What to Do in Brussels for 1 Week

Part of my reason for settling in Tucson was to have a home base which would actually make travel easier. Before I even moved in to my new apartment, Black Friday airfare deals were too good to ignore! With cheap flights to Europe, I ended up in Belgium for 6 nights in January. While planning a trip to Belgium, I soon realized that the country is small enough to make day trips to other cities, and staying in the same hotel for the whole week is always preferred! I found that Brussels gets a bad rap for some reason – a lot of people say it’s boring, and to spend as little time there as possible. Well, I loved it and am glad I stayed the whole week in Brussels! One week doesn’t make me an expert, so I won’t claim these are the TOP things to do in Brussels, or 7 things you MUST do in Brussels. These are just my suggestions of what to do in Brussels, based on my own 1-week itinerary in Belgium.

What to Do in Brussels

Belgium Day 5 / Brussels

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Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour with City Sightseeing

Yes, this is as touristy as you can get, but I always enjoy a hop-on-hop-off tour when arriving in a new city. It’s a good way to get your bearings and note some areas you’d like to return to. In my case, I arrived from the US at 8:30 am, and couldn’t check into my hotel until 2pm, so what else was I to do? (Full confession: I did snooze a bit along the way!) There are two bus routes (red and blue) included in your 25Euro ticket and if you take them back to back, it will take about 3 hours. You can jump on or off at several stops, but I joined them right outside the Central train station.

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Belgium Day 5 / Brussels

Day Trip from Brussels – Bruges and Ghent

For my first day in Brussels, I took a bus trip to Ghent and Bruges. I considered individual day trips to each city, as they’re no more than 1 hour from Brussels by train, but ultimately, I decided the combo bus trip was the best way to go. For about $58, we got round-trip transportation from Brussels and commentary from our guide, who spoke 7 languages! We left Brussels around 9am and first arrived in Ghent.

Belgium Day 2/Ghent and BrugesGhent

Belgium Day 2/Ghent and BrugesGhent

After 2 hours in Ghent, we re-boarded the coach bus and drove on to Bruges. Our first stop was for lunch, where we all dined (at our own expense) together – you can also wander off on your own to choose a lunch spot. In total, we had 4 hours in Bruges. 3 were with the guide and 1 was off on our own, but of course, you can leave the group at any time. Bruges, like Brussels, has a maze of streets, alleys and squares so I wasn’t too comfortable wandering away on my own, especially when I had a bus to catch back home!

Belgium Day 2/Ghent and BrugesBruges

Belgium Day 2/Ghent and BrugesBruges

Belgium Day 2/Ghent and BrugesBruges

When I posted about this trip on Facebook, my friends seemed to have strong opinions for Ghent or Bruges, but not both! I suspect Bruges is more touristy and probably really crowded in the summer, so that could turn people off. However, it did seem a bit more lively to me, although I didn’t have enough time in either city to form a solid opinion one way or the other!

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Chocolate and Beer Tour with Brussels Journey

You know by now how much I love food tours when I’m traveling! I didn’t find a typical food tour in Brussels, but I did find the Chocolate and Beer Tour from The Brussels Journey. For 75 euros, you get a guided walking tour of Brussels, with four stops at local chocolatiers, then 3 stops at local pubs. Our guide, Daniel, did a great job telling us about each chocolate we were sampling, and also chose a well-rounded assortment of chocolates to try. He also gave us tips on buying chocolate (two stores offered a 10% discount upon our return) and explained how prices vary so much.

We tried a chili pepper chocolate at Chocopolis:

Belgium Day 3 / Chocolate & Beer Tour

Several options at Frederic Blondeel (my favorite was the Rose & Peppercorn)

Belgium Day 3 / Chocolate & Beer Tour

My favorite at Pierre Marcolini was the Earl Gray Tea chocolate:

Belgium Day 3 / Chocolate & Beer Tour

After a final stop at Meert in the Royal Galleries, it was time to move on to the beer portion of our evening. I’m not a huge beer drinker, definitely not a connoisseur of craft beers, but I asked for smaller portions and gave each one a taste. It was interesting to hear about the Trappist monks and Abbey beers, and we visited some pretty old establishments. My favorite was the Lambic beer, which reminded me of cherry beer I used to buy from New Glarus.

Belgium Day 3 / Chocolate & Beer TourA L'Image de Notre Dame

I only wish I had taken this tour on my first day, as I really got a better feel for my surroundings (it was my first glimpse at the Grand Place, even though it was maybe two blocks from my hotel!) In addition to eating and drinking, we got to see a lot of Brussels, including the infamous Mannekin Pis.

Belgium Day 5 / Brussels

I was a guest of The Brussels Journey for this tour, however these are solely my personal and honest opinions – it’s a great tour!

