Our Belgium Tour: 3 Cities in 3 Days... and 30 Waffles Later

waffles in Belgium -- yum
Body: 
I love waffles.  I always go for breakfast on Mother’s Day. So this Mother’s Day, before setting sail to the Arctic, I decided to detour to Brussels for the world’s best waffles. Belgium  is famous for its waffles, chocolate, beer, fries and mussels, and has an abundance of high-street shops and chocolate havens.  Belgium is one of Europe's top-tourist destinations, like London, Amsterdam or Paris, but is often overlooked. 

Our three Days in Belgium, sandwiched between two days exploring Brussels with a lot of waffles and exploring the nearby cities of Bruges and Ghent, were simply amazing!  I also strongly recommend visiting the WW1 battlefields near Ypres, if time permits.  The distances in Belgium are short, so you can base yourself in any city and make day trips from there, which eliminates the pack/unpacking.   I recommend spending at least three or four days in Belgium.  
 
The capital of Belgium, Brussels, has so much to offer. The people are friendly, helpful, and English is widely spoken.  We flew in and out of Brussels and traveled around Belgium by car.  An alternative to traveling by car would be to utilize the train. Both are very easy to do since distances between the various cities and sites are not far at all. 
   
Brussels is a cosmopolitan city: The population was already divided into Flemish and French speakers, but to these are now added the babel of European languages, with English as a common denominator.  Speak to anyone who has lived here for a while, and they will tell you that it is a very pleasant city to be in, with its wonderful museums, splendid architecture, delightful green spaces, excellent, reasonably prices restaurants and a lively nightlife. 
 
The combination of fresh air and warm, melted Belgian chocolate waffles gave me a sudden rush of energy as I walked across from my classic hotel, The Amigo, a perfect location in walking distance to the main gallery square. The central square of Brussels is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most beautiful town squares in the world. Surrounded by the decorative 17th century guild houses, the impressive City Hall and Maison du Roi (now the Brussels City Museum) is not to be missed. In the evening, the buildings are nicely lit, making it even more beautiful than the day.  
 
Some of the other highlights include the Manneken Pis,a landmark small bronze sculpture depicting a little ‘peeing boy’.  It is said to have saved the city from fire and is an ultimate symbol of Brussels. Manneken Pis has over 960 costumes for all kinds of different occasions and holidays! People actually dress it up for multiple occasions.  Les Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert is a 19th century pedestrian gallery with numerous boutiques and restaurants worth enjoying.  The impressive Gothic cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral, the location of all the significant events in the Belgium monarchy’s celebrations, is so stunning. The Royal Palace, with its spectacular architecture and magnificent landscaping, can be visited July through September. 
  
In the evening, we returned to the city center to see the lit Grand Place and to experience the famous dining area of Rue des Bouchers. This street has such a vibrant, international feel that no trip to Brussels would be complete without a visit here. 
 
Bruges was already worlds apart from Brussels and reminded me of Amsterdam and Holland. Capturing signature experiences as well as a time to get myself lost is the perfect combination for me.  A fairytale-like place, it’s best to visit Bruges in the early evening because it’s crowded with tourists during the day.  While there are many tourists, only a small percentage actually stay in Bruges, so in the evening the city is completely deserted.  
 
Our first visit in Bruges was to the famous Minnewater Lake, or Lake of Love.  The lake was cloudy and desolate when we arrived, but even so it was a beautiful space.  As we continued to the center of the lake, we passed under castle-like arches and cobbled bridged waterways.  The architecture is so beautiful. On the opposite side of the square was the famous Belfort Tower, which stands 272 ft tall. Its 43 melodious bells rang during my walk up the 366 steps to the top of the tower. It was a pretty demanding climb, but you can stop off along the way to discover the old treasury and the history of this iconic landmark. 
 
We also visited the old Beguinage Ten Wijngaerde. It is the only preserved beguinage in the Belgian city of Bruges.
 
If you are planning to visit the WW1 battlefields, then it is best to stay in Bruges. To many people, the WW1 battlefields are a main reason to visit Belgium.  If you do wish to visit, I would recommend visiting by car or taking an organized day tour from either Bruges or Brussels. 
  
Often neglected in favor of more touristy destinations such as Bruges and Antwerp, Ghent is a perfect alternative.  It has countless beautiful historical buildings, as well as a buzzing restaurant and café scene. Add a relaxed vibe and plenty of culture to that, and Ghent is one of the best travel destinations in Belgium.
 
We headed over to the historic Patershol neighborhood, full of beautiful old homes and tiny, winding streets, and most importantly, a great selection of delicious restaurants.  The Oudburg is an entire street of just restaurants. It’s also a fun place to get lost in.
 
We headed past the Vooruit, the legendary cultural venue, on the Lammerstraat and walked the Kouter, one of the most beautiful squares in all of Ghent.  From there, we strolled along the Zonnestraat and admired the Neoclassic Courthouse of Ghent reaching the Coupure, where the Leie River splits.  At the Coupure, you can rent your own boat and sail the canals of Ghent, but we took a guided tour on the canal from the Korenmarkt.  The boat rides in Ghent are affordable and give a very interesting historical and picturesque viewpoint of the city.  An added bonus: some parts of the city can only be viewed from the canal offering a completely different perspective. 
 
Brussels is a cosmopolitan city: The population was already divided into Flemish and French speakers, but to these are now added the babel of European languages, with English as a common denominator.  Speak to anyone who had lived here for a while and they will tell you that it is a very pleasant city to be in, with its wonderful museums, splendid architecture, delightful green spaces, excellent, reasonably prices restaurants and a lively nightlife. 
 
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