visitors each year, whereas smaller cities like Ghent hold more intimate, provincial markets. Sip a beer or some mulled wine and munch on a waffle as you peruse stalls overflowing with handmade crafts and traditional gifts.
  • Visit in the spring for lush greenery and fewer crowds. Springtime in Belgium offers the perfect opportunity for a serene stroll through one of the country’s many peaceful parks. With more than 40% of its area occupied by parks, Brussels is one of the greenest capitals in Europe. Take a tranquil walk during your free time to see spring wildflowers in bloom, or head to the Sonian Forest on the southeast edge of the city to really immerse yourself in nature.
  • Visit in the summer for the Flower Carpet and the beaches. Every two years, Brussels’ Grand-Place is carpeted in a mosaic of begonias. Known as the Flower Carpet, the event turns the square into a colorful floral tapestry that’s particularly spectacular when viewed from above. Belgium’s many beaches are also glorious in the summertime. On a free afternoon, take a train to the beach and walk in the sand, then enjoy an ice cream or some fries on the boardwalk.
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What cities to visit in Belgium

From enchanting Bruges to trendy Antwerp, no Belgium travel guide would be complete without a look at the country’s magnetic cities. You can visit all of these places and more when you join us on one of our Belgium tours.

  • Brussels. Belgium’s capital city and the unofficial capital of Europe, Brussels is a multicultural explosion of stunning architecture, grand museums, and refined comfort cuisine. The cosmopolitan city is home to the headquarters of the European Union and is a diverse political and cultural hub. Wandering the city and soaking up its culture are some of the best things to do on a tour of Belgium.
  • Antwerp. This historic port city is a quirky medley of old and new—and whether you’re into art, fashion, food, or history, you’ll find plenty of things to do in Antwerp. Visit it on the A Day in Antwerp excursion on our Amsterdam, Luxembourg & Brussels tour to explore the Rubenshuis, or Rubens House. This museum is housed in the former home and studio of master painter Peter Paul Rubens and is where he created many of his most famous paintings.
  • Bastogne. A charming small town steeped in remembrance, Bastogne is best known for World War II’s Battle of the Bulge. When you join us on our 80th Anniversary of D-Day: American WWII History tour in 2024, you’ll pay a visit to the Bastogne War Museum and the incredibly moving Mardasson Memorial honoring American soldiers who lost their lives in the battle. It’s a must-see European war memorial for any history buff.
  • Bruges. Known as “the Venice of the North,” Bruges has all of the charm and romance of Italy’s famous city, with an added air of mystery. The medieval cobblestone streets boast some of the country’s most beautiful architecture, and the city is laced with winding canals crossed by fairytale stone bridges. Spend some time exploring and getting to know the city like a local—some of our favorite things to do in Bruges are simply wandering the streets and sipping the local beer. “We thoroughly enjoyed spending time in Bruges,” said traveler Karel after returning from our Food & Wine: Beers of Belgium & Germany tour. “It’s so picturesque and easy to get around. We particularly enjoyed visiting the Half Moon Brewery in our free time, and visiting an interesting antique shop/bar with local brews.”
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What to see in Belgium

When you join us on a guided tour of Belgium, we’ll make sure you don’t miss a thing. We’ll show you all the best things to see while giving you ample time to explore on your own. Below are some of our favorite Belgian landmarks.

  • The Grand-Place in Brussels. A UNESCO World Heritage Site and Brussels’ central plaza, the Grand-Place is an exceptional example of Belgian architecture and history. Much of the plaza was destroyed in a bombardment by King Louis XIV, but the Gothic and Baroque buildings were later restored. The square is lined with ornate guild houses, museums, and Brussels’ town hall.
  • Manneken Pis. One of the top attractions in Belgium is also one of the country’s most unusual landmarks. The tiny statue of a little boy urinating into a fountain is the perfect spot for a photo op—especially since the statue is regularly dressed in one of more than a thousand different outfits. The original Manneken Pis statue is more than 400 years old and is housed in Brussels City Museum. The one you’ll find on the street is an exact replica that’s been in place since 1965.
  • Minnewater Lake. The “Lake of Love” is a tranquil interlude from the cobblestone streets and spectacular architecture of Belgium’s cities. Located in southern Bruges, this rectangular lake lies at the center of a lush park. According to legend, if you and your partner walk together across the bridge that traverses the lake, you’ll forever seal your eternal love.
  • The Flemish béguinages in Bruges. The beguines were unmarried and widowed women in the Middle Ages who dedicated their lives to God without taking the formal vows of a nun or sequestering themselves from the world. They founded the béguinages as self-sufficient, enclosed communities where they could live and worship together. Today, the peaceful whitewashed buildings of this UNESCO World Heritage Site are occupied by an order of Benedictine nuns.

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What to eat and drink in Belgium

Want to know one of our top Belgium travel tips? Try as many signature Belgian dishes as possible! The country’s cuisine combines the comfort of German food with the finesse of French cooking—think hearty meals made with refined ingredients. While you’ll find stellar food from all over the world in Belgium’s cosmopolitan cities, there are a few local dishes you probably won’t want to miss. “Who can argue with lots of chocolate and waffles,” said traveler Cheryl after returning from our Amsterdam, Luxembourg & Brussels tour.

