Belgium may be a small country, but its three communities and three regions all have distinct personalities to ensure a diverse and fun-filled experience.

Beyond the throng of serious politicians congregating at Le Berlaymont, the EU headquarters in Brussel, Belgium is actually a fun-loving destination loaded with plenty of delicious beer and chocolate to charm the most critical tourists. The country is divided into three communities (the Flemish, French and German-speaking communities), and three regions (the capital region of Brussels, the Dutch-speaking Flanders, and the French-speaking Wallonia). Undeniably, from time to time, the ethnic composition and the difference in wealth creation have led to tension between the two biggest communities. While a break-up of Belgium may never be too far from one’s mind, the country remains united for now and is keen to welcome tourists to its beautiful cities.

Rail & Cultural Journeys In Belgium

Beligium at a glance

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Capital: Brussels
Language: Dutch, French, German
Money: Euro
Travel advice:

Service charge is usually included, so tipping isn’t necessary.

  • New Year’s Day – January 1
  • Easter Monday – date varies
  • Labour Day – May 1
  • Ascension Day – date varies
  • Pentecost Monday – date varies
  • National Day – July 21
  • Assumption Day – August 15
  • All Saints Day – November 1
  • Armistice Day – November 11
  • Christmas – December 25

Bonjour (good morning), Au revoir (goodbye), Merci (thank you).

Flemish-Dutch: Goedemorgen (good morning), Tot ziens (goodbye), Dank je (thank you).

Exploring Belgium

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There is no shortage of cultural sites in Belgium. From the 12th-century Basilica of the Holy Blood (where Christ’s blood is kept, allegedly) to the Battlefield of Waterloo (where Napoleon was finally defeated in 1815), and Flanders Fields (where a million soldiers were killed or wounded in WWI), Belgium is overflowing with historically rich attractions begging to be explored.

Situated by the bountiful North Sea, Belgium has an abundance of freshly caught fish, while its fertile lands are the feeding grounds of livestock. With such a wide range of food readily available, it is no wonder that Belgium is crammed with first-class restaurants, including 127 Michelin-starred restaurants as of 2021. On the other side of the scale, the humble French fries (frieten in Dutch or frites in French), sold at the country’s many chip shops (friteries/frituren), shouldn’t be ignored either. After all, French fries are indisputably Belgian, according to many food historians.

The beer culture in Belgium is taken so seriously that it has been recognised by UNESCO on its Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list. Officially, about 1,500 types of beer are produced in Belgium using different fermentation methods, and among them, the Trappist beers, brewed by monks in abbeys with proceeds going to charity, have gained international fame.

In Belgium, beer is also more than a thirst quencher – it is used by communities for cooking, creating exciting products like beer-washed cheese, and paired with food.

Belgium has a maritime climate tempered by the Atlantic Ocean, particularly on the coast, so you can expect most days to be cool and wet. As you move towards Luxembourg in the southeast, the climate changes to continental, with cold winters and mild summers.

Brussels, lying some 110km (81mi) from the Belgian coast, is fairly humid, rainy and windy – the latter can get intense from November to March. Rain is frequent and distributed evenly throughout the year. On average, Brussels receives about 850mm (33.5in) of precipitation a year. To give you a comparison, London, a city that many assume to be raining all the time, only gets about 690mm (27.2in) a year.

Summer is perhaps the best time to visit Belgium, as temperatures climb to an average of 18C (64°F) in July and August. Winter can be cold, but Belgium’s Christmas markets and festive decorations make December a magical time to visit.

As the weather in Belgium can be unpredictable, use layers to keep yourself warm. Also, carry a waterproof jacket in case it gets windy and rainy.

In the winter, add gloves and scarves to your packing list.

A railway enthusiast, King Leopold I signed the law supporting the creation of the Belgian railways on May 1, 1834, making Belgium the second country in Europe (after Great Britain) to launch a railway. The plan was rather ambitious and clever – it aimed to place Mechlin, a city between Antwerp and Brussels, as the main hub, with lines branching eastwards towards the border with Prussia via Leuven, Liege and Verviers; northwards to Antwerp, westwards to Ostend via Dendermonde, Ghent and Bruges; and southwards to Brussels and the French border across Hainaut.

Less than a year after the plan was approved, the first stretch of the railway between Allée Verte in Brussels, the site of the very first station, and Mechelen was inaugurated. This made Brussels the first capital in the world to have a railway connection. King Leopold I came to watch, but did not travel on the train as it was considered too dangerous.

Today, while most of Belgium now run high-speed train services, there are selected places in which visitors can still travel back in time by riding steam and diesel locomotives. One such example is the steam train from Maldegem to Eeklo and back. This particular train even offers the ‘Orient Dining Express’ experience, which is included in PTG Tours’ Classic Belgium itinerary – call us today on +44 (0) 1235 227288 to find out more.

  • In Flanders Fields: The 1917 Campaign by Leon Wolff
  • The Abyss by Marguerite Yourcenar
  • The Adventures of Tintin series by Hergé

Why choose PTG Tour’s escorted rail tours through Belgium

  • Established in 1998, PTG has evolved into a leading tour agency offering rail-based holidays with a focus on culture and heritage.
  • You can choose from a diverse product range, based on your preference and budget.
  • Your escorted rail tour comes with a professional tour leader who will take great care of you, plus local guides when applicable.
  • All hotels and restaurants included in your package are vetted and approved by the local teams.
  • You can travel in confidence as all of our tours are ATOL and ABTA protected.