Belgium: My First Solo Trip
This December I embarked on my first solo trip!! I was nervous to say the least but so incredibly glad that I went. My 4 day trip to Belgium included time spent in Antwerp, Brussels, and Ghent. Each city was beautiful with good food, nice people (for the most part), and a certain whimsical atmosphere. Below you will find a recap on hypes places that may not be worth your time as well as the places that I loved. Check out the vlog at the end or click here for a day by day breakdown of activities and extra shot not in this post!
On day one I arrived in Brussels at ~10 AM. I had put my check-in time as 10:15 so that I would be able to drop off my luggage before exploring; however, my room was not ready so I left my belongs with the concierge and made my way to Antwerp via train.
Upon my arrival, I was taken aback by the BEAUTIFUL train station! It was so beautiful that I had to spend a few minutes just taking it in. From there took the 12 or so min walk over to Matterhorn for lunch. This little bistro prides itself on being “probably the best terrace in town”. The staff was super friendly and the food tasted delicious! I wish I had gotten my waiter’s name; he was so nice and accommodating of my sleepy self. I had him order for me as I sat on the terrace (temperature controlled for the winter) and he reappeared with Ginger-Mint tea and a Zucchini Spaghetti dish that was one of the best things I tasted in Belgium.
From Matterhorn I made my way to the city center for some window shopping and a light stroll. It wasn’t long before I found myself in my first Belgian chocolate shop. I sat down for a latte and a mid-day snack before making my way back to Brussels for the evening.
My time in Antwerp was brief, but very relaxing. I look forward to going back one day! It was a beautiful city to see.
Since my hotel was in Brussels this is where I spent most of my time. I stayed at the Grand Marriott in the city center, and their Christmas market was set up right outside, providing a magical vibe. On night one, I met up with a couple friends and ventured to Fritland for a late night snack. I wasn’t sure what to expect as far as Brussels nightlife, but luckily my friends took the lead and ushered me over to Delirium Cafe. Here I tried my first Belgian beer which I surprisingly did not hate.
From there we went to Le Cercueil where I tried the Ragnarok beer which is probably the best beer I have ever had in my life…and I am not big on beer. Personally, I was not impressed by our visits to La Mort Subite or O’Reilly’s NUA. Nightlife during the week in Brussels is anything but “lit”; however, it is not hard to have a good time if you try.
The next morning I made my way over the the EU buildings where my friends had decided to take a tour of parliament. This was not something I would have thought to do on my own, but I am so glad I tagged along on their trip! There is so much to learn on this tour and it is worth the visit if you’re ever in Brussels. Set aside 3-4 hours just to soak it all in.
After our time learning about the EU, I decided to go on an Airbnb Experiences walking tour where I was able to learn more about the city and country’s history. If you are anything like I was before this tour, you don’t know a whole heck of a lot about Belgian history. Let me tell you, it is quite interesting! From invasions to folklore and the fact that the currently have a king…that’s right. Did you know they have a king?! I enjoyed learning about the last 5-6 centuries of their county.
A two hour walking tour through Brussels in December can leave you pretty darn cold. After a quick trip to Vitalgaufre to grab a Belgian waffle (they don’t have may flavor options, but are delicious regardless), I made my way back to the hotel. Post nap and thawing, I went to Le Grand Cafe just on the town square by the hotel. I initially went because I saw that they served my favorite Swiss ice cream, but the service was so slow and food portions large (but sadly mediocre) that I started to fall asleep at the dinner table. Full and without ice cream, I made my way back to the hotel to meet up with my friends once again, we attempted a few other notable nightlife spots around the city center. I then stoped by Fritland - as one does - before slaying the stage at La Boule Rouge’s karaoke.
Bright and early I ventured over to Coco Brussels for some donuts. They open quite late for a breakfast food spot (10:30 AM), but I was to excited to complain. After my delicious wild berry donut, I went across and up the street to a Pierre Marcolini store front to purchase chocolates for my return home.
Once I returned from my day trip to Ghent, I ate dinner at San (review coming soon) and grabbed dessert from Le Fram… It was my second time at the Belgian waffle shop and I think it was solidified as my favorite. No international trip is complete without checking out the local McDonald’s cuisine. So after 3 episodes of Friends at 11 PM I went next door to the hotel and grabbed some delicious wings to round out the night.
My flight was at noon with most of the morning spent looking for breakfast, commuting to the airport and barely making it through customs to the gate. While I was sad to say goodbye to Belgium I could not have been more ready to be home after my experience at the airport / on the plane. There was no real sense of order at the airport and it took over and hour to get through “boarder control” (the area where they stamp you passport, prior to the gate). After barely making it to my flight, I spent the next 9 hours with a grown woman putting her feet up on my arm rest and knees into my back. It was not the most pleasant flight… If you’re not sure what behavior is kosher on an airplane, check out my Plane Etiquette post for a few tips.
Ghent is a stunning city that felt older with more gravitas that the other cities I had visited in Belgium. My time there was short but I was able to see a lot of the city scape along my ~2 hour self-directed walk. In Ghent I grabbed a donut and shopped a little. To hear all about my mild misfortunes in Ghent watch the vlog below (second half).
Even though things did not go as I had planned, I enjoyed my brief time in Ghent and look forward to hopefully visiting again soon.
Belgium was a beautiful place to visit! I whole heartedly recommend adding it to your travel list, and I know that I will be back one day. As far as solo travel goes, I’m glad I was able to spend a good amount of time with some friends. It definitely made the 55-70% of the time that I was alone more manageable. I know that traveling alone especially as a woman can be scary; however, there is a certain level of freedom that it gives you. I woke up when I wanted to, went where I wanted to go, and did not feel rushed or pressured to spend my time in different ways. My next solo trip will probably be a domestic one, but wherever it is I’m looking forward to it!