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Vacation Ideas in Belgium: Beer, Bikes and Beauty

Updated on March 30, 2014

Did you know?

Belgium is divided into two distinct cultures, each speaking its own language. In the Flanders region, natives speak Flemish (similar to Dutch); in the Wallonia region, natives speak French.

Bountiful Belgium

This unique country offers more than Belgian fries, mussels and chocolate. While they are an absolutely essential (and delicious) part of your visit, the picturesque scenery in quaint towns and buzz of the cities will be what you treasure most. For a good sampler of what Belgium has to offer, travel by train between Brussels and Brugge.

Winding Waterways and Pedal Power

Brugge is known for its canal system. Take a boat ride through town and capture all of the charm of its row houses and Mom-and-Pop shops.
Brugge is known for its canal system. Take a boat ride through town and capture all of the charm of its row houses and Mom-and-Pop shops.
The Grote Markt is the center of activity in Brugge, with buses, bikes and tourists coming and going through the square.
The Grote Markt is the center of activity in Brugge, with buses, bikes and tourists coming and going through the square.

Storybook Brugge

Located in the northwest of the country, the city (sometimes appearing as "Bruges" or "Brugges") made famous in the movie featuring Colin Farrell is a respite from the hustle and bustle of Brussels. Although it's the capital and largest city of the province of West Flanders, its small-town feel will remind you of a medieval village.

Stop by any of the cafes surrounding the Grote Markt and soak in the scenery of this quaint city square or stroll alongside a duck-filled canal to get the true character of the city sometimes called the "Venice of the North."

Brugge is very bike-friendly! In fact, it may be the best way to get around. Rent a bicycle and explore all the old streets that meander through town.

Brugge

A markerGrote Markt, Brugge -
Grote Markt, 8000 Bruges, Belgium
get directions

Translated as the grand city square, it's where you'll find several worthy stops, from tourist attractions to cute cafes.

Take the tour of the De Halve Maan ("Half Moon") brewery in Brugge. Dating from 1546 (yes, you read that correctly), it's the city’s oldest working brewery. Try a traditional Belgian beer and check out the views from the top, which are priceless.
Take the tour of the De Halve Maan ("Half Moon") brewery in Brugge. Dating from 1546 (yes, you read that correctly), it's the city’s oldest working brewery. Try a traditional Belgian beer and check out the views from the top, which are priceless.

Brugge: Brews and Views

De Halve Maan offers tour of its ancient brewery, with funny and informative guides. And, of course, you must sample the beer. Even if you don't leave time for the tour, the court yard of the restaurant is a gorgeous place to rest your legs and soak up the sun.


Brugge: Flemish Flair

A trip to Brugge is not complete without seeing windmills. This one makes for a nice little walk to the edge of town.
A trip to Brugge is not complete without seeing windmills. This one makes for a nice little walk to the edge of town.

Brugge: City of Charm and Chocolate

A peaceful canal winding through the city.
A peaceful canal winding through the city.
The Choco-Story chocolate museum is full of fun and facts for adults and kids alike.
The Choco-Story chocolate museum is full of fun and facts for adults and kids alike.
For the true Belgian experience, check out Brasserie Cantillon in Brussels, where you can see old-fashioned beer production still going on.
For the true Belgian experience, check out Brasserie Cantillon in Brussels, where you can see old-fashioned beer production still going on.

Bustling Brussels

If you are looking for the buzzing metropolis that is Paris, but without the price and pace, Brussels offers a more laid-back, manageable experience.

Stop by the cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula to take in its gothic splendor, then head down to the Mannekin Pis for some touristy fun.

To get truly off the beaten path, head over to the Cantillon brewery, off the Clemenceau subway stop. You might be the only one there, as this is by far no tourist trap. They'll let you wander through the still-operating old brewery, as they open-ferment their signature lambic (sour) and kriek (cherry) brews. Note: This is an old industrial neighborhood and far from the tourist hotspots, so be aware, as always, of your surroundings. For more information, check out http://www.cantillon.be/.

Brussels

A markerBrussels -
Brussels, Belgium
get directions

Tucked into an alleyway, you'll find the bar "Au Bon Vieux Temps," translated as "Good Old Times."
Tucked into an alleyway, you'll find the bar "Au Bon Vieux Temps," translated as "Good Old Times."

Brussels: Off the Beaten Path

Although Brussels is buzzing with activity, there are so many secluded brasseries and authentic European cafes if you know where to look.

Try La Fleur en Papier Dore, a literary-themed cafe, for an espresso, or "un express" as they say in Europe.

Try the flamed apple beer at Delirium bar, a popular drinking hole that feels like a cool dungeon.
Try the flamed apple beer at Delirium bar, a popular drinking hole that feels like a cool dungeon.
At the Masion des Brasseurs, you can see up close vintage brewing equipment.
At the Masion des Brasseurs, you can see up close vintage brewing equipment.

Brussels: Flemish Beer and Flames

Along a popular alleyway, you'll find something of an entertainment district, including the Delirium bar. Grab a bar stool, rest your glass on one of the barrels-turned-tables and take in the trippy atmosphere. For more info, visit http://deliriumcafe.be/.

A must-see is the Maison des Brasseurs, or "Brewer's House," a museum of ancient beer-making relics. Have a drink in their tiny underground pub.

Packing for Belgium

What to Bring
 
 
TSA-approved corkscrew (made without the knife)
You'll want to imbibe the wine in the French-speaking parts, and you'll need it for the corked beer in the Flemish parts.
 
sturdy box
You'll want to take back home the delicate chocolates you can buy individually at local shops.
 
 
 
 

The Best Rest

Brugge: The hotel Jan Brito, on a quiet street not far from the Grote Markt, is a quaint old inn. Ask for a room on a top floor and you'll feel like you're in a castle's turret looking over the roof tops.

The hotel Jan Brito is close to the city square and conveniently located down the street from a "night shop," Belgium's take on the corner store.
The hotel Jan Brito is close to the city square and conveniently located down the street from a "night shop," Belgium's take on the corner store.
The hotel Jan Brito has lovely walkways and court yards.
The hotel Jan Brito has lovely walkways and court yards.

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    • smw1962 profile image

      smw1962 3 years ago

      I never knew they had so much to offer there. Now I want to plan a trip there!

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