  • Gaufres. If you ask a local, they’ll tell you there’s no such thing as a “Belgian waffle.” Instead, they’ll point you in the direction of one of two types of pastries. Gaufres de Liege are small, round or oval-shaped waffles studded with crystalline sugar. In our opinion, they’re the ultimate street food for a day of exploring on a tour of Belgium. Gaufres de Bruxelles are square-shaped and often topped with powdered sugar, whipped cream, and fresh fruit. These are perfect to enjoy in a cafe or on a patio and are closer to what Americans might think of when picturing a Belgian waffle.
  • Moules frites. This famous Belgian meal consists of steamed mussels served with fries—try it at Aux Armes de Bruxelles, a restaurant near the Grand-Place. Want to try something else? Order the tomate aux crevettes. Consisting of a fresh tomato overflowing with tiny shrimp tossed with mayonnaise, lemon juice, and parsley, this seafood dish is popular with the locals.
  • Beer. Belgian beer is some of the most iconic in the world. From lambics like tart gueuzes and cherry kriek to light blonde and dark abbey ales, there are a variety of styles to sample. One thing to note: Many Belgian beers tend to run higher in alcohol, so it’s a good idea to sip slowly.
Indulge in Belgian food

The best things to do in Belgium

Wondering what to do in Belgium? It should come as no surprise that many of the best things to do revolve around the country’s glorious food and architecture. Below are some of our favorite activities to do on a tour of Belgium.

  • Visit a brewery and sample the local beer. One of the most fun things to do in Belgium is to stop by a local brewery and see how the country’s most famous beverage is made. Our Belgium tours will take you to some of the country’s best breweries, while still giving you ample time to visit more on your own.
  • Take a Belgian cooking class. When you join us on our Food & Wine: Beers of Belgium & Germany tour, you’ll have the opportunity to participate in a cooking lesson led by professional chefs in Brussels. You’ll learn to make traditional Belgian dishes while sampling local wine and beer with your fellow travelers. “One of the highlights of the tour is the cooking lesson,” said traveler Frank. “We had a great time preparing the meal we would share, and our instructor made sure we did everything right. The wine was flowing, and we had a great time preparing and eating our meal. … You will love this one!”
  • Cruise the canals of Bruges by boat. Bruges is stunning when explored by land, but it’s downright magical when you view it from the water. When you visit Bruges on tour, hop aboard a canal boat and sail past the city’s medieval streets and secret gardens. Getting to see this effervescent city from a new angle is definitely one of the top things to do in Belgium.
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Souvenirs to buy in Belgium

Want one of our best Belgium travel tips? Bring back a souvenir or two from your tour! If you’re looking for a place to start your souvenir hunt, we recommend the Royal Saint-Hubert Galleries in Brussels. This glass-covered arcade is lined with boutiques, cafes, chocolate shops, and more. Below are some of our favorite gifts to take home from Belgium.

  • Comic books. The birthplace of famous series like The Smurfs and The Adventures of Tintin, the city of Brussels is often known as the “Comic Strip Capital of the World.” When you join us on a tour of the city, you’ll notice colorful comic murals around every corner, as well as dozens of shops dedicated to the art. Pop into a store or the Brussels Comics Art Museum and pick up a book or figurine to take home.
  • Belgian lace. The Belgian art of lacemaking dates back to the 12th century. Over the course of many generations, Belgians have developed several different techniques for weaving delicate patterns, and Belgian lace is among the most intricate in the world. Shops selling lace tablecloths, handkerchiefs, and decorative items can be found throughout Belgium, but we think the best are in Brussels and Bruges.
  • Chocolates. The only problem with buying chocolates as souvenirs from a tour of Belgium is resisting the urge to eat them all before you board your flight back home! Belgian chocolate is world-renowned, and it really is that good. The velvety smooth, rich confections can be found in shops across the country. Pick up a box of truffles, known in Belgium as pralines, to take home for yourself, and another to share. (We love the gorgeously marbled seashells.)

Travel tip: If you join us on the Belgian Chocolate Workshop & Beer Tasting excursion offered on our Amsterdam, Luxembourg & Brussels tour, you’ll have the opportunity to make your own chocolatey souvenirs. “I highly recommend the chocolate workshop,” said traveler Rhonda after taking the tour.

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What to pack for a trip to Belgium

Another essential: a list of what to bring along on your trip. Below are our recommendations for what to pack when you join us on one of our Belgium tours.

  • A lightweight, waterproof jacket. The weather in Belgium is similar to the Pacific Northwest: You probably won’t see a lot of heavy rain, but you might encounter several misty, overcast days. A waterproof jacket that’s light enough to toss in a bag when the sun comes out is a great way to prepare for all weather.
  • A small bag or purse. A small bag will help keep your belongings secure while you travel. It’s also a great place to stash your emergency supply of Belgian chocolates!
  • Stylish sneakers or comfortable leather boots. Many of the streets in Belgium are made of uneven cobblestones, so comfortable footwear is a must. A pair of leather boots will keep your feet happy while fitting in perfectly in fashion-forward Antwerp.
  • Your appetite. One of the best things to do in Belgium is enjoy the incredible food and beer, so come hungry!

Ready to immerse yourself in food and culture? Join us on one of our Belgium tours!

About the author | The Go Ahead Tours Team
We’re a team of passionate travel experts, dedicated to helping people explore the world. From inspiring stories to tips for an amazing trip, the topics we cover are all about getting you out there and making discoveries.

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