6 of the Best Places to Visit in Belgium:
If you’re in Belgium during the spring months (April and May are the best months) – please do yourself a huge favour and make time for a trip to the little town of Halle – because here awaits a true fairy-tale forest! The lush green forest floor is dotted with thousands of bluebells, there are tons of hiking and biking trails and even little benches and gazebos to sit and rest…you will LOVE it here.
Bruges is famous and I haven’t met a single person who didn’t enjoy their visit (with the exception of one very grumpy Colin Farrell in the famous movie “In Bruges”). The iconic bell tower overlooks a beautiful and lively city, the picturesque town markets and iconic Belgian stores and restaurants are all great reasons to visit this adorable city. And who says Venice and Amsterdam are the most iconic canal cities? There is a reason Bruges is considered the “Venice of the North” and if you are able to take a canal tour, you will discover that (and the interesting history of Bruges’ most famous landmarks).
This one will surprise you, I think. Not only is this place half-deserted, but it’s (in my opinion) one of Belgium’s best-kept secrets. This little town has an interesting and controversial history. In the early 2000s, there was a debate about closing the town and demolishing it to expand the harbour to make passage in and out of Antwerp easier and more efficient. So, people slowly vacated the place, until about 20 families remained. These families are quite lucky they stayed because the demolition of this town never happened! They put it off and put it off, and it just never came to be. The abandoned houses have become home to beautiful graffiti and street art (some from famous artists!), but what makes this place really special is that there can be a run down, ink’d up abandoned house right next to a well-kept house with a BMW in the driveway. It’s so interesting to see the ruined houses, taken over by art and nature right next to the houses that are obviously still inhabited. It’s definitely a photographers paradise.
Who doesn’t love jazz music? More importantly, who doesn’t melt when they hear a sweet saxophone solo? Dinant, Belgium is the birthplace of the Saxophone (I bet you didn’t know that!). Adolf Sax lived in this historic town and later went on to invent the saxophone. Dinant showcases that every chance they can; from lively nightclubs that specialise in jazz music to the informational and historic site that was once Adolf’s home (which has now been turned into a saxophone museum).
Dinant is also steeped in a darker war history, and you can learn all about the trials and hardships of the area by visiting the Citadel of Dinant. Climb the 408 steps to the top (or take the train car if you’re feeling lazy!) and take a huge step into the past with their interactive museum, incredible artifacts and stunning views of the city.
Antwerp is often overlooked by Brussels (Belgium’s most infamous and well-known city), and that’s why I decided to focus on it! Brussels is fine, but Antwerp is a really fun place to be! If you’re searching for English speaking restaurants, I’d have to say that Antwerp is the place you’ll find that the easiest (mostly compared to areas like Brussels, where English would be the THIRD language, behind French and Dutch). Antwerp is culturally diverse, beautiful and has an awesome atmosphere. Not to mention the iconic shopping area and the stunning, eye-catching, diamond district.
I myself find Antwerp the easiest to navigate because it’s basically one giant line. Stepping outside the central station, you’re immediately immersed in the diamond district. Just past that are some restaurants and currency exchange places (super helpful!). Walking further down the same street, you’re all of a sudden in the heart of the shopping area. Once you’re done shopping, you’ll notice the street open into a wider area, which is the market square.
Ypres (and the surrounding areas)
Growing up in Canada, I was basically able to recite John McCrae’s infamous “In Flanders Fields” post by the time I was 12. So, being able to actually see Flanders Field’s cemetery (and museum) was incredibly humbling and surreal. There are a bunch of iconic, historic sites around this area. Flanders Fields Museum and Cemetery, Hill 62 (Canada’s memorial), Polygon Wood (New Zealand/Australian memorial), Tynecot Cemetery (Canadian cemetery)…the list goes on.
In some of these places, like Tynecot and Hill 62, you can actually find war artifacts and even see the trenches that still remain. This is such an emotional experience, one that is unique to Belgium – and you definitely want to take advantage of the history here.
Want more Belgium travel tips?
- What to Do When Visiting Brussels in Winter
- What to Do in Bruges in One Day + Map
- Expat Stories: Moving to Belgium for Love
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