Antwerp Food Tour with Belgium Food Tours

Antwerp is just an hour from Brussels on the train and makes an excellent day trip from Brussels. If I return to Belgium, I would definitely like to spend more time in Antwerp. It’s a beautiful, bustling city full of great food, which I discovered on a food tour, of course!

Belgium Day 4 / Antwerp

I joined Cornelis from Belgium Food Tours for a walking and eating tour of Antwerp’s best restaurants. I wrote about the food tour last week, click here to read about it!

Belgium Day 4 / AntwerpChips Frites

Where to Eat in Brussels

These are a few suggestions of places that I ate and enjoyed, all near the area of Grand Place. Some I found on my own, while others were recommended to me. The local’s tip is not to eat at any place where the guy stands in the alley trying to get you to come inside, or any place with picture menus outside. Seems like legit advice to me, although when you are hungry and in a tourist area full of these places, it’s hard to keep searching. I nearly ate at the Hard Rock Cafe one night because I was craving a salad after so many days of waffles and frites!

Belgium Day 5 / Brussels

Peck 47 – Daniel, our guide on the Beer & Chocolate tour, recommended Peck 47 for savory waffles. Just a short stroll from my hotel, I popped in around 11 on a Monday and got the only open table. This place is busy, and very hip. I loved the 00’s hip-hop (Ja Rule, Ashanti) playing over the speakers. I enjoyed a chorizo waffle with goat cheese and poached eggs. It was delicious and the waffles were much smaller than the giant sweet ones sold on the street. Bonus points for paper straws!!!

Belgium Day 5 / BrusselsChorizo waffles at Peck 47

Chez Leon – also recommended by Daniel, apparently an exception to the ‘picture menu’ rule. Chez Leon is known for mussels, but since I’m not a sea otter prone to cracking open shells for dinner, I had the traditional Flemish beef stew. It was pretty good – I’m not usually a stew or soup person, but this is basically beef stewed in beer. It’s served on a plate, not in a bowl, so it’s not particularly stew-y, although the broth is nice for dipping your fries!

Belgium Day 5 / BrusselsFlemish Beef Stew at Chez Leon

Le Pain Quotidien – I realize this is probably like the Panera of Brussels, but they have a good selection of pastries to go, or breakfasts which you can sit down to eat. I had a delicious avocado toast breakfast here one morning.

Belgium Day 3Avocado toast at Le Pain Quotidien

Where to Stay in Brussels

On the recommendation of a fellow travel blogger, I stayed at B-Aparthotel Brussels Grand Place. The B-Aparthotel is in a great location (walking distance from Central train station was key for me!) and within reach of Grand Place and so many places to eat! For an average nightly rate of 103 Euros, I got an apartment, complete with kitchenette, full bath and bedroom, all in a very modern, minimalist style (think IKEA furnishings.) Because I don’t travel with an international cell phone plan, I would prefer to stay at a hotel with a front desk. I was constantly worried about needing to reach the office during my visit. Aside from getting locked in the parking garage on the first day when trying to store my luggage, I didn’t need to reach anyone, but for peace of mind, I would consider a more traditional hotel. For families or those less paranoid than me, this is a great choice!

How Much to Budget for Brussels

Making a budget recommendation is difficult, as everyone has different budgets and spending habits, so I can only tell you what I spent. I’m not a budget traveler, and I will splurge on occasion, although I’m generally frugal as I don’t spend a lot of money shopping or on wild attractions like theme parks. So my largest expenses are flight, hotel and dog boarding! In total, I was able to spend under $2000 for a week in Belgium.

  • Flight – $400 – killer Black Friday deal with cheap flights to Europe! Off-season FTW!
  • Hotel – $750
  • Tours & Transportation – $200
  • Food – $220
  • Souvenirs – $110
  • Dog Boarding – $300 (it was actually the same amount to pay for my mom’s flight as it would be to board Bailey for a week, so my mom got to enjoy a week in the sun!)

Are you ready to visit Brussels?

For a Belgium Travel Guide, check out the Trusted Travelers Quick Facts and Travel Tips!

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Where to Eat in Antwerp, Belgium

I recently spent a week in Belgium, and while I stayed in Brussels, I made several day trips to surrounding cities. My favorite Belgian city turned out to be Antwerp, known worldwide for the diamond trade. During my day trip to Antwerp, I joined Cornelis from Belgium Food Tours for a walking tour of several Antwerp restaurants. Cornelis is a total foodie and gets really excited to show you around all the best restaurants in Antwerp. He even clued me in on some food festivals back in my home state that I didn’t know about! What I love about this Belgium food tour is that it’s very informal. Cornelis pretty much sizes up the crowd upon arrival and decides on the spot where to go that day. Belgium Food Tours keeps the group size small, so it’s easy to pop in to any Antwerp restaurant that seems like a good fit for the group.

