Study Abroad Files: Belgium
Belgium can be easily conquered in a long weekend with youth train tickets that fetch for €12.60 and travel times in between cities that run from 30 minutes to an hour at the most. Keep reading for a whirlwind tour of Belgium's highlights!
In all honesty there isn't much to see in Brussels–the city is mostly overrun with corporate office towers and shopping strips dominated by chain stores like H&M or Zara. For touristy sites, the Grand Place (pictured below) is quite impressive, but even lovelier at night. The famous Manneken Pis (peeing boy statue) is also a fun photo-op, but pretty underwhelming in person, so I wouldn't recommend going out of your way to see it.
For fun nightlight, adjacent to the Grand Place is a series of lively bars and clubs. Floris Tequila is a cozy bar with 500 types of tequila and mezcal to choose from. Right next door is the famous Delirium Café, home to countless options of top-notch beer starting at €3 a glass, a lively crowd and great dance music.
Bruges is really beautiful and incredibly easy to navigate on foot. The historic Belfry of Bruges is definitely worth the climb for breathtaking views of the city and located right in Place De Bruges, a central square bustling with touristy attractions. If you have the time and the fortune of good weather, definitely opt for a canal tour of the city by boat or a brewery tour at Huisbrouwerij De Halve Maan. For lovely architecture and a sense of history, there is the Basilica of the Holy Blood or the Church of Our Lady, home to Michelangelo's Madonna and baby Jesus statue.
Food can be pricey, but the 't Brugs Pitahuis has great falafel, pita and dipping sauces for a decent price and for less than €5 you can find waffles, fries, gelato, milkshakes and more. I would skip the crowds at the famous (albeit overpriced and touristy) The Chocolate Line since you can't really go wrong with any one of the countless chocolate shops you're bound to pass as you explore the city.
Ghent is adorable and scenic and almost feels like a set from Beauty and Beast with its winding canals, picturesque vistas and countless Belgian waffle and hot chocolate shops. Definitely make a point of visiting the medieval Gravensteen castle and the Design Museum, which specializes in textiles and fabrics. The historic Water House on the Bierkant offers hundreds of beers and nice views of the canal if you sit outside.
For a hearty meal, grab lunch at Soup'r for the best soup EVER. Also take the time to wander up and down Sint-Baafsplein and Limburg streets to see several beautiful churches and cathedrals and public squares full of locals enjoying a weekend brunch.
Antwerp is lots of fun and should definitely be a stop along the way for more design and arts-inclined travelers. Museum aan de Stroom documents the city's heritage, for contemporary art head over to Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst, ModeMuseum for fashion and couture or the Royal Museum of Fine Arts for a little bit of everything. If none of these suit your fancy, there are also museums that specialize in photography, medieval art, 16th-century printing and more! Middelheim is a lovely park and sculpture garden worth visiting for a picnic or casual stroll.
The De Koninck brewery is a bit of a production, but lots of fun if you're willing to set aside an hour or two. The Cathedral of Our Lady is quite lovely, but doesn't offer free admission, so I'd recommend admiring the view while dining on delicious pasta at 't Putke, a nice bistro and restaurant with outdoor seating. Gelato is readily available almost anywhere, but you can't go wrong at one of the many Australian Home Made Ice Cream stores scattered about the city.
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