Belgium is small – about half the size of Ireland. But don’t underestimate this little country. Belgium is beautiful, with many attractions – and we’re not just talking about chocolate and beer. Visitors to Belgium will find the country a delight to explore; from dining on legendary mussels and fries (‘‘Moules Frites’’) to discovering culture and history in the excellent museums, including Europe’s best-stocked art gallery, the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts.
Belgium’s capital, Brussels, is a charming blend of Art Nouveau mansions and modern skyscrapers, culture-rich art galleries and quaint flea markets. Other places to visit in Belgium include the medieval towns of Bruges and Ghent, Antwerp (famous for diamonds), and castles in Wallonia. Hedonists will delight in the chocolate, which is an art form in Belgium, and the waffles with their creamy, sticky texture. Let’s not forget the beer, which has been brewed here since the Middle Ages and is legendary – rightly so.
Why travel to Belgium
- Explore its well-preserved medieval landmarks such as Ghent, and Bruges, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Spend Christmas in Belgium to experience the charm and atmosphere of the festive markets in little towns and villages.
- Marvel at impressive architecture, both modern and centuries-old.
- Discover its distinctive comic culture with a comic museum in Brussels, and the famous Tintin Museum in Louvain-la-Neuve.
- Visit the world’s best museum on the First World War.
Belgium comes as a wonderful surprise to both first-timers and returning visitors. Whether you’re travelling alone or as a couple, on a Christmas family holiday, or with friends to enjoy the beer, the bars and the restaurants, this charming little country will delight you. Come and enjoy its many treasures with a tailor-made Belgium holiday package from Thompsons Holidays.
What to do in Belgium
A Belgium tour will charm and delight you with things to do. When it comes to culture, you’ll have your pick of museums and galleries to visit. Discover art that goes back centuries or contemporary modern pieces. Experience a comic culture that includes Belgium’s hero, Tintin, and immerse yourself in history that will make you step back to medieval times.
You’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to dining out, whether you’re sampling street food and waffles or dining on what is known as the best vegetarian cuisine in the world. That’s before you sample the Belgian chocolate and the beer, which is a signature of this remarkable little country. The shopping is superb and includes modern fashion from some of the world’s best designers, such as Dianne Von Furstenberg, Ann Demeulemeester and Dries van Noten as well as traditional items at the iconic Christmas markets in little towns and villages. In fact, at Christmas time, Belgium is at its most authentic and charming, making this a popular time to visit, especially for a family holiday.
Things to do in Belgium
- Explore Europe’s best-preserved medieval city, Bruges.
- Learn all about diamonds at Antwerp’s Diamant Museum.
- Visit the UNESCO-listed Grande Place in Brussels.
- Explore underground caves at Grotte de Han.
- Learn the history of beer making at a brewery.
- Attend a summer music festival.
- Discover the site of the Battle of Waterloo.
- Visit Hallerbos to see its magnificent bluebells in the summertime.
- Head for the world’s smallest city, charming Durbuy.
- See the Rubenshuis, once the home of artist Rubens, in Antwerp.
Belgium is home to many unexpected architectural treasures, and its museums are legendary. Wherever you go, there is something fascinating to discover, which is why Belgium is such a delightful holiday destination, for families, friends, couples or solo travellers. Let Thompsons Holidays arrange your Belgium trip for you.
Know before you go...
- The best time to visit Belgium for sightseeing is in spring (April and May) or autumn (September and October).
- High season is during the summer months, July and August. The weather is quite warm, but crowds will be bigger.
- Winter months (November to February) are the low season, although there are some fabulous carnivals to enjoy during Christmas and Lent.
- Flight duration from Johannesburg to Brussels, Belgium: 13 hours.
- You can also fly to London, Dubai, Paris and other European destinations and onto Belgium from there.
- Public transport within Belgium is by train, tram, Metro and bus.
- South African passport holders require a Schengen visa to enter Belgium.
- Passport must be valid for 6 months after your trip.
- Time zone – Belgium is on Central European time, one hour behind South Africa during the winter (November to March) and the same time as South Africa in the summer months (last Sunday in March to last Saturday in October).
- The official currency is the Euro (€).
- The Euro is divided into 100 cents. There are coins for 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cents, and €1 and €2.
- Credit cards are widely accepted and ATMs are readily available.
- Tipping is not expected for taxis, restaurants, hairdressers or bars, although it won’t be refused. Some locals round up the bill.
- If service is exceptional, show appreciation with a tip of up to 10%.
- The Kingdom of Belgium has 3 official languages – Dutch, French & German.
- English is widely spoken.
- 57% of the Belgian population is Catholic.
- Other religions, including Protestantism, Orthodox Christianity and Islam are practiced here.
- It is safe to drink tap water in Belgium.
- Many public restrooms charge a small fee for use, so keep change on hand for this.
- Relatively lenient, Belgium still bans smoking except in designated areas.
- Vaccinations are not currently required but check with your travel clinic before you go.
What must I pack?
- Lightweight clothing in summer, warm layerable clothing for winter.
- Dress modestly when visiting sacred sites – no shorts or tank tops. Legs and shoulders must be covered. Long, loose pants and long-sleeved cotton shirts are best.
- Comfortable walking shoes, sandals.
- Sunscreen, lip balm, hat and sunglasses.
- Mini first aid kit and regular prescription medication.
- Hand sanitiser and insect repellent.
- Travel adaptor.
What can I do to be a responsible traveller?
- Wherever possible, buy local food and souvenirs and support local artisans.
- Avoid single-use plastic; rather take fabric shopping bags with you and use refillable water bottles (when local drinking water is available).
- Respect each other's cultures and customs and avoid imposing your beliefs.
- Do not support animal encounters and wildlife activities that are harmful or unethical.
- Always have a map (or app) on hand, especially when travelling at night.
- Be safety conscious: don’t display cash or valuables. Leave jewellery and expensive watches at home.
- Keep your belongings safe – use the hotel safe for passports and valuables and watch out for pickpockets and bag snatchers when out and about.
What do I do in an emergency?
- If passports or valuables are stolen, report the theft to the hotel/police immediately.
- Contact the Thompsons Holidays 24-hour care line to assist.
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