Triparound travel community

Holidays in Belgium

Understanding Belgium

Belgium is a densely populated country trying to balance the conflicting demands of urbanization, transportation, industry, commercial and intensive agriculture It imports large quantities of raw materials and exports a large volume of manufactured goods, mostly to the EU

History

Belgium became independent from the Netherlands in 1830 It was occupied by Germany during World Wars I and II and has many war graves near the battle zones, most of them are around Ieper in English archaically rendered as Ypres, with Yperite another name for mustard gas due to intensive use there in WWI It has prospered in the past half century as a modern, technologically advanced European state and member of NATO and the EU Tensions between the Dutch-speaking Flemings of the north and the French-speaking Walloons of the south have led in recent years to constitutional amendments granting these regions formal recognition and autonomy

Terrain

Flat coastal plains in northwest, central rolling hills, wooded hills and valleys of Ardennes Forest in southeast

Climate

Temperate; mild winters, cool summers; rainy, humid, cloudy Average annual temperature between 1976-2006 : 10° Celcius

Electricity

Electricity is supplied at 220 to 230V 50Hz Outlets are CEE7/5 protruding male earth pin and accept either CEE 7/5 Grounded, CEE 7/7 Grounded or CEE 7/16 non-grounded plugs Older German-type CEE 7/4 plugs are not compatible as they do not accommodate the earth pin found on this type of outlet However, most modern European appliances are fitted with the hybrid CEE 7/7 plug which fits both CEE 7/5 Belgium & France and CEE 7/4 Germany, Netherlands, Spain and most of Europe outlets

Travellers from the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, Italy, Switzerland and other countries using 230V 50Hz which use different plugs simply require a plug adaptor to use their appliances in Belgium

Travellers from the US, Canada, Japan and other countries using 110V 60Hz may need a voltage converter However, some laptops, mobile phone chargers and other devices can accept either 110V or 230V so only require a simple plug adaptor Check the voltage rating plates on your appliances before connecting them

Talking in Belgium

Belgium has three official languages:Dutch, French and German However, English is widely spoken by the younger generations You will find that some older people do speak English, especially in Flanders, but it is less likely

Please note that although Belgium has three official languages, that does not mean that all of them are official everywhere The only official language of Flanders is Dutch; Brussels has both Dutch and French as its official languages albeit the lingua franca is French The only official language of Wallonia is French, except for the nine municipalities including the town of Eupen and its surroundings of the German-speaking Community

A number of inhabitants of Wallonia, particularly the older generations, speak the Walloon language This language, while not official, is recognized by the French Community of Belgium as an "indigenous regional language", together with a number of other Romance Champenois, Lorrain and Picard and Germanic Luxembourgian language varieties

What to do in Belgium

  • DOCVILLE - International Documentary Film Festival Naamsestraat 96, 3000 Leuven +32-16-320300 http://wwwdocvillebe/ 45-6 euro International Documentary Film Festival in the beginning of May, with national and international competition in the city of Leuven Selected films have a focus on cinematography
  • Graspop Metal Meeting http://wwwgraspopbe/ Yearly heavy metal festival held in the town of Dessel, in June


  • Carnival de Binche 30 - Three days in February the town of Binche is transported back to the 16th century for one of the most fantastic festivals of the year Highlighted by music parades and fireworks, the climax of this event is when the Gilles appear on the Grand Place and throw oranges to the spectators This infamous festivity has been classified as part of the world's cultural heritage by UNESCO along with its renowned Gilles
  • Rock Werchter 31 - 3rd July - 6th July 2008, Werchter
  • Dour festival 32 - "European Alternative Music Event" - 12-15 July 2007 - Dour
  • Atomium built for the 1958 Brussels World Fair Expo ’58, it is a 335 foot tall representation of an atomic unit cell More precisely, it is symbolic of a unit cell of an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times Nine steel spheres 54 feet in diameter connect via tubes with elevators 105 feet long
  • Gentse Feesten 33 - 18 July - 27 July 2009 Huge, ten day long street festival in the historical center of the city of Ghent The biggest street festival in Europe, with theater, music in all genres, techno parties, and so on - Gentse Feesten
  • Activiteiten Gent & Antwerpen Activiteiten Gent & Antwerpen Rerum Novarumlaan 132 Merksem 0475 / 696 880 http://wwwjanplezierbe/bedrijfsuitje-activiteiten-gent/ Great boattours around Ghent and Antwerp
  • 24 hours cycling, Louvain-La-Neuve Louvain-La-Neuve is in the Wallonia not far from Brussel, it's a small pedestrian city created in the 60's for the french-speakers students Every year, in October, they organized a bicycle competition Actually, the course is a pretext to enjoy the event And to drink beers This party is one of the most important consumption of beers of the whole Europe


  • Belgian Beer Tour Belgian Beer Tour is a tour operator specializing in tours of Belgium breweries It offers a great way for beer lovers to visit their favourite breweries and discover new ones The tours cover a wide range of beers and appeals to connoisseurs and amateurs alike
  • International Short Film Festival Leuven Naamsestraat 96, 3000 Leuven +32-16-320300 http://wwwshortfilmfestivalorg/ 45-6 euro International Short Film Festival with many foreign guests and directors Focus on the best Flemish and European short films

Buying stuff in Belgium

  • Belgian chocolate: A long tradition has given Belgian chocolate a superior refinement process that is recognized worldwide
  • Textiles in Bruges
  • Designer fashions in Antwerp
  • Jewelry in one of Antwerps many jewelry shops
  • Beer

Food and eating in Belgium

Belgians like to eat Belgium is famous for its good cuisine and people like to go to restaurants frequently Best description for Belgian food would be "French food in German quantities"


General rules:

  • As anywhere in the world, avoid the tourist traps, where the touts are trying to get you in the restaurants You will get average to bad quality food for average to high prices and they will try to get rid of you as soon as possible to make space for the next customer at busy times A good example of this is the Famous "rue des Bouchers" in Brussels on the picture
  • Belgium is a country which understands what eating is all about, and can be a real gastronomic paradise You can have a decent meal in about every tavern, from small snacks to a complete dinner Just pop into one of those and enjoy it
  • If you want to eat really well for not too much money, ask the local people or the hotel manager that is, supposing he does not have a brother restaurant-manager to give some advice for a good restaurant
  • Quality has its price: since the introduction of the EURO, price for eating out in Belgium nearly doubled Expensive food like lobster or turbot will always cost a lot of money at any restaurant But you can also find some local and simple dishes, rather cheap and still very tasty eg sausages, potatoes and spinach

Specialities

A number of dishes are considered distinctly Belgian specialities and should be on every visitor's agenda

Mussels are a firm favorite and a side-dish of mosselen met friet mussels and fries The traditional way is to cook them in a pot with white wine and/or oignons and celery, then eat them up using only a mussel shell to scoop them out The top season is September to April, and as with all shellfish it's best not to eat the closed ones Belgium's mussels always come from nearby Holland Imports from other countries are looked down on

Stoofvlees is a traditional beef stew and is usually served with you have guessed it already friet

Witloof met kaassaus / Chicons au gratin is a traditional gratin of chicory with ham and a cheesy bechamel sauce, usually served with potatoe mash or croquettes

Konijn met pruimen: rabbit cooked in beer and dried plums

Despite the name, French fries friet in Dutch, frites in French are proudly claimed as a Belgian invention Whether or not this is true, they certainly have perfected it — although not everybody agrees with their choice of mayonaise over ketchup as the preferred condiment ketchup is considered to be "for kids" Every village has at least one frituur/friterie, an establishment selling cheap take-away fries, with a huge choice of sauces and fried meat to go with them The traditional thing to try is friet met stoofvlees , but don't forget the mayonaise on it

Waffles wafels in Dutch, gaufres in French come in two types:

  • Gaufres de Bruxelles/Brusselse wafels : a light and airy variety
  • a heavier variety with a gooey center known as Gaufres de Liège/Luikse wafels

