Belgium is located in the heart of Europe, bordering the Netherlands, Germany, France, Luxembourg and North Sea. This kingdom is split between the Dutch-speaking Flemish region in the north and the largely French-speaking Walloon region in the south. Headquarters of the European Union and NATO, there are three official languages and English is spoken widely too.
Belgium is made for city breaks. The country has elevated chocolate making to an art form and there are more than 400 types of beer. With five airports, it is very well connected. Flights to Belgium with easyJet and Brussels Airlines land at Brussels Airport, while Ryanair offers cheap flights to Belgium, landing at Brussels Charleroi, 46km from the city. Other airports include Antwerp, Ostend and Liège.
Flanders boasts Antwerp, Europe's diamond capital; Bruges, a popular medieval town, and Ghent, less touristy than Bruges but equally pretty. The Flanders coast has smooth sandy beaches with pretty little resort towns such as Blankenberge, De Haan and De Panne, and has one of the longest tram lines in the world - the Kusttram.
In Wallonia are the Ardennes and Liege, Namur and Tournai. Brussels is capital, a charming cosmopolitan city of cobblestone squares and modern buildings.
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Winters in Belgium are usually cold and snowy, with temperatures ranging between 0 and 6 degrees. Summers are much more pleasant, with temperatures averaging 12 to 22 degrees.
When to fly to Belgium
As the weather doesn’t vary hugely between seasons and there are so many towns, there is no particularly defined peak or off-peak season. Summer is usually more full of tourists and it is wise to book Belgium flights and accommodation in advance if you’re travelling to the big cities during the holiday period. Christmas and Easter also tend to see more holidaymakers. Be aware, however, that it rains year-round.
Belgium insider information
- The European parliament building in Brussels stands by the Leopold Park and is often called the “Caprice des Dieux” (caprice of the gods) by locals: both because this whim cost a lot to construct and also because its shape resembles that of the cheese of the same name. Tours in the building are possible.
- Bruges is probably the most picturesque city in Belgium, set on a canal near the North Sea, with perfectly preserved medieval buildings. One of the most romantic ways to see the city is from a canal boat. Book a trip from the tourist bureau or just arrive at the landing stage.
- The historic city of Antwerp can be reached by train from Brussels in just over an hour. The largest city in Flanders, Antwerp has a lot to offer a tourist, though it is often overlooked. At its centre is the Grote Markt, or town square. Similar to the Grand Place of Brussels, the square is surrounded by the town hall and guildhouses. Markets take place here during the summer and in the winter there is an outdoor skating rink.
- Ghent is the capital of East Flanders. One of the best sights in the town is the Gravensteen, a 12th-century castle located right in the middle of the town. The counts of Flanders built huge stone castles, complete with turrets and moats, in all the main cities of Flanders, but the Gravensteen (meaning “castle of the counts”) is the only one which survived.
- The carnival of Binche (a small town in Hainaut) is the most popular carnival in the country and a major draw for tourists; it was even added to the Unesco World Heritage list in 2005. If you miss the actual carnival, however, there is a carnival museum in town, with costumes on display
- Belgian beer is popular worldwide. The country boasts around 250 different varieties – more than enough to sample a new one for each drink - and reason enough to search for some cheap flights to Belgium.