Things to do

Fun Things to Do in Belgium

A road trip through Belgium is one of the most varied self-drive holidays in Europe you can plan.

Crossing the channel via Eurotunnel Le Shuttle may take you into Calais, France, but drive east for an hour or so and you can be in a different country entirely – Belgium.

If you are planning a road trip in Europe, visiting Belgium offers a taste of everything, from historical cities and wild forests to beaches and vibrant nightlife. With only a 35-minute crossing from Folkestone and the comfort and convenience of your own car, you can experience the best of Belgium in little over a week.

From the key cities to visit to the most natural beauty stops, follow our guide to visiting Belgium on a road trip.

Bruges

Distance from Calais to Bruges: 116km / 1h 22m
Recommended days: 2

Bruges is a historic city with a laid-back vibe and something to capture the attention of just about anyone. The medieval town square, home to the famously leaning bell tower, is a great place to start. Horses and carts roll over the cobbles and you can people-watch with a choice of cold beer or chocolate-covered waffle.

A Belgian waffle covered in chocolate sauce

If sweet treats are your preference, check out the Choco-Story chocolate museum, where you can discover the history of cocoa and see how praline is made. The town itself is small and very walkable, but a boat ride along the city’s canals is one of the most popular things in Belgium to do. For just €10, you can take a half-hour tour and get a glimpse of ancient buildings, wooden homes, ornate bridges and crowds of revellers enjoying a cold drink in the sun.

Ghent

Distance from Bruges to Ghent: 47.1km / 45m
Recommended days: 2

Ghent is as charming and pretty as its neighbour, Bruges, but much less crowded and with a younger, cooler vibe. As in Bruges, you can tour the city by boat on a network of canals, but the pedestrianised old town is ideal to enjoy on foot. Colourful street art sits side-by-side with old merchants’ houses and medieval churches. The city has a calendar of free outdoor events to enjoy throughout the year, from music and food festivals to pop-up galleries and arts spaces.

Cobbled street and medieval buildings in Ghent

The best view of Ghent is by night, when all the buildings are dramatically illuminated by celebrated lighting designer Roland Jéol. Take a self-guided walking tour through the streets to admire some of the most beautiful buildings and monuments in town.

Brussels

Distance from Ghent to Brussels: 57.2km / 47m
Recommended days: 2

The main square in Brussels is considered one of the most picturesque in the world, especially during the Flower Carpet festival in August (every other year). The most eye-catching building is the Gothic Hôtel de Ville, the city’s medieval town hall.

The main square and town hall in Brussels during the colourful Flower Carpet festival

Over on the modern side, head to the Place du Luxembourg and the gleaming steel and glass complex that houses the European Parliament. And no visit to Brussels is complete without climbing inside the striking Atomium. The structure represents a single unit of iron crystal, magnified 165 billion times. There are nine spheres to represent the atoms, all joined together by walkways, escalators and lifts.

The Ardennes

Distance from Brussels to the Ardennes: 100-150km / 1h 10m-1h 45m
Recommended days: 2/3

You’ve ticked off three cities to visit in Belgium. For a change of scenery, drive out to the Ardennes. This cavernous forestland has winding rivers, ideal for swimming and kayaking, ancient caves and an abundance of fresh air. The area is ideal for hiking, camping, adventure sports and relaxing.

Father and child look over woodland and a river in the Ardennes

Of course, one of the perks of self-drive holidays in Europe via Eurotunnel Le Shuttle is no luggage size restrictions, so you can pack your own bikes, hiking gear, camping equipment and even kayaks at no extra cost. If you are planning a trip to Belgium with a dream of the great outdoors, this is your stop.

Antwerp

Distance from the Ardennes to Antwerp: 130-190km / 1h 30m-2h 10m
Recommended days: 2

Antwerp is the second-largest city in Belgium. It’s a cultural hub that shuns clichéd tourist attractions in favour of art galleries, museums, a modern design and a flair for the urban cool.

At the weekend, Antwerp is buzzing with local markets dotted across the city. The Friday market is the longest-running, dating back to the 16th century. Here, furniture, tableware, paintings and knick-knacks decorate the streets. With room in the car to transport them home, you could pick up a truly original bargain. Don’t miss the glass-sided rooftop at the Museum aan de Stroom (MAS) – it has the best panoramic views of the city, and is free to visit.

Ostend

Distance from Antwerp to Ostend: 118km / 1h 16m
Recommended days: 2

Self-drive holidays in Europe aren’t complete without a stop at the beach. Ostend is a pretty Belgian seaside town, around 100km / 1h 10m east of Calais. With a long stretch of sandy beach and a pier, it’s ideal for a wander on a sunny day. Bars and restaurants both in the city and along the seafront have some of the best seafood in Belgium, with shrimp croquettes served as the order of the day.

View of Ostend pier stretching towards the horizon

An unusual highlight is the Disney Sand Magic festival, usually between June and September, which welcomes 40 professional sand sculptors from across the globe to create beloved characters from Disney, Pixar, Star Wars and Marvel in the sand. It’s one of the most popular things to do in Belgium, and for good reason.

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