Despite its small size, Belgium packs a lot of punch when it comes to attractions, food, and culture. The country has a great diversity of cities and towns to visit, and each one brings something unique to the overall travel experience. As if you didn’t already have enough reasons to go, here is a list of the top 10 reasons to visit Belgium.
Chocolate. Need I say more? Belgium has some of the most famous chocolate in the world, and indeed some of the most delicious. From luxury chocolatiers like Pierre Marcolini to more mainstream ones like Leonidas, the quality and consistency of Belgium’s chocolates is unrivaled. If you’re serious about your love of chocolate, you can even take chocolate making classes in Brussels while you’re visiting.
The only thing better than chocolate is beer, and Belgium has that market cornered as well. From lambic beers to lagers, Flemish reds to Trappist ales, Belgium has more types of beer than most people can imagine. And with over 90,000 breweries in the country, there’s no shortage of beers to sample while you’re traveling. A great place to taste a wide range is at Delirium Cafe in Brussels, which boasts of the largest beer menu in the world.
Whether you’re looking for an engagement ring for your significant other or just a pretty thing for yourself, Antwerp is the place to find it. The diamond capital of the world, Antwerp has more diamond shops than you can shake a stick at, and some of the best prices as well. Diamonds are a girl’s best friend, especially when they can be found for a deal.
On a more somber note, Belgium’s location along the Western Front means that it is home to some of the most famous battlefields of World War I. From Ypres to Liege, Wallonia to Flanders, the country has a variety of battlefields where visitors can pay homage to the lives lost in one of the most devastating wars of the 20th century.
Mussels come into season in Belgium during months with an “r” in them. Particularly from September to February, the shellfish are prevalent along the country’s coast, and Belgium can confidently say it has the best mussels in the world. The classic dish of moules frites, or mussels and fries, is something you should try at least once if you’re visiting Belgium during the season.
And speaking of frites, fries on their own are a popular snack in Belgium. While some countries refer to the food as “French” fries, legend has it that they actually originated in Belgium. As such, no trip would be complete without ordering a paper cone filled with fresh fries. If you want to do as the locals do, dip them in mayonnaise before you eat them.
Belgium has a disproportionately large number of world-class museums given its relatively small size. Brussels in particular has some great ones, from the Belgian Comic Strip Center to the Magritte Museum and the Chocolate Village. For those with more niche interests, there is a Musical Instruments Museum filled with all kinds of historic instruments, and an Herge Museum dedicated to the work of the creator of the famous cartoon character Tin Tin.
Belgium’s history is long and deep, and has left a great legacy of beautiful castles, churches, and market squares behind. Places like Bruges are often considered some of the most beautiful cities in Europe, with their medieval charm and pretty canals. Ghent and Antwerp are also stunning, and the Grand Place in Brussels is guaranteed to awe even the most seasoned traveler.
People don’t often associate Belgium with beaches, but the country’s coast has some great stretches of sand to offer visitors during the summer months. Places like Oostende and Knokke have wide, beautiful beaches that attract visitors to the seaside on sunny days. They also offer a lot of entertainment in the form of restaurants and cafes, and make a great day trip from Brussels.
In addition to battlefields, Belgium has some famous monuments that never fail to make visitors smile. Yes, you know the ones. The Manneken Pis and the Jeanneke Pis are statues of a little boy and a little girl peeing. The former is the original, and the latter is a female answer to it. Both are in the Brussels city center, and are worth a visit if only for a laugh.