We bet you a beer – hell, make that two – that Belgium will exceed your expectations. The country’s highlights range from the ancient and quirky to the oh-so-cool. You can bank on centuries-old castles and boisterous carnivals as well as home-grown haute couture, comic book museums and street art. To sum it all up, here's our list of the best things to do in Belgium.
Any decent establishment will have a beer menu, as well as the glasses to go with them – no Belgian bar worth its salt would dare to serve a beer in anything other than its proper glass. To get the full picture of beer culture in Belgium explore our guide to the the top 20 best Belgian beers.
On sunny summer days in Belgium, hundreds drive into town to enjoy the beach and participate in traditional seaside activities such as sandcastle building and kite flying. Soaking up the sun and swimming are also popular things to do in Belgium.
Looking for a perfect European beach holiday? Explore our guide to the 10 best beach holidays in Europe.
The Dinant tourist office sells the Carte Dinant, which shows nineteen signposted walks in the Dinant area, as well as two mountain-biking routes of 23km and 32km respectively. If you’re short on time, take a 20-minute walk north along the west bank of the Meuse to the medieval village of Bouvignes.
Kayaking on the River Lesse, which is wilder and prettier than the River Meuse, is a popular activity available from April to September in Belgium and is definitely worth adding to your list of things to do in Belgium.
In a small chapel to the left of the cathedral entrance is Ghent’s greatest treasure, a winged altarpiece known as The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb (De Aanbidding van het Lam Gods). This is a seminal work of the early 1430s, though of dubious provenance.
The museums also host a prestigious programme of temporary exhibitions for which a supplementary admission fee is usually required. Visiting Museés Royaux is among the essential things to do in Belgium for anyone who is interested in arts.
Each guild house has a name, usually derived from one of the statues, symbols or architectural quirks decorating its facade. Inevitably, such an outstanding attraction draws tourists in their droves. That said, there’s no better place to get a taste of Brussels’ past and Eurocapital present.
This tailor-made trip to the Netherlands and Belgium will bring you the best of two countries. From the quaint streets, canals and windmills of Holland to beer and Belgium chocolate tasting in three beautiful Belgium cities.
A couple of rooms take you through Hergé’s “dreary but happy” childhood, his early cartoon creations and work in advertising and design. While later ones examine the inception of the Tintin stories in detail. Here there are displays on each of the principal characters as well as Hergé’s influences in creating them – travel, science and cinema among them.
The cathedral is home to a number of important artworks, including paintings by Peter Paul Rubens, who was a member of the cathedral's choir and is buried in the cathedral.
Visitors to Antwerp's Cathedral can explore the interior of the cathedral, including the nave, the chapels, and the choir. The cathedral is open to the public and offers guided tours and other educational programs. Antwerp's Cathedral is a must-see destination for anyone interested in architecture and history.
There are also carnivals in Ostend and Aalst, and in Eupen. The action lasts over the weekend before Shrove Tuesday and culminates with Rosenmontag on Monday. This is a pageant of costumed groups and floats parading through the town centre. Most remarkable is Stavelot’s carnival, where the streets are overtaken by so-called Blancs Moussis, townsfolk clothed in white hooded costumes and equipped with long red noses.
Carnivals often reflect people's cultural heritage, read our guide to Europe's 10 best alternative carnivals and perhaps you will be inspired to visit at least one of them.
Almost within shouting distance are the three main museums, the pick of them being the Groeninge, which offers a wonderful sample of early Flemish art. Another short hop brings you to St-Janshospitaal and the important paintings of the fifteenth-century artist Hans Memling, as well as Bruges’ most impressive churches, the Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk and St-Salvatorskathedraal.
Explore one of Europe's most intact medieval cities - Bruges, the Venice of the North on this Bruges & Ghent Full-Day Trip. Marvel at the ornate City Hall and the stunning market square in Ghent. Taste the famous Belgian chocolates, the national dish of Moules Frites and beer.
Traditionally, mussels are only served in season – i.e. when there is an “r” in the month (September to April). They are best eaten the time-honoured way, served in a vast pot with chips and mayonnaise on the side. They are served typically either à la marinière (steamed with white wine, shallots and parsley or celery), or à la crème (steamed with the same ingredients but thickened with cream and flour).
The Cauchie House is a private residence that is known for its colourful and elaborate Art Nouveau decorations. The Horta Museum is a museum dedicated to the work of the Belgian Art Nouveau architect Victor Horta and is housed in his former residence.
Learn about the origins and the development of the Art Nouveau architectural style in Brussels on a 3-hour guided tour. Travel to the Bailli district to see several of the most important Art Nouveau houses in the city. Finish at the Victor Horta Museum.
It’s a simple, brooding monument, towering over the edge of the town, its walls covered with the names of those fifty thousand British and Empire troops who died in the Ypres Salient but have no grave. Volunteers from the local fire brigade sound the Last Post beneath the gate each and every evening at 8 pm.
Thereafter, the museum outlines the creation of the Ypres Salient and the gruesome nature of trench warfare with discrete subsections on, for example, the evolution of mortars, the use of gas and tunnelling.
Explore the path of the World War II Liberation Route with this tailor-made trip through Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. Visit important landmarks and museums on the way with this self drive itinerary, with enough time to explore cities such as Brussels and Rotterdam on the way.
There is an early sketch of his wife Georgette, early Cubist efforts and the later surrealist works he became best known for – often perplexing pieces, whose weird, almost photographically realized images and bizarre juxtapositions aim to disconcert. There are posters by Magritte, too advertising drinks, films and commercial products, as well as a selection of the more Impressionistic works he produced in the 1940s.
Within a few years, its consumption had spread across Charles’s empire, including today’s Belgium and Luxembourg. At first the making of chocolate was confined to a few Spanish monasteries. However, eventually, Belgians got in on the act and they now produce what are generally regarded as the world’s finest chocolates.
Even the smallest town will have at least one chocolate shop. Although some brands are everywhere – Leonidas, Godiva and Neuhaus are three big players. Try to seek out independent producers such as Wittamer or Pierre Marcolini in Brussels or The Chocolate Line in Bruges, as their chocolates are usually that bit better.
Discover Belgian chocolate and learn how to make these tasty treats with this Belgian Chocolate Workshop. Enjoy a workshop with the guidance of a chocolatier and make chocolates yourself.
If you are looking for inspiration and new ideas for your European holiday, read our guide to the 20 best places to visit in Europe on a budget.
Ready for a trip to Belgium? Check out the snapshot The Rough Guide to Belgium & Luxembourg or Pocket Rough Guide Bruges. If you travel further in Belgium, read more about the best time to go and the best places to visit in Belgium. For inspiration use the itineraries from our local travel experts. A bit more hands on, learn about getting there, getting around the country and where to stay once you are there.
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