I can’t even explain how good it feels to finally be adding a post to the travel section of my blog! I started this blog one year ago with every intention of including regular travel articles – and then, well, we all know what happened. But YAY for a travel comeback!
Belgium has been at the top of me and my husband’s bucket list for some time now and we finally got to check it off with a quick 72 hours in Belgium! Why such a short trip abroad you ask? Well, that is because my husband works for an airline and we can fly standby with his flight perks, making it easy for us to do long weekends here and there and everywhere. We try to minimize the amount of vacation days we take at a time so that we can see more places – so that’s why it was only 72 hours in Belgium.
Naturally we figured that the capital of Belgium was a must-see, so Brussels was first on the itinerary. Next, literally all my Pinterest inspiration for Belgium featured Bruges, so that had to be added. And lastly, without rhyme or reason, we added Ghent and I am SO glad that we did.
Here is how we spent 72 hours in Belgium! I’ll start with some general information about Belgium and then go into more detail for each city that we visited.
What to Eat in Belgium
I’m not sure why we didn’t know this ahead of time seeing as how Belgium is so close to the sea, but Belgium is a big seafood country! Try the mussels in Brussels, they’re pretty much everywhere, but beware of tourist traps – you’ll know them when you see them.
- WAFFLES – duh. You can take your pick between the Brussels waffle or the Leige waffle, my personal favorite, and you can add all sorts of toppings or just eat it plain. They are delicious no matter which way you eat them! Stop in the Maison Dandoy for a Speculoos Macchiato and a waffle.
- The Belgian chocolate is so decadent and a must try.
- Belgian beer! Think Stella Artois.
- Frites cones. Literally a paper cone full of French fries and your favorite toppings, what could even be better?
How to get Around Belgium
It’s very easy to walk everywhere you need to go! If you want to be a true Belgian, you could rent a bike or scooter and there are also taxis, but not many.
Taking the train is super easy and convenient as there are quite a few hotels close to Brussels Central. Of course, the airport is in Brussels and you can take the train directly from the airport to whichever city you are staying in. If Brussels is your base, you can simply take the train to most of the other main cities for the day! Ghent is only a 30 minute train ride from Brussels and Bruges is just an hour train ride from Brussels.
Where to Stay: The Dominican Brussels is only a 5 minute walk away from the train station. We stayed here for 2 out of our 3 nights in Belgium.
We were able to stay here using points since we are Marriott Bonvoy Members. The hotel was a whimsical modern, almost gothic vibe, but very cool. You had no idea you were at a Marriott property as it seemed much more boutique. The hotel breakfast was delicious, ours was not included, but it was very convenient for the day we had to leave and also affordable. We also really enjoyed the hotel bar for a night cap (open until midnight) and the waterfall showers were dreamy.
What to Do: To be quite honest with you, for a country capital, there was not a lot to do in Brussels. We were somewhat disappointed, but it wasn’t a total bust. We typically never plan out our activities or make an itinerary, we wake up when we want and walk all over the city only stopping when something really strikes our fancy. Here are the few stops I recommend in Brussels!
- Stroll down Les Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert for some shopping, a coffee break, and beautiful photos. Stop in the Maison Dandoy for a Speculoos Macchiato and marvel at the classically beautiful and perfectly instagrammable décor.
- You cannot leave Brussels without visiting the Grand Place, Brussels magnificent city square surrounded by gothic architecture and gilded facades. I recommend checking it out during the day to see the gold sparkle, but also returning in the evening to see it glitter when it’s all lit up.
- Something I wanted to do, but ran out of time was to visit the Royal Palace of Brussels, which is open to the public to tour July 21st thru August. It looks spectacular and who wouldn’t want to tour a palace?!
- Lastly, and something we only came across because it was right next to our hotel, was Bath & Barley. Just like the name sounds, it is literally a beer spa. I never knew such a thing existed and now it’s something that I think EVERYONE should get to experience. We did the 2 people in 2 tubs for EUR 139 and added on a flight. The flights are paired with delicious Belgian chocolate making the experience that much more decadent. You get your own private room with robes, showers, your own tap, a bed of hay (like what?) and fresh fruit. It was incredibly romantic but could also be fun with a bunch of girlfriends in swimsuits if you’d prefer! I just can’t even explain how cool this was especially after a very long day of touring and walking all over the city. We booked our reservation for 8pm, the session lasted ~1.5 hours and then we headed across the street for an Italian dinner. So memorable and so glad we found this! Keep in mind it is only open Thurs-Sun when making your plans.
