Before going to Belgium we were told we were insane for wanting to travel to Brussels. Everyone told us it is the most boring and least appealing city we will visit in all of Europe. We heard so much backlash that we almost cancelled our trip, but thank goodness we didn’t. Brussels was a hidden gem. We had very low expectations but Brussels truly rose to the occasion.
I by no means think it is necessary to stay in Brussels for 3-4 days, you can see everything within two and thoroughly enjoy your time. I recommend spending at least one day in Brussels and at least one day traveling between Bruges and Ghent.
After spending 48 hours in these three places, I think I have a pretty good feel for exactly how one should spend their time in Belgium. I mean come on, I am the expert after all 😉 Here are my recommendations for a two day stay in Belgium…
24 hours in Brussels:
9:30 a.m. Grab a Coffee and Crossaint from Moka
People who live in Brussels will tell you their coffee sucks, believe them. The only place any Belgian will recommend for coffee is from Moka and they’re right on with their decision. The coffee shop is on Rue des Riches and is the perfect stop to make right before you head to city center. It’s a typical Italian espresso bar serving coffee in a vintage 60s atmosphere.
11:00 a.m. Catch the first Sandeman tour in the City Center
I will recommend Sandeman tours till the day I die. These “Sandeman tours” otherwise known as free walking tours run every single day usually at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Any hostel/hotel you stay at will have the brochures in their front lobby. Our tour guide in Brussels was from Dublin and we absolutely loved him! He even took the time after the tour to recommend places for us to go in Brussels and walked with us through the city until we reached our destination. The sights covered in the Brussels tour are Grand Palace, Town Hall, Mannekin Pis, St. Nicolas’ Church, The Stock Exchange, The Royal Square, Mont des Arts and so much more!
2:30 p.m. Get fries from Georgette
After the tour is over, you’re most likely going to be hungry and what better food to get than the typical Belgian fries. Sorry America, but they aren’t and never were “French” fries. Story has it that Americans came over and tried these Belgian fries and mistook them for French fries because people in Belgium speak both French and Dutch. Although you will be tempted on every corner in Brussels, Georgette is the BEST place to go and get your fry fix. The fries are cooked in beef fat, YUM and served with however many sauces you want. I recommend getting the sauce on the side, because if you’re anything like me, getting it on top of the fries means wearing it as a shirt in a matter of 10 minutes.
4:00 p.m. Hang out in Delirium for a few hours
Delirium holds the Guinness Book of World Records for longest beer list, serving over 3,000 beers. There are two sides to this bar, one is more chill where it’s just you and the bartender and the other is much more vibrant and filled with people. Delirium sells beers in 4 different sizes, .25 L, .5 L, 1 L and 2 L. Yes, you saw that right, you can get two liters full of beer here. The Trappist beers are the local Belgian beers and I highly recommend ordering one, or four. My favorites are Rochefort 8 and 10, Chimay Bleue and Westmalle Triple. Be careful though, they will sneak up on you. Belgian beers don’t play around.
7:00 p.m. Have dinner at Au Soleil d’Afrique
Brussels is full of people with all different backgrounds which means the restaurant variety is amazing! One of the best West African places to eat at is called Au Soleil d’Afrique. The menu is full of amazing dishes such as grilled goat, grilled chicken wings, tilapia and massive vegetarian plates. You can get a full meal for pretty cheap, which is always a bonus for me. Meals typically run you between 9-12 euro and the portions are huge!
9:30 p.m. End the day at the Mont des Arts Garden with a waffle
This is the spot where all the Sandeman tours end. Grab a plain waffle from any of the cheap little waffle shops or find a truck if you can. It is best to find a waffle shop that sells the plain waffles for 1 to 2 euro, anything over that is no bueno. Also, don’t order a whole bunch of toppings unless you want to look like an ignorant tourist. I love toppings, but these waffles are way better plain. Grab a spot right above the garden and admire the beautiful city that unfolds beneath you.
24 hours split between Bruges and Ghent:
8:00 a.m. Head to the train station
Rise and shine! If you want to make the trip to Bruges and Ghent all in one day it’s necessary to be up bright and early. No need for pre-booking, just head to the station early and buy your tickets. Roundtrip for travelers under 26 costs 12 euro, don’t pay anything above that. I suggest going to Bruges first since it is the farthest away (1 hour) and Ghent on the way back to Brussels (30 min).
10:00 a.m. Arrive in Bruges and get lost in the city
The walk from the Brugge train station to the city center is about 25 minutes and extremely easy. There are “Centrum” signs everywhere pointing you directly in the way of city center, no need for a map here! Bruges is a beautiful little medieval town with buildings dating back to the 1400s. It’s one of those towns where there isn’t much to do but the medieval beauty is worth the trip. Get lost in the city for a few hours. I recommend heading to city center firs then wondering down little side streets to admire the beautiful UNESCO preserved city.
12:00 p.m. Take a boat tour
The boat tour in Bruges is 8 euro and lasts about 30-40 minutes. Bruges is nicknamed “Little Venice,” and these boat tours make it very easy to understand why. You sit on a canal boat with about 15 other people and cruise all throughout the beautiful little nooks and crannies of Bruges. I recommend doing these tours in either the spring or the fall when the leaves are on the trees, but it will be a gorgeous ride regardless of when you go!
2:00 p.m. Make your way to Ghent
The train from Bruges to Ghent-Dampoort takes about 30 minutes. When you depart from the train station and walk about 20 minutes you’ll find yourself in the city center. Ghent and Bruges are very different. Bruges is a medieval preserved town, whereas Ghent is always changing. Ghent is definitely my favorite even though both are equally as beautiful. There is much more to do and see here, you’ll never find yourself bored.
2:30 p.m. Stop by Jack in the Box for a burger
Spending your whole morning roaming around Bruges I’m sure you worked up an appetite. The city center of Ghent can be rather pricey in terms of food. Jack in the Box is on the way to the city center but still resides in the outskirts of town, thus food is much cheaper here. I love Jack in the Box because they have vegetarian options! All the burgers are amazing. If you order fries and a drink, you’ll pay around 12 euro which is about 4 euro cheaper than anything you would get in the city center.
3:30 p.m. Take yourself on a tour around Ghent
There are so many different things to see in Ghent. My recommendation is just to take yourself all throughout the main sights and then tour the little side streets. Ghent is super easy to navigate. You’ll know exactly what you want to see the moment you get off the train because the churches and buildings stick out like sore thumbs above everything else. My best advice is just to walk in the direction of what you find appealing and you won’t be disappointed.
6:30 p.m. Grab a drink by the River
The river area in Ghent is always packed, but it’s the perfect spot to relax and have a drink, maybe even watch the sunset. As I said before Ghent is a little pricey so I recommend heading into a market to get a bottled beer or wine versus sitting at one of the restaurants on the water and ordering one. The panoramic views from this location are to die for and are the perfect ending to a wonderful day in Belgium.
8:30 p.m. Head back to Brussels
Make your way back to the train station and get on the train back to Brussels. I always recommend arriving to cities a little earlier in the night time hours just for safety precautions. We didn’t have any issues in Belgium, but I definitely always think it’s better to be safe than sorry!
I am so unbelievably happy that we kept our trip to Belgium. I can’t imagine missing out on the beautiful sites we got to see. The biggest piece of advice I can state after this trip is to always go with your gut feeling about a place, don’t let someone else’s opinions deter you from visiting a city/country you had your heart set on. It’s no secret that people have different likes and dislikes, so what someone might have disliked about a country might be something you end up liking about a country. You’ll never know until you go.
Next stop, Paris and the French Riviera!