With all the tiny countries that make up Europe it is clear to see how easy it can be to look over some of the most impressive. As I did my research of the top ten most visited places in Europe I was shocked to see Belgium was nowhere on the list. Call me biased, as I am dating a Belgian, but there’s so much more to this country than beer, chocolate, and waffles… although, those are all major pluses! Here, I’ll share with you what I found most remarkable about Fabian’s homeland.
The Belgian Diet
Okay, I know I JUST said that it’s more than beer and waffles… but how could I not give these wonderful treats their own category. There are over 120 breweries across Belgium that produce more than 350 beers. You can also visit Brussels’ Delirium Cafe which literally has thousands of beers to choose from.
Then, there’s the waffles… Which you can smell from a mile away and are served on practically every corner. Pick one up and eat it as you continue to walk and explore. Speaking of smells, once you enter one of Belgium’s chocolate shops, such as Leonidas… your nose will NEVER want to leave.
The holy grail of Belgium though, are its fries… and don’t you dare call them French. Perfectly crispy on the outside, the first bite is a bit of a crunch which then fills your mouth with soft and warm potato-ey goodness. They’re served with practically EVERY meal but you can also pick up a cone from a street vendor- don’t forget the side of mayonnaise.
If you’re one who enjoys the countryside there is plenty of rural farm land all across Belgium, especially in the Northern Flemish areas. Lucky for us, Fabian’s family friends live on their very own farm, so we were able to play with baby goats and ponies.
Even on neighborhood walks we would find ourselves running into new animal friends.
There were plenty of places in Belgium that felt like a fairytale, but the most mystical would have to be Hallerbos, over 1,000 acres of forest covered in bluebell flowers.
The best months to visit the forest and see this carpet of blue are April and May. Just be sure to stay on the paths provided, as these flowers can be easily trampled.
The Real Waterloo
Only 20 minutes away from the Hallerbos forest is the actual site of Waterloo, home of the famous battle that brought down Napoleon and his army. This is a perfect monument to visit with any history lovers in your life. The grassy mound is adorned with a stone lion as a symbol of courage. Guests can pay a small fee to climb about 200 steps to the top of the lookout.
Within the country’s capital are two of the most iconic symbols of Belgium, one standing at 335 feet high while the other is only a mere 24 inches.
That’s right the city’s most popular boy is actually a bit difficult to find if you don’t know where to look… Yes, just like the Mona Lisa, he’s smaller than expected, but still impressive as he has been taking that same “piss” since the early 1600s.
Originally constructed for the World’s Fair, Atomium has stood tall since 1958 in the shape of an iron crystal’s cell magnified 165 billion times. Currently the structure serves as a museum, and yes you can enter those spheres- the one at the top holds a restaurant.
Belgian Red Devils
Just around the corner from Atomium is the home stadium of the most expensive football team in Europe, as of 2016.
We had the pleasure of enjoying a friendly match during our stay and we had a blast, chanting “tous ensemble” which means “all together” and clapping thunder sticks made to look like baguettes.
Of course, everywhere in Europe has its own unique and extraordinary buildings… But what I liked about Belgium was that I got the romantic vibes of France combined with Dutch/Flemish-style constructions, whether we were in big cities or small villages, such as Dinant, shown above.
Canals and facades were reminiscent of our trip to Amsterdam, especially in Ghent, shown above. Some places reminded me of Belle’s little town from Beauty and the Beast, like Namur, shown below. I was waiting for locals to step out of their homes and burst into song!
It wasn’t just the building’s exteriors that were impressive, within were beautiful baroque interiors, like the Antwerp train station:
My favorite little town in all of Belgium would have to be Bruges, although nowadays it is very much geared toward tourists, with small gift shops found on every street, and groups from around the world crowding in to capture pictures of everything!
It was well worth dodging other tourists to see how adorable this place was. It is also here that you can see Michaelangelo’s Madonna and Child, another recommendation we have is to take a boat tour of the canals! Our guide was hilarious… in FOUR different languages.
La Grand Place, Brussels
I’ve saved the best for last, the main square of Brussels, and the centerpiece of the entire country, La Grand Place, which has been called the most beautiful and ornate plaza in all of Europe.
I mean look at that GOLD! Within these buildings you can find modern businesses such as Starbucks, and even a Hard Rock Cafe. The best part about these though is that they haven’t altered the outside of the buildings at all. This area is great for shopping whether its for the perfect souvenir or a high class wardrobe. Remember to grab a waffle with speculoos sauce and check out the Manneken Pis around the corner.
It was an interesting time for us to get to Belgium, right after the attacks at the airport, the entire country was grieving. But in a way, it was beautiful to see a country with such a diverse culture (as there are TWO national languages) come together and unite as one.
For me, the best part of Belgium was finally seeing where Fabian had spent his childhood. I was able to walk through his elementary school every morning, complete with a petting zoo and forest. I also got to see the homes his parents grew up in. You can’t help but to fall in love with Belgium the moment you enter, with its cozy feel and old world charm… Well, I guess the beer and chocolate helps too!