Belgium Tours and Travel Guide
Belgium Attractions & Landmarks Guide
For a small country, Belgium packs in lots of diverse cultures, landscapes, and cities. Split into two distinct regions, Flanders to the North and Wallonia to the South, Belgium is perhaps best known for its culinary gems, including chocolate and, yes, waffles. More recently, companies specializing in Belgian beer tours have sprung up, offering travelers an insight into the mysterious world of Belgium’s Abbeys and the monks who oversee them.
An Introduction to Belgium
Belgium is a fantastic introductory country to Europe. It’s easy to get around, there’s little to no language barrier, affordable flights, a compact size and an incredible array of historical, cultural and architectural treasures. Into the world wars? Belgium history tours are a big draw here, with thousands upon thousands of war sites to visit.
Foodies find much to love - a Belgium culture and culinary tour will not only include those crispy frites and creamy Belgium chocolates, but also that perfect beer for which the country is known - there are more than 1,000 breweries within the country borders.
Main Regions to Visit on a Belgium Tour
Center your guided Belgium tour on one or both of the small country’s two main regions: Flanders in the north, where the main language is Dutch, and Wallonia, where they speak French for the most part.
Flanders is home to Antwerp, Bruges and Ghent - all brimming with gothic and baroque architecture, winding canals and world-class dining establishments. The landscape is relatively flat here, so a Belgium cycling tour would be a good choice if you’re looking to get up close and personal, as well as rev up your heart rate. There’s a spectacular nature preserve here, beloved by Belgium outdoor enthusiasts: Het Zwin on the North Sea coast, famous for its migratory birds and sea lavender in the summer.
In Wallonia, your Belgium tour will undoubtedly include the lush Ardennes forest and the Haute Fagnes landscape for wildlife viewing. Outdoor adventure tours in Belgium will often center their stays here for the many hiking, biking and canoeing opportunities.
Top 10 Things to Eat and Drink in Belgium
Chocolate, waffles, French fries, beer - it’s here in spades.
- Frites - The ultimate comfort food, Belgian fries are famous for a reason. They’re usually double-fried (yes!), and sometimes even triple-fried, and are best with ketchup, mayonnaise or both.
- Yule log cake - A favorite Belgian sweet, this rolled-up Genoise sponge cake is filled with buttercream and topped with chocolate frosting or ganache and woodsy decorations - it’s a ode to the Norse god Thor and the end of winter.
- Stoemp - A popular Brussels meal, this side dish is a blend of mashed potatoes, vegetables and sometimes sausage or stewed meat to make it into a full meal.
- Chocolate hands in Antwerp - The best chocolate to eat in Antwerp is the severed hand (really) - ask about the myth of the Druon Antigoon giant for whom the hand is named.
- Carbonnade à la Flamande - Beer, beef and onions - the three simple, yet hearty ingredient in Belgium’s best stew. If you love bourguignon, this is for you.
- Chimay cheese - Pair a monk-made, aromatic, ale-flavored cheese with a Chimay “red” beer for the best countryside dining experience in Belgium.
- Olibollen - Say “Happy New Year” with this traditional deep-fried dough filled with raisins or chocolate and sprinkled with powdered sugar.
- Boulet au Sauce Lapin - “Meatballs in rabbit sauce” can be misleading - the meatballs are usually made of pork and beef. Eat this popular Belgian meat dish with a sweet and sour sauce of onion, vinegar, brown sugar and sirop de Liège.
- Grisette - Make like a 19th-century miner and sip this favorite Belgian beer - a light-bodied, somewhat carbonated farmhouse ale originating in Hainaut.
- Waterzooi - Save room for this heavy, creamy fish soup (often made with chicken instead) with an egg and butter base.
And one more for the sweet tooths:
- Cuberdons, one of Belgium’s best candies. Also known in Flemish as neuzekes or “small noses.” Bite the top off the candy shell, conical outer part, then suck out the sticky raspberry syrup that drips out.
