In this post I will show you the 10 best places that you should visit during your first time in Belgium! I will also include some of the most unique and cool places to stay in our little country!
Belgium is one of those countries that tourists love to rush through. Not knowing it has so much more to offer than just eating waffles in Brussels and going on a boat tour in Bruges. I have lived here my entire life and can honestly say that Belgium is a beautiful country! From the medieval cities with cobble stone roads to castles that will make your jaw drop on the floor. The land of fries and beer pretty much has it all!
If it’s your first time here of course you don’t want to miss the main sights such as our capital Brussels and the world famous Bruges. But with this post I wanted to show you that you can actually get way more out of your first time visit to Belgium! All it takes is a little planning and you are good to go!
Good to knowLanguage – Flemish and French, but most people speak good English
Currency – Euro
Best time to visit – April to October / Temperatures are higher and Belgium is famous for it’s many terraces where you can enjoy a meal or have a drink
How to get around – By public transport or car. Public transport isn’t always that reliable in Belgium and is often late so if you would choose to rent a car simply make sure to avoid peak traffic hours (7am-9am and 4-6pm) around Brussels and Antwerp
10 Best Places To Visit Your First Time in Belgium
1. Visit Hallerbos Forest during Bluebell season
The Hallerbos forest, also known as the bluebell forest, is one of the most magical places in Belgium. Once every year the forest transforms itself into a purple haze where the entire ground is covered with these pretty flowers.
Best time to visit?
The exact timing of the bluebells being in full bloom is a little different every year but generally the second half of April is the best time to go. Plan your visit so that you can be here at sunrise. Once the clock hits 10am the forest will be very crowded!
What to know
You can only walk on the designated paths! Don’t step into the fields of bluebells cause you will actually destroy them by doing so! My photo was taken on a little pathway behind a tree and I asked one of the “guards” that was patrolling around if it was okay for me to take a photo here. Always be respectful towards the environment when taking photos in nature!
2. Marvel at the beauty of Ghent
I lived in Ghent for over 6 years and until this day it remains my favourite city in entire Belgium! So it’s no surprise at all that this city made it into my list of 10 best places to visit in Belgium. Go for a stroll through the Medieval city center and enjoy a lunch at the Graslei, one of the most beautiful places in Belgium.
Ghent is a student city and it’s safe to say that during a regular week day you’ll find a lot of them riding their bikes. So always look twice when crossing the street ;).
Beautiful Places not to miss in Ghent
- Gravensteen – a 10th century castle surrounded by a moat
- Vrijdagsmarkt (Friday Market)
- Saint Bavo’s Cathedral
And the best part? All of these places are within 10 minutes walking distance from each other!
Where to stay in Ghent
1898 The Post – An intimate hotel in a stunning historic landmark in the heart of Ghent.
Charme Hotel Hancelot – Elegant rooms in an 1940 mansion. The stately lobby boasts a huge fireplace and a lovely courtyard garden while an abundance of crystal chandeliers light up the rooms and hallways.
Hôtel Verhaegen – The perfect hotel if you’re looking for a romantic getaway. The hotel is situated in an 18th-century palace that is listed as a city monument.
3. Plan a visit to The Royal Greenhouses of Laeken
Every year during spring the Royal Greenhouses of Laeken opens it’s doors to the public. It’s one of the best and most unique places to visit in Belgium. During this time most flowers are in full bloom and you get to witness what hundreds of gardeners work tirelessly on during an entire year.
This event only lasts for 3 weeks so make sure to arrive very, very early!. When I visited 2 years ago I made sure to be there at 8.30am, even that it only opens at 9.30am. And, it’s safe to say that I was very happy that I did cause not long after people started cueing up and a ton of tour busses started to arrive. There was a small rope on the other side of the street in front of the entrance which was pointed out as the designated waiting point. As soon as it opens make sure to go to one of the ticket booths (2,5€, free under 18) and head inside.
Tips for taking photos
You’ll first walk outside in the gardens and you have to follow a pathway up to enter the first greenhouse. Don’t take too long here, you can always go back later once you’ve visited the greenhouses. This way you will leave most people behind you and have this spectacular spot “almost” to yourself.
When to go in 2021
Plan your visit to Brussels accordingly cause they are only open for 3 weeks every year.
This year this should be from 30th of April until the 3th of May 2020. If you’re planning on visiting during this time you might want to combine it with a visit to Floraliën 2021, a floral festival that happens every 4 years in Ghent!
4. Visit the old abbey of Villers La Ville
The Villers Abbey is located in the small town of Villers La Ville, about 30 minutes driving from Brussels. The Villers Abbey was built in 1146 and is a beautiful witness to how the Cistercian monks lived. This site is considered to be one of the most complete ones in entire Europe!
When to visit
Daily opening hours are from 10am – 5pm, in the summer months they stay open until 6pm.
Prices are based on age and cheaper if you’re a student.l
Adult € 9
Senior € 7
Student € 7
Child € 4
5. Go on a boat ride in Bruges
Bruges is a small Medieval city near the West Coast of Belgium and probably one of the most touristic places in Belgium. If you truly want to enjoy your visit make sure to arrive early cause chances are high that once 10am you’ll end up with one of the many selfie sticks against your head.
