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The Best of Belgium
Belgium packs a lot of treasures into its compact footprint: grand, historic sites; bustling cities with world-class museums; innovative, forward-looking architectural gems; a buzzing fashion scene; plus a rich—and flavorful—culinary tradition. Even better, the country’s small size allows you to experience many iconic sights in the same trip, as your next destination is often less than two hours away by train. 

This seven-day trip begins in the country’s magnificent capital, Brussels, then branches out to visit fashionable Antwerp; charming Bruges, where the historic center is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site; and Ghent, home to both celebrated masterpieces and a new museum featuring the world’s most interesting contemporary artists.  

This Belgian odyssey will start as soon as you board your flight across the Atlantic on Brussels Airlines, where every detail—from the Art Nouveau-inspired cabins to the drinks and meals served onboard—embody the country’s unique culture and style.
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    Day 1
    Fly to Belgium
    Here’s your first surprise: Your first taste of Belgium will begin before you even touch down in Brussels. From the plane design to the personal service, the experience of Brussels Airlines has been carefully crafted to put you in a Belgian state of mind the minute you board. 

    You’ll first notice this in the colorful cabins, which Brussels Airlines made over with a new look inspired by Belgian Art Nouveau. Settle into your spacious Premium Economy Class seat, one of just 21 seats in this section, ensuring a quiet trip. You’ll find touches that are limited to business class or higher on some other airlines. You can watch the latest movies—including recent Belgian films—on 13.3” screens, and keep your devices charged with individual AC and USB power plugs. Enjoy complimentary drinks of fine wines and Belgian beers before being served a delicious meal. Then relax in wide seats that recline a generous 40° and soak up the quiet atmosphere; you’ll feel like this is more of a boutique hotel experience than an aircraft. You’ll arrive in Brussels rested and ready to explore.
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    Photo By Sergi Design
    Day 2
    Arrive in Brussels
    Belgium’s capital is also one of Europe’s, serving as the meeting place of the European Parliament and a number of EU bodies. For leisure travelers, that means a you’ll find a lot of luxury hotels, and—once the bureaucrats leave town on Fridays—good weekend hotel deals. Many of the top choices are centrally located near the Grand Place. Explore all your choices—both in Brussels and at your other stops on this itinerary—with Brussels Airlines’ Hotel Booking service.  

    After you’re settled, start your exploration at the Grand Place, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the symbolic heart of Brussels. The earliest market held here dates to the 11th century, though most of the guild halls you see today were built in the early 18th century. The area’s also home to City Hall and is the site of special events—concerts, an annual Christmas tree, and (in August of even-numbered years) an enormous “Flower Carpet” of begonias. 

    Of course, no trip to Belgium would be complete without sampling one of the country’s signature dishes: mussels served with fries. Knock this item off your must-try list at lunch today. Chez Léon and Zinneke, to the north of the city center, are among the most popular places in Brussels where you can enjoy a meal of mussels.  

    In the afternoon, a visit to the Magritte Museum offers a chance to explore the world’s largest collection of works by one of Belgium’s most famous artists, René Magritte, whose surrealist paintings are both humorous and haunting. Continue on to another site that can also feel surreal, the Atomium. This 335-foot-tall structure of nine stainless-steel-clad balls, each with a diameter of 60 feet, was built for the 1958 World’s Fair and is modeled after an iron molecule. Ascend to the highest of them for panoramic views of the city.  

    You’ll enjoy more sweeping views of the city when you eat at Villa in the Sky, a restaurant with floor-to-ceiling windows built atop a skyscraper. Other restaurants in the city cover all the cuisines of the world, from Belgian favorites to award-winning French, Italian, and Asian options.
  • Day 3
    Explore More of Brussels
    Since you’re in one of the capitals of Europe (Brussels is one of three seats of the European Union), start today with some European culture. The European Quarter is a collection of both green spaces and new architecture, foremost among them the Europa building, with its remarkable façade designed by Belgian artist Georges Meurand and consisting of window frames made of oak from the EU’s member states. 

    The free House of European History is a museum covering both the past and future challenges facing the EU; browse art and artifacts from throughout the continent in its galleries. The Parlamentarium is another museum in the European Quarter, one that’s focused specifically on the challenges of creating a multi-national legislative body.  

    After pondering politics in the morning, spend the afternoon learning about one of Belgium’s most popular and delicious exports—chocolate. The Choco-Story museum explains the process used to make chocolate, from the cacao plant and its raw beans to the boxes of chocolates for sale throughout the city. Daily demonstrations by chocolatiers bring the process of creating chocolate to life. After you’ve become an expert in all things chocolate, continue on to the Galeries Royales, where you can visit one of Belgium’s most famous chocolatiers, Neuhaus, and sample candy that’s delicious as well as historic. Back in 1857, Jean Neuhaus started covering medicines with chocolate to make them more palatable; today, Neuhaus chocolates make for greats treats to enjoy in Belgium… and great presents to bring home.  

