Tahvi, Dylan, and I were lucky enough to have three days in Belgium on our trip, exploring three cities in those days: Brussels, Ghent, and Bruges. I’ll give you our “itinerary” so you can see what we did, and give you suggestions on what we would have done differently and what we loved. It’s probably assumed we are eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day but I’m listing it anyway because dining is a major part of our travel experience.
Day 1: Brussels
Train to Brussels from Amsterdam
Brunch @ Charli café
Check in to Residence Les Ecrins
We paid 5 euros for the entrance to the museum, which was mostly one room with a long slide show and a few plaques about the beer making process, and a beer tasting included with the price of admission. The slideshow was a lot of photos, some of beer and some of general Belgium, with a word-art style collage that provided nominal information about what we were seeing – it felt like the museum exhibit was less the attraction than the beer tasting portion of the experience. Not at all a terrible cost, but I think there are better beer museums and experiences to try.
Walk the city for the amazing views of Brussels
Explore the park
We didn’t get to spend a long time in the park, but it would be a perfect place to pack a lunch after picking up some snacks from the city shops. If you want to enjoy the outdoors and escape the sun, this is a great free place to kick back and rest up after all the sight-seeing.
In Belgium, there are a few classic dishes that we had to try. The top pot of food is moules-frites, one of their national dishes, or mussels. Of course, Belgium is famous for its fries, which we ate in abundance. On bottom is a dish called Stomp, which is potatoes mashed with vegetables, served with sausages.
Visit the Chocolate Shops
Belgium is famous for its chocolate and there is no shortage of chocolate shops here in the city. If you’re a fan of sweets, try out the different shops and find your personal favorites. It’s easy to go overboard and spend a lot here, but if you just want enough to satisfy your chocolate craving, you can usually get a couple pieces for about a euro. Leonidas is one of the more famous shops, sold in the airports as well, and I picked up several chocolate bars for between 1-2 euros as souvenirs and snacks for the long trip home.
Day 2: Ghent
Breakfast at Residence Les Ecrins
Travel to Ghent from Brussels (via train)
Drop bags at Hostel Kaba
This was a pretty cool museum that gives a thorough history of the city of Ghent. There’s a really neat aerial exhibit of the entire city that you can walk over to get a feel for the region. I would absolutely recommend to get the audio guide, however, as many of the rooms have descriptions only in Dutch and you’ll get much more out of it with the audio. The entrance to the museum only cost 2 euros for those under 26, so it’s highly affordable, even with the additional 2.50 euros for the audio guide.
The Gravensteen Castle
This is definitely a top attraction in Ghent, meaning “castle of the counts” in Dutch. Although the castle has undergone significant reconstruction, it dates back to the Middle Ages around 1180, though there was another wooden castle that stood in its place up to the 14th century.
While the waffles are delicious and I would recommend giving them a try, there are many over-priced touristy shops that sell them for 7 or 8 euros by the time you add a topping (and who doesn’t want the chocolate or strawberries on top?) We were told by locals after buying an expensive waffle from this café, which was conveniently placed in front of the exit to the castle, that you shouldn’t spend more than 2-3 euros on a waffle so save this treat for the more authentic joints and avoid the touristy traps that sucked us in while visiting Belgium.
After doing the canal tour in Amsterdam, this didn’t feel like a very novel experience. We did get some interesting information, but I think I would probably do one or the other in the future. This is a great activity if you want to relax and take in the views by water.
Day 3: Bruges
Breakfast at Kaba Hostel
Travel to Bruges from Ghent (via train)
Drop bags at Snuffels Hostel
The Belfry Tower is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and a great way to learn more about the cultural history of Belgium. It’s 366 steep and narrow stairs, so I wouldn’t recommend this for people with mobility issues, claustrophobia, or fear of heights. Otherwise, making it to the top gives you great views of the city and a little exercise. Tickets are discounted if you’re under 25, so we ended up paying eight euros to get in and climb to the top (entrance usually costs 10).
Basilica of the Holy Blood
This basilica is a beautiful building, with a cloth that allegedly contains the blood of Jesus Christ. Entrance to the basilica to see the blood vial and main church is free, but there are exhibits you can visit for an additional fee.
Brewery de Halve Maan
Belgium is known for its beer, and there are a lot of great breweries here. We really enjoyed both the beer and the atmosphere of the brewery. Careful – some of the beers have a surprisingly high alcohol content and many tourists get blind sighted.
Check in to Hostel
Bruges by Night tour
This tour was an hour long, and like Sandeman’s Walking Tours, was free with the expectation that you tip the tour guide whatever you think appropriate. We tipped about 20 euros for three people, and got a coupon for a free beer included. The tour company we went through was very knowledgeable, and the tour was perfectly paced with unique stories and legends you would have difficulty uncovering otherwise. As most of the museums close in the early evening, this 8pm tour was a perfect after-dinner activity to wrap up our evening.
We spent a lot of time at sit down restaurants, which I really enjoyed. However, it does take up a lot of time and tends to be a more expensive option. We didn’t always get to take advantage of the breakfasts at our hostels because of early trains. If I were to go back to Belgium, I would probably try to have a meal or two outside in the beautiful parks (along the lines of a nice baguette, cheese, and a piece of fruit from the grocery store). Because we usually travelled by train in the morning, we also cut into a lot of potential museum time as they are generally open 9 or 10am until 5 or 6pm in the evening. I might also try to schedule more trains for the later evening, so we could use the whole day for sightseeing that is time sensitive.
What sights did I miss? Let me know in the comments what you think of this itinerary, and make sure to subscribe to the Suitcase Six email list so you never miss a post!