Belgium is one of the most fascinating countries in Europe, renowned for its culture, cuisine, architecture and festivals. In this guide we will cover the best things to do in Belgium’s most popular locations. There are countless things to do in Belgium, so in this article we’ve narrowed down the list to essential places to visit!
What language is spoken in Belgium? Belgium has 3 official languages; French (de Belgique), German (Belgien) and Dutch (België). Don’t worry however, English is also widely spoken throughout the country.
Timezone: Belgium time is CET (Central European Time), 2 hours ahead of GMT (Greenwich Mean Time).
Location: Belgium is located in Western Europe, bordered by the Netherlands to the North, Germany and Luxembourg to the East, France to the South and West, and bordering the North sea. Belgium is an ideal country to stay in if you plan to travel around Western Europe, as its location allows easy travel to multiple countries in just a few hours!
Belgium Currency: The Currency of Belgium is the Euro ‘€’, created by Belgian designer Luc Luycx.
Population of Belgium: The population in Belgium is 11.56 million as of 2020
In this fully comprehensive article you’ll find out the places you should definitely check out on your stay in Belgium. Why not skip to a section below, we have divided our top things to do in Belgium city by city to help you plan out your day trips during your stay.
Table of Contents:
- A Taste of Belgium: Foods you have to try!
- Beer: a National Treasure
- Things to do in Brussels
- Things to do in Antwerp
- Things to do in Ghent
- Things to do in Liege
- Things to do in Leuven
- Free Things to do in Belgium
Things to do in Belgium: Foods to try for a taste of Belgium!
If you’re a food connoisseur, there are plenty of things to do in Belgium! Below we have outline the quintessential Belgian foods you have to try during your stay.
Belgian chocolate is often regarded as the best tasting chocolate around the world. Belgium was just one of many European countries that joined the chocolate craze after the Spanish Conquistadors arrived back to Spain with cocoa and a kind of chocolate drink adapted from the Mayans and Aztecs, where the earliest origins of chocolate are found.
Belgium was the first country to invent machines to grind cocoa beans smooth, they also developed a way to make pralines, a shell which allowed major customizability for the first time, as there was an empty interior that could be filled with anything of the makers choosing.
Chocolate making has been passed down carefully from generation to generation, with the laws in Belgium ensuring that chocolate making is not only regulated but promotes high quality produce. Chocolate must contain 35% pure cocoa. While other EU countries are permitted to use up to 5% vegetable fats (including palm oil), Belgium strictly uses 100% cocoa butter.
In essence what makes Belgian chocolate so good is, using only the highest quality ingredients, combined with a willingness to experiment. If you have a sweet tooth, a chocolate making class or even a tasting tour can be some of the most enjoyable things to do in Belgium.
Did you know there are actually 2 types of Belgian waffle; the Liege waffle and the Brussels waffle? Belgian Waffles took the world by storm at various World Fairs, becoming a staple American breakfast dish.
In many restaurants and cafés outside of Belgium you will find waffles loaded with whipped cream and any amount of toppings you can imagine, however in Belgium, simplicity along with using the best quality ingredients is key. Sugar is often the classic topping and allows you to appreciate the flavour of the waffle itself.
The Liege waffle is the most common type available in Belgium. It is a rich dense brioche waffle with chunks of caramelised pearl sugar on top.
The Brussels waffle is larger and has a more rectangular shape; it is lighter and sprinkled with icing sugar. Regardless of which one you prefer, Belgium Waffles are delicious!
Did you know that one of the most popular fried foods in the world originated in Belgium? When American soldiers stationed in a French-speaking part of Belgium tasted fries (or frites/chips as they’re also known) for the first time they believed themselves to be in France. They nicknamed the dish ‘French fries’, and so one of Belgium’s most iconic dishes would forever be thought of as a French creation.
Legend has it that the original idea for frites came from locals in Liège; people would catch fish by the river and fry them. During the Winter the lake would freeze over, and the absence of fish led to potatoes being fried instead.
Belgian fries are distinctly crispy, fried twice for even more flavour and traditionally served with mayo. Frites are held so dearly in Belgium that they have been declared as part of the UNESCO cultural heritage!
Beer: a National Treasure
Did you know that the UN placed Belgian beer on its intangible cultural heritage list, stating “Making and appreciating beer is part of the living heritage of a range of communities throughout Belgium. It plays a role in daily life, as well as festive occasions. Almost 1,500 types of beer are produced in the country using different fermentation methods”
As well as trying the various craft beers available, you can also visit breweries and learn about the history and process of making your favourite beverage. There are so many beer tours available, so much so that you’ll never run out of things to do in Belgium!
Things to do in Belgium: Brussels
The European Union headquarters or EU commission is located in Brussells, the European Parliament and European Council are also open to visitors.
