Visiting Belgium but you only have 2 days? Keep reading for my guide to getting the most out of your 2 days in Belgium. Although 2 days isn’t a lot it’s a small country so it can be done!
I got an opportunity to visit Antwerp recently and jumped at the chance. I decided to fly out a day early so I could see as much as I could before disappearing into the dance studio ( I was there for a dance symposium). Its somewhere I have always wanted to visit. And I love beer.
I booked myself some bargain flights through Skyscanner £29.00 return from the UK to Brussels Charleroi airport. This is the airport outside of Brussels and it takes about 90 minutes for a coach to get into Brussels city centre.
To get from the Airport I jumped on the shuttle bus I paid at the desk outside the airport and it cost me €17 (way more expensive than I had thought it would be). You don’t even save any money by pre-booking online, but you may save some queuing time.
I was told by a friend in Antwerp that the best way to get from the airport into central Brussels is to walk outside of the airport where there are loads of taxis and minibuses.
They aren’t allowed into the airport grounds after the terrorist attacks in Brussels earlier this year. You can get a seat in one of them and share with other people. It works out cheaper and takes a lot less time. I’d say its worth a try as if you can’t find a ride you could always walk back in and get on the bus.
Drop your bags off and you are good to go!
Make your way to the Grand Palace for 1:30-2pm and take a free walking tour
There are a few to choose from. I went with New Europe Tours completely by accident. I had booked with a different company but missed my slot due to my plane being delayed and I was looking for a different company who was recommended to me by my hostel but I got the wrong one!
The idea behind free walking tours is that the tour guides work really hard to make sure you have a fantastic tour and then at the end you pay what you feel it is worth (or in my case what you can afford). The standard rate for a walking tour is around €15 per person so ideally, that’s a good figure to go for.
You pay at the end and I think it a great way of working. I was a bit put off paying €15 before taking a walking tour as I wasn’t sure it would be worth it, it absolutely was, though.
The tour was great and lasted around 3 hours.
We got to see all the sights and national treasures including Manneken Pis
Take a beer tour
My plan was to get some food and then heading back to the hostel. But I was enticed by the beer tour. I felt a bit torn about this as I was on a very tight budget and you had to pay €18 and only got 1 drink and 3 tasters in two different bars.
Finally, I gave in, deciding I should make the most of being here and I couldn’t come to Belgium and not drink some beer. I didn’t really feel like drinking alone so I booked on. I’m so glad I did. If you are thinking of booking on a beer tour and aren’t sure DO IT. Especially is you are a solo female traveller, beer + other people = instant friends, a great night and a lovely hangover the next day.
I learnt a lot about beer
and drank a LOT of beer
but I made some new friends
And I had a great night.
Do remember though that the beer is a lot stronger than you might be used to, and also check the last train/ tram/ bus back if you are staying out of the centre. Long story short, I ended up getting plastered with a bunch of Aussie gap year students and a lovely Canadian couple on their honeymoon. Having lost track of time I had to get a very expensive taxi back. The budget was blown!
I didn’t do much else in Brussels, well actually I bought some chocolate but I wouldn’t worry about that wait till you get to Bruges.
Book on a coach tour to Ghent and Bruges
There are times when it ok to book on organised tours, and this was one of them. After doing lots of research trying to decide on Bruges of Ghent and being unable to decide which one to do I decided to do a tour. The trains are expensive in Belgium so it wasn’t much more to do this than it would have been to get the train, plus I could leave my backpack on the coach. They give you a walking tour of both areas and keep you to time. Lots of people told me not to do this as I would feel too rushed. Honestly, I didn’t feel rushed at all and I really enjoyed the trip. I always book all of my city tours with Viator. They normally have some great discounts so make sure you download the app and always check them first.
We didn’t have much free time in Ghent after the walking tour. But it was wet, and I was hung over so I didn’t mind so much.
We had much more time in Bruges especially as I chose not to eat with the rest of the group. They take you to a rather pricey restaurant which was out of my budget. Instead I headed for a lovely little café close by and treated myself to a coffee and a waffle for €5.
I loved Bruges, it’s possibly the most photogenic place I have visited. Sadly due to the awful weather and my equally as awful hangover it wasn’t the best day to explore.
Here are a few must see/do’s while you’re there:
Buy some chocolates
Look for a shop just off the main square called Truffelhuisje. The man who served me was so helpful and the prices were reasonable…the chocolates were pretty amazing too. I had planned on giving them as a gift to someone… but I changed my mind and ate them myself, oops!
Breaking news, french fries do not come from France, they are from Belgium. If you are a vegetarian check before you order though as they normally fry them in beef fat.
Visit the Basilica of the Holy Blood
You really have to see it to believe it. It’s free to enter and I’d give yourself at least 30 minutes.
Take a Walking Tour
Mine was included in my trip but if you decide to go it alone I would recommend taking a tour as there is so much to see and so much history. If you are limited on time then this means you are less likely to miss something.
Drink a Hot Chocolate
I think this is what I will remember about Belgium (this and the beer). Honestly, I have never tasted anything like it. They just give you a cup of milk with a lollypop stick with a big lump of chocolate on it. AMAZING.
Take a Boat Trip
I think the cost was €10 each. The weather was far too wet for me to do this sadly. Although just as I was leaving the sun came out…typical.
Take lots of pictures
As I mentioned before it’s a beautiful place to take photos when the sun is shining that is.
If you have a third day in Belgium you can walk a short walk down a path from the coach station and get a train to Antwerp. I got on the 6:30 pm train and arrived just before 8 pm, the cost was around €15. Spend your final day in Antwerp.
Which I think is beautiful! Oh well, means I will have to come back again 🙂
English is widely spoken if you are in Brussels and know a bit of French then use it, same goes for Antwerp. Bruges and Ghent are both Flemish and speak Dutch, don’t speak French here. And unless you have a good grasp of Dutch/ Flemish then just stick to English.
Get on your bike! Everyone cycles here! In Antwerp, I hired a bike for a week for €9. You have a completely separate cycle path with its own signalling system so it’s unbelievably safe, unlike cycling in the UK when you fear for your life most of the time!
Where to Stay
In Brussels, I stayed at Train Hostal. It was a bit out of town (10 minutes on a train) but it was OK and next door to the train station.
My only issue with it was at breakfast the next morning. I saw a breakfast buffet and got myself a coffee. The member of staff watched me do this and said nothing. Once I had sat down and drank my coffee she asks me for my room number. She then informs me breakfast is not included and I have to pay €8! I was so annoyed as she really should have asked me on my way in or there should have been a sign up somewhere. The most expensive coffee I think I have ever had and she didn’t even apologise just laughed and told me it was ok I could pay when I check out…cheers!
Arriving or leaving at night
If you arrive late at night or have an early morning flight from Brussels Charleroi airport then it’s pretty impossible to get from central Brussels via public transport. My flight was at 6 am so I got a taxi and spend a lot of money or find somewhere close to the Airport to sleep. The only place in my budget was an Airbnb, it was 30 minutes walk from the airport and perfect.
Dario was a great host and its great value. If you don’t fancy the 30-minute walk you can walk 10 minutes to parking 3 and get on the shuttle bus that will take you to the airport terminal.