Updated: Jun 13
Capital city: Brussels
Population: 11.5 million
Second largest city: Antwerp
Language(s) spoken: Flemish, French, Dutch and German
Landmark you cannot miss: Manneken Pis
Famous people include: Adolphe Sax, Audrey Hepburn, Stromae
Belgium is a small country bordered by its neighbours Netherlands, Germany, Luxembourg and France. Although Belgium is roughly the same size as Moldova and Albania, it has a population almost 3 times of both combined; meaning it has one of the largest population densities in Europe. It also holds the record for longest time a country has gone without a government: 592 days!
Why Visit Belgium?
The question really should be “when should I visit Belgium?” As it is purely one of those places you must tick off your travel list. What more can you ask for than Waffles, stunning Belgian chocolate, Parisian-style boulevards and a truly encapsulating History? Not forgetting the very friendly and welcoming local people.
Belgium is a great option for European Travel as it borders many countries and has major European cities such as Amsterdam and Paris just a few hours drive away. The food is well-priced, the country possesses lots of rural and urban beauty, and you certainly won’t be left with nothing to see or do. Deciding where to go in Belgium is the hardest part of any travel plan as there are loads of great options. Here’s our ranking of the 3 best cities in Belgium.
Best Cities in Belgium
Yes it may sound boring to name the capital as one of the best cities in Belgium, but if you want lots of things to do, great places to eat and to properly immerse yourself in the country's culture, Brussels is the place to be.
The de-facto capital of the EU, Brussels, has also been the country’s capital since 1830 after it gained independence from the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The thriving city is extremely fast-paced and is becoming one of Europe’s most popular cities to visit alongside its sister-cities Berlin and Prague.
The city is the birthplace of Belgian chocolate; it provides very good value for money and is truly unique! Why wouldn’t you want to go there? If possible try and stay close to the city centre (I would recommend Avenue Louise) to be within walking distance of the city’s most famous landmarks.
The Flemish city of Antwerp is primarily Dutch-speaking and known globally as the diamond capital of the world. The dynamic city was heavily bombed during World War 1 and World War 2. In a plan to try and boost morale in the country, Antwerp hosted the first summer olympics after The Great War.
You will see plenty of evidence of the destruction these two wars caused Antwerp, when navigating the city. About halfway between Antwerp and Brussels is the former Nazi prison camp known as Fort Breendonk. The fortress is very well preserved and exploring it makes you almost believe you are walking through the site when it was first built.
The capital of Western Flanders, Bruges, is the smallest city out of the three but certainly holds its own when it comes to being an excellent destination for a weekend getaway.
Due to its rising fame across social media and being described by many social media influencers as an “Instagrammable” city, it has very quickly become a popular tourist destination. There's a good reason for these claims, as in fairness, the city is very beautiful and there has always been a lovely atmosphere around whenever I have been there.
Things to Do and See in Belgium
Take a Selfie in Front of the Atomium
The Atomium is one of Belgium’s most recognisable landmarks. As its name suggests, the design is based on a molecule of iron with 9 atoms. Why iron you may ask? Well it has been one of Belgium’s most important industries for a long time, although this has never been confirmed as the reason as to why the Atomium is based on an Iron molecule.
The structure was originally intended to be built for the 1958 World Expo and was due to be pulled down 6 months after the event. However, due to public popularity and a few maintenance works here-and-there, it still stands tall as one of Europe’s most iconic structures.
Visit One of Belgium’s Most Famous Citizens: Manneken Pis
30,000 people visit Brussels everyday just to see the 400 year old statue known as Manneken Pis. The bronze sculpture depicts a naked boy urinating into the basin of a fountain.
There’s a high likelihood that during your travels in Brussels, you will be in and around the city centre, more specifically the Grand Place, which is the main square. Manneken Pis is approximately a 5 minute walk from here, and if you need directions just follow the large crowds of tourists who are most likely walking to see him.
You simply have to go and see one of Belgium’s most famous attractions, not only to tick it off your bucket list, but there’s a large chance you might see him dressed up in a costume! Almost every week or during special occasions the non-profit organisation The Order of the Friends of Manneken Pis selects costumes to be worn by the boy. Famous examples being Dracula, Santa Claus and even Michael Jackson! If you would like to see the thousands of outfits worn by Manneken Pis head to GardeRobe at Rue du Chêne 19 Bruxelles which houses every costume he has ever worn.
Take a Canal Cruise in Bruges
Bruges is most famous for its spectacular canals, rivers and waterways, which is why you won’t be too surprised to learn that it is nicknamed the Venice of Belgium. The city has lots of resemblance to the Italian city, of course, as well as the similarly named Venice of the Netherlands; Giethoorn.
If you’re visiting the busy cities of Brussels and Antwerp first, having a nice relax on a river canal doesn’t seem like a bad place to start when exploring the city of Bruges. Adult tickets cost 12 Euros which certainly isn’t a bad price compared to boat trips in London, Paris and Amsterdam, for example.