A Whirlwind Trip Around Belgium

For the month of April, the new country that I chose to visit was Belgium. Looking back at my photos, it’s hard to tell whether or not it was a good trip, but I’ll tell you here and now, it was an excellent trip!

Whenever I told colleagues and friends that I was going to Belgium, the reply was always the same — “oh, you’re going to love it, the beer will f**k you up and the chocolate, try the chocolate.” Before visiting, I thought, what’s so special about the chocolate? Switzerland’s got great chocolate, too. But after visiting Belgium, I now understand, yes, the chocolate. You must try the chocolate.

Our trip to Belgium was a fast one. I will say that some locals in Belgium were shocked (maybe offended) by how fast I had planned to travel around. Brussels. Antwerp. Bruges. Ghent. My plan was to visit 4 cities in roughly 2 “full” days. Brilliant plan, really. Unfortunately, the weather during a majority of the trip was not so brilliant.

We arrived at Brussels early in the morning on Saturday, April 27th.

The first thing I noticed upon landing at BRU airport was the beer. There were loads of beers on tap and even beer being brewed right inside of the airport. Erick was super bummed out seeing all the beer because he knew that he wouldn’t be able to enjoy it — he was sick! He had an ongoing cold that ended up lasting well over a month (maybe almost 2 months). So bad. We’ll have to go back to Belgium again so that he can enjoy all the beer again.

Besides the beer (or maybe because of the beer), Brussels seemed to be a popular city for bachelor and bachelorette parties. I saw many groups in themed apparel, with the bride or groom often times blindfolded. When I see these sorts of parties, I know that the city is going to be a great place to visit. It usually means that it’s affordable, has good food, lots of drinks, and things to see and do.

So with that, we took a train from the airport directly to Bruxelles Central station. There were lots of things I had marked on my map, like museums, breweries, comic book stores… we didn’t do any of it. Instead we just wandered around downtown.

What I noticed while walking around the indoor shopping areas is that the architecture feels very similar to a lot of other places in Europe, like Paris or Milan. I’m realizing the more I travel that there are a whole lotta similarities between countries and that there’s a lot of blending between them.

But what I found astonishing in Brussels was the number of chocolate shops. There were literally chocolate shops lined up next to each other. Blocks of chocolate shops. How do they stay in business and how do you know which one to pick? Competition must be tough! They all looked (and tasted) amazing!

For lunch we ended up eating at Bia Mara. It’s basically a sustainable fish and chips restaurant. The food was nothing special.

After lunch, we continued along our way and ended up at the Grand-Place market square. Below is a photo of the Brussels Town Hall, which was located at the market square. I do enjoy myself some gothic style architecture.

As we continued on our way, we saw a ton of other food places that looked much better than what we had for lunch. Sometimes you just can’t eat everything, oh well.

We did manage to squeeze in a flight of beers however. The bar that we were at was nearby Manneken Pis, the little boy statue that is peeing into a fountain. I actually had no clue what this was until I saw the boy statue. Also up until then, I didn’t understand why there were so many penis shaped foods in the area. It was all because of the statue! Apparently the government keeps this boy dressed in different outfits, too. We were lucky enough to have passed by just as they were doing a very official outfit change with a proper curtain and everything. Really and weird but fun sight to see.

From Brussels we made our way over to Antwerp. The most beautiful part about Antwerp was really just the Antwerpen-Centraal station. It’s probably one of the most beautiful stations I’ve ever seen.

Even the outside of the station is quite spectacular! The rest of Antwerp is nice, but nothing that really stood out to me. It just seemed like a nice city to stay at for food and shopping.

Leaving the station, we walked directly to our hotel. Often times, I forget what kind of accomodation I’ve booked since I typically plan our trips well in advance. This time around, I booked a stay at an old museum, right next to the Cathedral of Our Lady Antwerp. Actually, a lot of the building we lived in looks to be part of the cathedral. Inside of our room were marvelous murals that were both super cool and creepy at the same time. I loved the location of our place, as well as the uniqueness of it. I’d definitely recommend it.

We spent the remainder of our day in Antwerp simply walking around, getting caught in the rain, shopping at recreational outdoor stores, a botanical garden (Plantentuin), and finished off with some dinner at Wagamama (which at the time I didn’t realize was a chain restaurant, not a very good one either). The weather wasn’t too favorable the rest of the evening, so we decided to call it a night and relax in our bed with a good book.

 


The next morning, we woke up bright and early. We caught the next train back through Brussels and all the way down to Burges. We really went an inefficient way by train, but it’s okay because it all worked out in the end.

It took longer than expected to get to Bruges. We got there almost at noon time. Guess we didn’t wake up as early as we had thought! From the station, we walked alongside the water. It was a lovely stroll, but by then, we had already spent so much of the day traveling to Bruges that it was a little difficult to just start “enjoying the scenery.”