Beautiful Places to see in Bruges
- The central Market
- Belfort of Bruges
- Church of our Lady Bruges
Where to stay in Bruges
Hotel Dukes’ Palace – Located on the Prinsenhof, this hotel will make you feel like absolute royalty as soon as you set foot inside the door.
Relais Bourgondisch Cruyce – Offering breakfast with a view over the canals.
Hotel De Tuilerieën – Stay in the same hotel as Colin Farell, David Hockney and many other celebrities that visited Bruges.
6. Spend a day in Brussels
Brussels is the capital of Belgium and a multicultural city. And even that it is located in the Flemish speaking part of Belgium, most people only speak French or English. Since you’re visiting Belgium for the first time I recommend you to spend an entire day here. You can read all about how I spend a perfect day in Brussels here.
Beautiful Places to see in Brussels
- Market Square
- Royal Gallery of Saint Hubert
- Mont des Arts
- Law Courts of Brussels
- Place du Grand Sablon
Where to stay in Brussels
|Hotel Metropole – An interior of stunning marble, alluring gold, royal red and sophisticated architecture that highlights the hotel’s wealth of history.|
Royal Windsor – Located only a short walk from the major sites in Brussels. On the hotel’s roof top terrace guests can enjoy the gorgeous open Brussels skyline and an unbeatable view of the Town Hall building.
Vintage Hotel – The most spectacular feature is an experience named ‘glamping’: a vintage Airstream Caravan from 1958 parked in a courtyard of the hotel. Here guests can relive a nostalgic experience with the bonus perks of modernity.
7. Visit the world’s smallest city Durbuy
Durbuy is located in the province of Luxembourg and is supposed to be the smallest town in the world. With it’s cobbled streets and timbered houses it’s also one of the cutest towns in the world.
If you plan on visiting Durbuy stay clear of Sunday afternoons, they tend to get very busy. You’ll much more enjoy your visit during a week day.
Where to stay in Durbuy
|Hotel Saint-Amour – Located in the heart of Durbuy and run by two sisters.Le Saint-Amour is an exceptional place. |
Hotel Eau de Roche – Offers a stunning view of Durbuy and it’s castle plus they have an amazing spa.
8. Go shopping in Antwerp
Antwerp is located in the North of Belgium and often referred to as the Diamond City. If you want to go shopping in Belgium, this is the place to do it. If you arrive to Antwerp by train make sure to not just walk out of the train station but take a good look around cause Antwerp Central has been voted as one of the most beautiful railway stations in the world!
Beautiful Places to visit in Antwerp
- t’Zuid: my favourite neighbourhood
- ‘t Mas
- Antwerp Central railway station
- Cathedral of Antwerp
- Brabo fountain
- Port Authority
For more details about these places make sure to check out my blog post on the 12 stunning places in Antwerp that you should visit.
Where to stay in Antwerp
Hilton Antwerp Old Town – When its comes to location, you can’t go better than the Hilton! Located in the heart of Antwerp on the Groenplaats this hotel is so spectacular and hosts a few impressive ballrooms that are perfect for hosting a wedding.
Rosier10 – This small B&B only has 4 rooms available and each one of them is decorated completely different!
Hotel Diamonds and Pearls – This tiny hotel is tucked away in one of the many side streets in the heart of Antwerp. All rooms have period furnishings so you’ll feel like you’re staying in a historic house.
9. Visit Château de la Hulpe
Did you know Belgium is the country with the highest amount of castles per square kilometer? This beautiful castle is only 20 minutes driving from Brussels and one of the most beautiful places to visit in Belgium. It is located within a beautiful nature park. It’s the perfect place for an afternoon stroll and if you want to escape the busier Belgian cities.
If you want to visit more castles during your time in Belgium you can find the most beautiful castles in Belgium here.
10. Pay a visit to Adolphe Sax in Dinant
Dinant is one of the most beautiful places to visit in the South of Belgium, located by the river Meuse and with steep cliffs as it’s back drop. Go for a walk alongside the Meuse of enjoy a river cruise. Once you’re in town there is no need to worry on how to get around, you can pretty much walk through it in less than an hour!
Where to stay in Dinant
|La Belle Étable – Located in the lovely village of Falmignoul, near Dinant, in an old farm from the eighteenth century, ranked amongst the most beautiful farms of Wallonia.|
L’arche De Noé – Offering a barbecue and views of the river, L’arche De Noé is a former castle annex located in Dinant in the Namur Province Region.
I hope all of these beautiful places in Belgium will make you want to explore my country! If you have any questions simply drop them in the comments below!
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Charlotte Lint is the founder of Charlies Wanderings.
Charlotte has traveled all over the world and is based in Belgium where she also owns her very own dental practice.
She is an expert on writing efficient travel guides and finding unique places to stay.
Every month she helps over 134.000 people discover the most beautiful places in the world through her detailed travel guides.