The most recognisable EU location is the Berlaymont building; the fourteen story headquarters of the European Commission that is in the shape of an ‘X’
Because the EU headquarters is located there, Brussels is often called the ‘Capital of Europe’, it’s a diverse city a perfect blend of preserving tradition and culture while embracing modernity as a true multicultural city.
Another Unesco site in Belgium, the Grand Place is a 12th century marketplace, surrounded by wooden houses and market halls. The City Hall is the most eye-catching element of the square; a towering 15th century gothic building that pierces the skyline.
Other buildings included in the Unesco World Heritage List are Hôtel Tassel and Hôtel Slovay, they are considered to be prime examples of the Art Nouveau architectural style. This style of ‘New Art’ was omnipresent from the 1880′ up until the first world war. Many buildings in this style were destroyed during the two world wars, however Brussells still has over 500 buildings designed in this style.
Every 2 years on the weekend of August 15th, the Flower Carpet offers visitors a wonderful experience,. From the Townhall’s balcony one can really appreciate the beauty of the spectacle. From colourful nature in the heart of the city of Brussels, to the scent of fresh flowers and especially composed music, this is an experience like no other. The flower used is the Begonia. Belgium is the world largest producer of the flower, 80% of total production belongs to Belgium.
The project is organised by non-profit organisation Tapis de Fleurs, who establish a theme and then set off to arrange nearly a million flowers in the 1,800 square metre area. Entrance to the Grand Place is free, but a panoramic view from the balcony of City Hall will cost you €6. If you are in Belgium on the August weekend that the Flower Carpet is on show, it is without a doubt one of the best things to do in Belgium.
Comic Strip Murals
Brussels has a longstanding history of creating comic strips and characters, so much so that large murals of iconic characters can be seen all around the city; a memoir of sorts to the city’s famous illustrations and the artists who created them. Iconic characters such as Tintin and the Smurfs were created by Belgian artists. Walking around the city looking for murals is one of the many free things to do in Belgium that art lovers will especially enjoy.
During WWII, American comics were banned in German occupied France and Belgium, giving rise to a surge in Franco-Belgium comic creations, such as Belgian magazine Spirou. The Comic Strip Route recognises the achievements of Belgian artists. It is a great way to spend time in Belgium, taking in the culture of the city for free of charge.
One of the most popular things to do in Belgium, the Atomium is the most visited tourist attraction in Brussels with over 600,000 visitors every year. It is also an art centre and an international symbol of Brussels and Belgium. The Atomium is a feat in both sculpture and architecture.
Originally constructed as a temporary centrepiece for the 1958 Brussells World Fair, the Atomium was supposed to be tore down after the fair. Due to its popularity however it was decided to make the structure permanent, and 60 years later it is a symbol of national pride.
Inventor of the praline chocolate, Nehaus chocolate stores are well worth dropping by if you are in Brussells. Multiple stores are scattered around the city including Brussell’s airport.
Apart from being delicious, Nehaus strive to be socially conscious using 100% sustainably sourced cocoa, 100% natural ingredients as well as palm-free products.
King Baudouin Stadium
“Stade Roi Baudouin (French), Koning Boudewijnstadion in Dutch or King Baudouin Stadium in English, is the largest stadium of Belgium and the stadium where the Belgian national team play most of their home matches.” via The Stadium Guide.
Unfortunately disaster struck in 1985 when 39 people died tragically during a Liverpool v Juventus match. English fans were banned from attending European competitions for 5 years after the tragedy.
Famous Belgian soccer players include Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, Kevin de Bruyne and Thiabaut Courtois.
From International soccer matches to sold out concerts, its worth checking out if there is something going on at the stadium during your stay in Belgium.
Things to do in Belgium: Antwerp
The diamond capital of the world, Antwerp is actually the largest city in Belgium and the capital of Antwerp province, plus it’s only a 30 minute train journey from Brussels!
Why not arrive in Antwerp by train in Antwerpen-Centraal, the largest train station in the city. If you are a fan of architecture, Antwerpen-Centraal is a must see!
Grote Markt is another beautiful location, Antwerp’s town square is in the heart of the old city quarter. It is an ideal place to take in the breath-taking architecture and to enjoy the local cuisine at the many cafes around.
Things to do in Belgium: Ghent
Only a half hour train journey from Brussels, Ghent is one of Belgium’s finest cities; Gothic waterfront buildings combined with street art and cafes are found along the beautiful canal. It’s definitely worth your time to check out this wonderful city
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Ghent belfry is a 91-metre bell tower and the tallest tower in Belgium. It is one of three towers overlooking the old city centre of Ghent. The other two medieval towers are Saint Bavo Cathedral and Saint Nicholas’ Church.
Canal tours are available in Ghent, allowing visitors the chance to sit back and appreciate the city. Words alone won’t do this experience justice, why not take a virtual tour of the canals of Ghent
Gravensteen / Castle of the Counts
The medieval castle which was formerly the home of the Counts of Flanders from the 12th to the 14th century is now a major historical landmark and museum. Until the 18th century the castle was used as a court and a prison as well as Ghent’s mint in the 14th century. During the Industrial revolution it was converted into a cotton mill.
Visitors can explore the dark history of the castle by taking a tour of the museum.
Free things to do in Belgium: Ghent street art stroll
Graffiti and Street art is not only legal but encouraged in Belgium! Professional artists are able to showcase their work for the world to see on large scale murals throughout the city.
Things to do in Belgium: Liège
A 50 minute train journey from Brussels, Liege is a must-see place on our lists!
Montagne de Beuren
‘A feat of engineering, characteristic of the breakthroughs of the 19th century, the Montagne de Bueren allowed a direct link between the barracks and citadel in the city centre.’ The 374-step staircase is a free public landmark that can be visited at any time.
At the top of the staircase you can enjoy scenic views of Liège from one of the highest spots in the city. This is definitely an item on our bucket list of things to do in Belgium!
The slopes of the Citadel
More than 80 hectares of a refreshing breath of nature, the slopes of the citadel are a unique way to experience Liege. Why not take a stroll and enjoy the beautiful views of the old town, where heritage and natural life seamlessly blend into one.
Things to do in Belgium: Leuven
Leuven is a lively city located 25km from Brussells. It is home to Belgium’s largest University, KU Leuven and naturally has a lively student population. It is also home to Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s largest beer brewer. It is also a cycle and pedestrian-friendly city
The world’s oldest Catholic university still in existence and the biggest university in Belgium, Leuven is a popular destination for international students. If you are a fan of beautiful architecture, the university should definitely be a spot on your list to visit. International students spending a semester abroad will have no problems finding things to do in Belgium when studying at KU Leuven.
Longest bar in Belgium – Old Market Square
The Old Market Square or Oude Markt is famous for being the longest bar in Europe. The bar is comprised of multiple pubs, restaurants and cafés side by side of each other. Immensely popular during sunny days where people can relax outside on the Terraces, the street is also a cozy spot to meet with friends inside during rainy days and throughout the Winter.
Inbev’s Stella Artois brewery is also located in the city guaranteeing that most of your favourite beers will be available on tap. With nearly 50 different bars on one street, you may need longer than a weekend to visit them all!
Why not take a 360 degree tour of the Oude Markt? If your in Belgium for an extended period of time the Old Market Square will surely be one of your favourite things to do in Belgium, a simple way to relax on a Friday night with friends, starting the weekend off the right way.
Brewery Stella Artois
Located in its home base of Leuven, the Stella Artois brewery experience is open to visitors every Saturday. The interactive tour allows visitors to experience the brewery in action and enjoy a beer after their visit.
Free things to do in Belgium: Leuven’s Beleuvenissen
One of many festivals and concerts available in Leuven, Beluevenissen is a free open air concert held every Friday in July, the perfect way to kick off your weekend!
Things to do outside of the city, Belgium
Hallerbos ‘The Blue Forest’
One of the most magical things to do in Belgium, Hallerbos or the Blue Forest is a treat for nature lovers who wish to escape city life for a while. With a fantasy like picturesque view, you’ll feel as though you have been transported into a fairytale.
The flowers bloom during the end of April usually, The forest is located about 45 minutes from Brussels, so it’s definitely a doable day activity if you are only staying for a weekend!
Free things to do in Belgium
There are so many free things to do in Belgium as we have mentioned throughout this article, click on the links below to jump back up to our five favourite free activities in Belgium! If your in a large group or on a budget there are so many things to do in Belgium with family and friends at no cost.
- Brussels, Grand Place – public area, Flower carpet festival open August 15th weekend every two years
- Ghent Street Art Stroll– murals scattered all around the city
- Liège, Montagne de Beuren – public space, open all day
- Leuven, Beleuvenissen – open air concert, every Friday in July
- Hallerbos, Blue Forest – public area, open all day
Birthplace of Hollywood icon Audrey Hepburn and home to some of the world’s best Football Players, Belgium is a country full of passionate and enthusiastic people. The entire country reflects this, from its charming pubs and restaurants, to exciting tours and breath-taking architecture.
There are so many things to do in Belgium, regardless our your hobbies and passions. From great food, excellent beer and beautiful scenery, to astonishing architecture and great festivals, there really is something for everyone to enjoy. Have we left out any of the best things to do in Belgium? let us know in the comments below!
Haven’t decided where you are going on holidays to yet? Fear not, we have compiled a list of Holiday Travel Statistics that you may find interesting. If you are staying in Belgium for an extended period of time and wish to backpack, interrail or visit other countries in Western Europe, we have created a list of some of the most iconic locations to visit in each country.
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