The latter are often eaten as a street/ take-away snack while shopping and therefore can be found at stands on the streets of the cities

Last but not least, Belgian chocolate is famed around the world Famous chocolatiers include Godiva, Leonidas, Guylian, Galler, Marcolini and Neuhaus, but arguably the best stuff can be found at tiny boutiques in the Flemish cities, too small to build worldwide brands In nearly all supermarkets you can buy the brand Côte d'Or, generally considered the best 'every-day' chocolate for breakfast or break among Belgians

International

As a small country in the centre of western Europe, the cuisine is influenced not only by the surrounding countries, but also by many others This is also emphasized by many foreigners coming to this country to make a living here, for instance by starting a restaurant You can find all types of restaurants:

  • French/Belgian: A traditional Belgian restaurant serves the kind of food you will also find in the best French restaurants Of course there are local differences: at the coast in France as well as in Belgium you have a better chance to find some good seafood, like mussels, turbot, sole or the famous North Sea shrimp In the southern woods of the Ardennes remember the battle of the Bulge?, you are better off choosing game or local fish like trout
  • English/Irish: There are Irish bars and pubs everywhere and Belgium is no exception, try the Schuman area of Brussels for more Irish pubs than you can shake a stick at There is also an English pub just off of Place de la Monnaie in central Brussels
  • American: There are McDonald's or look-alikes in most every town The Belgian variant is called "Quick" You may also find a local booth serving sausages, hot dogs or hamburgers Try it: the meat tastes the same, but the bread is much better Ketchup in this region is bland; made with less sugar even the Heintz brand Pizza Hut, Domino's, and Subway also have establishments And what about real American restaurants? None really, although there is an American bar on the Toison d'Or in Brussels, they do serve food
  • Mexican: Only in the cities and rather costly for medium quality ChiChi's near Bourse and Pablo's near Port des Namur serve Mexican American food, neither of which would be considered a good value by American standards ChiChi's uses reconstituted meats Pablo's uses higher quality meat, but you pay a premium for it
  • Chinese: They have a long tradition of restaurants in Belgium Rather cheap, but for an acceptable level of quality
  • German: Maxburg in the Schuman area next to Spicy Grill makes a good schnitzel
  • Greek/Spanish/Italian: Like all over the world, nice, rather cheap, with a good atmosphere and typical music Greek: Choose meat, especially lamb Spanish: Choose paella and tapas Italian: Choose anything
  • Japanese/Thai: You usually only find them in the cities and they are rather expensive But they give you great quality The prices and quality are both satisfying in a concentrated cluster of Thai restaurants near Bourse station Avoid Phat Thai though if you don't want disruptions - as they let pan handlers and flower pushers enter and carry out their "work"
  • Arabic/Moroccan: Rather cheap, with a great variety of local dishes, especially with lamb; no fish or pork or beef
  • Turkish: Rather cheap, with a great variety of local dishes, especially with chicken and lamb and also vegetarian dishes, dishes with fish are rare; no pork or beef
  • And many, many others! Belgium offers a wide selection of international restaurants

Drinking in Belgium

Water

Tap water is drinkable everywhere in Belgium

Beer

Belgium is to beer what France is to wine; it is home to one of the greatest beer traditions in the world Like other European countries in medieval times, beers were brewed in a huge variety of ways with many different ingredients In addition to the standard ingredients of water, malted barley, hops and yeast, many herbs and spices were also used This activity was often done in monasteries, each developing a particular style For some reason, uniquely in Belgium many of these monasteries survived almost into modern times, and the process was handed over to a local commercial brewer if the monastery closed These brewers would often augment the recipe and process slightly to soften the taste to make it more marketable, but the variety survived in this way These beers are called Abbey beers and there are hundreds and hundreds with a range of complex tastes unimaginable until you've tried them

