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Before leaving the U.K. for life in the U.S., Jeremy and I decided to do a massive road trip through Europe. Hitting some of the destinations still remaining on our “must see” list. We had just over two months before needing to be in the U.S. With the car packed, and only a rough agenda, we headed to our first destination. Starting our adventure with three days in Belgium.
Honestly, you could easily spend more than three days in Belgium, especially if you are into museums. However, three days worked out perfectly for us to see the highlights.
We spent one day in each of the most popular cities: Brussels, Ghent, and Bruges. Popular for a reason, these cities are historic, beautiful, and show off some of the best of Belgium culture.
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Where To Stay With Only Three Days In Belgium
Being a small country, Belgium is quick and easy to get around, by train or car. Especially between Brussels, Ghent and Bruges.
Save yourself some trouble and pick one area to stay in. Think of the other cities as day trips. It’s just not worth the hassle of packing up each day. This was extremely true for us, as we were camping.
Sitting right in the middle of Brussels and Bruges, Ghent was an obvious base for us as we planned one day in each city.
However, Brussels is also a good option as it has the most to do. If you have more than three days in Belgium, then staying in Brussels is likely your best bet.
You may also consider doing only a half-day in Ghent. Spending the remainder of the day in Brussels.
Here are the hotels we considered in Ghent and Brussels, before deciding on bringing our camping gear on this trip.
- Novotel Gent Centrum offers a nice modern hotel right in the city center.
- However, if you’re after something with a bit more character, take a look at 1898 The Post. This boutique hotel and former post office, offers an amazing central location with stunning views, in a gorgeous building.
- Camping: If you’re planning to do camping like us, we stayed at the Camping Groenpark which had a convenient location and nice facilities.
- Aparthotel Adagio Access Bruxelles Europe Aparthotel offers small but comfortable studios if you want something central, but want the option of cooking.
- Hotel Novotel Brussels Off Grand Place – We are huge fans of Novotel in Europe, as the brand tends to consistently live up to our expectations.
Day One In Belgium - Brussels
Brussels is a must, whether you have three days in Belgium or just one. Over 9 million people visited Belgium’s capital city in 2019. That’s because Brussels is not only filled with history, it’s a really cool and interesting place with tons to see and do.
For this guide, we are just discussing what we were able to do in a day. But, it was a very full day in Brussels. This agenda could easily spread into two days if you wanted.
Tour The EU Parliament
Officially formed in 1993, the European Union’s purpose is to promote peace and economic growth across Europe. Visiting the EU Parliament was a highlight of Brussels.
With well presented displays, this unique museum provides an in-depth understanding on why the EU is needed, how it formed, and how laws get discussed and passed. It’s also fascinating to see how the council translates, in real time, the 24 official European languages during its meetings.
Feel Tiny At The Grand Place
Walk Through A Comic Book
With over 59 comic book murals spread throughout the city, Brussels is known as the “Comic Book Capital of the World.” If you are really into it, then you can follow the full Comic Book Route to see them all.
Don’t worry, even if you don’t hunt them down, you’re still likely to see several as you explore Brussels.
Enjoy A Giggle At Manneken Pis
The most famous little man in Brussels sits atop a fountain on the corner of Rue de l’Etuve and Rue du Chêne. At only 21 inches tall, Manneken Pis, or “Little Pissing Man,” is the site to see in Brussels. You just can’t live it down if you don’t see him while you are here.
Maybe you’ll be lucky and catch him in one of his many outfits he gets dressed in.
Experience Dutch Royalty
One of Europe’s most luxurious royal palaces is in Brussels. The Royal Palace of Brussels is the official workplace of the King and plays host to many of the King’s services.
From July 21st through September, the palace is open to the public and free to enter.
We didn’t get time to go inside on this short trip. Though, we’ve heard the Mirror Room is something worth seeing. Over a million and a half jewel beetle shells decorate the ceiling and chandeliers.
Unwind At Mont des Arts
Not far from the Royal Palace, is Mont des Arts. A beautiful park that stretches out above the city. At night the park lights up in color.
Get A 360-degree View From The Atomium
Built for the 1958 Brussel’s World Fair, the Atomium has become an icon of Brussels. From 92 meters (302 feet), you get a 360-degree view over the city.
It is a little ways outside the city center. We drove, which was a huge mistake. Parking is challenging. What’s there is not monitored and expensive.
