6 Days Family Holiday in Belgium

Bruges, Belgium

6 Days Family Holiday in Belgium

Belgium is Germany’s tiny neighbor and is most known for being the headquarters of the European Union and Nato. But apart from holding important offices and being the hub of political activities in Europe, this country is a well-known tourist destination. It is popular for its medieval buildings and architecture and attracts millions of tourists annually.

In the summer break of 2020, we, as a family, did a six days holiday in Belgium, where we visited three places- Brussels, Bruges, and Ghent. This included two days of travel plus check-in/check-out, two days in Belgium, and one day each in Bruges and Ghent.

In this article, I shall share with my readers the itinerary we followed, our stay, travel and accommodation, and other important information that would help you plan your trip to Belgium.

The itinerary we followed in Belgium was:

Day 1: Reach Brussels, travel from Brussels to Ghent and check in at the Airbnb in Ghent.

Day 2: Brussels-Visit Parlamentarium & Hemicycle. Then Visit The Grand Place & Manneken Pis

Day 3: Brussels-Atomium, Brussels Design Museum & Comics Art Museum

Day 4: Day trip to Bruges from Ghent

Day 5: Visit Ghent

Day 6: Head back to Darmstadt (the city in Germany, where we reside)

Before I get into the details of the places that we visited, let me take you through stay, accommodation, travel within the city, etc

How we reached Belgium:

Brussels is located about 400 km to the northwest of Darmstadt, Germany. We took a train ( Deutsche Bahn) from Frankfurt and reached Brussels in about 4 hours using the Deutsche Bahn.

The tickets for Deutsche Bahn trains can be bought on their official website:

https://www.bahn.de/

We took a direct IC train from Brussels to Ghent St Pieters. Tickets for IC trains can be purchased at the train station in Belgium.

Where we stayed:

Since we are a family with kids, having enough space for each of us is essential. Hotel rooms are not spacious and restrict everyone to a small room. So, off late, we have started booking through Airbnb. We usually reserve a flat or house, preferably with an equipped kitchen and a minimum of two bedrooms, so that each of us has our own space and there is always an option of cooking something. 

We, as a family, like having a good breakfast and starting our day, and Airbnb allows us to make simple meals at home. Also, we like exploring the local supermarkets, finding what’s new, and trying out foods and drinks that are locally available. Airbnb is an excellent option for all the people who want to add this to their holiday experience. 

Since it was a short trip and we didn’t want to lug our baggage every other day, we decided to stay in Ghent, which is mid-way between Brussels and Bruges. So, the plan was to stay in Ghent for the entire trip and travel from there to see Brusells, Bruges, and of course, Ghent.

Some of the advantages of staying in Ghent were:

  • Accommodation is cheaper in Ghent in comparison to Brussels.
  • Ghent is located midway between Brussels and Bruges, approximately 55km away. The IC trains ply between Ghent and Brussels and Ghent and Bruges every 20 minutes. With these IC trains, you can travel between the cities in about 30-40 minutes. So, you don’t waste a lot of time on travel.

For this trip, too, we booked an Airbnb, and as usual, the experience was great.

Airbnbs can be booked using this link:

https://www.airbnb.com/

How we traveled around the city

In Brussels, we used public transport to travel around places.

Tickets can be bought at train stations as well as at kiosks. Drivers sell tickets on the bus, but in this case, you have to pay a small fee.

We explored both Bruges and Ghent on foot, so we did not need any public transport tickets there. However, we bought IC tickets at the train station whenever we traveled between cities.

Day 1:

Brussels is located about 400 km to the northwest of Darmstadt. We took a train from Frankfurt and reached Brussels in about 4 hours.

After reaching Brussels, we took the next train and reached Ghent. Here, we had booked our Airbnb. We checked in and relaxed for the rest of the day.

Day 2:

On day 2, we took the IC train from Ghent and reached Brussels in the morning. Our first destination was a visit to Parlamentarium.

About Parlamentarium:

Parlamentarium is a visitor’s center. Through multimedia guides, visitors can understand the functioning of the European Parliament, its history, member countries, their challenges, achievements, etc.

Audio guides are available in multiple languages. The access is free, but your visit can be booked online on their official website to ensure an entry if the number of visitors is high. Their official website is:

https://brussels-parlamentarium.booking.europarl.europa.eu/

We spent about 2 hours in this place and then headed to our next destination, The European Parliament Hemicycle, which is just a few meters away from Parlamentarium.

