Secret spots from Belgian locals
Belgium has historic cities, scenic nature and some famous food specialities... fries anyone? But it is best experienced like a local, so you can discover the best city spots and special beers! To help you, we've got 3 Belgian locals from our Interrail community for you to meet. They'll share their favourite spots from around the country and show you that Belgium is so much more than its chocolate waffles (although they are tasty too!).
Tim Hoogstoel's Belgian favourites
Antwerp & Ghent
Antwerp and Ghent are both typical Flemish cities and always have something to offer, whatever you like. That’s why I love them so much. They've got centuries of history, museums, fashion... all with a modern touch, and with less crowds than Brussels and Bruges. Plus, Antwerpen-Centraal is one of the world’s most beautiful train stations!
Grenspark Kalmthoutse Heide
Located just north of Antwerp, on the border with the Netherlands. This is one of the few remaining areas of heath, together with pools and "sand drifts". It’s marvellous to go walking when the purple flowers are blooming, and when everything is covered in ice in winter.
The Meuse Valley
Located between Namur and Dinant, this valley also has it all - a train even runs through it! Namur is easily the most beautiful city of Wallonia, and if you travel southwards along the Meuse you’ll get some amazing views. There are small towns, steep cliffs, you can go walking or biking, and there are several castles nearby... There’s always something to do.
Sara-Lynn Mills' Secret Spots
My first hidden gem is one close to home. I grew up close to the university town of Leuven, and besides its vibrant student culture and historic music scene, it has stunning architecture and a rich history. My favourite place to take a break is their beautiful botanical garden or ‘kruidtuin’. It is free to enter and houses some of the rarest fauna and flora, as well as beautiful fountains and benches to reflect on all your travel adventures.
Ixelles district, Brussels
As a Bruxelloise, my other two favourite hidden gems are situated in our beautiful capital. The first spot is where I currently live. The district of Ixelles is known for its vibrant young atmosphere, with two universities within its borders and a diverse selection of shops, restaurants and bars. At Flagey Square, you can eat Belgium's best fries at Frites Flagey while sitting near the ponds or opt for my favourite Syrian restaurant My Tannour. At Cimetière D’ixelles, you can experience some of the university vibes, with amazing restaurants at a 5 minute walking distance from both ULB and VUB campuses.
Goupil Le Fol, Brussels
Whenever you make a visit to Belgium, the Brussels Grand Place should be on the top of your list. This main square in the centre of Brussels is known for its stunning architecture and its biannual flower carpet. Just a few medieval streets away from this tourist metropole, you can find my favourite bar. Goupil Le Fol is definitely peculiar, but an experience like none other. Take a walk on the local side and join us for drinks.
PS. Framboise-Cassis is their speciality, an alcoholic drink with raspberries and wine. I would highly recommend it!
Stijn van de Vyvere's Belgium Top Spots
Oostende / Ostend
This city on the Belgian coast is a good place to relax. Sitting on the beach, walking on the dike, having an ice cream or waffle, going to a beach bar and riding go-karts are just some of the fun things to do here in summer time. But that’s not all Ostend has to offer. One of my favourite things to do here is explore the street art. “The Crystal Ship” is a project that has been creating street art everywhere in the city. With more than 50 works (small and giant) you can walk or bike and discover the city in a way you never would otherwise. Every year more works are added, so that every time you visit the city there’s a new monument to see. Get a map at the tourist info so you don’t miss anything! My favourite work is the dog by Escif ;)
Brugge / Bruges
There’s no way I could leave Bruges out of this list!
This medieval city is pretty known by tourists and there are many reasons for that. It’s charming in every corner, whether you’re exploring the old city centre or going for a walk on the Vesten ramparts around town, between old windmills and next to the water. If you want to get a top view of the city, visiting the Belfort is a must-do. Climbing its 366 steps might seem a lot, but the view is rewarding.
As a local, I think the Venice of the North is better experienced next to the water than on it. Instead of a boat tour I would recommend a tour on foot, especially one about the legends and myths such as the Bruges bear and the golden dragon. Want to get an ice-cream? Da Vinci is undoubtedly the best place in Bruges to get one!
The Ardennes: Durbuy, Dinant & La Roche-en-Ardenne
Known for it’s nature, the Ardennes isn't only trees and forest. These three small cities in the Ardennes are really fun to visit as well. Go hiking here for sure, but you should visit one of these towns as well. Durbuy is known as the smallest town in Belgium and is known for its Christmas market and Adventure Park where you can climb, jump off cliffs, do death rides and much more. In La Roche you can find old ruins, and in Dinant an old citadel overlooking the river Maas/Meuse. When eating or drinking here, look for a terrace nearby the water to have a comfortable time and enjoy your surroundings. In Dinant there are saxophones placed all over the city to honour Adolphe Sax, the Belgian who invented the saxophone. Visiting these cities will give your travels to the Ardennes some more variety and fun!
If you want to discover more of Belgium, then you can find out how to add it to your next Interrail Pass trip with more destinations and rail travel tips on our main page.
Join our community to keep up-to-date with even more itineraries, tips and Q&As from travellers just like you.