Antwerp Central Station

If you arrive in Antwerp by train, you’ll get to see the exquisite train station. It’s hard to imagine the effort and expense that went into these buildings back in the day. While New York’s Grand Central Station is often touted as the most beautiful train station in the world, I believe Antwerp’s Central Station is not far behind! Throughout Antwerp, you’ll see gorgeous gilded buildings and the amazing Antwerp restaurants are just the icing on the cake of this gorgeous city! I found Antwerp to be an easily walkable city as well.

Belgium Day 4 / Antwerp

Momade Cupcakes

Nothing quite like starting your morning with a cupcake, eh? Momade Cupcakes started as a sandwich shop but the cupcakes soon became the star attraction. Today, you’ll find a huge variety of fresh cupcakes just waiting to be devoured. I wanted to try the cupcake topped by a cuberdon (goo-filled gummy candy from Ghent) but ultimately, I couldn’t resist the fresh strawberry on a pillow of frosting. Momade also has a good selection of fancy pastries and cookies, but don’t leave without a cupcake!

Belgium Day 4 / AntwerpMoMade Cupcakes

Cereal Heaven

This wasn’t an official stop on the tour, but Cereal Heaven clearly impressed Cornelis that he wanted to stop and show off the place. The cereal bar is so fun, with a great 80’s theme going on and loads of cereal options to choose from. You can even choose from a ton of different toppings (from healthy fruit to not so healthy candy bars) and Cereal Heaven also serves freak shakes! The whimsical decor even includes a bunk bed where kids can climb around.

Belgium Day 4 / AntwerpCereal Heaven

Tota Empanada

Our first savory Antwerp restaurant, Tota Empanada, has a nice selection of empanadas, including savory, sweet (Nutella!) and vegetarian options. We sampled a chicken and a beef empanada. They are baked super fresh and steaming hot. The real treat here are the sauces that accompany the empanadas. We had a chimichurri sauce, a pico de gallo, a tartar based sauce and a hot sauce. It was fun to visit as a group and share the different flavors. This is a great place to pop in for lunch as you are touring around Antwerp.

Belgium Day 4 / AntwerpTota Empanadas

Croquettenbar Smaeck

Our stop at Croquettenbar Smaeck featured croquettes, small appetizer-sized fried balls of goodness. We sampled three croquette flavors, (mushroom, truffle and curry) plus a small side salad, which was the perfect combination. Another great little lunch spot as you are walking around Antwerp!

Belgium Day 4 / AntwerpCroquettenbar Smaeck

Chips

While most of our stops were not focused on traditional Belgian food, we did make one stop for fries. I’d already tried Belgian frites twice, and wasn’t impressed. (I’m a skinny fry fan, and yes, I think McDonald’s fries are pretty damn good!) Needless to say, I was feeling a little lackluster about stopping at Chips for fries. However, Cornelis showed me the error of my ways. I wasn’t eating them right! You have to dip the fry in mayonnaise (or tartar) and then dip it in gravy. This made all the difference in the world! I’m a fan now!

Belgium Day 4 / AntwerpChips Frites

Hoeked Dougnuts

Our last Antwerp restaurant for the day is Hoeked Doughnuts. We started sweet and ended sweet, my kind of food tour! Hoeked was hopping with customers so we got our doughnuts to go – I saved mine for the train ride back to Brussels. Interestingly, the doughnuts here are square (which now explains the bike with the square tires out front, ha!) and there are plenty of flavors to choose from. I planned to take a small bite on the train and save the rest for later, but of course that didn’t work out and I inhaled this deliciousness in about three bites!

Belgium Day 4 / AntwerpHoeked Doughnuts

Belgium Food Tours

Interested in sampling some of the best restaurants in Antwerp? Belgium Food Tours run on Saturdays at 11 and 2:30. For 45 Euros, you’ll get a walking tour of Antwerp, plus at least 5-6 stops at various Antwerp restaurants. The great thing is, I suspect no two tours are the same, so you can take the tour more than once to experience new spots! With the small group sizes, you’ll definitely want to book ahead, especially in high tourist season.

With all of this amazing food, plus gorgeous architecture, I am dying to go back to Antwerp for a proper visit of more than just a few hours!

Belgium Day 4 / Antwerp

So, what do you think? Did we cover the best restaurants in Antwerp, or do I need to plan a return visit for more indulgence?

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I was a guest of Belgium Food Tours for this tour. These are solely my personal opinions and I was not financially compensated for this post.

The Walker’s Haute Route: Packing List

If you’ve been following along for a while, you know that I spent two weeks hiking through the Alps of Switzerland this year, on a trail called the Walker’s Haute Route. Sometimes knowing what to bring for these trips can be almost as big of a challenge as the physical preparation. Luckily, I’ve done a lot of backpacking and “slackpacking” so I have bins full of outdoor gear and I no longer need to rush out and buy new items for a hiking trip like this. (Which is good, because I also quit my job this summer!)

