15 best places to visit in Belgium

15 best places to visit in Belgium

Belgium truly is one of the most underrated, unique countries in Europe. Don’t believe me? Then you need to read on about the best places to visit in Belgium, because I’m sure you’ll be hitting them all on your next European backpacking trip!

Belgium might seem unassuming at first. It doesn’t have a warm climate or the vast countryside of bigger countries, but Belgium is special in its own way. In fact, it’s actually pretty weird. And I mean that in the best way possible. It’s made up of two main regions: Dutch-speaking Flanders in the north and French-speaking Wallonia in the south. German is spoken in the east, and Brussels is a largely French-spoken capital city. Just to keep you on your toes.

That’s just one example of how awesome and different Belgium is! Let’s dive into some of the best places to visit in Belgium and you’ll realise there is so much to see in this beautiful country.

1. Brussels

best places to visit in Belgium, town hall in brussels

📸:@yokeboy

When chatting to a bartender in Belgium’s capital city of Brussels, he asked me, “why did you come to Brussels when Amsterdam is only one hour away by train?” Erm, because Brussels is amazing and perfect for backpackers! It has some of the best beer and street food in the world (Delirium and fries, anyone?), not to mention the phenomenal nightlife and cute comic book street art around the city. Any walking tour (or beer tour) is almost exclusively dominated by young travellers, so it’s easy to make friends here. Read about more awesome things to do in Brussels here.

Hot tip: When buying waffles, look out for food vans or smaller shops with little kitchens. Lack of space means they need to make the waffles fresh for every order.. When it comes to fries, eat them the Dutch way – with mayonnaise!

Top things to see:

  • Atomium
  • Grand Place
  • Manneken Pis

Best time to visit: Off-peak seasons March-May, September-October

How many days: Two days

Where to stay: Brussels 2GO4 Quality Hostel Grand Place

This hostel effortlessly creates a traditional high-class manor vibe. The upholstered sofas, renaissance paintings and its prime location will have you feeling like Dutch royalty.

Compare all hostels in Brussels

2. Bruges

best places to visit in Belgium, cobbled street with bicycles in Bruge

📸:@delensvandaan

For those of you who’ve watched the film In Bruges, I don’t need to explain to you how wrong Colin Farrell’s character is about this city that’s overflowing with beautiful Dutch architecture, centuries-old market squares, dreamy canals, medieval-style taverns and photo ops on every corner. For a popular, compact city, it’s a relaxing place to wander around as a lot of the city centre is pedestrianised. Believe the hype about Bruges!

Top things to see:

  • Belfry
  • Central Markt,
  • De Halve Maan Brewery

Best time to visit: Two words: Christmas markets

How many days: One day

Where to stay: St Christopher’s Inn – Bauhaus Hostel

Prepare to be the life of the party at St Christopher’s Inn – Bauhaus. This hostel boasts an on-site bar and café.

Compare all hostels in Bruges

3. Leuven

best places to visit in Belgium, man on a bicycle in the street with the sun behind in leuven

📸:@tobiasc

Two words: Belgian beer. You can discover great beer anywhere in Belgium, but if you’re a self-confessed beer snob then you must hit up Leuven. It’s a 30-minute train journey east of Brussels, so it’s a super convenient place to visit. And because Leuven is home to Belgium’s highest-ranked university, approximately 1 in 3 residents are students. You can walk around all day without seeing someone over 40!

But back to the beer. There are 30 breweries here, so make sure you check out at least two or three: Hof Den Dormaal and Huisbrouwerij Domus should be on your list, as well as a visit to ‘the longest bar in the world’ where small and large beers cost the same!

Top things to see:

  • Friday Market
  • Begijnhof Village

Best time to visit: April for the Zythos Beer Festival

How many days: One/two days

Where to stay: Leuven City Hostel

The hostel is located in the heart of the action – surrounded by over 200 pubs! If that’s not heaven, what is?!

Compare all hostels in Leuven

4. Ostend

best places to visit in Belgium, Sint-Petrus-en-Pauluskerk in ostend

Sint-Petrus-en-Pauluskerk, 📸:Nigel Swales

Looking for a beach break with a difference? Ostend on Belgian’s northeast coast is a popular day trip for locals wanting to make the most of those short Belgian summers. Ostend has the best of both worlds. Not only does it have a huge coastline of fine sand beaches and delicious seafood (try the mussels!) but the rest of the city is built up of historic streets and colourful ports. A perfect day trip from Bruges or Ghent.

Top things to see:

  • Klein Strand Beach
  • Royal Galleries of Ostend

Best time to visit: Summer

How many days: Day trip

Where to stay: HI De Ploate Ostend

Stay at the sleek HI De Ploate Ostend hostel to take in everything that the city has to offer. Your stay includes a free buffet breakfast, so you’ll be extra energised to explore this beachside oasis.

