Belgium Travel Guides for Backpackers
Brussels – the land of chocolates, waffles and beerSo you’re planning to travel to Belgium? This might be for a variety of reasons namely to try its famous beer, waffles, chocolate and fries (or frites as they are known here). I must start by saying there is much more to this country than these things. However, albeit that, these are wonderful things. Belgian Beer Beer Tasting at the Delirium Cafe The center of the city has a collection of bars and in most bars, you can as for a ‘degustation’ and try 4-5 different types of beer, including chocolate beer or you can go all out and visit the Delirium village. This is a small alleyway with several bars that boast of different specialties of drink such a vodka, whiskey and absinthe and namely, the delirium cafe itself, which well has beer, ALOT of beer. It is a three-floor bar. On the top floor is a more quiet tasting area with an ever-changing menu focused on local brews and then two different floors, usually very animated with music. Ask at the bar for the full menu. It has 2500 beers from all over the world, with a very impressive coverage of Belgian beers. Also, at the end of the alley, there is the female version of the Manneken Pis called ‘Jeanneke-Pis’. Always a great opportunity for a photo with a peeing statue and it’s slightly more of original than one with the Manneken Pis itself. On a side note, on special days such (Celebration day usually the 3 September ), the Manneken Pis pisses free beer and its a full on party. For a more local boutique style beer, you can visit the ‘Belgian Beer project’ which has two bars and their menu is always changing. Favorite beer: Delirium Nocturium (dark beer) Maison Dandoy Waffles It is likely that after beers you will want some fries or even a waffle. You can find these on every street corner. For the waffles, the waffles from ‘Maison Dandoy’ are seen as the best. Address: Rue Charles Buls 14, 1000 Bruxelles Fries at Friterie de la Barrière , Saint-Gilles For the fries, I recommended heading a bit out of town to Saint Gilles. This ‘quartier’ is the Portuguese quarter. There is a little food truck styled van called ‘Friterie de la Barrière’, which has, in my opinion, the best fries in Brussels but be prepared to wait in line. Address: Avenue du Parc, 1060 Saint-Gilles Museum of Chocolate Then on the beautiful topic of chocolate, I highly recommend taking a trip to the Museum of chocolate. You can also go to the one in Brugges, both are fairly similar and yes you get to taste the chocolate. If you really want to buy a lot of chocolate and of course taste a lot of chocolate, you can go to the Godiva outlet store. Address: Godiva Outlet Store, Avenue de Jette 4, 1081 Brussel Royal Gallery of Saint Hubert Also, for a beautiful chocolate stroll in the city, you can walk through the […]
Beginners guide to travelling in Europe: BrusselsAs a child born and brought up in a middle-class family in India, all my knowledge about Europe was mainly from Football, movies, and social media platforms and I used to love seeing photos of the different cities in Europe and reading about what to see and do in different places. So, when I got an opportunity to pursue my masters in Germany, it was like a dream come true and the very first week I landed in Germany, I was buzzing to see places. It so happened that one of my friends had to go to Aachen (which is a 10-hour journey from my place, Ingolstadt) to get some stuff done. On hearing this I was immediately on board to go on this trip with him and we also planned to make a 1-day visit to Brussels, mind you, we didn’t have bank accounts by that time, we were still living off the bare minimum amount of money we had on our travel cards and also we didn’t properly plan this trip. So, we reach Aachen and get to our friend’s place have a couple of beers and start planning our trip, now guys Rule number 1 about travelling in Europe is ‘plan in detail and in advance’. En-Route Brussels While “researching” we came across a ticket using which we could travel in a regional train for one day to Brussels and back, paying just 8 euros per person. Seemed like a good enough deal, the next day we woke up early, reached the platform mentioned barely on time. A train also came right on schedule and we hopped on board. The train was really comfortable, very fast and seemed a very good deal for the price we paid. Guys, when something is too good to be true, it mostly is. Sure enough, the ticket checker came along and asked us for tickets, we proudly take the tickets out of our pockets and show it to her. She, without a change of tone says we can only use the regional trains with the ticket we bought and the train we boarded was a deluxe train (an ICE), we knew we were screwed. We ended up paying a hefty fine of 162 Euros and maybe she felt bad for us and said we saved 2 hours by getting on that train, which made us feel no better to be fair. Always read the terms and conditions guys! Anyway, we reached Brussels around 2 hours earlier than scheduled but our moods were dampened by this incident. After a few minutes, some rational thinking prevailed and we decided not to let it ruin our trip. What To Do in Brussels World famous Belgian waffles First on our bucket list was to have a breakfast of the world famous Belgian Waffles and we went to one of the best Waffle places in Belgium ” Maison Dandoy”. We might’ve waited only 15 minutes but the lack of sleep and hunger made it feel like a couple of hours, but once we got […]