I call this trip “backpacking lite” – other than 1 night in a mountain hut, I slept in hotels and inns every night. There was no camping or cooking on this trip, which makes packing considerably easier (and lighter!) than a typical wilderness backpacking trip. (For my wilderness packing list, click here) While daily luggage transport is available for a trip like this, it is very expensive, so I carried everything I needed on my back. (I did pay $250 for non-hiking gear to be shuttled from Chamonix to Zermatt)

Finally the pass! The fun was just beginning...

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Here’s the rundown of what I carried on my Haute Route hike.

Packing List for Hiking in Switzerland

The Ciccerone guide was invaluable throughout the hike, and was all that I needed for navigation. (That’s right! I did not have maps on this hike…which felt super weird, but once you get there, you realize you really don’t need them) I highly recommend purchasing this book before you even start planning your route as it gives really detailed information on routes and transit alternatives.
Osprey Sirrus 36 Backpack¬†– the one thing I bought for this trip was a new pack. My usual backpacking pack is a 65L, which is much too large for a trip like this. I loved this pack, and will probably only buy Osprey packs from now on! They’ve really got backpacks down to an art, especially when it comes to extra pockets, and comfort!

Clothing

  • Rain Gear – I wear¬†Marmot Precip Rain Jacket and Pants (they are one of few rain pants that come in a petite length)
  • Patagonia R1 Fleece Jacket
  • Patagonia Nano-Puff Hoody
  • Hiking Pants – Mountain Hardwear Convertible Pants
  • Skort – Athleta Metro Skort – this was usually my “dinner” attire
  • Shorts – Prana Hiking Shorts
  • Leggings – Ex Officio Reversible Leggings – for sleeping and flights
  • l/s button down shirt
  • l/s wool t-shirt
  • 2 quick dry s/s t-shirts
  • 1 cotton t-shirt (for sleeping)
  • 4 pairs quick-dry underwear (I prefer Patagonia, but many travelers swear by ExOfficio)
  • 2 Sports Bras
  • 4 pairs socks (Injinji socks are my favorite!)
  • Merrill Moab Ventilator shoes

Accessories

  • 2 Buff headbands
  • Glasses: Eyeglasses, Rx Sunglasses, regular sunglasses (oy!)
  • Hat
  • Bandana
  • Fleece hat and gloves
  • Headlamp – I have this cool Vitchelo model that some Grand Canyon friends sent me
  • First Aid Kit – basic necessities such as band-aids, gauze (which I used!) and various medicines like ibuprofen, aspirin, Pepto-Bismol, etc.
  • Hand Warmers (I personally did not use these, but they came in handy during a medical emergency along the trail – I always have a few in my First Aid Kit)

Toiletries

I’m a bit of a princess when it comes to toiletries, and this is easily where I could cut some weight if needed. But at the end of the day, it’s nice to smell good and not feel like you’re abandoning your usual beauty routine just because you’re on the trail. Very few hotels along the way provided shampoo or conditioner, so I was glad to have those. As you can see, I’m a big fan of Kiehl’s products for my face and body, and I never go on a hiking trip without Aveda Foot Relief lotion.

Food

Most of the inns where I stayed included breakfast and dinner, and I bought my lunches along the way. (I purchased snack food in grocery stores, but most inns will also pack you a sack lunch to carry if ordered ahead of time) As a backup, I brought along a few snacks from home: 2 Kind bars, 3 Clif bars and some Gatorade G2 powder.

Electronics

  • SLR Camera – I don’t usually backpack with my SLR either, but it’s freakin’ Switzerland! I can’t not bring it. But I brought only 1 lens (18-55mm) to keep it as light as possible.
  • iPhone and Lifeproof case – for on the go photos and social updates
    • International Data plan, which I used (and exceeded)
  • Power Bank
  • Loop power adapter – perfect for charging everything, including USB ports

Extras for Hiking in Switzerland

Most packing lists for a trip like this will tell you to bring a sleep liner or sheet. If you are staying in a lot of mountain huts, this is definitely recommended. I only had 1 night in a mountain hut so I couldn’t justify carrying something to be used for only one night. It was a tough hike to get there, so the “ick factor” didn’t cause me to lose any sleep! But I have no idea if they wash those comforters or not…I’m guessing they don’t get washed daily!

Sleeping room at Cabane de Louvie

I should note that I did sink laundry at least once on this trip (just using body wash/hand soap – I find those little laundry soap leaves to be pretty worthless) and I went to a laundromat in Grimentz once as well.

Day 8: rest day in Arolla

Planning a trek in the Swiss Alps? Here's what you should pack! #hauteroute Click To Tweet

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