My Southern neighbour Belgium is so nearby and always lurking me to come. Less than three hours by train from the Netherlands, it’s in fact perfect for food loving backpackers. Lovely cities with old historical centers full of cosy restaurants. After several visits I made a top 10 list of the most incredible experiences I had in Belgium.
Backpacking Belgium: my 10 best experiences
Number 1: Romantic Bruges
If you are in Belgium you must definitely visit Bruges. For me, it is my favourite city in Belgium. It’s a small town without a specific old town center, rather the whole town brings you back to medieval times. Every street and corner offers new picture perfect scenes. Add several old churches, romantic canals, nice restaurants and plenty off shops offering Belgian delicacies like chocolate and waffles. What else do you want?
Number 2: Forest & Hills in the Ardennes
Another highlight of my Belgium trips is the Ardennes. A region of densely forested hills and cute villages. It’s an excellent destination for the outdoor lovers. There are plenty of opportunities such as hiking, mountain biking and rock climbing. You can also visit the worlds smallest city Durbuy, wander around medieval castles in the picturesque town of La Roche en Ardenne or watch the spectacular views from the Citadel in Dinant .
The best places to stay in the Ardennes can be found in Airbnb. We stayed on a farm near Dinant in the middle of the countryside. Our host was very friendly and even invited us over for dinner one evening.
Number 3: Eating Belgian waffles
Once in Belgium, forget about your diet. Belgium food is amazing and one thing you should definitely try are the waffles. Waffles come with a variety of toppings like cream, strawberries or chocolate. Skip lunch, sit back and fill your stomach with a sweet waffle.
Number 4: Tasting Belgian chocolate
Another reason to forget about your diet is chocolate. I am a strange person that is actually not that fond of chocolate, but Belgian chocolate is something else and makes even my mouth water. Since 1635 Belgium is one of Europe’s most important producers of chocolate. You can watch the production in action in one of the chocolatiers where you can also taste the huge variety of different praliné’s on offer.
Number 5: Brussels, the capital of Europe
Even after several visits throughout the years, Brussels is a city I am always looking forward to. Old churches, beautiful buildings and plenty of restaurants. This year I was lucky to see the bi-annual flower carpet in the big market. I have never seen Brussels this busy.
At other times the big market is more quiet and every time the view still takes my breath away. Brussels is the capital of Europe. One can visit the European Parliament, the Atomium and of course both Manneken Pis and the female Janneken Pis. Janneken Pis is more hidden, so make it your mission to find her through the old cobble stoned streets of the old town center.
Number 6: Medieval Ghent
Another charming city with plenty of historical churches and a nice old town is Ghent. During the Middle Ages this was one of the richest and most powerful cities in Europe. Now it is a student city popular among the Belgian youth. Make sure you stop here and join the students in the many restaurants near the canal at the Korenmarkt.
Number 7: The student city of Leuven
Leuven has the oldest catholic university in the world and is a true student city. Even though the city was damaged in both World Wars, the historic center has been well-preserved. The lively, dynamic city is worth a visit.
Number 8: The Diamond city of Antwerpen
Antwerp is close to the dutch border, yet I was there only twice. A pity as the city is fun, beautiful and offers all the Belgium delicacies you want. Antwerpen is also the world leading diamond city and more than 70% of diamonds are traded here. The old town in Antwerpen is just as scenic as most other historical cities in Belgium.
Number 9: practice your french in Namur
Namur is the capital of french speaking Wallonie and knows a long history. The Romans already settled down at its strategic locations where the river Sambre joins the Meuse. There is a citadel with beautiful views on the town.
Number 10: Tasting Belgium Beer
I actually do not drink and so far haven’t found anything alcoholic that I like the taste of. Untill I was in Belgium and I tasted Kriek, a cherry beer. Belgium has the biggest variety of beers in the world so sit down at a café and try something new.
Ellis is a travelblogger from the Netherlands with over 20 years of experience as an independent budget traveller in more than 50 countries. She has a Master degree in Cultural Anthropology and Global Health with a specialization in South Asian cultures and the Caucasus.