Brussels, Belgium : A story of waffles and fossilsThis story consists of two equally important and exciting things: waffles and dinosaurs. Chocolate, waffles, and pubs The thing about Brussels that you cannot see on the pictures is that the whole city smells like waffles. On every street, there’s a waffle stand or a chocolate shop (often there is both). Obviously, I have tried waffles and chocolate before, but the ones in Belgium are something truly different. Even store bought ones are amazing (and a little addictive I should add). Needless to say, we have spent our whole stay in Belgium with waffles in our hands. So, Brussels is maybe not the best choice of a travel destination if you’re just starting your diet. Also, there are amazing pubs with an even more amazing selection of beer (also not good if you’re counting your calories). Of course, the iconic Delirium pub is a place you must visit and try one of their world famous Delirium beers. There are four different flavors, each named after a symptom of alcoholism with delirium tremens being the most famous one. A glimpse of Brussels at night The Pink elephant is the symbol of Brussels’ most iconic pub The Royal Museum of Natural history The beer and the waffles, together with the amazing architecture are more than enough reasons for you to visit this charming city. But for me, visiting a natural history museum and a botanical garden is an absolute must whenever I travel to a new city. Since I was visiting my best friend who was living in Belgium at the time and who is also a dinosaur enthusiast (to put it mildly) one of the most important stops on our visit was the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences. The evolution of the human kind exhibit I think we have spent the whole afternoon in the museum, although the time passed so quickly. Before you go and lose your mind over giant fossils of extinct reptiles, you can check out an amazing collection of precious stones and minerals and learn about the geological history of our planet. After that, there is an even cooler exhibit on the evolution of humans. Being an evolutionary biologist, I have read and learned tons of information on the evolution of our species during my university studies, but this exhibit puts things in a whole different perspective. You can walk through the room following hundreds and millions of years of evolutionary change starting with the early ancestors down to our closest relatives Neanderthals and to our own species. Every step in evolution is marked with an interactive digital screen with information about the time period, habitat and body characteristics of the species and also accompanied with a life-sized sculpture of the animal, so you can compare your height and other body measures with the early hominids which is really fun. So, for some time you get caught up in the workings of how we as a species came to be and you forget that not […]
Top 10 Things to Experience in Bruges, BelgiumMy husband and I both love to travel so it was a natural decision to celebrate our “paper” anniversary with plane tickets. We spent seven days exploring Northern Europe, spending each day in a new location. During the planning stages of our trip, we focused mostly on famous tourist locations. We wanted a day in the British Capital, riding a red double-decker bus through the misty rain hoping for a glimpse of the queen. A day in Paris eating crepes, ogling at the Eiffel Tower, and looking chic in front of the fountain in the Place de la Concorde like Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada. A day in Amsterdam strolling the bicycle filled cobblestone walkways while smelling the beautiful aroma of tulips wafting through the air from the Bloemenmarkt, the famous flower market, and visiting the harrowing Anne Frank museum. We knew we wanted to spend a day in Belgium, and although Brussels seemed like the most obvious choice, we decided we wanted a bit of a break from crowded cities. After a bit of research, we decided that Bruges, a medieval city in the Flemish region of Belgium, looked like a relaxing and picturesque location. What we planned on being the most low-key day of our vacation surprised us and became our most memorable. In most of the locations, we visited we did typical tourist activities: city tours on buses, visits to restaurants advertising “local cuisine”, and stops in front of the most famous landmarks for Christmas card worthy pictures. Wearing my crossbody purse and constantly taking pictures with my iPhone certainly didn’t help me blend into the local culture, in fact, I am sure my look was screaming “American” throughout most of my trip. But in Bruges, despite these things, I didn’t feel like a tourist I felt like an explorer, a traveler in the truest sense! Bruges is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been, from the cobblestone walkways to the picturesque swan filled canals; it is a physical representation of every 10-year-old girl’s ideal fairytale setting and a must-see for any travel enthusiast. I wish that we could have spent another whole week exploring Bruges alone, but we made the best of the day we spent there. Even if you only have one day here are the top 10 things to experience in Bruges. When you think of Belgium you think of two things: waffles and chocolate. So naturally, those were at the top of our to-do list and should be at the top of yours too. Go to an authentic Belgian waffle restaurant. Now, restaurant is a very loose term here. In Bruges, there were many, many great-looking restaurants advertising the best waffles in Belgium and maybe a few of those really did have great waffles. However, many of these places seemed a bit trendy. One shop was very similar to American frozen yogurt shops I’ve been to. You ordered a plain or chocolate waffle and then headed […]
Great Places to See in BrusselsBrussels is one of my favorite places in the world. I just love to return there even if I have been there already more than 20 times. The city just feels so busy but at the same time so peaceful and calm. I guess I like that these two feelings can be combined in one city, and I am sure that there are other such cities in the world, but I have not visited them yet to decide that. Moreover, it is interesting to see how office workers have their lunch on a bench in the park, and it can be seen how everyone enjoys the city and its own beauty. Not to mention that it really feels like the center of the European Union which gathers people from all around Europe. So here I am going to share my favorite places everyone should see in Brussels. Old town First thing to see in Brussels is the old town, because it is always the main attraction in every country and this is not an exception. There are many beautiful and interesting things to see. Grand Place The main attraction is the Grand Place – the most beautiful place in the old town. All the houses or I would rather call them castles remind me of sand castles made by dripping sand, because of all the small details and all those golden accents. At the beginning of July an annual ‘Brussels Dance festival’ took place at the Grand Place, which I recommend to attend, because it is a huge event with interesting shows. Moreover, at the side of the Belgian Brewers Museum on the Rue Charles Buls there is a golden statue which people can touch and make a wish. Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert Nearby are the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert which is also a building with a beautiful architecture. Inside the gallery there are different shops with clothes, decors, and sweets. When I am usually in Brussels, I go there to one chocolate shop called ‘La Belgique Gourmande’ where you can buy various delicious chocolates and other sweets including ones that look like little rocks. Peeing Statues In the old town, there are also the peeing statues: Manneken Pis is the statue of a little boy who is peeing, and it is a must see, because it is one of the symbols of Belgium. The story behind it, which I remember, is that this boy extinguished a fire by peeing on it – I really do not know if that is true, but that is the story I have heard. Moreover, there are two other statues which were made like a parody (some say for gender and animal equality purposes) for the peeing boy – the Jeanneke-Pis- a peeing girl, which is located in a very small and narrow street which in the nights turn into one of the main places for people to go drinking, but in the day time it is quiet and empty, and the Zinneke Pis- a peeing dog. […]
Have you seen the Blue Forest in Belgium?First Experience in Hallerbos I have lived in Belgium for more than 2 years and this Spring was the first time I have heard about the Blue Forest. When I heard about a forest full of flowers I really wasn't too impressed. I didn't understand why would anyone go see some flowers in the forest, I could not understand the craze. I thought to myself: it is one of those things where people try to make a touristy spot out of nothing and at least it is good that it's not too far away, only 29 kilometres from Brussels. Oh how wrong I was. My first words when I arrived to Hallerbos, the ancient forest, were : 'I am in a fairy tale'. Important thing here is to make sure you arrive during the season that the blue flowers blossom. In my case, I was there with my puppy surrounded by white flowers everywhere and I could not find these so talked-about blue flowers anywhere. And believe me, it's not because I couldn't read the forest map. 😀 We met a friendly forester who told us that it wasn't the season yet…The Blue-bells season starts at a different time every year and that people from all over the world come to see it. Normally the flowering season is in the middle of April and it lasts for 3 weeks. Everyone from around the world tries to come and see it during this short period of time, so make sure you pick the right timing ! Thankfully, I was still able to enjoy the forest as it was filled with white flowers and yellow narcissus. Due to the fact that I was absolutely fascinated with the white forest, I had to come again during the right time. I mean my expectations have grown immensely. Many people arrive here with their dogs, go hiking or biking. It's a very clean, beautiful place that is nourished. This beautiful forest offers 3 hiking paths: 1.8km Achdreven walk (central), 4 km Sequoia Walk and 7 km Roebuck walk for those who love adventurous hiking. And make sure to visit their free forest museum! One of the reasons that made my visit so unforgettable was Bambi. 😀 Haha yes, just in the middle of the beautiful field of flowers I saw on of these gorgeous creatures. It was breathtaking. With the birds and squirrels around I almost felt like a Snowwhite. 😀 Super yummy ice-cream from the ice-cream truck just made the whole experience unfathomable. Those little things that make you happy. Even my puppy Dora could not stay calm in one place, she got overly excited.
