During my trip to Europe last summer, which was originally set up to be three countries, we decided to make a quick day trip to Belgium from Amsterdam. We had three full days in Amsterdam, so we decided to take one day off and visit two cities in Belgium: Ghent and Antwerp.
We took a train from Amsterdam to Antwerp first, which took 1.5 hours, and from there took a train to Ghent that took about 45 minutes. Then, we took the train back to Antwerp and spent the rest of the day there and went back to Amsterdam that evening. It sounds confusing, but it worked out well.
First city: GHENT
Ghent is a small port city at the intersection of the Leie and Scheldt rivers, surrounded by medieval architecture, churches and castles. The city was super cute, and it was very lively around the city center, with many restaurants, beer shops and chocolate stores around. In three hours we were able to visit two churches, have lunch at an awesome french fry spot (that I’ll talk about soon), walk around the city, visit some stores and eat the famous Belgium waffle.
We visited a few churches, including the Belfry of Ghent, a 91 meter tall medieval tower that overlooks the city of Ghent. You can either take an elevator or climb the quite steep stairs. The view is beautiful from the top offering amazing panoramic views of Ghent. We paid 10 euros per person.
We also visited the Cathedral of St. Bavon, a 89-meter-tall Gothic cathedral that contains the famous Ghent Altarpiece. The art gallery is opened from 9:30am to 5pm during the summer, and from 10:20am to 4pm during the winter. On Sundays they close the gallery from 12pm to 1pm, and for this reason we didn’t have the opportunity to see it in person, but you can check details online through their website: www.sintbaafskathedraal.be. The tickets cost 4 euros with the audio guide included.
I was dying to eat fries in Belgium lol. Seriously, never in my life did I eat as many potatoes as I ate during this trip (this is NOT a complaint btw). One famous spot in Ghent is Frituur Tartaar, where they have MANY sauces to dunk your fries in (even though the most famous is mayo, which in Belgium, is a lot different than the mayo in the States). We shared a large portion of fries for two people and we couldn’t even finish it. They also have sandwiches and other delicious, deeply fried food.
We also visited Juffrouw Strik, a chocolate and waffle store. We bought a little box of chocolate for a good price (compared to Antwerp prices) and I got to try the famous waffle with chocolate.
Second city: Antwerp
Antwerp is known as the diamond city, which offers an abundance of shopping and beautiful historic buildings. Let’s start with the city name, which has an interesting meaning behind it: “According to folklore, notably celebrated by a statue in front of the town hall, the city got its name from a legend about a giant called Antigoon who lived near the Scheldt river. He extracted a toll from passing boatmen, and for those who refused, he severed one of their hands and threw it into the river. Eventually the giant was killed by a young hero named Silvius Brabo, who cut off the giant's own hand and flung it into the river. Hence the name Antwerpen, from Dutch hand werpen, akin to Old English hand and wearpan (to throw), which has evolved to today's warp.”
Normally on Sundays most of the stores are closed, but, every first Sunday of the month most of the stores open and have some good deals going on. I was lucky enough to go the first Sunday of the month, so the city was super busy. I visited some stores and obviously bought more chocolate lol.
This was my favorite kind of chocolate, a marshmallow chocolate to die for, try it if you visit this place. (the store is pricey, so if you want to buy chocolate for cheaper, go to Leonidas, a chain)
We walked around the city, everything is so cute. We stopped in a bar in front of the famous statue of the soldier throwing the giant’s hands to drink some beer. There was a flea market going on, with lots of food and gifts available.
We had lunch at a burger spot called Gollemke that was delicious (not to mention MORE French fries lol). I had a pink fruity beer that I had never seen before.
Now, let’s talk about the experience of traveling to another country by train and the route we used.
We went from Paris to Amsterdam and from Amsterdam to Belgium with Thalys, a train company that I highly recommend. They have good prices, the train is very comfortable and the internet worked during the entire trip.
From Amsterdam to Antwerp we paid 51 euros per person and to go back to Amsterdam was 40 euros per person. Once in Belgium, we hopped on a local train that was a bit confusing since it wasn’t express. There’s not always someone checking the tickets, but sometimes they do, so make sure to keep your ticket handy until the end of the trip to avoid paying a fine.
This was pretty much what we did in both cities. I’m not going to lie that it was very tiring, but it was worth it since we got to explore a new country in one day by train (the perks of traveling within Europe, every country is close and accessible). Follow me on Instagram @eat_travel_andlove to see all my videos and pictures in my highlights. Don’t forget to comment below if you liked this post and if you have any other recommendations for my next trip to Belgium.