Belgium is a beautiful country! If we put aside all the old and beautiful architecture, what can possibly be wrong with a place that is all about their beer, frites (fries) and their waffles! That sounds like some kind of heaven! We visited Ghent, Brugge (or Bruges), the capital, Brussels and the diamond capital, Antwerp.
Ghent is a beautiful city. It’s worth a visit as it is charming without being overly touristy like Brugge.
Brugge is touristy but deservedly so. This place oozes charm. As you walk around the centre, you are compelled to get your camera out almost constantly. There are picturesque canals beautiful old buildings, cute alleyways etc. It is just a feast for the eyes. Clip clopping down the narrow roads are horse drawn carts carrying tourists. These are almost all driven by women tour guides. In fact, I would say, the tour is driven by the horse as in most cases, the lady is turned around almost completely as she points and explains the sights to the tourists instead of watching the road! It is more or less left to the horse to watch out for the dopey pedestrian tourists on the road!
An alternative to a tour of the city by horse, is to take a boat tour through the network of canals. In contrast, all these boat tours are run by men!
Brugge is touristy but I think, unlike some other places, despite that, it still retains plenty of picturesque charm. Perhaps this was due to timing. It was early September when we went and the summer crowd was decreasing in number. Brugge is a common day trip from Brussels so if you are staying in Brugge, get out and explore early or late to avoid the day-trippers! Either that or venture slightly away from the hub and you will find the streets almost deserted!
Brussels was a bit of a shock after the pretty, small town of Brugge. Brussels is a grimy, supposedly crime-y, expensive, big city with a diverse population. The area around the Gare Du Midi, the main train station, is particularly dodgy. Despite that, on Sundays, the markets held near the Gare Du Midi are one of the largest markets I’ve ever been to. These markets are super crowded so watch your belongings! There are loads of stalls selling fruit and vegetables and household items. This is not a touristy market. It’s a market for the lower working class where lots of practical household things can be bought cheaply. It’s not much of a cooked food market but it is a fantastic market for plants. There is a huge plant section and it is the best place to buy healthy indoor plants for freshening up your apartment for an astonishing low price!
Antwerp is only a short train ride from Brussels making it a perfect day trip. It is a hub of the diamond trade so there are plenty of jewelry shops for you to gawk at as you walk around.
When in Belgium, it is absolutely imperative to sample the beer, the frites and the waffles. There is a wide range of beers that are hard to find anywhere else and some of them are really delicious! The frites are awesome because the authentic ones are cooked in beef fat. They come with a huge range of sauces to choose from. Many of these sauces are only found in Belgium like Andalouse and Samurai! There are two different types of waffles in Belgium, Liege waffles and Brussels waffles. The Brussels waffles are lighter, crispy and rectangular. Liege waffles are denser, chewier and rounder in shape. My favourite are the Liege waffles!