Bruges: Canals and CobblestonesIf you’re here, you’re one or more of these: You’re into Hollywood and watched “In Bruges” a couple of times and fell in love with the city. A fan of Indian movies – Bruges has become one of your dream destinations, just after the first few minutes of Amir Khan’s “PK”. Probably a travel demon-possessed, crazy person like I, who picks one random city every week and does a complete virtual tour and can’t stop thinking about Bruges ever since you map-marked it. Bruges (pronounced “Broojh”) or Brugge, Belgium, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has something on offer for everyone: couples to revel in the romantic setup of canals and cobblestone walkways, solo travelers who love getting lost in a maze of narrow streets, friends who just want to hang out by the river and make music, the elderly to enjoy a late evening hot chocolate at the laid back posh cafés and of course, for families, hell, because, it’s vacation! I backpacked for just a day in this mesmerizing north-western Belgian town in the February cold and it was pure magic. Bruges, the ‘Venice of the North’, is straight out of fairytale: Canals, vintage streets, medieval architecture, lovely street music, and cheery people – the atmosphere is nothing less than euphoric! You can pretty much cover Bruges in a day, if you start early, but I would suggest two days or even three, if you want to soak up the culture when you’re right there, living the moment. Well, you know what I mean. So, here’s my list of things to do in Bruges: Minnewater Lake and Park When you get out of the main railway station, take a left and you will be greeted by a canal way bordered by a large canopy of trees. That’s your first photo cue. Imagine walking around this beauty, on a mildly cold morning, as the first rays of the sun hit the water and the trees, illuminating the whole setup! A serene February morning at Minnewater Park Oh, there’s this breathtaking view of the prettiest castle by the lake – your second photo cue. Believe me, you would want to stand there for hours, staring at it, if not for the people waiting impatiently to have a picture for themselves. Disney Castle – Minnewater Lake TIP: Early morning, just around sunrise, is ideal, as there aren’t many tourists and you have time aplenty, if you love clicking photos or being in several. Perfect windows wallpaper spot! Belfry of Bruges You’d definitely remember this, if you’re a fan of “In Bruges”. This bell tower served as a treasury and watch tower in the medieval times. History says that the Belfry was taller in the Middle Ages, until it caught fire and burned down because of lightning. Climb up all the 366 stairs to reach the top at 83m and click away fab panoramas of the entire city.
Autumn in LeuvenWhen you plan a trip to or through Belgium chances are that you are going to visit Brussels (home of the European parliament), Bruges (famous of the film “In Bruges”) and Antwerp (the Diamond city), but I invite you to hop on a train in the direction of Leuven and travel 20 short minutes east of Brussels. I am going to take you on a tour visiting the places that became points of reference for me in this frequently overlooked Flemish pearl. Leuven is my alma mater and one of the most enchanting little cities in the world with some stunning UNESCO heritage. The first time I got of the train in Leuven I was struck by the smell of frituur (fresh Flemish fries). The square in front of the station was under construction and I felt a little lost. I was a poor aspiring student, with just enough money for two nights in a youth hostel in an unknown town that had to become my home for the next five years. At the time there was only one YMCA hostel on the abandoned north side of the train station. As you can imagine that didn’t help me to feel welcome. I dropped my bags and set out to discover. Nowadays there are many cute Bed & Breakfasts and several hostels in the city center. If you are about to book your stay in Leuven, make sure to find an accommodation inside of the city center ring. Getting around In Leuven there is no subway but it is served by a good bus network. I spent my first days walking around getting to know the town. I suggest you do the same. It’s the best thing on a sunny autumn day. The colours are beautiful and ought to be admired. You could also explore the city by bike (they are for rent at the station), but the rules for biking in Leuven are pretty strict. Due to the large amount of students, the police hands out fines for cycling in the wrong direction or without lights as if they were fun stickers. Highlights Central Leuven From the station a short stroll down Bondgenotenlaan brings you to Fonske. A little statue. This little statue repres ents a student who pours water (a metaphor for wisdom) in his head whilst reading a book. Like Manneken Pis in Brussels, also Fonske frequently gets dressed and is the mascot of Leuven. Two passes further you will get struck by the amazing beauty of the town hall and the cathedral on the Oude Markt Square. On Oude Markt you can enjoy a cup of coffee or glass of cava (sparkling wine) in style next to the town hall of Leuven. I personally like to look up and admire the frontage of the buildings. They tell many stories about other times. It is one of those places where old meets new. The other big square called Grote Markt, is in the afternoon the place to be for a beer […]
Bruges – medieval beauty for sweet toothsWhy we decided to go to Bruges? Have you ever seen a movie “In Bruges” with Colin Farrell? Or perhaps remember the scene at the end of it where Farrell’s character starts a not so positive monologue about Bruges? To be entirely precise I quote “…maybe that's what hell is: the entire rest of eternity spent in Bruges?!” – Ray, “In Bruges”. I watched it just a few months before going to Bruges with a friend of mine. We actually watched it together and were rather surprised by such strong and depressive message. All we heard about Bruges before is that it is a gorgeous city to visit. But after watching a movie we were wondering if going to Bruges is such a good idea. We asked people around that we new were there and all of them said that the city is so beautiful that you feel like you are in a fairyland, with its narrow medieval streets, smell of freshly made Belgian waffles accompanied with delicious dark Belgian chocolate. Now after hearing this who would resist NOT going there? So of course we did. Why it is a good idea to stay with AirBnb hosts? We rented a room on AirBnb and stayed in a very cosy house in a private room. Our host was so welcoming and sweet, I remember him preparing a map for us with all of the places we could visit. He even offered us free beer, coffee and some snacks from the fridge. We were starving as we arrived late so that was a great bonus and a great start of our journey. Plus it was only costing us 30 euro per night per room, which makes it 15 euro each and provides more friendly environment rather then a hotel. Happy we finally hit the bed and next morning excitedly went on our tour to explore Bruges and to see with our own eyes who was right – Ray from the movie or our friends. Our impression of the city Our trip to the main square that locals call Markt took approximately 20 mins by foot. The closer we were getting to the city centre the prettier were getting the architecture, the narrower were getting the streets and asphalt roads were getting replaced by cobble stone. May I add that it was November so the trees had colors and it made the view postcard-worth! The Bruges indeed was very beautiful! And this fact was clearly known by a lot of people around the world, as its streets were packed with tourists, us being one of them. So at some point we joined the united flow and let ourselves be taken by it not thinking where we are going, letting the city to unfold. The main part of medieval town is a main tourist’s attractions and is surrounded by a river and has a lot of little canals, making the view very picturesque. Every bridge has a spectacular scenery overlooking either a tower or a castle […]
Go eat the chocolate I’m a chocolate addict. Along with traveling and books, this is my most powerful addiction. If you’re not, just go to Antwerp, you’ll become one in no time. You can see handmade chocolate shops in every corner. You may think it’s hard trying to choose, but believe me, it’s not. They all are awesome! If you want to sit down and have the best hot chocolate ever, go to the chocolate bar Quetzal. I recommend the double shot option with 35% milk. And eat a brownie. It’s to die for! Beautiful Antwerp, Belgium Go rent a bike and cycle around the neighborhoods You may hear a lot that the true spirit (or soul, or feel – whatever you want to call it) is not in the touristy area. For Antwerp, the historic and cultural feel is in the center, while the “people feel” is around its residential neighborhoods. Berchem is a good choice. It’s incredibly peaceful and green. You can stop for a coffee or frozen yogurt in one of its parks, or you can go see the Middleheim university campus and its open-air museum, which is quite original. You can talk to random people, because contrary to common understanding, the people here are friendly and smile a lot. And don’t worry, it’s very safe. De Muze, Antwerp, Belgium Go feel the jazz I think most of the people have heard about De Muze jazz bar in Antwerp. It’s an awesome place! Even if you don’t like jazz (and I don’t think it’s possible, maybe you just haven’t yet listened to good jazz), De Muze is the bar to be. It is a bar, a café and a pub. And above all, it’s a meeting place for all locals and travelers alike. Wanna make some new friends? Wanna meet talented musicians and artists? Wanna have the best night of your life? You got it – go to De Muze. You can’t find a free table? No worries, just ask anyone to make some space at their table for you, and you’re going to end up with some amazing new friends in Antwerp. Street music in Antwerp, Belgium Go enjoy even more of the music Antwerp has art and culture at its core. Everywhere you’ll choose to go, you will see people singing, playing instruments, painting, dancing. The Meir Street is the center of it all. […]