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Belgium Travel Map and Essential Travel Information

From James Martin,
Your Guide to Europe Travel.
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Belgium: Where to go, how to get there, and how to get by

Why Go to Belgium?

Belgium, grouped with Luxembourg and the Netherlands to make up the Benelux countries, is a fascinating tourism destination. It's a required stop for beer and chocolate lovers, it's lushly green and flat for easy rural walking, and there are plenty of castles and gardens to keep the traveler enamored with the medieval period busy.

Art lovers can be kept busy viewing the likes of Peter Paul Rubens, Sir Antony van Dyck and Rene Magritte. Adolphe Sax, born in Dinant, invented the famous jazz instrument that takes his name--and jazz has become increasingly popular in Belgium in recent years.

And talk about diversity! Belgium is divided into three regions, each with language, culinary and cultural differences. The Flemish Region or Flanders occupies the north, the Walloon Region or Wallonia occupies the south, and the Brussels-Capital Region is central to Belgium.

Belgium takes no prizes in the "What's the best place in Europe to visit?" popularity sweepstakes, which is why I tend to think of it as Europe's Best Kept Travel Secret.

Belgium Map Showing Cities and Rail Lines

map of belgium
Map of Belgium © 2012 by James Martin, licensed to About

Compact Belgium

One of the great things about visiting Belgium is its diminutive size and the intersting cities crammed together so they're just a short train ride from each other. You won't spend a lot of time (or money) getting from one destination to another. Plus, it's very easy to get to London and Paris as well as other destinations in Germany, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.

Belgium Cities

The major cities popular with tourists are Brussels, Brugge, and Ghent, and Antwerp, followed by smaller cities like Liège Dinant and Damme, Mechelen and others found in our Belgium Travel Directory.

Belgium is also a focal point for World War I sites, many including remnants of the rather brutal trench warfare as in the Trench of Death in Dixmude.

Belgium Travel Photography

See our Gallery of Belgium Pictures.

Hotels and Accommodations in Belgium

Belgium has a wide range of accommodations. There are usually hotels near train stations, many budget, a few seedy. You may inspect a hotel before committing to it. There are many hostels in larger cities like Brussels.

A good place to find user-rated hotels is Venere, where you can choose hotels by a map, by user ratings, or by a list of cities: Venere Hotels Belgium (book direct).

Belgium has many self-catering accommodations, from small apartments to sprawling villas for large families and groups. Self-catering can save money over renting hotel rooms, especially for families. HomeAway lists almost 400 vacation rentals in Belgium (book direct).

Farm stays are popular with those who like the rural environment; we enjoyed our stay at Hoeve Spreeuwenburg.

Languages in Belgium

The language spoken in the northern region of Flanders speak Dutch. People in the southern region, Wallonia, speak French. German is spoken in the East near the German Border. English is widely spoken in main tourist areas.

If you would like to learn a few words of Dutch, there are online resources enabling you to do so. One of them is SpeakDutch.

For French and German resources on the About network, see our article Foreign Languages for the Tourist.

Transportation to and within Belgium

Belgium is served by an extensive rail system as you can see in the map above. The Belgian Railway is called the SNCB and its website is here. Many discounts and passes are offered to the tourist or occasional traveler.

The fast trains in Belgium are the TGV trains. They run on three routes shown in blue on the map. The red Thalys high-speed train links Paris to Amsterdam, Brussels, Cologne and Dusseldorf.

Railpasses: A Benelux Tourrail Pass is good for five days unlimited rail travel throughout Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands within a one month period. Two adults traveling together get a discount. The Benelux Tourail Youth Pass will save money for folks younger than 26. A France-Belgium-Luxembourg-Netherlands Pass is also available.

The Eurostar will take you quickly from London to Brussels and other cities in Belgium.

Brussels Airport is 8 miles northeast of the city center. It should cost you no more than 30 Euros or so for a taxi, although some tourists report being charged quite a bit more. There are many other options for getting to and from Brussels Airport.

There is direct bus transportation from the airport to Antwerp, Eindhoven (Sabena) and to Rotterdam (Virgin Express).

There are about 150,000 miles of highways in Belgium. You will need a car to take you to the smaller villages.

Belgium Weather and When to Go

Belgium enjoys a moderate climate. It rains frequently but for short durations in most of Belgium. For an overview of climate throughout the year in some of Belgium's most popular destinations see the interactive map at Belgium Travel Weather.

Etiquette and Culture in Belgium

Visitors to Belgium might be concerned about cultural habits and etiquette, especially when business is part of the plan. Executive Planet has information on the most common situations that might get you in trouble.

For insight into the Belgian identity see: Belgium: Society, Character, and Culture.

Restaurants in Belgium

A restaurant in Belgium is a pretty elegant eating place. If you're looking for something a little more informal, look for a bistro, café, restaurant-café, or brasserie. While food is relatively expensive in Belgium, you can also find broodjeswinkel (sandwich shops), or pannekoekhuije (pancake houses) offering good bargains in food.

Lunch is generally served from 12 to 3pm and dinner from 7 to 10 pm.

A "menu" refers to the special of the day.

See the food section of our Belgium article for what to look for in the way of food and drink.

Service charges are included in hotel, restaurant, shopping bills and taxi fares. Belgians commonly round up the total amount to determine the tip.

Alison Wellner, our guide to Culinary travel, recommends the 6 Belgian Food Experiences for Travelers.

Currency in Belgium

The currency in Belgium is the Euro. At the time the Euro was adopted, its value was set at 44.3399 Belgian Francs. [more on the Euro]

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