The European Parliament Hemicyclein Belgium:

The hemicycle is where all the members of the European Parliament meet during plenary sessions. Visitors can use multimedia guides to understand the functioning of the European Parliament and visit the Hemicycle. Here again, entry is free, but you can make an online booking to ensure access when the crowd is more. Their official website is:

https://brussels-hemicycle.booking.europarl.europa.eu/

Our visit to the Hemicycle took about an hour. It was already time for lunch, so we stopped by a restaurant in the same area to try local Belgian food.

A note for my readers: If you visit the above-mentioned 2 places and want to learn more about Europe and its history, there is another interesting place called the House of European history, located a few meters away. Their official website is:

https://historia-europa.ep.eu/

Here also, entry is free, but you must book your visit.

In our case, the kids were tired after seeing two places, and it would have become too overwhelming for them to consume so much data in a day, so we did not visit this place.

Our next destination for the day was Grotemarkt/The Grand Place

About the Grand Place:

The Grand Place, or Grotemarkt, is a central square in Brussels and is the most important landmark of Brussels. Its most striking feature is the Baroque guild halls and two large edifices – The town hall and the Brussels city museum. The Brussels City Museum can be visited, and its official website is:

https://www.brusselscitymuseum.brussels/fr/

This square, constructed in the 11th century, went through many changes in the past and even got destroyed in the 17th century during the 9 years war, but it was later rebuilt and renovated. Today, many visitors visit this square to admire its architectural beauty.

This place is surrounded by plenty of shops and cafes and offers plenty of photo ops.

A few meters away from the Grand Place is the Manneken Pis.

About Manneken Pis:

Manneken Pis is a small (55 cm) bronze sculpture depicting a naked boy urinating in the fountain basin. It was designed in the 17th century and installed in its present location. But in the course of history, it was stolen and damaged several times; because of this, the original was moved to the Brussels City Museum ( located at the Grand Place) and what we see on the street is its replica.

It is a well-known landmark in Brussels and can be visited if you are around the place. The place is surrounded by many waffle shops and is a great place to try local Belgian waffles.

After we visited the Grand Place and Manneken Pis, we called it a day. We took the train back to Ghent, where we were staying.

Day 2:

On day 2, Atomium was the first place we had planned to visit.

About Atomium:

Atomium is an important landmark in Brussels, Belgium, and was built for the Brussels World Fair in 1958. This 102 m tall structure has 9 stainless steel spheres connected in such a way that they represent the Iron Crystal magnified 165 billion times.

Nowadays, it is the city’s most popular tourist attraction and serves as a museum and art center.

One can visit the museum to understand the design and idea behind this structure and to get excellent views of the surroundings.

After coming down, one can shop at the museum shop and pick souvenirs.

The official website of Atomium is:

https://atomium.be/home/Index

Outside, there are a couple of cafes too. Adjoining the Atomium is a beautiful park, Mini Europe (an open-air museum with approximately 80 cities of Europe represented in miniature form. ), and Design Museum Brussels. All these places can be visited on your visit to Atomium.

Since we had limited time and were keen to see the design museum, we skipped Mini Europe.

You can check the official website of Mini Europe to know more and include it in your trip, especially if you are traveling with small kids.

https://www.minieurope.com/en/

Our next destination was the Design Museum.

About the Design Museum:

The design museum, previously known as The ADAM (Art and Design Atomium Museum), is a modern museum featuring works on furniture and equipment designed by 20th and 21st Century designers. It is located close to the Atomium, and a visit to the design museum can be combined with the Atomium visit tickets to get an overall benefit in price. The museum has a separate section for paintings and other artworks too. The official website of the Design Museum is:

https://designmuseum.brussels/

After the visit, we headed for lunch, followed by a visit to the Comics Art Museum.

About Comics Art Museum

Also known as the Belgian Comic Strip Center is a museum dedicated to Belgian Comics. It is an Art nouveau building that served as a textile store. But after the death of its owner, it was closed. Later due to vandalism, it ended up in bad shape. Popular artists of the 1980s planned to restore the building and convert it into a museum dedicated to the history of Belgian comics.

Today, this museum showcases the works of many comic book artists and demonstrates the various techniques used in comic-making. It is worth a visit when in Brussels. Kids are likely to enjoy this. Their official website is:

https://www.comicscenter.net/en/home

It took us about 2 hours in the museum, after which we explored the city for a while before we headed to Ghent.