A Guide to Belgian Waffles
What’s a Belgium gourmet tour without a carb-loaded dose of sweet, doughy Belgian waffles? These puffy little pastries date back to the Middle Ages, but they weren’t as sweet back then. Over time, sweeteners and eventually yeast were added to the batter, so the consistency morphed from cracker-like to the waffle of today.
They exploded onto the world culinary scene when a man named Maurice Vermersch sold traditional Brussels waffles during the 1964 New York City World’s Fair.
A couple of top tips for your Belgian waffle tour:
There are two different types of waffle sold in Brussels: the Brussels Waffle, made in a perfect rectangle, light and airy inside, crispy outside and a bit less sweet, and the Lieges Waffle, oval-ish in shape, denser than the Brussels version and with a caramelized, sweeter exterior.
Go for toppings (or not). Try Belgian waffles plain or with a bit of powdered sugar, as the Belgians do for the most part, or try any combination of topping you can imagine. Most Belgian waffle shops you visit as part of your Belgium tour will offer everything from caramel and nutella to freshly whipped cream and fruit.
Mussel Season in Belgium
Any summertime Belgium gourmet tour should include as many samplings of North Sea mussels as possible. Moules-frites or mosselen-friet (mussels and chips) are ubiquitous at cafes and best washed down with some of the best beer in the world. Try this unofficial national dish of Belgium June through April.
What to Buy in Belgium
Whether you’re sampling one of the 600 different varieties of beer or bringing home a gift of lace for just about everyone you know, here are our favorite items to purchase when we’re traveling in Belgium.
- Beer - Like we said, 600 different types…try the ones that entice you, then purchase a glass or two from a brewery as a unique souvenir. Be sure to sample the Trappist variety, produced by the monastic orders.
- Chocolate - Go on a Belgium chocolate tour and indulge - try the worth-the-price treats of Neuhaus, the chocolate croissant of Wittamer and the pure varieties and macaroons at the renowned Pierre Marcolini.
- Waffles - Eat your fill, then bring some to your family and friends, or pick up waffle flour to bake some of your own when you’re home.
- Lace - Belgian lace lovers can pick up handmade items, from tablecloths to bridal veils - look for different types, such as duchess, princess and renaissance. The perfect souve
- Speculoos spread - Based on the favorite Belgium cookie made with brown sugar and spices, this spread is a delightful indulgent treat.
Six Trappist Breweries in Belgium
What’s a Belgium tour without Trappist beer? Wondering what the hype is about? Here’s what it means to be a true Trappist brewery: “measuring up to the quality and traditional standards rooted in the monastic life of a real Trappist community.”
Spread out between Flanders and Wallonia, the six Trappist breweries in Belgium include:
A Belgium guided beer tour may be able to ensure entry into the breweries and/or monasteries that are not otherwise open to the public. Typically, each brewery will have a cafe, where one can sample the beer and other monk-produced items, such as cheese and pȃté.
The most accessible Trappist brewery in Belgium is Orval - and its is also the most impressive to look at. Explore the 18th-century cellar and well exhibition and the ruins of the original 12th-century abbey.
Top 10 Castles in Belgium
Belgium is brimming with medieval castles - from crumbling ruins to postcard-perfect palaces you might feel Disney is borrowing inspiration from. These are our favorites to visit on a Belgium tour:
- Gravensteen van Ghent - Creepy, in the coolest possible way.
- Kasteel van Gaasbeek - From the pages of a fairytale.
- Freÿr sur Meuse - A good starting point for castle lovers.
- Groot-Bijgaarden Castle and Gardens - Tulips galore.
- Bouillon - Chambers and dungeons on a steep bluff.
- Beersel - 13th-century wonder full of turrets, tower and even a drawbridge.
- Modave Castle - Ring the bell when you enter.
- Chateau de Beloeil - Gorgeous gardens.
- Alden Biesen Castle - Pretty as a picture.
- Chateau de Waroux - Art by Chagall.