The first stop that we made was at Ten Wijngaerde, an active community where nuns live. It’s more interesting to see than I had expected. You know exactly when you’ve crossed into the complex because there are clear signs that communicate the rules of entry. You must be quiet and not take photos for commercial use.

At this women’s only complex, there was also a church that we went inside. We saw the nuns going about their day, cleaning, and ringing the church bells. This place really was quite peaceful to be at.

Just outside of the complex after crossing over another bridge, we enter into the beginnings of the city’s pedestrian areas. Well, nearly pedestrian, as there were still horse drawn carriages roaming around the cobbled streets.

For lunch we stopped at the nearby brewery, Huisbrouwerij De Halve Maan. There we had some pretty strong beers, steak, fries, and stew. It was quite a delightful meal with great ambiance. We didn’t partake in the brewery tour, but that looked fun as well. I would definitely be open to going back one day.

After lunch, we continued to stroll around through town, walking without much of a plan besides to get to the other side of town. Along the way, we happened to pass The Old Chocolate House. It turned out to be a famous shop with a little tea room on the second floor. The seating is limited, but it’s really worth checking out if you get the chance.

They serve all sorts of chocolate dishes and drinks like I’ve never seen before. I got one of their hot chocolates, which is literally just a bowl of hot milk with a cup made of chocolate and filled with chocolate chip discs. What you do is drop the chocolate bowl into the milk, let it dissolve, and mix away! You can pick what grade of chocolate you want, or even get some of their more fancier hot chocolate concoctions. This is a must try!

By now, I think both Erick and myself have consumed too much in the past 2 hours. Before letting the food coma induce us, we continued on to walk off all the sweets.

Our day in Bruges ended at Jan Van Eyck Square. This was a really nice spot to just sit and enjoy the views for a bit. We passed by a lot of other very interesting areas around Bruges, but most of those places are the kinda areas that you just need to have more time at. You know, the type of place where you sit and stay for a while, not walk to for a photo. I can only imagine how beautiful this city would be when the weather is warm and sunny!

Now we were ready to head over to Ghent. To get there, we had to walk all the way back to the station and catch the train back up to Ghent. Again we had to backtrack, but the good news is we were moving closer towards our hotel for the night as well.

We probably arrived in Ghent late in the afternoon. The train station isn’t necessarily walking distance to downtown. We made the mistake of trying to walk part of it, but eventually gave up and hopped on the tram.

In the city itself, it’s simply gorgeous. The buildings have so much character and the way all of the streets are laid out is really flattering. Ghent was by far my favorite city out of the four that we visited in Belgium.

I had a ton of places marked on my map, but we kept our itinerary quite free just wandering around as we pleased. We did walk by the Gavensteen castle. I took a peek inside and thought it looked very cool, but we simply didn’t have the energy to go inside.

Instead we got some ice cream and then a pint or two at Trollekelder pub. We came to this pub because I was intrigued by all of the weird trolls displayed in their window. There was something eerie about it that made me want to find out more. One of the greatest things about Belgium is their wide selection of beers. It’s such a haven for those who are into craft beer, as the options seem to be limitless!

I had a ton of other places that I had wanted to visit or eat at, but we were now full from all of the beer that we just had. We decided to call it a day and take the train back to where we first started the trip, Brussels.

We arrived in Brussels just after 7:00PM.

In Brussels, we found a delicious bowl of pho tai at PhoPho Vietnamese Street Food. I destroyed that bowl of pho, so good I could have easily eaten a second bowl.

Our second night’s hotel (actually the last night’s hotel of our short weekend trip) was at Harmon House. This is probably one of the most swankiest hotels I’ve ever stayed at. Our room was completely teched out to the max, and the rest of the hotel was super hip. I would without a doubt stay at this hotel again. It was so nice that I didn’t want to leave! In fact, we didn’t leave for the rest of the night.

The next morning, we packed our bags at 5AM and headed out for our flight back home. What a weekend.

 


 

Rank the four cities that you visited in order of preference. Ghent, Bruges, Brussels, Antwerp.

Would I go back to Belgium? YES! I would totally go back to stay longer at Ghent and Bruges, when the weather is warmer and perhaps with a group of friends.

What do you recommend in Belgium? Try the chocolate in its many glorious forms, the waffles, the fries, and beeerrrrssss. This is a great country for those who like to relax, enjoy themselves, and have a good time!

Do you recommend your short 2-day itinerary (each city for 1/2 a day)? No, not really, but if you skip Antwerp entirely, I believe that the 2-full days could be enough for Bruges, Ghent, and Brussels. Of course, it’s always nicer if you have the luxury and time to slow things down a bit. If you’re like me however, I often times prefer to travel fast, so it’s always a matter of preference!

Interested in seeing videos on my trip to Belgium? Check out my pinned IG Story.

Have any other questions? Feel free to leave one in the comments below. Otherwise, thanks for reading!

x
Sarah

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