This brought us to the end of our holiday in Brussels. Check out more pictures from Brussels here.

Day 4:

Today, we had planned a day trip to Bruges. Bruges is just 42km from Ghent and can be reached in about 30 minutes by train. Trains ply every 20 minutes between the two cities, so you don’t have to plan much in advance.

About Bruges:

Bruges is a lovely city in the northwest part of Belgium known for its canals, cobbled streets, and medieval buildings. The city center is just out of a fairy tale town and is absolutely beautiful.

If you wish to spend a day in Bruges, the best way is to get lost on the streets and explore things as they come. We reached Bruges by train. As soon as we exited the station, a lovely big park with a canal passing through it greeted us.

We crossed it to enter the main market square. Cobbled streets led us to the city center, where streets were lined with cafes, restaurants, and many medieval structures.

The highlight, of course, was the boat ride on the canal. I would recommend it. It is a must-do activity in Bruges. It will surely leave you with lifetime memories. You are told stories and interesting facts about the adjoining buildings and structures on the boat ride. The surroundings are absolutely stunning and offer plenty of photo ops.

Belfry of Bruges, a medieval bell tower, is a prominent landmark and can’t be missed.

Apart from that, churches and museums can be visited if you are interested. They give insights into the culture and life of the people and their history.

Do include trying out the local food, including beer, Belgian fries, waffles, and chocolates, during your trip and exploring local shops selling stuff made by local artists and craftsmen. The city center is the best place to buy souvenirs and gifts you might want to take back as memories.

For us, the 3 highlights of our day trip to Bruges were:

  • The boat ride on the canal
  • Having a relaxed lunch next to the canal at a local cafe
  • Getting lost in the streets and surprising ourselves with new finds.

Check out my photo gallery page for more stunning photos of this lovely city.

Day 5:

Today was the day to explore the city where we were staying – Ghent. As I mentioned before, Ghent is located between Bruges and Brussels. That is why we chose it as a place to stay for our trip. Finally, on day 5 of our holiday, we explored this lovely town.

About Ghent:

Ghent is a port city located at the confluence of the Leie and Scheldt rivers. It is famous for its medieval structures, which include castles, abbeys, churches, bridges, and the town hall.

We started our day at Ghent by visiting the Gravensteen Castle.

About Gravensteen Castle:

The Gravensteen is a medieval castle in Ghent, Belgium. The castle dates from the 12th century and was the residence of the Counts of Flanders until the 13th century. It was later re-purposed as a court, prison, mint, and even as a cotton factory.

Today, the castle has been restored and is open to visitors. One can visit the caste and get an understanding of its history with the help of an audio guide.

We found the audio guide very interesting. It was precise and interesting and explained the life of the counts who lived there, including the wars they fought, the political tie-ups they made, and also bits about how their personal life might have been. The castle has a museum section, and visitors can access the tower to get stunning views of the town.

After the visit to the castle, it was time to explore the city and stop by a local restaurant to enjoy some food by the canal.

The official website for visiting and booking tickets for Gravansteen castle is:

https://historischehuizen.stad.gent/nl/gravensteen

After lunch, we visited the Butchers Hall

About the Butchers Hallin Belgium:

The Butchers hall is a promotional center for East Flemish regional products. In medieval times, it was a covered place where meat was sold. It is a perfect place to try local products like beer, ham, cheese, mustard, and desserts.

We tried some foods here and then headed to a show called the ‘ Lights on Van Eyck,’ which was put up at St Nicholas’ Church.

About Lights on Van Eyck:

Lights on Van Eyck is a show with a unique blend of multimedia art, music, and projections that showcases the works of Jan van Eyck, a painter active in Bruges and one of the early innovators of Early Netherlandish painting. The show is put up at St Nicholas’ Church in the city center.

After this visit, we explored the city, bought souvenirs, and checked out local shops.

The official website of ‘Lights in Van Eyck’ is:

https://lightsonvaneyck.be/?lang=en

Check out more photos from Ghent here.

With this, we came to the end of our holiday.

On day 6, we took the train from Ghent to Brussels and then from Brussels to Frankfurt. From Frankfurt, we took another train and reached Darmstadt.

Check out the photo galleries of Brussels, Bruges, and Ghent.

Also, read about our other family holidays.

Leave a Reply

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: