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Expat Exchange - Best Places to See While on a Look-See Trip to Belgium (Plus, Itineraries) 2024
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Bruges, Belgium


Best Places to See While on a Look-See Trip to Belgium (Plus, Itineraries)

By Joshua Wood, LPC

William Russell
William Russell

Summary: If you're considering moving to Belgium and don't have a favorite city or town picked out, going on a look-see or exploratory trip to visit a number of popular expat destinations is really informative. Here are some recommendations for where to visit when exploring Belgium.

Embarking on a Look-See trip to Belgium is an invaluable step for anyone considering a move to this culturally rich country. Such a trip allows potential expats, retirees, and digital nomads to explore various cities and towns firsthand, providing insights into the local lifestyle, amenities, and community. It's an opportunity to assess the practicalities of daily life, from public transportation to healthcare services, and to envision oneself in the Belgian setting. A Look-See trip can help in making an informed decision about which area best suits one's personal and professional needs before taking the plunge into relocation.

Recommended Itineraries

For a comprehensive Look-See trip in Belgium, consider two itineraries based on the length of your stay. A 10-day trip could focus on the major cities and a glimpse into the countryside, while a 20-day trip allows for a deeper exploration of both urban and rural areas. For the shorter trip, start in Brussels, then visit Antwerp, Ghent, and Bruges, with a day trip to Leuven. If you have 20 days, add visits to the Wallonia region, including Namur, Liège, and the Ardennes, and spend more time in the Flemish region with stops in Mechelen and the coastal town of Ostend.

Brussels

Brussels, the capital city, is a hub for international expats and a great starting point for your Look-See trip. With a population of over 1.2 million, it offers a vibrant mix of cultures and languages. The cost of living is higher here compared to other Belgian cities, but it provides numerous amenities, a dynamic job market, and a central location with excellent transport links to the rest of Europe. Expats and digital nomads often appreciate the city's cosmopolitan atmosphere, diverse culinary scene, and the presence of major international institutions.

Travel Tip: Don't miss the chance to visit the Grand Place, a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most beautiful town squares in Europe. For a culinary treat, try traditional Belgian cuisine at 'Chez Léon' near the Grand Place.

Antwerp

Antwerp is known for its fashion, diamonds, and port – one of the largest in the world. With a population of around 520,000, it offers a blend of historical charm and modern living. The cost of living is moderate, and the city is particularly appealing to those interested in the arts, fashion, and design. Expats and digital nomads often settle here for its creative vibe, entrepreneurial opportunities, and high quality of life.

Travel Tip: Explore the trendy neighborhood of Zurenborg for its Art Nouveau architecture and visit 'The Jane', a high-end restaurant set in a former church, for an unforgettable dining experience.

Ghent

Ghent is a picturesque city with a rich history and a young, vibrant population, thanks to its university. It's smaller than Brussels and Antwerp, with a population of about 260,000, but offers a high quality of life with a lower cost of living. The city is known for its medieval architecture, lively cultural scene, and sustainability initiatives. It's a favorite among expats and digital nomads who prefer a more relaxed pace without sacrificing urban amenities.

Travel Tip: Visit 'Het Gravensteen', a well-preserved medieval castle in the heart of the city, and enjoy a meal at 'Pakhuis', a beautifully restored warehouse turned into a brasserie.

Bruges

Bruges is often called the 'Venice of the North' due to its charming canals and cobblestone streets. With a population of around 118,000, it's a small city that offers a fairy-tale setting combined with a high standard of living. The cost of living is reasonable, and the city is particularly appealing for those seeking a quieter life with a strong sense of community. It's popular among retirees and expats looking for a picturesque and tranquil environment.

Travel Tip: Take a boat tour of the canals for a unique perspective of the city, and indulge in some of the finest chocolate at 'Chocolaterie Dumon'.

Leuven

Leuven is a vibrant university town located a short train ride from Brussels. With a population of about 100,000, it's known for its historic buildings, lively student population, and innovative business environment. The cost of living is lower than in Brussels, making it an attractive option for expats and digital nomads, especially those in academia or the tech industry. The city offers a blend of tradition and modernity, with plenty of cultural events and a bustling nightlife.

Travel Tip: Visit the impressive University Library and its tower for a panoramic view of the city, and enjoy a local beer at 'Domus', a small brewery with a cozy pub attached.

Namur

Namur, the capital of Wallonia, is a French-speaking city located at the confluence of the Meuse and Sambre rivers. It's smaller than its Flemish counterparts, with a population of around 110,000, offering a laid-back lifestyle and a lower cost of living. Expats and digital nomads are drawn to its scenic beauty, historical sites, and slower pace of life. It's an ideal location for those looking to immerse themselves in the French-speaking culture of Belgium.

Travel Tip: Explore the Citadel of Namur, a historic fortress offering stunning views, and dine at 'La Maison des Desserts', known for its exquisite pastries and chocolates.

Liège

Liège is a vibrant city with a strong industrial heritage and a population of around 200,000. It's known for its lively atmosphere, rich cultural life, and friendly locals. The cost of living is quite affordable compared to Brussels and Antwerp. Expats and digital nomads often appreciate the city's authenticity, its numerous festivals, and the surrounding natural landscapes of the Ardennes.

Travel Tip: Visit the modern 'Liège-Guillemins' train station designed by Santiago Calatrava, and enjoy some of the best waffles in Belgium at 'Une Gaufrette Saperlipopette'.

The Ardennes

The Ardennes region is known for its dense forests, rolling hills, and outdoor activities. It's a great area to explore smaller towns like Dinant, Spa, and Durbuy. These towns offer a peaceful retreat from city life, with a significantly lower cost of living and a close-knit community feel. The region is perfect for expats and digital nomads who love nature and seek a tranquil lifestyle.

Travel Tip: Visit the picturesque town of Dinant, take a kayak trip on the River Lesse, and explore 'Le Parc des Topiaires' in Durbuy, a unique garden with over 250 plant sculptures.

About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000 and serves as one of its Co-Presidents. He is also one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. Prior to Expat Exchange, Joshua worked for NBC Cable (MSNBC and CNBC Primetime). Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Wood is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist.

Some of Joshua's articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and Pros and Cons of Living in Uruguay. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.


William Russell
William Russell

William Russell
William Russell

Bruges, Belgium

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