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  • Janis Nunez

Belgium: Brussels, Ghent, Bruges

Updated: Jul 1, 2023

We took a quick trip to Belgium before our youngest headed back to school. We tried to hit all the sites we could in each city. I wish we could have spent more time in Ghent. It's one of my favorite places to have visited. I will definitely be going back.


BEFORE YOU GO


ADAPTER: You will need an adapter to plug in your electronics. We usually each have our own. You might need it at the airport if you need to charge while you are waiting for your flight home, so keep it in your carry-on bag.


Another thing to find out (ladies) is the wattage of your flat iron or other electronics you will be taking. I have a universal wattage flat iron. It saves me the hassle of worrying if I need an adapter AND converter. Most hotels and Airbnbs provide a hair dryer, so just make sure whatever you bring has Worldwide Voltage, or you will also need a converter.


PHONE: Contact your cell phone provider to see what is included. T-Mobile gives unlimited data and texting, but charges $0.25 per minute per call. I have read other companies require you to get a SIM card, so contact your provider for details. You can also download WhatsApp to your phone and call using Wi-Fi to call others who also have the app installed.


If you have T-Mobile, they also offer In-Flight Connection that gives customers free connectivity WITH streaming on American Airlines, Alaska Airlines and Delta Air Lines. This includes data, streaming, and text messaging. All you do is connect to the Wi-Fi and add your phone number to the T-Mobile prompt and you are all set.


CONTACT YOUR BANK AND CREDIT CARD COMPANIES: It's important to let the bank know when you will be out of town so that you won't have any problems withdrawing your money when you get to your destination. You also may need to notify your credit card company of the travel dates. We like to withdraw local currency when we arrive at our destination from a bank ATM in one lump sum. This avoids extra fees for multiple transactions. You can get away with using a credit card most everywhere, but having some local currency is always a good idea.


WHERE TO STAY: Depending on what you will be doing on your trip, it's best to stay in the area you will be doing the most activities. Try to find a central location so that you can get around on foot to most sites. There really is no need for a car if you are staying in Brussels. We planned to only spend the day there and head out in the morning, so we did rent a car and parked in the nearest parking garage. Most garages in the city will cost about €24/day.


Here is where we stayed:

BRUSSELS: Adagio Brussels Grand Place is a great location not far from the Grand Place. There is a metro station (De Brouckere) right outside as well as a great bakery to grab breakfast before heading out for the day. They also have breakfast at the hotel if you choose that route. The rooms have a small kitchen, which is nice for long stays and saving a few extra bucks shopping. There is a grocery store across the street. We got a room with a king bed and sofa bed for the 4 of us. The sofa bed pulls out to two twin beds, so each of our son's had their own bed. They both said it was comfortable and we had no issues. There is air conditioning in the unit that works well, which was needed with the heat of the day. Noise was low although you are in a busy area. You use your room key to get into the hotel, so people cannot just come in off the street at random. Ecuyer -Schildnaap Interparking is down the street if you need parking.


GHENT: Ghent Marriott Hotel is located right on the canal and is one of my favorite hotels to have stayed at. The location is ideal. If traveling with four people, their family rooms have two large beds and plenty of space. There is onsite dining, bar, and parking. The onsite parking is very pricy. I'd suggest parking at the Ramen Parking Garage. It's just a short 4–5-minute walk from the hotel. You really don't need a car in Ghent as everything is walkable. The hotel has a restaurant with waterfront seating as well. Just outside your door you can walk to a number of cafes and restaurants. The dock for the guided canal rides is very close too, which I highly recommend. Excellent hotel and service here.


CAR RENTAL: If you plan to stay in the city center there really is no need for a car. You can walk most places or take uber/taxi all over the city for little cost. You can also take the train to get from city to city without needing to rent a car. For Car rental we used Hertz with pickup and drop-off at the airport. Very easy and no issues.


WHEN YOU ARRIVE AT THE AIRPORT


CURRENCY: You can find an ATM at the airport or wait and find a bank in the city (which is what we do). Check fees and be sure you take out the lump sum of what you need, so that you don't get hit with multiple fees from the country, your bank, and exchange rates. The currency in Belgium is the Euro. We have been to Europe several times and had about €100, so didn't take any cash out. Cards were accepted everywhere we went.