Top Museums in Belgium
From art to world war memorabilia, a Belgium museum tour should hit these top choices:
- Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels - Two museums in one, the Museum of Historical Art and Modern Art Museum. Look for top Belgian artists, including Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony van Dyck, Hieronymus Bosch, as well as Rene Magritte, Paul Delvaux, James Ensor and more.
- Musée de la Vie Wallonne, Liège - Learn about the Belgium French-speaking Wallonia region in this former 17th-century convent.
- Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten Antwerpen (Royal Fine Arts Museum), Antwerp - A comprehensive Belgium art tour should definitely include this ode to the Flemish Masters - in fact, you’ll find here the biggest collection of Rubens masterpieces in the world.
- Cinquantenaire - Dating back to 1880, this museum complex in Brussels is home to the the Army Museum, the Auto World Museum and an interesting art museum, among others.
- Musee Magritte Museum, Brussels - Magritte fans will find the largest collection of Magritte works in Belgium - more than 200 pieces.
- The Museum by the Stream - New to Antwerp, the MAS boasts a panoramic rooftop, a show-stopping restaurant and temporary and permanent exhibitions that tie Antwerp’s culture and history to the outside world.
- Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, Brussels - Check out the best dinosaur exhibit in Belgium - entire skeletons!
- Museum of Music Instruments, Brussels -The most popular music museum in Belgium, the Art Nouveau building houses more than 7,000 instructions, with about 1,500 on display for visitors to see.
- Flanders Field, Ypres - Belgium tours for World War I history lovers must include this somber setting, complete with the Flanders Field Museum.
Top Cities in Belgium
Funky, rejuvenated Antwerp has reemerged as one of Europe’s favorite cities and should be high on your list of top cities to visit in Belgium. This was once an important trading city, the hometown of Peter Paul Rubens and now known for its high fashion, world-class museums, hip art galleries, alfresco dining, people-watching on the main square and an overall heady spot to soak up Belgium’s history, culture and traditions.
You’ll get lost - in a happy way - along the labyrinthian canals that wend their way through Bruges, telling time by the clock bell tower that chimes every quarter-hour. Gaze upon stunning castles, indulge in creamy chocolates and the world’s best beer and stroll through Grote Markt Square on your guided tour of this “Venice of the North.”
Capital of Belgium, Brussels is a must-see city on your Belgium tour - it’s busy and crowded yes, being the headquarters of NATO and the European Union, but the Bruxellois, as the residents are known, are hospitable and kind, welcoming you to their Musees Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Grand-Place, Town Hall and verdant parks.
Looking for a more off-the-beaten-path Belgium city to visit? Don’t miss the working city of Ghent, with its historic quarter, huge cathedral with its Van Eyck altarpiece, art and design museums and a favorite dining destination, the Patershol restaurant quarter.
Outdoor Travel in Belgium
1. Ardennes Forest
For skiers, hikers, kayakers, mountain bikers and horseback riders, the La Roche area of the Ardennes Forest is the top outdoor adventure spot in Belgium. Fill up after an active day with the Ardennes’ top culinary treats: smoked ham, venison, wild boar, pâté and Trappist beer. Don’t miss the Castle of Bouillon, Han-sur-Lesse and Labyrinth of Barvaux.
There are natural caves and caverns for exploring in the Namur province, another top outdoor enthusiast favorite in Belgium. There’s an amazing diversity of wildlife here, the Meuse River, the Caves of Han and the Grotto of Dinant to discover.
3. Het Zwin National Park
Play in the water all day in this top Belgium birding spot, paddling in dykes, ponds and lagoons and checking off all manner of freshwater and seawater birds on your life list.
4. Hautes Fagnes Nature Reserve
Look for the roe deer, black grouse and the pretty white wintergreen chickweed. This is Belgium’s oldest nature reserve.
5. Antwerp Zoo
Love animals and just being outside in the fresh air? Head to Antwerp Zoo, one of the oldest zoos in the world - it opened in 1843.
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