Travel to Belgium – Episode 326

categories: europe travel


The Amateur Traveler talks to Sam Oppenheim who returns to the show to talk about a recent trip to Belgium. Starting in Brussels, Sam and his wife Mina also visited Ghent, Antwerp, Brugge, Bouillon, and Orval.

While Brussels may not measure up to Paris and London Sam found it surprisingly diverse with wonderful outdoor markets and charming architecture. The food may have been one of the most memorable things for Sam whether you are dining at fancy restaurants or just enjoying the frites, chocolate, and waffles. There is also an African influence leftover from Belgium’s days as a colonial power.

Ghent and Brugge both give you a better view of what medieval Belgium would have been like. Brugge is the more popular destination but Ghent is also a college town. Both cities have canals. The highlight of Brugge for Sam was the canal boat tour.

Throughout the trip you may sense a theme of beer since Belgium is known for its beer and Sam’s itinerary was heavily influenced by an article on where to taste Belgium beers including the Trappist beers.

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right click here to download (iTunes version with pictures)

Show Notes

Trekking in the Himalayas in Northern India – Episode 63
Travel to Laos – Episode 199
City of Brussels
Midi Market in Brussels
Grand Place
Manneken Pis
Place du Grand Sablon
Pierre Marcolini
Musical Instrument Museum (Brussels)
Law Courts of Brussels
Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium
Flea Market at Jeu de Balle
Cantillon Brewery
Pakhuis, Ghent
Grand Cafe Horta
In Bruges
Choco-Story Museum
Tapping the Essence of Belgium
Orval Abbey
St. Bernardus
Sam Oppenheim Photography
best Belgian chocolates


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Madeleine McCann photo use in holiday ad ‘vile’


P.S. Sam wants me to mention that “while I have a beer occasionally, I do not consider myself a beer enthusiast, but I am a taste enthusiast or “foodie”… Therefore Belgium entranced me with its culinary energy so that I decided to explore the plethora of beer flavors, chocolate types, frite dips, and waffle toppings…and as I did mention in the interview I was inspired by the afar article and the abbey-style beers have a creamier taste and full-bodied flavor in part due to special recipes but also the 7% or even higher alcohol content!”

The 7 Trappist Beers are:

  • Westmalle
  • Westvleteren
  • La Trappe
  • Chimay
  • Orval
  • Rochefort
  • Achel
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Chris Christensen

by Chris Christensen

Chris Christensen is the creator of the Amateur Traveler blog and podcast. He has been a travel creator since 2005 and has won awards including being named the "Best Independent Travel Journalist" by Travel+Leisure Magazine.

6 Responses to “Travel to Belgium – Episode 326”

Amy Hodge


I was in Belgium in 2008 and couldn’t help chiming in with favorites from my trip that Sam didn’t mention.

In Brussels, we really enjoyed the Coudenberg Museum. This is not one of the larger museums and the entrance is rather hard to find — you enter at or near the Belvue Museum. The Coudenberg Museum is an archaeological site underneath the current city where you can see remains of the former palace. Link:
There were also some great temporary exhibits at the Musee Royaux d’Art et d’Historie when we were there.

As for food, Sam mentioned waffles piled high with lots of toppings, but when we were there, the real treat was the piping hot waffles you could buy on the street and eat with your hands – sans toppings (I never even saw toppings offered with these). Always available in train stations. SPECTACULAR. The locals were eating them all the time as well.

I highly recommend a nice dinner at Viva M’Boma at Rue De Flandre 17 near St. Catherine’s church, but it’s best to get a reservation, especially on the weekend. Less expensive and better food than most of the other sit-down places we tried.
On the other end of the spectrum, we had a very inexpensive and really delicious lunch at a small place at Place du Jeu-de-Balle, where there was a great Saturday flea market.

As for Ghent, Sam didn’t mention what I considered the main attraction — The Adoration of the Lamb, a 15th century alterpiece by Van Eyck that lives in St. Baro’s cathedral in the center of town. They have it in a tiny room so you have to wait your turn to get in, but the ticket comes with an audio tour that is top-notch. Everyone should really see this. Though I completely agreed with Sam that Castle Gravensteen is a must-see. The medieval torture display was especially horrific and fabulous at the same time!

We went to Bruges as well, and really enjoyed it, but a couple things Sam didn’t mention that were highlights for us were the Groeningemuseum, which houses a lot of amazing Flemish primitives, and the Begijnhof, which is a small collection of buildings around a courtyard where lay sisters of the Catholic Church lived. We arrived just before sunset and it was magical. A wonderful and quiet place to sit and reflect. Link to photo by my husband of the Bruges Begijnhof:

We also did a trip to Luxembourg City from Belgium and I have always described this as a little jewel of a city, so was pleased to hear Sam describe it in a similar way. I have written in my travel journal that I felt all day like I was in some period movie about Mozart. When you’re there, you really should take the tour of the casements — some great views from there and they are really fun to walk around. However, I do not recommend the Musee’ National d’Historie et D’Art. The audio tour was not very good and the signage wasn’t that great either.

Thanks again for another great episode!



Thanks Amy, that was more like a blog post than a comment 🙂



I visit Belgium pretty often( i have family there) and this article have opened my eyes to new things to see next time i visit.
Can also talk about accommodations in Brussels , i know it is not easy to find cheap hotel rates in the city…i am tired of staying with family, i want to be on my own.

Sam Oppenheim


Hi Amy thanks for adding details to help people enjoy Belgium more!

As an archaeology buff, I would have seen the Coudenberg Museum if I knew about it! drat!
I knew about but skipped the adoration of the lamb because it was I think 12 euros to go see and there was a replica to view for free… I know its shameful to skimp on such a famous piece of art history, but, hey!

Great point about the sweet wafels that everyone gets all over belgium without toppings! The ones with toppings may be more touristy (but just as tasty)

The Begijnhof was closed when we ambled over to visit but did enjoy the surrounding quieter parts of Brugge. I stayed in Brugge 2 days and still didn’t have time to visit everything because we just relaxed and enjoyed a lot of walking tours. It gets rave reviews and I’m glad you enjoyed it and took lovely photos!



Someone asked what beer review site had Westvleteren as #1 – it was but it is now #2!



There IS something better than a waffle sans toppings… a waffle with chantilly cream on top!

I can’t remember if this was mentioned in the episode, but in Bruges there’s an area with a lot of swans. One warning I would give about Bruges: when I was there in the mid-2000s (ugh) there were a lot of horse carriages. Behind the horses were cloth sacks to retain their excrement, but often the cloth sacks were broken so… be careful when walking in Bruges!!!

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