You can download the currency converter app on your phone to help you convert to dollars to keep spending in check.


TRANSPORTATION: The rental car pickup was very easy. It's right at the airport. If you use the Hertz app and have American Express, you can forgo the long line at the desk checking in and head straight to your car (in the US). With pickup in Belgium, we needed to stop at a small office in the garage to pick up the keys. Quick service and no issues.


*GAS STATION INFO: I will mention here that we did have issues with trying to fill the tank before returning the car. Both stations we stopped at did not take our cards (Amex/Visa) that we used the entire trip. I'm not sure if it was the card, the station, or what. There are no attendants at the stations either, so there is nobody to ask. We had to return the car without filling the tank. Ask about this when you pick up your rental car so that you know how it all works. Or do what we did and take it back without filling. We had euros to pay as well, but with no attendant at stations there is no way to use cash.

NO COVID RESTRICTIONS: If you feel more comfortable wearing a mask you can do so, but there were no requirements to wear a mask.


SIGHTSEEING


Day 1: Since we had one day in Brussels, we dropped our bags off at the hotel (they will hold bags for you if your room is not ready) and headed out to explore the city.


Sainte Catherine's Church


The Black Tower is one of the best conserved remains of the first fortifications of Brussels, built at the start of the 13th century. It's located behind St Catherine's Church. The Zinneke Pis sculpture is along the walk to our next site, and great street art. Be sure to keep an eye out. You can also stop for some frites (fries) to take along your walk. Tons of frite stands!



The Grand Place is a historic area in the heart of the old town. The square's centerpiece and tallest spire comes from the gothic Town Hall building.



You can see the Tin Tin Comic mural on your walk over to the famous Mannekin Pis fountain.



Next on my list was the Galerie Bortier, a covered passage with used books, but it was closed that day. Check it out if you get a chance.


The Mont des Arts has beautiful city and garden views. There are chairs near the top for you to sit and take a break. You can listen to local artists play music there while you relax.



Notre Dame du Sablon is a Gothic church, founded during the fifteenth century.



Just across the street is the Jardin du Petit Sablon.



The Royal Palace and some views along the walk.



St Michael's and St Gudula Cathedral



The Gallerie St-Hubert has shops and restaurants all along the narrow street under the arched glass. We stopped elsewhere for mussels in Brussels. Then headed for waffles at the closest stand. Delicious! I recommend the chocolate filled Liege waffles!


We stopped at Paul before heading out of Brussels. It's right outside of the hotel. I highly recommend this bakery! The last photo shows the metro and Adagio hotel.



Day 2: We had breakfast at Paul and headed to Ghent. It's about an hour drive from Brussels. We dropped our bags off at the Marriott hotel and stepped out the back exit to the canal. There are several cafes and restaurants right outside the hotel. You can also take a canal tour to see the many sites of this beautiful city. Grasburg Bridge has absolutely amazing views, so be sure to stop and take photos.



Opposite the Castle is Sint-Veerleplein Square, one of Ghent's oldest squares. The building where Neptune is at the top to keep watch is a gateway to the Fish market and Tourist Information Center. The monument in the center is a Flemish Lion on the 'Pilorijn'.



Our first stop was Gravistine Castle, also known as "Castle of the Counts." There is a really great audio tour included with your entry fee. Plan to spend an hour or so here.



Almost everywhere you turn there seems to be a beautiful view and bridge to walk over.



St Jacobkerk has a mixture of Romanesque and Baroque elements and art. The church houses a unique Van Peteghem organ and was a meeting place for the guilds. It's stunning.



There is a lot of great architecture, as well as markets and cafes along the way to enjoy.



We stopped for lunch along the canal near our hotel. Everything was delicious. Give Manhattn's Burgers a try. You cannot beat the view! The building all the way to the right behind my son is the Marriott hotel where we stayed.



Definitely take a walk along the canal and take it all in.



St. Bravo's Cathedral