I want to visit Belgium for a weekend from Frankfurt, but I'm lost at what town to visit during this short trip! Not really looking for any kind of night life, but more relaxing things to do, like sight seeing, great restaurants and bakeries. What towns would you suggest and what is the best transportation there from Frankfurt?
You can divide Belgium into three distinct area:
Flanders - The northern, Dutch-speaking region of the country. It includes well known cities like Antwerp, Ghent and Bruges. The Flemish provinces are (from west to east): West-Flanders, East-Flanders, Antwerp, Flemish-Brabant and Limburg.
Brussels - The bilingual capital region of the country and headquarters of the EU.
Walloon Region - The southern, French-speaking region, incorporating a small German speaking region in the east near the German border. The Walloon provinces are (from west to east): Hainaut, Walloon Brabant, Namur, Liège and Luxembourg.
Based on you travelling from Frankfurt, I would concentrate on the Walloon region. Here are my suggestions, based on your interest in great sights, restaurants and bakeries:
Binche - Walled town that is famous for its carnival, cool bakeries and restaurants. The city itself, being walled, is your main sight.
Dinant — A small town with a cathedral and citadel in a stunning natural setting on the Meuse river, Dinant is a popular spot for adventure sports such as canoeing and rock-climbing which best visited in winter.
Liege (German: Lüttich) — The cultural hub of Wallonia - which sits on the banks of the wide river Meuse - is a many sided city that is definitely worth visiting if you are in Belgium. A mix of architecture from the middle ages to the present, a dramatic setting, exciting night-life, a number of museums, and varied natural surroundings.
Mons(Dutch: Bergen)- Also known as the ´Bruges of Wallonia´, Mons´ historic centre is simply stunning!
Tournai (Dutch: Doornik)- The oldest town in Belgium along with Tongeren, Tournai is a pleasant town on the banks of the Escaut (Scheldt) with an impressive four-towered cathedral.
When eating in Belgium, there are must-have dishes you will find in each of these towns:
Chicon Au Gratin / Gegratineerde witloof - Made with endives, each piece is wrapped in a slice of ham, topped with béchamel sauce and blanketed in melted cheese
Moules-frites / Mosselen-friet - Have a a big bowl of mussels with a plate of Belgian fries. Because once you've finished the mussels, the white wine broth that's left in the bottom of the bowl is the best thing to tip fried potatoes in.
Gaufre / Wafel - Belgian waffles are nothing like what you find in North America. The most common waffle you can find in Belgium is called the Liege waffle. It's richer and denser than other waffles because it's made with buttery brioche dough and chunks of pearl sugar that caramelize on the crust when cooked. They're AWESOME.
Chocolate - Chocolate fans, this is the country where you belong. There are over 2,000 chocolatiers (!!!) in Belgium. And it's all excellent thanks to an 1884 Belgian law that regulates the composition of its chocolate. The chocolate alone is a worth making the trip to this country. Seriously.
Beer - Belgium beer is usually produced by small and medium breweries. Focus in on the Flemish reds to lambics, dubbels to blondes, you won't be able to try them all. But you should definitely try.
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I would definately recommend Antwerp. It does have a nightlife, but nothing forces you to take part in it and you won't notice it if you don't want to ;-)
It's very close to the Dutch-German border and has an excellent train station Station Antwerpen-Centraal. Voted to be the most beautiful train station in Europe, if I'm not mistaken. It has all of the big shops Stadsfeestzaal (Stadsfeestzaal mall) and most of the smaller, quirkier shops near the river Schelde are also open on Sundays. Antwerp has a cathedral, my favorite museum MAS has a stunning rooftop terrace and many other great museums like the ModeMuseum (the Fashion Museum), lots of great restaurants.
Antwerp has a vibrant and colourful mix of people and cultures. Beautiful old buildings. As a Belgian, it's by far my favorite city.
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I also only had one weekend to spend in Belgium, and I chose Bruges. I was very happy with that decision. It has everything you are looking for. I tested out random dates by train from Frankfurt to Bruges and it could take you as little as 4hr 23 min one-way. Bruges isn't among the closest Belgian towns to Germany, but it's a worthwhile trip! I stayed at a hotel close to the train station so I didn't need to take my luggage very far, and walked everywhere from there. Part of Bruges' charm for me was that it's so walkable. There are buses and taxis to get around if you prefer.
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I have visited Belgium a couple of times, there are beautiful small cities with great cultural sights and restaurants - the Belgiums know how to eat! Cities I would recommend are Ghent, Antwerp and definitely Bruges (watch the film in Bruges!), and last but not least, Brussels. There are great places in Brussels but it also has that annoying IAmACapital atmosphere I think. The best way to travel is by train. If you book a few weeks in advance you can get really cheap tickets, e.g. 60 € for round trip. Also Belgium is quite small so you can basically go everywhere in 2 hours. Try here for tickets: www.bahn.de . have fun!!! :) yours, Simon from Cologne
The closest to Germany is Brussels which is the capital. Here you will find good food and sights enough for a weekend!
Alternatively I'd also suggest Luxembourg which is much nearer to Frankfurt. It's not an obvious choice but the city has a certain charm and definitely many options on dining, going out!