EXPEDITIONIST Diaries: Exploring Belgium’s Highlights In Under 48 Hours
When planning a trip it’s always hard to pick and choose what to see and what you can skip, especially when you have limited time. In my case, I had extremely limited time; less than 48 hours to be exact.
I left my hostel in Amsterdam just after 11am and headed straight for the train station to Belgium. First stop: Antwerp. I’m always surprised by how close in proximity everything is in Europe. An hour and half after leaving Amsterdam by train I was a in different country. I took me a bit to wrap my brain around, but I was pleased that I wouldn’t be spending the entire day traveling.
I had only the one afternoon and evening in Antwerp, and, if you’re ambitious like me, this will give you more than enough time to see all of Antwerp’s highlights. In one afternoon, I was able to see the Grote Markt, the Cathedral of our Lady, the Grand Bazaar, and many of the beautiful little side streets that weave in and out of the city centre.
If you’re a foodie and looking for a delicious night out, make a reservation at InVINcible. It’s a Michelin-star reviewed restaurant located just outside the Grote Markt. For 35 euros, you can try one of their amazing tasting menus which they pair with an apertif and glass of wine appropriate to your food selection. A bit of a splurge if you’re on a budget, but then again if you only have one night, you might as well do it right!
The next morning I headed to Brussels, where I was going to spend a half day exploring Bruges and Ghent, then finish out the evening in the Grand Place. If you want a quick snapshot of Belgium, these four cities (Antwerp, plus the three mentioned above) are definitely the places to see.
In Bruges, I tried authentic Belgian chocolates, took a boat ride through the canals, and walked around the city, taking in Belgium’s unique scenery. In Ghent, I walked through the Koren Markt, saw the Belfry Tower (although I didn’t climb to the top as it was closed; Side note: Everything in Belgium shuts down at 5 or 6pm, so make sure you plan your transit and travel times accordingly if you want to see more each of the sights), and enjoyed a cherry beer on a patio in the centre square before heading back to Brussels.
Once in Brussels, a definite must-see is the Grand Place. This by far is one of the main attractions of the city, and from there you can explore and make your way to any of the little side streets to sample more of Belgium’s famous beers. I ended my night with a flight of 6 beers at Au Brasseur, where they have over 300 types of beer on tap! (Talk about choices!)
For accommodation on a budget, I recommend the Antwerp City Youth Hostel, and 2GO4 Hostel in Brussels as both were super central, easy to find, and very good value for your money (free hostel breakfast, free wifi, friendly staff and clean rooms).
Seeing four cities in less than 2 days is ambitious, and definitely requires a lot of energy to keep moving, but it is very doable and in my opinion was enough time to get a feeling for the country, and be able to make plans for lengthier trips in the future.
Have you ever explored a country in a short amount of time? If so, where did you go and what were your experiences in the places you visited? Share in the comments below!
All Photos: Rose Huet