The Belgian Trifecta: Brussels, Bruges & Ghent


BRUSSELS


The Grand Place (central square) of Brussels – all decked out for Christmas!

Brussels, otherwise named The Capitol of Europe, is famous for it’s Belgian Waffles, Chocolatiers (it’s the birthplace of Godiva!), amazing local beers (La Chouffe, Leffe or 800+ other brews) and french fries! It’s also known as the greenest capital in Europe as it boasts many parks with great bike paths. The multilingual city is primarily comprised of French speakers, but when you take the train to Gent (just 30 minutes away), you could end up in a fully Dutch-speaking region!

During our time in Brussels we chose to stay at a new local hotspot, the JAM HOTEL. The former-art-school-turned-boutique-hotel has style to boot and incredible views over the city. The industrial style interiors have lovely exposed brick and concrete ceilings, but are made very eclectic and cozy with tribal pillows and furry rugs. The top floor has an inviting lounge area, complete with a bar, fireplace and windows that overlook the vibrant city along with an outdoor terrace. We also loved the heated lap pool that has views of the surrounding streets. If you’re into cool cafes and shopping, the hotel’s neighborhood has several local options for you to choose from.

OUR PICKS FOR TOP THINGS TO SEE:

  • The Grand Place – A visit to the golden and gilded central square is an absolute must! You’ll be able to see several of the city’s most famous architectural landmarks. Don’t miss the famous light show that comes on around dusk (when we were there, it started at 5pm). Also, check to see if you’ll be visiting during the famous Flower Carpet (a bi-annual display of over 700K freshly-cut Begonias!).
  • Musical Instrument Museum (formerly the Old England Shop) – The museum sits inside a beautiful Art Nouveau building, but the real gem and reason this makes our list is the view from the restaurant at the top of the building. Go for lunch or sunset drinks for sweeping city views, you won’t regret it!
  • Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts or the Magritte Museum to get your fill of splendidly quirky art
  • The Mont des Arts – An easily accessible square located between the Brussels Central train station and the Place Royale. It offers a very nice view on the Brussels Town Hall and the Albertine garden – perfect for watching the sunset!


GENT


Sunset views of old town from the Belfry of Gent

Gent is a charming and historical university town that is a short 30 minute train ride from Brussels. We teamed up with VISIT GENT and enjoyed the CityCard which allowed us access to all the best attractions – monuments, museums, boat tours and not to mention the best views in town. Gent is definitely one of the most underrated cities, it’s often overshadowed by picturesque Bruges or bustling Brussels. However, we found Gent to be just as beautiful as its Belgian counterpoints and WAY less crowded! Part of our visit was spent at the centrally located NH Gent Belfort hotel, which was perfect for sight-seeing and being in the middle of the historical center!

For those who want easy access to the train station (because who doesn’t want to fit in some extra day trips?), the Hotel Carlton Gent was right across the street from Sint-Pieters train station. The boutique hotel is owned by two Dutch brothers who were so friendly and happy to provide lots of local tips on where to go! We enjoyed the most delicious, fresh breakfast with just about anything you could want for your morning meal. When the weather is nice, the hotel is a short 20 minute walk from the historical center.

 


BRUGES


Golden hour along the canals in historical Bruges

Bruges is a Unesco World Heritage Site where the ancient Flemish architecture wraps around canals and the original village walls surrounding the historical center are still standing. On a warmer day, taking a canal tour would be a great way to sightsee, but it is also very walkable. Be careful – it is easy to get turned around or lost in the winding historical streets (which is always more of a happy accident for us). Visiting Bruges in December was truly magical with the Christmas Markets, ice skating rinks, and of course – Glüwein! The Markt Square was a winter wonderland! Also be warned that this is a very popular time for tourists…so be prepared to share the narrow streets with many other visitors!