Today we want to inspire you to get our and explore Belgium. Here are our top 15 weekend getaways in Flanders, Wallonia, and Brussels.
In our last two weekend getaway posts, we shared our favourite road trips and vacations by plane and train, from Belgium. But if you’ve spent any time at all on CheeseWeb, you’ll know how much we love exploring right here at home in Belgium. Belgium’s tiny size and diverse landscape and cultures, mean you can feel like you’re in a completely new country, without traveling far from home.
While it’s tempting to holiday beyond Belgium’s borders, we hope this post will encourage you to spend at least some of your holidays exploring the hidden gems of Flanders and Wallonia.
In no particular order (because we love them all) here are our top 15 weekend getaways in Belgium.
Weekend Holidays in Flanders
The capital of Flanders, Antwerp, has it all – fascinating museums, cutting edge fashion, a great music and theatre scene, and of course, excellent food. We’ve done a number of weekend escapes in Antwerp and we’ve always found plenty to do.
Our favourite museums include the Red Star Line Museum and the Plantin Moretus House and Printing Museum. We’ve visited the Antwerp Zoo, attended a classical music festival in the stunning Amuz concert hall and admired the architecture of the Zurenbourg Art Nouveau neighbourhood. We’ve feasted on Antwerp’s best chocolate and glorious slow food meatballs.
Don’t miss: the only museum on UNESCO’s World Heritage sites list, the Plantin Moretus House and high tea at the stunning De Foyer Restaurant in the Bourla Theatre.
If we had to live somewhere in Belgium other than Brussels, it would be Ghent. We love the vibrant atmosphere of this bustling university town. With its medieval architecture, postcard perfect canals, and commanding castle, we always recommend it as a great alternative to museum-like Bruges. It’s Belgium’s most vegetarian-friendly city and has a variety of great international foodie options from tapas to curry. We also love Ghent’s art and design scene and Andrew is a fan of the local beer.
Don’t miss: an over-the-top meal at the House of Eliott and an interactive look at Ghent’s history at the STAM museum.
We’d spent many years in Belgium before we ever saw anything in Hasselt, beyond the gorgeous Japanese Garden. What a pity! When we finally did spend a weekend in Hasselt, we loved it. From the Fashion Museum and excellent boutique shopping to the stunning street art and fabulous food, this little Flemish city is one you shouldn’t miss. It also makes a great base for exploring the rest of Limburg, one of our favourite provinces in Belgium.
Don’t miss: a Michelin-starred meal at JER and a tranquil visit to the Japanese Garden (especially when the cherry blossoms are in bloom!)
Also in Limburg, you’ll find the ‘oldest town in Belgium’, Tongeren. Tongeren is famous for its Roman roots and its most famous citizen, Ambiorix, stands proudly in the main square. The Gallo-Roman museum was the best museum in Europe in 2013, and we can see why. UNESCO also recognised Tongeren twice, by listing its belfry and Beguinage. Bargain-hunters should note, the town also hosts a Sunday antiques market, which is the biggest in Benelux.
Don’t miss: the excellent Gallo-Roman Museum and a stylish night’s sleep at T’Huys Van Steyns.
If you’re interested in history and military tourism, there’s no better place to base yourself to learn about the battlefields of the Great War than Ypres. From the haunting tune of The Last Post, played nightly at Menin Gate, to the excellent In Flanders Fields Museum, Ypres remembers its dark past. But the city is far from dark and dreary. It boast excellent walking trails, pretty architecture, and, of course, great food. It is also home to one of Belgium’s oddest festivals – the Cat Parade, which ends with a jester throwing stuffed toy cats from its belfry.
Don’t miss: A bed and an excellent dinner at the Ariane Hotel and journey back in time at the In Flanders Fields Museum.
After quietly mocking the Belgian coast for years, we’re eating our words about Oostende. While you’ll never get us to fall in love with the crowded, concrete-lined Belgian beaches, we do think it’s a great weekend escape. We were pleasantly surprised by the amount of things to do in Oostende: a number of great museums, including the excellent Mu.ZEE art gallery, a Japanese Garden, a fun walking tour, and great public art. And we haven’t even mentioned the food… (we’d go back just to eat!) Oostende also makes a great base to see some of the coasts other attractions, like the Atlantic Wall Museum and the Shrimp Fishermen on Horseback at Oostduinkerke.
Don’t miss: Fine-dining seafood at its best at Bistro Mathilda and an art-filled afternoon at Mu.Zee
Mechelen is so close to Brussels, locals often overlook it as a weekend getaway destination. However, with beautiful and unique attractions like a hotel in a former church, and a gourmet restaurant on a barge, it’s worth taking some time here.
Hike to the top of the UNESCO listed belfry for a commanding view or take the family to Technopolis for a day of educational fun.
Don’t miss: Sleeping with the angels at Martin’s Patershof Hotel and a meal on the barge terrace at De Kraanbrug.
At first glance, the tiny city of Geel doesn’t seem to have much going on – yet we still spent one of our favourite weekends away from home there. The secret is not so much Geel itself, but a very special small farm there. Debbie and Stew’s smallholding is the perfect way to escape to the country, without having to travel far from civilization. Spend the weekend cuddling baby goats and chicks, or get hands on at one of Debbie’s excellent workshops where you can learn everything from how to make cheese and sausage to basic sewing skills. Debbie and Stew are fantastic hosts and their locavore dinners are legendary.
Don’t miss: stuffing yourself full of Debbie’s artisan goat cheeses and hanging with the two coolest dogs in Belgium (not to mention two very cool people).
