As a neighboring country to Germany, where I now live, Belgium is super accessible to me. I take full advantage of this proximity, because I absolutely adore Belgium. I think it is one of my favorite countries in all of Europe. Why you might ask? Because it is charming, delicious, and full of the best things – all in humble, underrated, and relatively unvisited packaging. From its bustling cities to its quaint towns, Belgium has a rich and proud cultural heritage just waiting for you to explore!
I’ve visited Belgium several times since moving to Germany in 2019, discovering new and wonderful things each time. I really believe that Belgium has something to offer everyone. In fact, I was so confident in this assertion that I took my in-laws to Belgium this summer on their FIRST EVER trip to Europe. It went swimmingly well, despite having completely different interests. We found something for everyone to love, and Belgium was the trip’s highlight for each member of the family.
Whether you're a history buff, a foodie, a beer snob, or simply someone looking for a laid-back getaway, Belgium is the perfect destination. In this blog post, I'll be showcasing my favorite Belgian cities and places to help you visit the best of Belgium in just one week. From sampling the country's famous chocolate to visiting its world-class museums, this itinerary is packed full of exciting experiences.
How to Spend 7 Perfect Days in Belgium
Overview of this Itinerary
I have designed the itinerary for first-time travelers to visit the highlights of Belgium in just one week. Belgium is a relatively small country, so one week is a comfortable amount of time to see most of the highlights. You won’t be too rushed, but you can still maximize your stay. This seven-day itinerary will take you on a journey through some of the country's most iconic cities, including Antwerp, Ghent, and Bruges. I’ll also share a few hidden gems and off-the-beaten path places to help you fall in love with Belgium. You can see a map of the various locations below.
You can prettily easily traverse all of Belgium in a few hours, so moving around is quick and easy. There is an extensive and reliable rail network connecting the whole country, which is run by the National Railway Company of Belgium (NMBS or SNCB for short). I have set up this itinerary to be train-friendly. On my first trip to Belgium, we only used the trains and it was really simple. I definitely recommend this means of transportation, especially because of my goals to reduce carbon-emissions while traveling. You can buy individual tickets for the different legs, or a multi-route pass which includes a fixed number of rides.
Alternatively, you can rent a car and explore Belgium on a road trip. This itinerary will also work with a car, and I have used this approach before. It gives you lots more freedom to be spontaneous and see smaller towns. But, it is much more expensive (gas is really pricey) and parking can be a challenge, especially in the old cities and city centers. The road conditions are excellent though and weather isn’t a super big concern, so you can feel confident doing a roadtrip in Belgium.
Day 1: Brussels
Because Brussels is both the capital of Belgium and the European Union, most 1 week trips to Belgium will begin in Brussels. Thankfully, Brussels is a vibrant and multicultural city, and just the perfect introduction to Belgium. You’ll get a sample of beautiful architecture, delicious food, fascinating attractions and of course wonderful beer.
One of the must-see attractions in Brussels is the Grand Place, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is considered one of the most beautiful squares in Europe. On my first trip to Brussels, it happened to be on a national holiday, so the Grand Place was completely illuminated in a lights and visual show – such a cool first experience! Regardless of when you go, the square is surrounded by impressive guildhalls and the Gothic town hall. Pop into one of the amazing chocolatiers around Brussels to try some of the best truffles and pralines you’ve ever had in your life. There are lots of nice places to grab a Belgian waffle or frites around this area too.
Around the corner from the Grand Palace you can see one of the iconic attractions of Brussels – Manneken Pis. This small bronze statue of a boy urinating into a fountain has become a symbol of the city. Brussels is also home to several museums, including the Magritte Museum, which houses the largest collection of works by the famous Belgian surrealist artist, René Magritte. In addition, Brussels is a great city for art lovers, with many galleries and street art throughout the city.
Brussels is also famous for its beer, so doing a DIY bar crawl in the evening is a great idea. Start with À la Bécasse, a hole-in-the-wall spot covered in wood paneling and specializing in Lambics and other varieties of Belgian beer. Head next to Au Bon Vieux Temps, which is one of the oldest bars in Brussels. Dating back to 1695, this bar is tucked away in an alley so you might miss it on your first pass by. Near the train station, you can visit Brasserie Cantillon which is both a brewery and a taproom. End at my personal favorite, Moeder Lambic Fontainas. With a large patio out front and an exceptional Lambic selection, this bar is usually full of cool locals.