Do yourself a favor and take the metro to Heizel / Heysel station. About 30 minutes from the center. The Atomium is a short walk from the metro station.
Day Two In Belgium - Ghent
First, let’s clear up any confusion you may have over the name of this lovely city. You may see it written as Ghent, Gent, or even Gand. Yes, they are all the same place.
Belgium has three official languages: Dutch, German, and French. Both Dutch and German use Gent. French uses Gand. But, of course, in English it’s Ghent. There’s a long story on why English adds on the extra “h,” but we won’t get into it here.
Take A Walk Through The Centuries
Arguably one of the prettiest cities in the country, Ghent is full of architectural importance. From a 12th century castle, to a 16th century Gothic town hall, to the ultra modern 21st century Stadshal open concert hall.
Take a stroll around the city and just feel the history. The view from St. Michael’s Bridge in the center of town is the most famous.
We visited during the massive festival, Gentse Feesten. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the classic views, but we could still see how beautiful everything is.
Get Above It All At Ghent Belfry
Ghent’s Belfry tower is definitely a sight to behold. At 91 meters (299 feet), the tower provides a one of a kind skyline view of the city. In addition to the view, the tower is set up like a vertical museum. Each floor displays key elements of the tower’s history.
Though it’s 350 stairs to the top, there is an elevator available to take visitors the majority of the way.
Have A Laugh At Gravensteen Castle
Built in the 12th century, Gravensteen Castle, is also known as the Castle of the Counts. Not only is it a beautiful historic destination, but it’s also a good laugh.
Performed by local comedian Wouter Deprez, you’ll actually want to listen to the castle’s audio guide. Really well put together, the guide brings the castle to life with a bit of humor.
Bonus, from the top is an amazing view of the city.
Make Time To Smell The Hops
Belgium is famous for its beer. Take advantage, and get to know more than just Stella. Plus, with over two hundred breweries in Belgium, you’re flush with choice.
Each city has a local beer store where you can pick up some pretty fancy beer glasses. We bought two Westmalle glass goblets, and carried them throughout our Europe trip. I’m still not sure how they didn’t break.
The best beer shop we found in Ghent is on the outskirts. If you don’t have a car, we also found a fantastic store in Bruges city center. Plus, there are many in Brussels.
- Drinks Geers – Ledergemstraat 7, 9041 Oostakker (Ghent area)
- The Bottle Shop – Wollestraat 13, 8000 Brugge
Day Three In Belgium - Bruges
Like Ghent, you’ll see Bruges spelt in various ways, particularly Brugge.
Out of the three cities in our three days in Belgium, Bruges was our favorite. I’m not exactly sure why, as all three cities were beautiful. Sometimes it’s a feeling a place gives you, and Bruge did just that. Even with an overcast day, we loved this little city.
Tour The City By Canal Boat
Famous for its canals, boat rides around Bruges are very popular. Tours take about 30 minutes and provide a different perspective of the city.
Though, you don’t have to get on the water to get the great views. Head over to Rozenhoedkaai quay and the buildings that line the canal.
For a lesser known viewpoint, tuck into the archway alley just off 26 Wollestraat.
While you’re there, check out the Beer Wall at the 2be Beer Store (53 Wollestraat).
Indulge Your Sweet Tooth
So, who else came to Belgium for the waffles and chocolate? It’s even encouraged to combine them here. I was in heaven.
No need to wait for Bruges for this one. Admittedly, we tried waffles and chocolate truffles in all three cities. We didn’t find any difference, but we loved checking anyway.
Though not exactly a sweet, we also recommend indulging in Belgium fries. They are amazing!
Gather In The Markt Square
Bruges Market (Markt) Square is the original medieval commercial center of the city. Today, the market only takes place on Wednesdays, but the square is bustling all week long. Surrounding the square are restaurants and the elaborate Provincial Court.
In the other corner of the square, the most famous landmark in Bruges, the Belfy of Bruges. This 83-meter (272-feet) high tower dates to the 13th century.
Unlike the belfry in Ghent, this tower requires visitors to make the 366 stair climb in order to see it’s spectacular view.
Stroll The Windmill Walk
A 20-minute walk from Markt Square takes you to one of our favorite finds in Bruges.
Along the river, on the outskirts of the city, are four windmills. As they are slightly spread out from each other on a walking path, it’s typically known as the Windmill Walk.
Only one is open to the public. Built in 1770, Sint-Janshuismolen Mill is still a working flour mill today.