Belgian Breaks In 2020

January 31, 2020

Sandwiched between France, Germany and the Netherlands, Belgium can sometimes be overlooked by travellers exploring Europe but those who pass it by are missing out. This small country offers an abundance of culture, cuisine and history across its cities, coast and countryside. Read on to find out where and why you should travel to Belgium this year.


The Belgian capital has amazing architecture, unique sculptures and beautiful parks. Marvel at the Royal Palace and the 15th century city hall, giggle at the iconic Manneken Pis statues and visit one of the largest Roman Catholic churches in the world, Basilique de Koekelberg, which offers beautiful views of the city and surrounding area from its dome.

As you wander through the city streets, keep your eyes peeled for the murals on the side of many buildings which pay tribute to Franco-Belgian comic books. See how many you can spot – there are over 50 across the city.


For an urban retreat, head to Parc du Cinquantenaire, a park and museum complex which opened in 1880 and stretches over 30 hectares. It contains beautiful gardens and is home to the Army Museum, the Auto World Museum, an art museum and more!


The medieval city of Bruges with its winding canals, cobbled streets and impressive architecture is a delight to visit during the winter. Take a canal trip through the arteries of the city to see hidden gardens, charming bridges, and medieval buildings. Other sights to see include the 14th century town hall, the Cathedral of the Holy Saviour and the Belfry Tower which serves up views across the city and beyond. If you’d prefer to stay on solid ground, a horse and carriage ride is a lovely alternative and the city itself it small enough to stroll around, taking in the sights, smells and tastes of the town by popping into some local chocolateries – you’ll find it hard to resist!



Antwerp has been a major part of the diamond trade since the 15th century and today 84% of the world’s diamonds pass through the city to be polished and shaped before being sent to stores across the world. It even has a museum dedicated to diamonds and an entire district with hundreds of shops selling them.

Marvel at the gothic architecture of Antwerp central station, explore the world’s oldest printing press housed in a medieval building with UNESCO World Heritage status at Museum Plantin-Moretus and stop by Rubenshuis, the former home of world-renowned artist, Rubens.

Once you’ve had enough of city sightseeing, head to Antwerp Zoo which has been open since 1843, making it one of the oldest zoos in the world.  It has state of the art enclosures and breeding programmes as well as several exhibits and unusual installations across the site.



One of Belgium’s oldest cities, Ghent is still small enough to feel cosy. A wealth of medieval and classical architecture along with great food and beer can be found in the city.  Visit Gravensteen, known in Dutch as ‘The Castle of the Counts’, the 12th century castle which houses an Arms Museum and Museum of Judicial Objects. See the guillotine and the ‘mask of shame’ along with other instruments of torture (it’s not for the faint-hearted!) Before you leave make sure to climb to the rooftop for 360 degree views across the city.


Just beneath the castle sits the area of Patershol, a picturesque area dotted with restaurants and boutiques, many of which seem to have been unchanged since medieval times. Stroll through the cobbled streets to soak up the atmosphere and you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time.

Head to the Graslei and Korenlei which stretch along the Leie river in the heart of Ghent. These areas have unique medieval buildings along the right bank and are popular meeting places with a range of cafes and bars to unwind in.


John McCrae penned the immortal lines which call to mind sacrifices made in wartime: ‘In Flanders fields where poppies blow, between the crosses row on row.’ See the fields he wrote about in his poem where over half a million men lost their lives during WW1. Military cemeteries and ‘Missing Memorials’ can be found across the region and the museum at Ypres highlights the impact The Great War had on not only the men who served but on the regional population.


Flanders also has a rich history of arts and crafts. Tapestry started in Flanders back in the 13th century, lace has been made in the region for centuries and diamonds have been polished, cut and prepared in the area for years too. You can find out more about these industries at museums across the region.

Enjoy a road trip through Flanders or explore by bike – the area is ideal for cyclists with quaint villages, sprawling countryside and riverside trails.


For nature lovers and fans of winter sports, the Ardennes is ideal. It stretches over 11,000 square kilometres and is a great place for skiing or hiking. Its gastronomy is amazing too with smoked ham, the region’s famous paté and world-renowned trappist beers in abundance.  Belgium has more castles per square mile than anywhere else in the world, with over 3,000 scattered around this small country. The 11th century Castle of Bouillon in the Ardennes is one of the most interesting with colourful history and stunning surroundings. You can enjoy torchlight night tours, browse their exhibitions and enjoy tastings of regional cheese which is matured in the cellars of the castle.



Ostend’s white, sandy beaches and spacious promenades offer a coastal getaway and its belle époque and art deco architecture offer beautiful sights to see while strolling through the town.


Ostend is known for its mussels and shrimp croquettes which you can get from beach side vendors and small cafes on the promenade. A visit to the Fish Market is a must too, where fishermen sell their daily catch to local restaurants. You can even head out on a fishing boat to catch your own on organised fishing boat trips. All the fish you catch you can keep and with mackerel, codfish and plaice found in these waters, you’ll be in for a treat.

If you fancy exploring more of the wider area, hop on your bikes and cycle the Groen Lint trajectory, a 32 km track along the seafront, through dunes, forest and meadows – an utterly beautiful way to see the Belgian countryside.


Belgium is a melting pot of cultures with French and German influences throughout the country. French is widely spoken through Wallonia and the area is known for its Trappist beers, which are traditionally brewed by monks in monasteries. Originally brewed to feed the community, they are now brewed and sold to fund the monasteries’ work and charitable causes. There are only seven trappist beers in the world, six of which are brewed in Belgium. Visit Chimay Brewery at Scourmont Abbey in Wallonia to sample their trappist beer and home-made cheese.


Other areas in Wallonia include Dinant which offers great walking routes and steep cliffs overlooking the Meuse river and a visit to Spa is a must. The world’s first health resort, this thermal town is ideal for those of you looking for a peaceful retreat and has been a place of well-being since Roman times. The spring water is also used in their cooking and brewing – even more proof that Belgian beer is good for you!

You can get to Belgium easily with DFDS on our multiple routes from the UK to Europe. Sail overnight from Newcastle to Amsterdam or hop on one of our 54 daily sailings from Dover – France.

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