Day 2: Antwerp
For an excellent contrast to Brussels, head next to Antwerp, Belgium’s historic port city. Antwerp remains relatively unvisited by the tourist masses and I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed my time in Antwerp. Easily accessible on a one hour train ride, you’ll be dropped off in what might be Europe’s most beautiful train station. Antwerp Central Station is a masterpiece of Art Nouveau architecture, with a towering glass roofed atrium, gilded details, multi-colored marble and massive clock. It feels like walking onto a set from a 1920s romantic movie.
From the train station, meander your way through the old city and to the redeveloped harbor area. The best part of the Old City is definitely the charming streets. Narrow alleys and picturesque squares are lined with quaint shops and cafes. My favorite narrow street is Vlaeykensgang Alley which has secret restaurants, perfect for lunch! Looking out over the waters of Willemdok, the hallmark of the harbor area is the Museum aan de Stroom (also shortened to MAS). With 7 floors of different exhibitions and galleries, MAS is another architectural marvel with red brick and glass sides.
Antwerp doesn’t have the cliche offerings or iconic attractions that you find in more famous Belgian cities, but it more than makes up for it in beloved local traditions, delicious food, and beautiful modern architecture. It is a wonderful city to get a little lost and discover a flea market, grab a delicious coffee and pop into a furniture gallery. The harbor area is a cool place to come for a happy hour or dinner, especially on a nice day when the weather is good. For more detailed suggestions about what to see and do in Antwerp, check out my separate post highlighting the best that the city has to offer.
Day 3 & 4: Bruges
Bruges is known throughout the world for its medieval buildings, romantic vibes, and winding canals. In fact, the entire historic city center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site! While many tourists simply breeze through Bruges on a day trip from Brussels or Ghent, I believe it is worth at least an overnight if not two. Because Bruges has so many cool things to see, I can’t include it all in this blog post. If you are looking for the perfect two day itinerary in Bruges, check out my separate post which includes all of my recommendations for an epic 48 hour visit in this gorgeous city.
One of the most charming and picturesque parts of Bruges is its canals. It is easy to enjoy the canals from land, especially on foot or by bike. They wrap around the whole city, and each one seems more picturesque than the last. You can also get out on the ware with a canal boat tour on one of the various companies offering chartered canal rides. Personally, my favorite way to get around in Bruges is by bike. It is safe and easy, and the compact city center means you’ll never be biking far before hitting your next cool attraction.
As the sun starts to go down, you’ll notice that the vibe in Bruges changes. It is a cool feeling to experience, although I find myself struggling to describe it. Just trust me, it’s worth experiencing. I would recommend making your way towards Rosary Quay around sunset time. Sitting at a bend in the canals, Rosary has a beautiful view over central Bruges. It is really nicely lit at night for epic night photography shots.
Day 5: Ghent
I was convinced to go to Ghent by a friend (who is dating a Belgian) because she said it was even more beautiful than Bruges. After visiting Ghent a couple of times, I totally agree and 100% recommend it. This Flemish-speaking city is often neglected in favor of more touristy places. As such, I am convinced Ghent is the most underrated city in Belgium! I would recommend at least 24 hours in Ghent to really soak in all the history, culture, and relaxed vibes of this gothic city.
Ghent is a perfect combination of storybook streets, romantic canals, bohemian flair and cosmopolitan amenities. A few of the important highlights to appreciate in the old town are the three medieval towers of Ghent. Clustered together in the center of town, you’ll want to have a look at Saint Bavo’s Cathedral, Saint Nicholas’ Church and the Belfry Tower. The best viewpoint to see all three towers at once is from the Sint-Michielsbrug arched stone bridge. It is especially nice around sunset when the lively student population clusters around the river.
Located in the heart of the Flanders, Ghent is also a surprisingly foodie city in Belgium. Ranging from casual pubs to high-end fine dining, you can really feel the pride Ghent residents take in their restaurant scene. You will find comforting Flemish specialties like rich fish stews and cured meats. Additionally, foodies can discover exciting global cuisine, veggie forward menus, and the freshest seafood you could want in Ghent.