How much time should you spend there: One day.
Where to Stay: We did not spend a night in Bruges, but if we had I would have stayed at the Hotel De Orangerie. I had walked by it as the location is right in the city center and it immediately caught my eye. I love hotels with a historic, boutique vibe and this is exactly that. Plus they host an afternoon tea, which is one of my favorite things ever. You can sit on the terrace with beautiful views of the canal, sounds like a dream. Even if you are not staying there, you can still book the afternoon tea served every day from 2-5pm.
What to Do: Bruges is the type of city that requires no itinerary. Just walking around the sidewalks and observing its beauty is a priceless experience in and of itself. When you read fairytales and envision where the princess lives, you envision Bruges. But if you prefer to have some inspiration here are a few ideas:
- Visit the Basilica of the Holy Blood, a Roman Catholic minor basilica in Bruges. The church houses a venerated relic of the Holy Blood allegedly brought from the Holy Land. You can see this when you visit along with a beautiful altar and stained-glass windows. It is in an unexpected location making it that much more mysterious and beautiful.
- Visit Le Comptoir de Mathilde to get a true Belgian chocolate experience. This place has nothing on Willy Wonka. It is a great place to pick up souvenirs and gifts to bring back home.
- Stroll around the Vismarkt, which is technically a fish market, but don’t let that deter you. There are also local artisans selling beautiful paintings, drawings, and wood carvings.
- Yes, it’s touristy, but take a boat ride down one of the canals. How could you not?
- Stop by The Markt, the center of Bruges and hopefully if you’re lucky you’ll hear the beautiful bells from the Belfy, a medieval bell tower in the city center. If you’re feeling athletic, you can climb the 366 stairs to the top for amazing views.
- I did not know about this place before I was there, but wish I had! A friend of mine had been highly recommended Le Trappiste Brugge describing it as one of the coolest bars they’ve been to! It is underground and felt very medieval. I hope you can check it out for me!
How much time should you spend there: Forever, but if that’s not possible then 2-3 days.
Where to Stay: We stayed at the Ghent Marriott Hotel (again so that we could use points and save our dollar bills ya’ll). At first sight I was SO disappointed. The inside is the epitome of a sterile, business-like hotel. Nothing like my antique/boutique dreams. However, once we dropped off our bags the concierge instructed us to walk out “the back door” to get to the main attractions and OMG once I walked out that door my jaw dropped. The location was phenomenal as you literally walk out into the city center and right onto the canal’s edge. The location alone is worth it – trust me.
What to Do: Ghent is very similar to Bruges in that it’s historical and filled with canals, it’s even called little Venice at times, but it is much more touristy than Bruges. Of course there are negatives and positives that come with that and it all depends on what you prefer.
- A travel tradition of ours whenever we go to Europe is to get a perfume that is made in the country we are visiting. It just so happened that Belgium’s first perfume house and top perfumier is in Ghent. Miglot fragrance lab was beautiful. You can watch the chemist make the perfumes on site and the staff was so friendly in helping us each choose a special scent. I’m thrilled we stumbled upon this place.
- Enjoying a Belgian beer (or two or three) while people watching or boat watching along the canal is a must. We were also shocked by how many bachelor and bachelorette parties were happening in Ghent, like SO many!
- Bavo’s Cathedral is spectacular and if there are any art history lovers reading this then you absolutely must see the Ghent Altarpiece. The altarpiece is considered a masterpiece of European art and one of the world’s treasures.
- The Gravensteen Castle was unexpectedly closed when we were there, but I so badly wanted to tour it! It was built in 1180 and had been a home for royals, a courthouse, and even a prison. It contains a torture museum, which is supposedly pretty cool.
- Something I love to do when traveling is to visit the open-air markets. It makes me feel like a local and there are always hidden treasures. Ghent has quite a few markets to explore.