Going to Belgium for some waffles, chocolate and exploring fairytale-like little towns?
For many, and just at first sight, Belgium means Brussels. But luckily that´s just first impression, as Belgium is much more than just Brussels that many link only to job duties and European Parliament. Because of Slovene politicians working there we, regular folks, can have really cheap plane tickets from our home airport to Belgium.
Ideally we would have enough time to explore Belgium and neighboring countries by our own car, but sometimes we don´t have that much time and we wish to have a few days long trip outside Slovenia anyway and we also want our flight to be cheap.
How to come to Brussels, Belgium?
Wizzair flies from Ljubljana Airport a few days a week and flight tickets are ridiculously cheap. We paid 25 eur for return ticket with hand luggage (55x40x23 cm) included, but you can get it even cheaper. Our friends flew to Brussels from Ljubljana in December and paid 20 eur for return tickets.
Renting a car
Wizzair flies from Ljubljana to Charleroi Airport that is 60 km south from Brussels, we recommend renting a car already at the airport. Otherwise most travelers decide to go to the city by bus. Public transportation in Belgium is expensive and for family of four that was not economically wise option. So we rented a car at Billigermietwagen, with reservation made already at home and paid 40 eur per day. In that case you leave a car in parking garage when in Brussels, as there is no sense in driving around the city in a car. You should find favorably 24-hours parking without leaving the garage as we did, and we paid 9 eur (for whole day and night without leaving the garage). We parked near the place where we spent the night in parking house Ecuyer. The company that manages parking houses is Interparking, you can check them out at www.interparking.be. There are no tolls in Belgium and for our trip (Charleroi – Brussels – Ghent – Bruges) we paid 37 eur. Our first choice is always renting a car as it offers freedom of exploring and that really means a lot to us.
Lodgings in Belgium are expensive and expensive some more. Food in restaurants is expensive as well. The best choice is Airbnb or similar accommodations in apartments with kitchen so you can prepare your own meals. You can buy food in Carrefour for prices that are similar to ours.
How much time do you need?
Time is always relative. The best is more, but 3 to 5 days are enough for short trip. We recommend visiting Brussels (a day or day and a half is enough), Ghent and Bruges. Why? Just keep reading
Short travel itinerary
Day 1: Ljubljana – Brussels Charleroi
In the afternoon or at the evening treat yourself with a beer or with delicious Belgian waffle and – most of all – relax.
Day 2: Brussels
Brussels is the capital of Belgium and European Union. You should visit big square named Grand palace that is under Unesco protection and is really beautiful.
Don´t forget to go to their chocolate stores as they have excellent chocolate, not cheap but nevertheless worth buying. Beside chocolate there are waffles (Belgian and Liege – we prefer Belgian) and famous Belgian potatoes fries. We were not thrilled about them t all, but waffles and chocolate were extraordinary, no doubt about it.
In the morning you can get lost among streets of Brussels, go to one of the parks (Brussels Park is near Grand Palace square) and to Jardin du Mont des Arts where you will see one of the best wievs to the city.
At the afternoon you shouldn´t miss visiting Atomium (you can go there by underground train) that is one of the symbols of Brussels. It is lying on the Heysel plateau and was built for world exhibit in 1958. There are regularly different exhibitions and at the top there is a restaurant with a beautiful view. Entrance fee for Atomium is expensive and we didn´t go but maybe some of you will go.
Day 3: Brussels – Neuhaus chocolate factory – Ghent
If you have the opportunity to go to Ghent and Bruges when in Brussels, do it. On your way to Ghent make your stop at the Neuhaus chocolate factory, where you can taste unlimited amount of Belgian chocolate, pralines and everything they make in their factory store and that is for free. It is worth visiting it just for tasting part, but you can buy some goodies for home, as well. Coordinates: 50°48’50″N 4°15’30″E.
And then Ghent.
Ghent was the most beautiful surprise of our trip. If I have to pick between Ghent or Bruges, I pick Ghent 🙂 . The town by the canals on North West of Belgium, only an hour drive from Brussels, is very special. It´s charming, one of the most beautiful towns we have seen so far. As from very old and friendly fairytale. The one that you build with Lego´s. You can explore streets by the canals, old part of town, famous Gravensteen castle and just enjoy in special town´s vibe. Don´t leave out waffles from street vendors (the best that we ate in Belgium) and sweet chocolate stores. We were thrilled by Deskalides chocolate store (www.deskalides.be). Right near it is Al Castello pizzeria where you can get really good Italian pizza (the price for one pizza is 10-12 eur, but still cheaper than lunch somewhere else).
Day 4: Ghent – Bruges
The next day go further to the North. Less than an hour drive from Ghent is Unesco´s Bruges. It is called Belgian Venice as the town lies by the canals and has special vibe. In warmer months you can drive by boat in the canals and enjoy in interesting architecture and swans. You shouldn´t leave out old part of town and a square that is under Unesco´s protection (and it should be). Every Wednesday morning there is local market where you can indulge in good and cheap (as opposed to restaurants) local food. The most beautiful are colorful houses on main square. But Bruges hides another interesting thing that only a few tourists know about. On its North part are wonderful and photogenic wind mills, true eyeful and great spots for explorers by heart. Coordinates: 51°12’49″N 3°14’20″E
Day 5: Bruges – Brussels Charleroi – Ljubljana
You can prolong your trip or go back home.
I hope that this article gave you some new ideas or make your decisions about short trips around Europe easier. The world is beautiful 🙂