Any itinerary of Belgium should be considered part of a greater itinerary to the Benelux countries, meaning in combination with Amsterdam and Luxembourg. Of course nearby Germany and France make great travel partners too. The reason for mentioning this is that all these countries share similar customs, are well connected by bus, rail and road. The purpose of this itinerary is to describe the best places to see in Belgium proper.
The Belgian experience for the tourist is best found in its cities. While the countryside is beautiful, green and flat, you will get to see much of it as you criss-cross the country in trains. For the average visitor to Belgium there isn’t generally enough time or interest to seek out any natural wonders or formations.
Known as the capital of Europe, Brussels is full of many grand museums, government houses, churches and squares. It very much has the feel of a capital city, yet it has distinctive quarters and neighborhoods where one can get the feeling of modern or medieval. To feel like a local, rent a bicycle and tour around town and certainly spend a few hours at an outdoor cafe enjoying the local beers and foods. The Grand Palace is not to be missed as the heart of the city. The fantastic parks such as the Brussels Park and the Nation Park as well as the royal palace are wonderful spots too.
Situated on a half hour from Brussels by train, Ghent is home to the famous Ghent altarpiece by Van Eyck. The churches are unmistakably ornate and full or art. The flemish culture of Belgium is obvious in the style and architecture of the town. The domineering Belfry is a tower overlooking the city that inspires impressive views. Some buildings in the city center have excavations open to the public that show the history of the town as far back as Roman times. Sint-Baafskathedraal is the best church for viewing the impressive artwork the town is known for.
Set in the Northwest sector of the country in the Flemish region, Brugges is a city that looks like a fairytale. It is graced by canals, brick faced buildings and cobble stoned streets that wind and wander through parks and tiny houses. The city is known as the epicenter of cuisine because it combines so much of Europe’s great gastronomies into its own style. There is a restaurant at every turn and many of them have their ow micro-brews. The city’s churches, squares and parks are lovely presentations of city planning.
Sitting just a few train stops from Brussels Louvain or Leuven is the quintessential college town in Belgium. It is easily walkable top to bottom and across in forty minutes or so. It is home to students and as such it has a great scene of live music, cafe’s, bars and restaurants. The country’s largest brewery is also on site. The town hall is the most impressive building because of its ornate gothic structure. There is an abundance of sculpture, good waffles, architecture and nature to see all around.