The Trappist label is controlled by international law, similar to that of Champagne in France As of 2010, there are only 6 Trappist Abbeys in Belgium that produce beer qualified to be called Trappist In order to carry the Trappist label, there are several rules that must be adhered to during the brewing process The beer must be fermented within the walls of the abbey, the monks of the abbey must be involved in the beer-making process, and profit from the sale of the beer must be directed towards supporting the monastery similar to a non-profit organization

Belgium offers an incredible diversity of beers Several well known mass-produced Belgian beers are Stella Artois, Duvel, Leffe, Jupiler, Hoegaarden The names given to some beers are pretty imaginative: eg Verboden Vrucht Forbidden Fruit, Mort Subite Sudden Death, De Kopstoot Head Butt, Judas and Delirium Tremens

Warmly recommended are also Kriek sweet and sour cherry beer and, for the Christmas season, Stille Nacht Silent night

Plain blond draughts 4%-5,5%: Stella Artois, Jupiler, Maes, Cristal, Primus, Martens, Bavik

Trappist ales 5%-10%: Achel, Chimay, Orval, Rochefort, Westvleteren, Westmalle

Geuze: Belle-Vue, the lambic Mort Subite Sudden Death, Lindemans in Sint-Pieters-Leeuw, Timmermans, Boon, Cantillon, 3 Fonteinen, Oud Beersel, Giradin, Hanssens, De Troch

White beers: Hoegaarden, Dentergemse, Brugse Witte

Accommodation in Belgium

Budget

Couchsurfing 34 has a lot of members in Belgium

Vrienden op de fiets 35 If you are travelling in Flanders by bicycle or by foot, there is a list of 220 addresses where you can stay at private homes with bed and breakfast for no more than €17 per person per night, although you must also pay €9 for membership of this scheme

Hotels

Belgium has many fine hotels Capital Brussels has countless rather expensive business hotels catering to the European Union's bureaucrats, and while you can usually get a good room for under €100, prices can spike if there's a big EU shindig in town

Working in Belgium

Having one of the highest labour taxes in Europe, Belgium is struggling to reposition itself as a high-tech country In that struggle, Flanders is far ahead and much wealthier than Wallonia, in contrast to the previous decades, where Wallonia's steel industry was the main export of Belgium Highly skilled people will have the most chance to find work, and knowing multiple languages Dutch, French, English and perhaps German is almost a standard requirement Interim offices providing temporary jobs are flourishing in a search to avoid the high labour taxes

Belgium has one of the highest tax rates in the world An employer who pays a salary about €1500 a month actually pays another €1500 or more in taxes Where does this money go to? It goes to the social network People only pay a small charge for healthcare, for example And the budget for education, arts and culture is enormous The budget for defense is however very tiny

Although Belgium is undesirable for building wealth, it's a good place for someone who already is wealthy to reside because there is very little capital gains tax some forms of capital gain is not taxed at all

Cities in Belgium

aalst  aalter  aarschot  aartselaar  alken  alveringem  amay  amel  andenne  anderlues  anhee  ans  anthisnes  antoing  antwerp  anzegem  ardooie  arendonk  arlon  as  asse  assenede  assesse  ath  attert  aubange  aubel  avelgem  awans  aywaille  baarle-hertog  baelen  balen  bassenge  bastogne  beaumont  beauraing  beauvechain  beernem  beerse  beersel  begijnendijk  bekkevoort  beloeil  beringen  berlaar  berlare  berloz  bernissart  bertem  bertogne  bertrix  bever  beveren  beyne-heusay  bierbeek  bievre  bilzen  binche  blankenberge  blegny  bocholt  boechout  bonheiden  boom  boortmeerbeek  borgloon  bornem  borsbeek  bouillon  boussu  boutersem  braine-le-chateau  braine-le-comte  braives  brasschaat  brecht  bredene  bree  brugelette  brugge  brunehaut  brussels  buggenhout  bullingen  burdinne  butgenbach  celles  cerfontaine  chapelle-lez-herlaimont  charleroi  chastre  chatelet  chaudfontaine  chaumont-gistoux  chievres  chimay  chiny  ciney  clavier  colfontaine  comblain-au-pont  courcelles  court-saint-etienne  couvin  crisnee  dalhem  damme  daverdisse  deerlijk  de haan  deinze  denderleeuw  dendermonde  dentergem  de panne  de pinte  dessel  destelbergen  diepenbeek  diest  diksmuide  dilbeek  dinant  dison  doische  donceel  dour  drogenbos  duffel  durbuy  edegem  eeklo  eghezee  ellezelles  enghien  engis  erezee  erquelinnes  esneux  essen  estaimpuis  etalle  eupen  evergem  faimes  farciennes  fauvillers  ferrieres  fexhe-le-haut-clocher  fleron  fleurus  flobecq  floreffe  florennes  florenville  frameries  galmaarden  gavere  gedinne  geel  geer  geetbets  gembloux  genappe  genk  gent  geraardsbergen  gerpinnes  gesves  gingelom  gistel  glabbeek  gooik  gouvy  grez-doiceau  grimbergen  grobbendonk  haacht  haaltert  habay  halen  halle  hamme  hamoir  hamois  hannut  harelbeke  hasselt  hastiere  havelange  heers  heist-op-den-berg  hemiksem  hensies  herbeumont  herentals  herent  herenthout  herk-de-stad  herne  heron  herselt  herstal  herstappe  herve  herzele  hoegaarden  hoeilaart  hoeselt  holsbeek  hooglede  hoogstraten  hotton  houffalize  houthulst  houyet  hove  huldenberg  hulshout  huy  ichtegem  ieper  incourt  ingelmunster  ittre  izegem  jabbeke  jalhay  jodoigne  juprelle  jurbise  kalmthout  kampenhout  kapellen  kapelle-op-den-bos  kaprijke  kasterlee  keerbergen  kinrooi  knesselare  knokke-heist  koekelare  koksijde  kontich  kortemark  kortenaken  kortenberg  kortessem  kortrijk  kraainem  kruibeke  kruishoutem  kuurne  laarne  la bruyere  la hulpe  la louviere  lanaken  landen  la roche-en-ardenne  lebbeke  ledegem  lede  leglise  lendelede  lennik  lens  leopoldsburg  lessines  leuven  libin  lichtervelde  liedekerke  liege  lierneux  lille  limbourg  lincent  linkebeek  lint  lobbes  lochristi  lokeren  lommel  londerzeel  lontzen  lovendegem  lubbeek  lummen  maaseik  maasmechelen  machelen  maldegem  malmedy  manage  manhay  marche-en-famenne  marchin  martelange  mechelen  meerhout  meise  meix-devant-virton  melle  menen  merbes-le-chateau  merchtem  merelbeke  merksplas  mesen  messancy  mettet  meulebeke  middelkerke  modave  moerbeke  mol  momignies  mons  mont-saint-guibert  moorslede  morlanwelz  mortsel  mouscron  musson  namur  nandrin  nassogne  nazareth  neerpelt  neufchateau  nevele  niel  nieuwerkerken  nieuwpoort  nijlen  ninove  nivelles  ohey  olen  olne  onhaye  oosterzele  oostkamp  oostrozebeke  opglabbeek  opwijk  oreye  ostend  oudenaarde  oudenburg  oud-heverlee  oud-turnhout  ouffet  oupeye  overijse  overpelt  paliseul  pecq  peer  pepingen  pepinster  peruwelz  perwez  philippeville  pittem  plombieres  pont-a-celles  poperinge  profondeville  putte  puurs  quaregnon  quievrain  raeren  ranst  ravels  remicourt  rendeux  retie  riemst  rijkevorsel  rixensart  rochefort  roeselare  ronse  rotselaar  rouvroy  ruiselede  rumes  rumst  sainte-ode  saint-ghislain  saint-hubert  saint-leger  saint-nicolas  schelle  schilde  schoten  seneffe  seraing  silly  sint-amands  sint-genesius-rode  sint-gillis-waas  sint-katelijne-waver  sint-laureins  sint-lievens-houtem  sint-martens-latem  sint-niklaas  sint-pieters-leeuw  sint-truiden  soignies  sombreffe  somme-leuze  soumagne  spa  sprimont  stabroek  staden  stavelot  steenokkerzeel  stekene  stoumont  tellin  temse  tenneville  ternat  tervuren  tessenderlo  theux  thuin  tielt  tienen  tinlot  tintigny  tongeren  torhout  tournai  tremelo  trooz  tubize  turnhout  vaux-sur-sure  verlaine  verviers  veurne  vielsalm  villers-la-ville  villers-le-bouillet  vilvoorde  virton  vise  vorselaar  vosselaar  waarschoot  waasmunster  wachtebeke  waimes  walcourt  walhain  wanze  waregem  waremme  wasseiges  waterloo  wavre  welkenraedt  wellen  wellin  wemmel  wervik  westerlo  wetteren  wevelgem  wezembeek-oppem  wichelen  wielsbeke  wijnegem  willebroek  wingene  wommelgem  wuustwezel  yvoir  zandhoven  zaventem  zedelgem  zele  zelzate  zemst  zingem  zoersel  zomergem  zonhoven  zonnebeke  zottegem  zoutleeuw  zuienkerke  zulte  zutendaal  zwevegem  zwijndrecht  