Day 6: Dinant & Durbuy
So far, this 1 week Belgium itinerary has been mostly large cities. Why not get off-the-beaten-path and explore some of the charming small towns in Belgium? I recommend Dinant and Durbuy, two charming towns located in the Ardennes region in southern Belgium. One day in Dinant and Durbuy is the perfect amount of time to experience the charming atmosphere and rich history of these towns, and to enjoy the beautiful landscapes of the Belgian Ardennes.
Starting with Dinant, this small town is located on the banks of the Meuse River. Dinant has a strong musical culture with a famous musical instrument museum, and it hosts musical events throughout the year. One of the must-see sights in Dinant is the citadel, a fortified castle that sits high on a cliff overlooking the town. Visitors can take a cable car to the top to enjoy the panoramic views. Another popular attraction in Dinant is the Notre-Dame de Dinant cathedral, which is a beautiful gothic church that dates back to the 13th century.
After exploring Dinant, take a short drive or train ride to Durbuy. Dubuy is known as "the smallest city in the world" and it is well-worth a visit. It's a medieval village that will transport you back in time. More popular than Dinant, you are likely to run into at least a few tourists here. Thankfully, travelers don’t take away from Durbuy’s charm. From the cobblestone streets and old houses, to small shops and the castle in the middle of town, it is a very picturesque place. You can take a walk around and enjoy the atmosphere, or have a good meal in one of the local restaurants.
Of the destinations in this itinerary, these are the hardest to reach via train. The ride takes about 1 hour, but there are only regional (ie, slow) trains available. Although it is still possible to arrive by rail, driving is a more simple and efficient solution to visiting these small towns. The drive will take about 1 hour as well. With a little extra consideration, I promise these small towns will be worth it. The combination of cultural sights and natural beauty makes Dinant and Durbuy an ideal destination for visitors of all ages, with something for everyone to enjoy.
Day 7: Return to Brussels
As your wonderful week in Belgium comes to an end, it is time to return to Brussels to catch your flight back home. If you have a little extra time to spare, a notable attraction to visit in Brussels is the Atomium. It is located on the north side of the city, and it is a little bit out of the way. But, this unique structure was built for the 1958 World's Fair and has gained popularity recently thanks to Instagram. There is a park surrounding the structure, and you can also go inside for incredible panoramic views of the city.
What to Eat & Drink in Belgium
Sitting at the crossroads of many different European influences, such as France and Germany, Belgium’s cuisine pulls some of the best techniques and ingredients from its neighbors, synthesizing it into something entirely unique. Ranging from hearty stews to delicate pastries, Belgium is renowned for its delicious cuisine. Some of the must-try dishes include moules-frites (mussels and fries), carbonade flamande (beef stew), and waffles. I found Ghent was an especially foodie city, but I think you’ll find great things all over. Make sure that you leave room for chocolate, because wow – Belgium has some of the best chocolate in the world.
Belgium is also famous for its diverse range of beer. The country is home to over 200 types of beer, with brands like Leffe, Chimay, and Duvel among the most popular. For the ultimate beer experience, my former bar-tender (and proud beer snob) husband Sam helped write the ultimate guide to Belgian beer. It breaks down everything you need to know about the different styles and where to find the best beer bars and breweries in Belgium.
Where to Stay in Belgium
Lots of the cities in Belgium have a love for design, so you can expect some stylish boutique hotels. This is my favorite form of accommodation, and that is reflected in my hotel recommendations. My favorite place to stay in Bruges is the thoughtfully restored Hotel de’Orangerie. The hotel is built inside a 15th-century convent and has a very opulent and antique aesthetic. They have an afternoon tea on the canal which is simply delightful.
With an unparalleled location on Ghent’s main square and newly renovated interior, 1898 The Post is an obvious choice for accommodation in Ghent. This 19th-century, neo-Gothic post office building has been converted to a 38-room hotel with plush accommodations and unique design. We loved our comfortable stay in a lofted room with a private balcony overlooking Saint Nicholas' Church!
Finally, I can recommend the August in the southern part of Antwerp. It absolutely nails the chic modernist vibe inside of refurbished Augustinian convent. With 44 individually styled rooms, the details at August are impeccable. The bar and restaurant inside are absolute showstoppers from a design perspective, and the food is pretty darn good too!
What did you think about this post? Do you have any questions? Comment below and I can help!
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