Belgian Secrets: Off the Beaten Path Cities

Belgium; a country with medieval cities and lots of canals and rivers but also the country of beer, French fries, amazing chocolate, delicious waffles and way too many languages.

It seems like the rest of the world has found its way to this tiny little European country. Back when I studied in the centre of Bruges, the amount of tourists drove me (and my fellow Belgian citizens) completely crazy. I can fairly say that it’s one of the most touristy places I’ve ever been to and I’ve seen a fair amount of places.

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Famous Bruges – can you believe I’ve never seen the movie “In Bruges”? Dozens of people I’ve met on the road have told me about it but I’ve never watched it myself.

I’ve read several travel articles about my home country. I’ve even read articles that describe how to see Belgium in a week (??!!). I’ve heard people telling me that they have seen the whole country. Those things make me laugh because both the articles on how to see Belgium in 1 week and the people who claim to have seen and experienced the whole country are ridiculous. They only talk/write about Bruges, Ghent, Brussels, Antwerp and maybe Leuven.

Bruges, Ghent, Brussels, Antwerp and Leuven (maybe)

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Leuven

 

Check a map before you go people, did it ever occur to you that those 5 cities are located in only 2 parts of the country?

Did you know that Belgium exists out of 4 parts? If you didn’t know that, that’s a shame, you should do at least a bit of research before you decide to travel somewhere and even write an article about it.

I seriously still can’t believe that “How To See Belgium in One Week” article.

Let’s make things clear; Belgium is devided into 4 parts:

– Flanders (language: Flemish (a variant of Dutch))

– Brussels (language: Flemish and French but in reality you’ll only hear languages like Arabic and so)

– Walloon (language: French and Luxembourgish)

– East Cantons or Eupen-Malmedy (language: German)

Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp and Leuven are located in Flanders.

Brussels… in Brussels obviously.

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An amazing harbor building in Antwerp designed by Zaha Hadid. Yet, no tourists go there.

But what about Walloon and the East Cantons?

I’ll be honest with you; there are no main cities in the East Cantons. People go there to go skiing or to go camping and be in nature (yes, Belgium has nature). So if you’re only interested in city trips, the East Cantons won’t be for you.

Walloon, on the other hand, is a different case. Walloon is beautiful and has plenty of beautiful cities.

Some of the main cities in this Belgian region are;

– Liège

– Namur

– Dinant (not a city but very beautiful)

– Mons

– La Roche (village in the Ardennes)

– Durbuy; considered the smallest village in the world

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The Railway station in Liège
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Liège at night – not something you would expect from a country as Belium, I know.
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View from the citadel in Namur
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Dinant
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Dinant
Durbuy
Durbuy

How to see the whole country?

Well, if you’re one of those few people who actually wants to see the whole country. Be prepared because 1 week won’t be enough. You’ll need 2 or so.

You need at least one full day (travel days not included – the public transport in Belgium can be quite annoying, it might take you a while until you reach your destination) in each city (not in the villages as Dinant and Durbuy).

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Les Ardennes

The cities you should visit are;

  • Bruges
  • Ghent
  • Antwerp
  • Leuven
  • Brussels
  • Liège
  • Dinant
  • Namur
  • Mons
  • Durbuy (why? To have an idea of how a typical Walloon village looks like and also because it’s pretty)
  • Spend a couple of days in the Ardennes. The Ardennes is a forest and hill region which spreads over a big part of Walloon. Very beautiful, a perfect place to go camping and go for hikes. A good place to stay in the Ardennes if you don’t wanna camp is La Roche.
  • Go skiing (mostly cross country) in the East Cantons

Have you been to all those places? Then you’ve seen the WHOLE country. But you know what? It’s not necessary, you don’t have to see everything. After all, most Belgians haven’t seen all of those places either.

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Les Ardennes
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Ghent

 

 

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12 comments

    • Many people don’t know, it’s such a small country, nobody expects it to be that complicated haha.
      Old villages? Walloon, the French part. Villages like Dinant, Durbuy, La Roche.
      If you want to see old cities, Flanders (the Flemish part) is the place to be!

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    • You lived in Brussels? Brussels is beautiful but I haven’t been there often, only maybe 6-7 times or so. It’s a bit of a weird city to me. It’s not Flemish and not French either and the times I’ve been there, I didn’t even hear those languages. It’s also a little dangerous I think, I really don’t wanna walk around there at night… Did you feel safe there?
      Antwerp and Leuven are quite beautiful but I personally prefer Ghent and Bruges (when it comes to Flemish cities).
      If you ever find yourself in Belgium again, pay a visit to the French part, you won’t be disappointed!

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  1. It really grinds my gears too when people say they’ve “done” countries! Have only been to Brussels, but would love to go and explore more of Belgium one day – as you said, have envisioned that at least a week would be needed and that would still make for a pretty speedy trip. Dinant and Durbuy look particularly picturesque.

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  2. I absolutely loved Ghent! I know it’s one of the bigger cities in Belgium but many people I speak to have never even heard of it. People are also surprised when I say I spent a week in Brussels alone – I also can’t imagine how people could spend a week in the whole country?!! There’s so much to see as you say 🙂

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  3. It always feels wrong for me when someone says they saw a whole country. I mean, WHOLE is quite a big word, right? Even with all the cities you mentioned, they wouldn’t see the whole country in my opinion (what about cities like Ostende and Knokke, or even Arlon (that I never saw myself) and Charleroi (not the most beautiful but it’s quite an important one in the end, no :p?) or smaller cities like Chimay and other ones I can’t even think of?).
    Anyway, I’m from Belgium and as a Walloon, I just want to thank you to open the discussion about all these cities people never think of :). I haven’t seen all of them myself (but I intend to!) and it’s true that when a tourist asks me, I’m always talking first about these big cities in Flanders, because to me they are some of the most beautiful of the country. But one thing is for sure: the more I discover my country, the more I am amazed by all the beauty it contains!

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  4. Girl, don’t even get me started on those kinds of articles about seeing a whole country in a week, or in 48 hours… it just is silly to me. I live in countries for a year sometimes and never see ‘the whole country’. People tend to only look into the well known places and leave out some real gems cause they don’t do their research. Some don’t even leave capital cities most of the time. I hate that.

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  5. I have just returned from Namur and I fell in love with the place. I really like how the city has remained the same as in the past and how friendly the people there were, even if English was barely spoken. 🙂

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  6. I keep hearing amazing things about Namur…definitely makes me want to visit. Thanks for covering so much more of the country and giving me lots of great trip ideas!

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