What do you think about Belgium?

How expensive is Belgium?
(1 EUR = 1.12 USD)
Meal in inexpensive restaurant13.48 EUR
3-course meal in restaurant (for 2)56.4 EUR
McDonalds meal8.33 EUR
Local beer (0.5 draft)2.76 EUR
Foreign beer (0.33 bottle) 2.79 EUR
Cappuccino2.41 EUR
Pepsi/Coke (0.33 bottle)2.13 EUR
Water (0.33 bottle)1.96 EUR
Milk (1l)0.77 EUR
Fresh bread (500g)1.7 EUR
White Rice (1kg)2.1 EUR
Eggs (12) 2.13 EUR
Local Cheese (1kg) 12.82 EUR
Chicken Breast (1kg) 11.02 EUR
Apples (1kg) 1.83 EUR
Oranges (1kg) 2.27 EUR
Tomato (1kg) 2.1 EUR
Potato (1kg) 1.24 EUR
Lettuce (1 head) 1.04 EUR
Water (1.5l)0.9 EUR
Bottle of Wine (Mid-Range) 6.75 EUR
Domestic Beer (0.5 bottle)1.1 EUR
Foreign beer (0.33 bottle) 1.29 EUR
Cigarettes6.09 EUR
One way local bus ticket2.21 EUR
Monthly pass for bus46.06 EUR
Taxi start2.77 EUR
Taxi 1km2.22 EUR
Taxi 1hour waiting33.18 EUR
Gasoline (1 liter) 1.61 EUR
Utilities for a "normal" apartment145.12 EUR
Tennis Court Rent (1 Hour on Weekend) 11.78 EUR
Apartment (1 bedroom) in City Centre 656.25 EUR
Apartment (1 bedroom) Outside of Centre 613.89 EUR
Apartment (3 bedrooms) Outside of Centre 887.27 EUR
TripAround.org, your travel companion

We all like to travel. I created Triparound.org for you and me and others like us, people who are always looking for somewhere to travel. Be it a country you've never been to before, or a country you've visited for seven times already. Create your travel profile and share your travel updates with friends, find the perfect cheap flight tickets and book the cheapest hotels around the world. In case of any problems, just drop me a line!

Where to start?

The best place to start, obviously, would be to create register (for free) and create your own traveller profile and start sharing your travel updates with friends. And of course, any time you start thinking of going travelling, use Triparound.org to search for flights, cheap hotels and rooms as well as things to do while travelling.

Disclosure

Please note that we really do recommend the sites we share with you, be it for hotels, flights or anything else. We use them ourselves as well. In case of some links our affiliates codes have been embedded, just to help us keep working on this site.