Road-Tripping Belgium: An Ultimate Guide

Belgium, with its rich history, varied landscapes, and renowned gastronomy, is a perfect destination for a road trip. This small European country offers an array of experiences from bustling cities to serene countrysides. In this detailed guide, we'll explore essential tips for navigating Belgium by car, the best spots to visit, and the sumptuous Belgian cuisine that awaits you.

Things to Consider Before You Start

Planning Your Route

  • Diverse Destinations: Despite its compact size, Belgium boasts a rich tapestry of cultural experiences. Plan a route that allows for both vibrant city life and tranquil rural retreats. For instance, balance your visit between the art-nouveau splendor of Brussels and the pastoral beauty of the Ardennes.
  • Distance and Time: Belgium's well-maintained roads and short distances between destinations make it ideal for exploring without haste. Design your itinerary to soak in each city's ambiance and charm.

Legal Requirements

Ensure you have a valid driving license. An international driving permit is recommended for non-EU tourists. Carry all necessary vehicle papers, particularly if you're renting.

Local Laws and Etiquette

Adhere strictly to speed limits (usually 50 km/h in urban areas and up to 120 km/h on highways). Be mindful of Belgium's stringent drink-driving laws, with a low tolerance threshold of 0.05% BAC.

Language Considerations

Belgium's road signs are in Dutch or French, depending on the region. Some basic knowledge of these languages, especially for reading signs and menus, can enhance your trip.

Must-Visit Spots on Your Belgian Road Trip

Brussels: The Heart of Europe

As the capital city, Brussels is the political core of Europe but also a hub of culture and art. Key sights include:

  • Grand Place: A UNESCO World Heritage site surrounded by opulent guildhalls and the striking Town Hall.
  • Atomium: An iconic building representing an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times.
  • Cuisine: Brussels is a foodie's delight. Indulge in Belgian chocolates, sample a variety of Belgian beers, and don't miss trying the Brussels waffle, a delightful treat that is often served warm with powdered sugar, whipped cream, or strawberries.

Free walking tours in Brussels

Bruges: Medieval Majesty

Bruges is a storybook medieval town with its well-preserved medieval architecture, making it one of Belgium's most picturesque cities.

  • Canal Tours: Explore the city's famous canals, often referred to as the arteries of Bruges.
  • The Belfry: Climb the Belfry of Bruges for panoramic views of the city.
  • Cuisine: Bruges is famous for its lace and chocolate shops. Be sure to try the local dishes like 'waterzooi', a creamy fish or chicken stew.

Free walking tours in Bruges

Antwerp: Diamond of the North

Antwerp is not just the world’s diamond capital but also a fashion and cultural metropolis.

  • Diamond District: Where more than 70% of the world's rough diamonds are traded.
  • Fashion Museum: Home to works of notable Belgian designers.
  • Cuisine: Sample local specialties like 'handjes', almond cookies shaped like hands, and 'Bolleke', an amber beer brewed locally.

Free walking tours in Antwerp

Ghent: A Blend of Past and Present

Ghent offers a unique mix of historical artifacts and a vibrant modern culture.

  • Gravensteen: A medieval castle right in the city center.
  • Street Art: Ghent has a thriving street art scene. The Werregarenstraat is the famous graffiti street.
  • Cuisine: Try 'stoverij', a traditional Belgian beef stew made with beer, alongside a serving of crispy Belgian fries.

Free walking tours in Ghent

Ardennes: Nature’s Retreat

For those who love the outdoors, the Ardennes provides a perfect escape with its dense forests, rolling hills, and hidden castles.

  • Activities: Hiking, biking, and canoeing are popular.
  • Scenic Beauty: Visit the High Fens, one of the highest and most beautiful nature reserves in Belgium.
  • Cuisine: Game is a regional specialty, often prepared with local mushrooms and berries.

Things to Avoid

Overpacking Your Itinerary

Allow yourself to immerse in each location. Belgium's beauty lies in its details—historic buildings, local cafes, and art galleries.

Missing Out on Local Delights

Belgium's culinary scene is rich and varied—from street food like frites and waffles to high-end restaurants offering gourmet dishes. Each region has its unique specialties that are worth trying.

Missing Smaller Towns

Places like Leuven and Mechelen are less crowded yet full of history and local culture. These towns offer a more relaxed vibe and equally enriching experiences.

Free walking tours in Leuven

Packing Essentials and Safety Tips

  • Navigation Tools: Use a reliable GPS system and carry updated maps.
  • Adaptable Clothing: Belgium’s weather can be unpredictable. Pack for all conditions.
  • Secure Belongings: Always lock your vehicle, especially in cities.
  • Emergency Preparedness: Keep emergency numbers and a first aid kit handy.


A road trip through Belgium is like a journey through a living history book, enhanced by the pleasure of Belgian cuisine. Plan well, respect local customs, and indulge in the rich Belgian culture for a truly unforgettable experience.