Weekend Holidays in Wallonia
9. Dinant & Namur
The one road-trip in Belgium we recommend time and time again is between Dinant and Namur along the Meuse River. While both of these cities have their charms and would make a great base for exploring the area, we stayed just outside Dinant. Both cities boast citadels with sweeping views (Dinant’s also has a funicular and a whole lot of stairs). Both have gastronomic delights, from Belgium’s best bakery in Namur, to strawberries in Wepion, to some unique local specialties in Dinant. In the area you’ll find a number of castles like Annevoie and Freyr and well as some quirky farms raising ostriches, goats, and even snails. Don’t forget to stop by the organic, artisanal brewery of Caracole. You may need more than one weekend…
Don’t miss: Fine dining at L’Agathopède in Namur and the tiny free museum dedicated to Adolphe Sax, the inventor of the Saxophone, in Dinant.
A weekend in Liege was one of our very first long-weekend holidays in Belgium and, in the past few years, the city keeps getting better. With a number of new hotels and great restaurants opening (not to mention the incredible modern train station), there’s plenty to attract visitors, but most of all it makes a great base to explore the province of Liege.
There are a number of interesting military tourism sites in the region, including the Fort de Barchon, Fort Eben-Emael, and the moving ruined Fort de Loncin. One of our favourite visits was to the UNESCO listed Blegny Mine. The province of Liege also has its fair share of castles, like the Chateau de Modave, which is particularly beautiful during the Christmas season.
Don’t miss: a trip underground at the Blegny Mine and the powerful reminder of the devastation of war at the Fort de Loncin.
11. Eupen & Aubel
Eupen is the capital of the German-speaking minority of Belgium. Although it is located in the province of Liege, there’s so much to see and do in the area, we feel it deserves its own section. The first time we stayed in Eupen, we were lucky to discover the B&B Julevi, which we enjoyed so much, we returned later the same year. We also found some great restaurants – Restaurant Duo and Delcoeur Restaurant and Vinotheque. The highlight however, was hiking in the Haute Fagnes National Park. It’s an escape to nature we didn’t think was possible in over-populated Belgium.
We also spent a weekend in nearby Aubel, a quaint little village with a great Sunday market. We loved our stay at the Aux Berges de la Bel bed and breakfast and dinner in the restaurant was fabulous. Andrew also loved visiting the Val-Dieu abbey and sampling the abbey beer. I preferred the lunch at the Moulin de Val Dieu and we had another great meal at the Vieil Aubel Restaurant in Aubel’s oldest building.
Don’t miss: Escaping to nature in the Hautes Fagnes Nature Reserve and discovering Eupen with a stay at B&B Julevi.
12. Luxembourg Province
Sadly, Andrew didn’t get to join me for my stay at the Auberge du Sabotier in Belgium’s Luxembourg province (but it gives me a great excuse to go back!) It was here I was able to experience Belgian nature (yes, it does exist) in a variety of ways. I saw logging done by horses in the traditional way, had an informative walk in the woods, and had one of my weirdest experiences in Belgium, listening to the rutting stags late at night.
The province of Luxembourg is also home to the quaint little town of Durbuy, the excellent new Bastogne WWII Museum, the Château de Bouillon, and one of Belgium’s Trappist breweries at Notre-Dame d’Orval.
Don’t miss: Exploring nature and enjoying an excellent meal at the Auberge du Sabotier and visiting the world’s smallest town, Durbuy, Belgium.
13. Hainaut Province
With the city of Mons as one of Europe’s Culture Capitals for 2015, there’s never been a better time to visit Belgium’s Hainaut Province. There are plenty of new museums and exhibitions opening throughout the year, and the city makes a great base to explore the rest of the province.
However, it was tiny Binche, rather than Mons, that stole my heart. While attending the UNESCO designated Binche Carnival was one of my weirdest experiences ever in Belgium, it was also one of my favourites. If you can’t make it to Binche for the carnival, it’s still worth checking out the fantastic museum of carnivals and masks in the centre of town.
Hainaut is home to another of Belgium’s Trappist Breweries, Chimay, the Chateau de Beloeil and one of our favourite places in the whole country, Pairi Daiza Zoo and Botanical Garden.
Don’t miss: saying hello to Belgium’s panda pair at Pairi Daiza Zoo and partying Gilles-style at the Binche Carnival.
Few modern-day spa goers know the word we now associate with wellness originated in Belgium. If you love a day at the spa, how can you not visit the town of Spa in Belgium? The Thermes de Spa is a huge modern Spa complex, with plenty of pools, saunas, and hammams, perfect to soak and steam your cares away.
However, in Belgium, the word Spa is not only associated with slowing down. It also goes fast – really fast, at the Spa Francorchamps Formula one track. Watch the world’s best drivers do their thing on one of the best tracks in Europe.
Don’t miss: Slowing down at the Thermes de Spa and getting your heart-rate up at Spa-Francorchamps.
Sometimes we forget not everyone lives in Brussels as we do. We’d be remiss if we didn’t urge you to take a weekend escape in the capital of Europe. (Of course, we think you need a heck of a lot more time to explore all of Brussels charms.) Take in the incredible slow food scene, enjoy an Art Nouveau walk, visit one of the dozens of museums, or simply stand in wonder at the Grand Place.
Even if you live in the city, it can be nice to take a stay-cation in one of Brussels great hotels. And don’t forget about the excellent festivals and foodie events that are never-ending in this vibrant city.
Don’t miss: enjoying a Belgian beer at a great bar and discovering a hidden corner of the city with the Brussels Greeters.
We’ve spent eleven years exploring this amazing country and we can assure you, we aren’t done yet. When you’re making your holiday plans this year, don’t forget to include plenty of time to discover Belgium. We promise you won’t regret it.
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- Our Top 15 Weekend Getaways in Belgium