In Photos – Highlights Of Beautiful Belgium

Belgium was never on my travel wish list. My visit last month, hastily put together for my sister’s benefit initially, and then rescheduled due to a family crisis, had me wondering why. Its appeal went far beyond the beer, chocolates, waffles and frite. Although they helped. A lot. The beer especially, not the waffles so much.

I know many people who have ‘done’ Belgium in under a week. Eight proved far too little for me. On hindsight, and with time for my usual pre-trip research, I would not have wasted the extra two nights we did have, on a side trip to Maastricht. Although we – my friend Rashmi (my sister didn’t make it after all) and I – loved Maastricht as much.

The reason Belgium was picked for such a short holiday in the first place, is the ease of train travel within the country. Our first of several train rides was from the airport to the Gare Central, the site of an explosion just the day before our arrival. We had been clueless until I opened a dozen or so frantic WhatsApp messages from my new Dutch friend (who I met on the streets of Chiang Mai earlier this year) to ‘please, please message back’. We learned later, that there had been no casualties and that the amateur ‘terrorist’ was shot dead by troops on station duty.

Prominent police presence at the Grand Place (Grote Markt in Dutch) as well as the heavily armed patrols at all train stations were disconcerting and comforting at the same time. We marvelled at the large number of seemingly unconcerned people on the square that evening. Do too many such incidents make us defiant or just plain blasé?

Grote Markt, brussels by night
I am yet to see a grander ‘place’!

Brussels was beautiful, but hot – humid HOT like Chennai, on our first day! – and crowded. We caught a Steve Mc Curry exhibition at the Bourse one afternoon, a definite highlight, albeit a non-Belgian one. And in the limited time we had in the capital between train journeys, I hunted down a few Art Nouveau gems. But that’s a story for another day.

The Stock Exchange building in Brussels, Belgium

Bruges, or Brugge, was as charming as I had imagined, and our B&B even more lovely. Walking along those gorgeously picturesque canals was a highlight in itself.

Swans on Minnewater Lake - bruges, belgium
Swans near the entrance to the Bruges Beguinage

Bruges - Belgium
Bruges reflections

As was fairytale like Ghent, that we explored on a day-trip (from Bruges) and that merits at least an overnight stay. We still managed to feast our eyes on the remarkable Ghent Altarpiece (Jan and Hubert van Eyck’s Adoration of the Mystic Lamb) and climb (read ‘ride up on the lift’) the belfort, the tallest in Belgium.

Ghent street, Belgium
The medieval heart of Ghent

View from the Ghent belfry
View from the Ghent tower

We were both surprised by how much we enjoyed Antwerp, even though it wasn’t half as grand as Brussels, nor as romantic as the two smaller towns. The location of our B&B right on Vrijdagmarkt probably played a part. Also, an evening with our daughter’s friend Payal, who was born and brought up in Antwerp and now lives in Bangalore. Payal walked us around the old town and insisted on showing us an exquisite Jain temple near her parent’s home the next morning.

A walk through St.Anna’s pedestrian tunnel (beneath the river Scheldt) to the left bank is an experience in itself. The impressive view of the city from across, an added bonus. We loved the more intimate Grote Mrkt with its guild houses, and most of all, the marvellous Plantin-Moretus museum, the only (?) museum to be ascribed UNESCO heritage status. It is home to the 36 line Gutenberg bible, two of the oldest surviving printing presses and a sublime collection of antique books, bibles and atlases. We ended up delaying our departure until the afternoon, and did not regret eating into our already limited time in Brussels.

View of Antwerp from across the riverScheldt
Antwerp from across the Scheldt

Printing museum, Antwerp
Flemish cartographer Abraham Ortelius’s portrait (by Rubens) dominates a room full of exquisite old maps and atlases at the Plantin – Moretus museum.

Printing Museum, Antwerp
The antique map of the world by Ptolomaeus – the most reproduced image of the world until the 16th century.

Gorgeous guild houses in the Grote Mrkt, Antwerp


Highlights of Belgium featuring the best places to visit and what we loved about each. #Belgium #Travel #Photography
Photo feature on Belgium featuring the highlights of our visit through Brussels, Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp. #Belgium #Travel #Photography

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Madhu is an Interior designer turned travel blogger on a long sabbatical to explore the world. When not crafting stories on The Urge To Wander, she's probably Tweeting @theurgetowander or sharing special moments on

68 thoughts on “In Photos – Highlights Of Beautiful Belgium

  1. Beautiful photos — the reflections, especially. So thankful to hear you avoided the explosion by a day. And I can’t believe I’m even typing that sentence! What sad dangers of traveling the world these days.

    1. It was a special treat Mallee. There were audio guides with commentaries in his own voice describing selected photographs. So many from India. Also a fascinating video about the search for his famous Nat Geo girl.

  2. Madhu, I didn’t realize that the bomb exploded one day before your arrival. Well, for the time being sadly it seems to be the new normal, doesn’t it? It’s been 10 years now since I went to Belgium for my cousin’s wedding. Unfortunately my uncle, aunt and I only had enough time to explore Brussels. I remember one night I felt tipsy for the first time after my cousin’s friend swapped his beer with mine, and at that time I was still a novice when it came into booze. Oh well, the younger me. 🙂

    Really glad to see how much you enjoyed Belgium (and Maastricht), after everything you’ve been through. Here’s to more travels ahead!

    1. Haha, glad I stirred happy memories Bama 🙂 This trip was so jinxed from the beginning, I am surprised we ended up going at all. Will hopefully get to travel with my sister next spring. Godwilling, with both sisters.

  3. The pictures are gorgeous and breath taking. A very well narrated tale of cities and countries where one can sense the distinct appeal offered. It’s sad how much hatred that instils fear in people of attacks but like in India, we become resilient because nothing lies in our hands. Such a beautiful post to read, Madhu.

    1. Thank you very much Vishal. I don’t think terror threats are as much an issue in India as in Europe at the moment. At least not yet, although if the present scenario continues, it won’t be long before it happens. I would worry more about rape in India than terror actually…and that fear certainly keeps me off our streets after dark 😦

      1. Agree to that. The lack of enforcement is very worrying in India with rise in rape crime. Agree. we need to be on our gape be it women security or terrorism. I can understand, Madhu.

  4. It may be small but there’s a lot to see there. Only made it to Ypres and I would jump at the opportunity to go again. There’s so much fascinating history there

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