Compare all hostels in Ostend

5. Dinant

best places to visit in Belgium, houses by the river in Dinant

📸:@alexrvasey

One of the best places to visit in Belgium is Dinant – it’s one of the most picturesque places in existence (in my opinion). This small town is achingly beautiful. It’s a quaint spot on the River Meuse with a sheer cliff edge just behind, in the Wallonian province of Namur. The town is still a protected, walled citadel to this day, giving off mega Game of Thrones vibes. Dinant is randomly also the birthplace of Adolphe Sax, the guy who invented the saxophone, and you can even visit his house!

Top things to see:

  • Collegiate Church of Our Lady
  • Maison de Monsieur Sax

Best time to visit: September/October for the changing leaves

How many days: Day trip/afternoon trip from Namur

6. Spa

best places to visit in Belgium, Le Roche-en-Ardenne in Spa

Le Roche-en-Ardenne, 📸:@quenten10

Have you ever wondered where the name ‘spa town’ came from? Of course you have! Well, the term originated from the perfectly pristine town in Belgium called Spa, set in a valley within the beautiful region of Ardennes and blessed with numerous thermal waters packed with minerals. People have flocked to Spa since the 14th century to relax in the healing waters and it’s still a top destination in Belgium. Doesn’t hurt that it’s a beautiful old town surrounded by miles of the most epic Belgian countryside either.

Top things to see:

  • Hiking
  • Spa
  • Casino of Spa (oldest casino in the world)

Best time to visit: Summer

How many days: One/two days

7. Mechelen

best places to visit in Belgium, view of buildings against the sky in Mechelen

📸:@ayman_elkandoussi

It doesn’t happen often, but I can’t help feeling smug when I stumble across a new cool city that basically no one has heard about and it’s just so cool. Mechelen is one of the coolest, best places to visit in Belgium right now – get there before everyone else finds out! Set between Antwerp and Brussels, Mechelen feels like a purposefully planned Belgian city: beautiful, historic buildings and cobbled streets but also super clean with a hipster, industrial feel too. I can’t explain it. Just visit Mechelen and you’ll understand.

Top things to see:

  • Het Anker Brewery
  • Rumbold’s Tower
  • Grote Markt

How many days: One day

Where to stay: HI De Zandpoort Mechelen

HI De Zandpoort Mechelen is in a perfect location right next to the station, they offer free breakfast and have an on-site bar. You’ll want to stay in this city so much that you might throw out your passport in protest!

Compare all hostels in Mechelen

8. Ghent

best places to visit in Belgium, row of buildings in ghent

📸:@thomas_somme

Ghent is one of the best cities in Belgium for culture lovers, as well as being a less-visited alternative to Bruges and Brussels. Like Bruges, it has the postcard-perfect canals with storybook houses as well as castles and cathedrals to really hammer in the medieval vibes. Lke Brussels there’s always something going on, with quirky annual events such as a jazz festival, a light festival and Ode Gand – a music festival on the canals where you can travel by boat from one stage to the next!

Top things to see:

  • Gravensteen
  • Patershol

Best time to visit: September for Ode Gand

How many days: Two days

Where to stay: Hostel Uppelink

Smack bang in the centre of town – everything is right at your doorstep! Yet you won’t even have to leave your room to see some of the best views of the city.

Compare all hostels in Gent

9. The Sonian Forest

best places to visit in Belgium, The Sonian Forest in snow

📸:Didier Weemaels

It’s so unreal that just 30 minutes outside of Brussels city centre is a 5,000-hectare ancient forest that dates back to the Iron Age. You don’t need to choose between a city break and an adventure break, because you can easily do both! Hire bikes and explore mile after mile of The Sonian Forest, one of the most unspoilt spots in Belgium. See if you can spot any wild boar or even go fishing in this newly minted UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Best time to visit: Summer

How many days: Day trip

10. Durbuy

best places to visit in Belgium, house with ivy on a cobbled street in Durbuy

📸: Esther Westerveld

If you’re planning a trip around Belgium, you’ve clearly got a thing for impressive castles and awesome architecture. Well there’s nowhere that feels more like you’re in a middle-age time warp than Durbuy! Officially known as Belgium’s smallest city, this teeny tiny town in the south is where just 500 people call home. The streets are still cobbled and crooked with barely enough room for a horse and cart to squeeze past all the shops and restaurants that are packed into this miniscule place. If you’re a sucker for all things old fashioned, check out La Ferme du Chêne Brewery which produces beer using a 14th century method.

