EuroTrip 2019: Belgium!

*by Whitney*

Timeline: June 29-July 6, 2019

If you haven’t already, you can check out my previous posts on our trip timeline here:

When we left our last stop, Luxembourg, we were excited to get to Belgium for all things chocolate, beer and waffles! And it did not disappoint!

We had 3 stops in Belgium: Brussels, Bruges, and Antwerp. We also considered going to Ghent, but we didn’t want to spread ourselves too thin over the week we had allotted for this country. But in the future we would like to check out Ghent because we have heard good things!

Brussels

We took a bus from Luxembourg to our first stop in Belgium, Brussels, which is the capital. Upon arrival to the city, we could immediately tell it was very urban. The part near the bus station was sketchy and dirty, and there was a lot going on. Needless to say not really a great first impression. We had 2 free hotel nights (using Hilton Honors points) to use in Brussels, which was a nice change of pace from the sweltering Airbnbs in France and Luxembourg! As we often do on our first day in a city, we got settled in and then went to check out the local Lidl for some food. Even the Lidl was crazy busy! It was the worst Lidl I think we’ve ever been to, and we’ve been to dozens of Lidls all across different countries at this point, ha.

The next day we went on a free walking tour of the city, which we have also done in almost every European city. We had a great tour guide, and she was a local of the area which is always nice. We were also able to take advantage of another free tour in Brussels because of a “loyalty program” we had been working on through a tour company called Sandeman’s New Europe. They have a loyalty stamp card where you can collect stamps across different cities when you take their “free” (tips-based) city tours. Then, if you collect enough stamps, you can redeem them to take some of their regular (paid) tours, also for free! We had been racking up stamps across multiple cities throughout the trip and had finally earned a free standard tour. So we chose the Beer Tour in Brussels! This was an awesome experience because it was more like a “sophisticated pub crawl” where we got to learn about the beer in Belgium from a local guide, including some history of the beer culture and how the beer is made. We also got to taste the beer of course, and we went to a couple different bars and met some cool people in our group! And it was all free for us! So that was awesome and made for a really fun night.

While in Brussels we also tried all kinds of delicious, bad-for-you food, including two varieties of waffles, the Brussels waffles and the Liege waffles. They don’t actually call anything “Belgian waffles” when you’re in Belgium. They also have special “Belgian fast food” we tried, like the fries, sandwiches stuffed with meats and fries (yes fries INSIDE the sandwich), and fried chicken sticks, ha. We learned that fries were actually invented in Belgium! Not France! So that was interesting!

Overall Brussels was okay, but we were super excited for our next stop, Bruges!

Bruges

Bruges is a small coastal town in Belgium, and the entire historic center is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site! We had heard great things about the town, and it lived up to the hype!

In Bruges, we stayed at a lovely Airbnb outside the city in more of a residential area. We didn’t realize quite how far away it was, but it worked out fine because our host offered to pick us up from the main bus station in town and drive us back on the day we left. She actually ended up meeting us at the bus station the first day and taking our bags back to her place instead, and left us to explore the center then told us how to get the bus back later that evening! The bus to her part of town only ran a couple times per day, so on subsequent days she drove us to the closer bus station for us to get the bus into town. She was so nice and extremely helpful. She also gave us a local guide book that outlined all the major sites and had “self-guided tours” that we did rather than taking a guided walking tour. She even had an awesome breakfast spread for us every morning which was amazing. We also enjoyed playing with her sweet kitty. We are really glad we chose that Airbnb, as it was among the best ones we’ve been to! We even really enjoyed the fact it was outside the town, because we love to see more of the residential and suburban areas. We also got to see some of the countryside and farms along the way between the city center and her place. One of the days we actually walked into town (about an hour walk), taking the “scenic route” rather than taking the bus.

In our couple days in Bruges, we did a lot of walking and taking in the sites. The city center was impossibly beautiful. At every turn there were more quaint and picturesque views. The center is a well preserved medieval town with historic winding streets and beautiful architecture.

We also enjoyed some more delicious food, including Flemish stew, more waffles, and more chocolate! On recommendation from a friend, we found “The Old Chocolate House” where they have this amazing hot chocolate you make yourself by dropping a cupcake shaped big piece of chocolate into your cup of hot milk and stir it in. It was to die for. Definitely the best hot chocolate we’ve ever had. But honestly I just wanted to eat the chocolate by itself! Highly recommend if you ever go there!

Needless to say, we loved Bruges and can definitely see ourselves going back! Beautiful sites, small town feel, nice people, delicious food, what’s not to love?

Antwerp

Our last stop in Belgium was Antwerp. There we also stayed at an Airbnb, which ended up being another amazing one! We have had a couple Airbnb mishaps on this trip, but we have also had some truly awesome Airbnb experiences! The hosts in Antwerp really made this stop special for us. They were a couple around our same ages, and we all got along really well. We found ourselves sitting and chatting with them for a couple hours every day we were there! They also enjoy traveling, so we shared lots of travel stories, and we hope to meet up with them again in our future travels! They also had a great apartment and two sweet kitties :)! If you’re planning to travel to Antwerp and are interested in their Airbnb, message us and we can give you the info! (Same for Bruges!)

Antwerp itself was an alright city. We liked it better than Brussels for sure, but it couldn’t top Bruges in our book! It definitely still had the big city urban vibes, but smaller than Brussels. Fortunately everything was pretty walkable there so we didn’t have to take any public transportation within the city which was nice.

On our first full day there, we were planning to go do our usual free walking tour. But our hosts mentioned that there was going to be a free filming of the show “Belgium’s Got Talent” that they were thinking about going to. So on the spur of the moment, we skipped the tour and did that instead! It was a fun experience, and we saw some cool acts. It was actually on the 4th of July, so although we weren’t doing anything “American” that day, we did do something “Belgian” that was inspired by America! Ha! This was a cool spontaneous event we stumbled upon, kind of like when we stumbled upon the Women’s World Cup (US vs. Spain) game in France!

We did eventually do a free walking tour, as well as some sight seeing on our own around town. We explored the riverfront area, and got a cool view of the city from the top of the unique MAS museum building! The city had a fun vibe, and we even found a food truck market by the water. We enjoyed some more Belgian beers and ate at the city’s oldest restaurant/pub! We also walked through the Diamond district (Antwerp is known as the “City of Diamonds”) and oogled the insane jewelry through dozens of store windows!

Our last morning there, we enjoyed breakfast with our hosts and grabbed one last waffle to go before heading to our next stop, the Netherlands! Belgium was awesome and we would love to visit again in the future!

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