Belgium falls through the cracks. Wedged between Germany, France, and the Netherlands, and famous for waffles, Smurfs, and a statue of a little boy peeing, it’s no wonder it can get lost in the mix. But Belgium rewards with richer sights than you might expect — and fewer tourist crowds. You’ll encounter some of Europe’s finest cuisine, including the best beer, creamiest chocolates, and tastiest French fries. Belgium’s town squares bristle with soaring spires and warm-brick gables. Its museums house lush paintings celebrating the glories of everyday life. From funky urban neighborhoods to tranquil convents, from old-fashioned lace to high-powered European politics, little Belgium delights.
At a Glance
PLAN YOUR TOUR
2 Days:Bruges 4 Days, add: Brussels and Ghent 6 Days, add: Antwerp 7 Days, add:Flanders Field (near Bruges) plus time to just slow down
Things To Do:
*Bruges Perfectly pickled Gothic city with charming cobbles, cozy squares, dreamy canals, divine chocolate, and unbeatable beer.
* Brussels Urbane capital of Belgium, the European Union, and NATO, with one of Europe’s grandest squares, colorful urban zones, and a beloved statue of a little boy peeing.
* Antwerp Gentrified port city with excellent museums, Belgium’s best fashion, and an engaging mix of urban grittiness and youthful trendiness.
* Ghent Pleasant, lively university city with historic quarter and breathtaking Van Eyck altarpiece in its massive cathedral.
* Flanders Fields Infamous battle sites near Ypres, offering a powerful glimpse into Belgium’s traumatic WWI experience.
* Damme Charming market town a bike ride away from Bruge.
* Bratislava (Slovakia) Once-depressed communist town, now a thriving capital city, less than an hour from Vienna and bursting with colorfully restored buildings; a quirky traffic-free old town; and a people-friendly Danube riverfront area.
* Berchtesgaden (Germany) Alpine town across the border from Salzburg, famous for incredible views, a pristine lake — and as the site of Hitler's mountaintop retreat.
When to Go
For tourist hotspots like Bruges, peak season is summer, especially June and early July. Business towns like Brussels, Antwerp, and Ghent tend to be more crowded in spring and fall. With long days, lively festivals, and sunny weather, summer is a great time to visit despite the crowds in places like Bruges. It’s rarely too hot for comfort. Plus, Brussels’ fancy business-class hotels are deeply discounted in the summer. Late spring and fall are also pleasant, with generally mild weather and lighter tourist crowds. Travel from late October through mid-March is cold and wet, as coastal winds whip through the low, flat country. It’s fine for city visits, but smaller towns and countryside sights feel dreary. Some sights and tourist information offices keep shorter hours, and many outdoor activities vanish altogether.