Weekends Guide for Expat
Popular on warm days, the coast is less than an hour-and-a-half west of Brussels in heavy traffic or by train, less if there is little traffic. There are many towns along the coast that are very popular such as Oostend and Knokke and there is also a tram that runs along the coast. There are playgrounds and areas specifically designated for children on boardwalks for riding bikes and mini-cars, and skateboards, which makes it a very family-friendly destination.
- Knokke – Up-scale sea-side resort in the north-west of the country close to the border with the Netherlands featuring beaches and a casino. http://www.knokke-heist.be/
The Ardennes Forest
Another popular escape, the Ardennes forest is in the opposite direction (east) from the coast and takes about the same travel time, an hour-and-a-half. Again, there is train service, and you can go for the day and visit the many sites, or you can stay for several days at one of the many holiday villas in the area. This is the area with the highest hills in Belgium and there are a couple of “ski-resorts” that get very crowded if and when it does snow, otherwise, they are closed as they do not use artificial snow. The Ardennes are great for taking the family as there are rivers and waterfalls as well as fantastic hiking. Towns in the Ardennes include Spa, Liege, Bouillon and Tournai. For more information, visit the official Belgium Tourist site http://www.belgiumtheplaceto.be/alternative_city_breaks.php
Belgium is famous for its abbeys which are literally scattered around the country. Of particular interest are the abbeys with their own breweries and often make cheeses as well. The abbeys represent a part of Belgian history that gives an insight into the culture and many are very well preserved and can be an educational trip and are worth taking the whole family. For beer drinkers and cheese lovers, visiting abbey brewers is a must. Of particular interest may be the famous Trappist Abbeys world-renowned for their beer, Achel, Chimay, Orval, Rochefort, Westmalle and Westvleteren.
- The following link provides locations of all abbeys. http://www.belgium-mapped-out.com/abbeys.html
There are many cities in Belgium, particularly in the Flemish side, that are stunning and when living here, it is worth visiting the likes of Bruges and Ghent amongst others.
- Bruges – Often referred to as the “Venice of the North” (along with Amsterdam and a few other cities), Bruges is a true gem and its city center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. http://www.brugge.be/
- Ghent – Port city with a beautiful town center, Ghent is increasingly become a more popular tourist attraction, and hosts big festivals during the year, including the “Gentse Feesten” which is a ten-day festival attracting over 2 million people every year. http://www.visitgent.be/
Brussels is a 2 hour or less drive/train-ride to Paris, London, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Cologne, Bonn and is centrally located in Europe that a short flight can get you to any major European attraction within an hour or two.
- Paris – http://en.parisinfo.com – Website maintained by the Paris Office of Tourism that provides information on all aspects of visiting Paris, including accommodation, culture and restaurants.
- Amsterdam – Official Amsterdam Tourism and Convention Board site providing information on accommodation, culture and restaurants.
- London – http://www.visitlondon.com/ – Official visitor organization for London, you can find information on the sites, accommodations, culture and restaurants.