Top things to see:

  • Durbuy Castle
  • The Topiary Park

Best time to visit: Mid-September for the Festival of Beer, Bread and Cheese

How many days: Day trip

11. Eifel Nature Park

best places to visit in Belgium, sun shining through the trees in The Eifel Nature Park

📸:@janniskuballa

The Eifel Nature Park might spill over the German border, but the Belgium side is where it’s at. This vast and rugged forest dates back to the Ice Age for crying out loud, and it’s so wild that wildcats, lynx and eagles have all been spotted here. But the best way to experience the nature reserve has got to be from the top of the Hirschley looking down on the Rurstausee Reservoir. Serious Hunger Games vibes in this part of the world.

Key attractions: Cycling and hiking trails

Best time to visit: Summer

How many days: One day

Where to stay: Malmedy Youth Hostel

Located close to Germany, this hostel attracts the sporty type of backpackers, with organised activities such as hiking, climbing and archery all at your fingertips. The hostel even hosts folk dancing lessons and spa sessions! Did someone say budget luxury?

12. Torgny

best places to visit in Belgium, houses looking onto fields in Torgny

📸:@morgaine

Torgny is an adorable little village right on the French border that seems to be having an identity crisis. You half expect Disney’s Belle to be prancing down the street with a picnic basket but that’s the magical thing about Belgium, there are so many fairytale influences!

Torgny isn’t what you’d call a happening place, but it’s a perfect stop off on a road trip or day trip. The warm, rusty-coloured houses and window shutters that adorn every street are too cute, but that’s not the only reason it seems like Torgny should be a town in Provence in the south of France: it has a Mediterranean microclimate, perfect for vineyards!

Top things to see:

  • Poirier du Loup Winery
  • Torgny’s artisanal fait

Best time to visit: June-July

How many days: Day trip

13. Hallerbos in Halle

best places to visit in Belgium, bluebells in Hallerbos forest

📸:@TomoakiINABA

Cherry blossoms in Japan, lavender fields in France, tulips in the Netherlands… Instagram goes blooming mad with seasonal flower displays every spring. And while the rest of the world has been flocking to these places, the Hallerbos forest just southwest of Brussels in the city of Halle has quietly been sprouting its own phenomenal fauna for years. The sparseness of the trees means you can see the bluebells carpet the forest floor, but plan your trip wisely. The bluebells only appear for about 10 days every year, but they’re such a wonder of nature it’s worth the risk.

Best time to visit: Mid-late April

How many days: Day trip

14. Ypres

best places to visit in Belgium, city centre in Ypres

📸:Steve Parker 

You might not want to admit it, but I know that some of us love visiting battlefields and important war sites around the world. Some of the best places to visit in Belgium happen to be where important historical events took place.

One is Waterloo and another (which has not been immortalised in an ABBA song) is Ypres. 300,000 people lost their lives on the front line in WWI, right here in Ypres. The city is home to the Flanders Fields Museum and a Last Post ceremony takes place every day at 20:00. Despite everything that happened here, it’s an extremely fascinating visit.

Top things to see:

  • Menin Gate Memorial
  • Flanders Battlefield
  • Hill 60

Best time to visit: Summer

How many days: Day trip

15. Antwerp

best places to visit in Belgium, girl taking a picture of row of buildings in Antwerp

📸:@nicolebaster

If you can’t make it to any of the other awesome places to visit in Belgium, there’s always Antwerp. Belgium’s most populous city, Antwerp is the place to be for young professionals. It’s a fashion hotspot like Milan (good for vintage lovers), has a nightlife scene to rival Amsterdam and more uber contemporary museums, trendy cafés and galleries than you could ever hope to visit. Spend an afternoon hanging out in the cobbled neighbourhood of Het Zuid eating sushi and flicking through vinyl shops to measure how cool you really are.

Top things to see:

  • Museum aan de Stroom
  • Cathedral of Our Lady Antwerp

How many days: Two days

Where to stay: Yust Antwerp

This super stylish hostel screams chic. With plush surfaces, sprawling bookshelves and en-suite dorms, it will have you reconsidering what you know about budget accommodation!

Compare all hostels in Antwerp

 

Have you been to Belgium and feel there’s something amazing missing from this list? Tell us in the comments!

About the author:

Rebecca Sharp is a freelance content creator and blogger based in the UK. Her blog, Almost Ginger, combines her two passions of film and travel by featuring filming locations, film festivals and wanderlust-inspiring films.

Keep reading:

The ultimate backpacker guide to Europe

The best cities in Europe for craft beer lovers

Is this Europe’s most underrated city? A local’s guide to Brussels

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About The Author

Hayley McKenna

Just another Aussie living in London with travel on the mind. Junior Content Writer and #HostelworldInsider at Hostelworld. I have a bad habit of spontaneously buying cheap flights to random places. I love antique shopping on the weekends. 🌍Favourite place on earth: Nice, France. 🏠Favourite hostel: King Kong Hostel Rotterdam, Netherlands. Keep up with my travels on Instagram: @suitcaseonmysleeve

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