    In the evening, dive into another of Belgium’s specialties: beer. You won’t find a larger selection of beers than the more than 2,000 varieties, both on tap and in bottles, at Delirium—it holds the official Guinness world record. As you explore it and other beer-centric bars, you’ll find many have menus of Belgian pub-food favorites to soak up some of the lagers and ales you imbibe.
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    Photo By Thomas Konings
    Day 4
    Antwerp
    It takes only about an hour to travel from Brussels to Antwerp by train, so even if you get a leisurely start in the morning, you’ll still have a full day to enjoy the country’s second-largest city. Since the 16th century, Antwerp has been an important commercial center, famous in part as the center of the world’s diamond trade. Today it has an appealing mix of creative energy—it’s Belgium’s fashion capital—as well as historic and cultural highlights.  

    Spend the morning exploring MAS (the Museum aan de Stroom), a distinctive 10-story building that opened in 2011. Eclectic revolving exhibitions cover things like the history of the Antwerp port, pre-Columbian pottery, and retrospectives on individual artists. The Museum Mayer van den Bergh offers a more intimate art experience, showcasing works acquired by its namesake, a 19th-century collector. The museum’s most famous works are its pieces by Pieter Bruegel, including the celebrated painting Mad Meg

    Antwerp has long been known as the country’s fashion capital. Ann Demeulemeester and Dries Van Noten are just two of the more famous designers to have established their brands here. Spend the afternoon shopping for fashion-forward finds. Nationalestraat is lined with larger stores and luxury boutiques, while the Het Zuid neighborhood offers funkier alternatives and vintage stores.  

    As evening descends, enjoy dinner at one of Het Zuid’s restaurants, like the popular Wijnbistro Patine and Brasserie Bizie Lizie.
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    Photo By Libby Penner
    Day 5
    Bruges
    Hop the train west from Antwerp and in just over an hour, you’ll arrive in Bruges. A working port like Antwerp, Bruges is also famous for its wonderfully preserved historic center, another UNESCO World Heritage Site. The old city’s heart is the Markt Square, dominated by the Belfry—the soaring tower that’s an iconic landmark of Bruges.  

    After exploring some of its atmospheric streets on foot, grab lunch at a casual restaurant or bar like Bar des Amis or Cambrinus, which offers beer tastings and simple fare.  

    In the afternoon, a visit to Hof Bladelin provides glimpses of the city’s gilded age, beginning back in the 15th century when Bruges was one of Europe’s most important commercial centers. This palace—that was for a period used by the Medici family of bankers—is filled with Renaissance paintings and furniture. Then, if you’re visiting Bruges after May 2019, head to the newly renovated Gruuthusemuseum, where you’ll be among the first to look inside. Located in another of the city’s historic palaces, the museum’s collection covers applied and fine arts from the 15th–19th centuries, with tapestries, paintings, and silverware on display. And leave some time for a half-hour boat tour of the canals of this “Venice of the North.” 

    Later, head to the Concertgebouw for a musical evening. This concert hall opened in 2002 and there’s usually a concert, or even two, with mostly classical works performed in a magnificent setting. Contemporary composers are occasionally featured as well.
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    Photo By Jonatan Moerman
    Day 6
    Ghent
    This morning, head back east; it’s an hour by train to Ghent. This city has been called Europe’s best-kept secret—a gem of centuries-old architecture paired with new restaurants and museums that inject it with an exciting energy.  

    Start by visiting the Castle of the Counts, the 800-year-old home of the counts of Flanders that overlooks the Leie River. With its imposing stone fortifications, it’s a fairytale vision of a castle with displays of armor, as well as the somewhat gruesome torture devices used on those who faced the wrath of the counts.   

    Next, explore a decidedly different side of Ghent at S.M.A.K., the city’s contemporary art museum. Ghent is famous for its rebellious spirit, and this side of the city is on display at the museum, with thoughtful and challenging exhibitions.  

    For lunch, head to the Patershol neighborhood, which is filled with popular local restaurants. Afterwards, check out one of Ghent’s—and the world’s—most famous works of art, the Ghent Altarpiece, in St. Bavo’s Cathedral. This early 15th-century painting, with 12 panels by the van Eyck brothers, is seen as marking a key moment at the dawn of the Renaissance, when the highly stylized Gothic and Byzantine traditions incorporated a focus on scientific observation and naturalism.  

    After seeing this artistic masterpiece, savor some of the contemporary masterpieces being created by Ghent’s chefs. The city has emerged in recent years as a culinary hotspot, with young talent serving unforgettable meals in surprising settings. Some options for dinner tonight include the Holy Food Market, a food hall in a converted chapel; Volta, in a former turbine hall just outside the city center; and Taxi’s, located in a garage once used by a taxi company.
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    Photo By marius badstuber
    Day 7
    Return Home
    Return this morning to Brussels to catch your Brussels Airlines flight back to the United States. While you’ve seen many of Belgium’s most famous sights and savored flavors from chocolates to dishes created by the country’s leading chefs, you may find yourself still wanting more.  

    Fortunately, you don’t have to give up the Belgian hospitality and ambience quite yet. While you’re planning your next trip to Belgium—perhaps to visit Tournai, the oldest city in Belgium, or Ypres, with its historic sites related to World War I—you can keep the memory of this visit alive on board your Brussels Airlines flight. In Premium Economy, you’ll again enjoy an ergonomically correct seat, large entertainment screen, delicious cuisine and Belgian beer, and the unrivaled service of this boutique hotel in the air.