Belgium overland travel guide

Belgium may not be at the top of the list for most visitors to Europe, lacking the more obvious tourist draws of nearby Paris and London. But as the home of the EU headquarters and with Brussels now one of the main hubs of a high speed rail network linking France, Germany, Holland, and the UK (via direct Eurostar), this small half French-speaking half Flemish (Dutch)-speaking country is quintessentially European and of central importance to 21st century Europe.

The central square in Brussels

Fine architecture, fine beer (photo credit: see below)

Travel to, from, and within Belgium overland

Belgium has well-developed road and rail networks, both of which are easy ways to get to and around the country. An Interrail pass (for Europeans) or a Eurail pass (for non-Europeans) is a good way to travel to Belgium overland as part of a wider European trip. There is also a daily overnight ferry between Zeebrugge and the UK (Hull, in northern England), but no discount is available to rail pass holders.

As a member of the Schengen Area, and being surrounded by fellow Schengen countries, border crossings aren’t something you have to think about much when overlanding through Belgium (although police do sometimes board trains near borders to check IDs).

In my case, I’ve been to Belgium twice. The first time was actually on a high school history trip (from England, by bus) to visit the WWI battlefields and trenches in France & Belgium, including visits to Brussels and Ypres; the second was a stop in Brussels while Interrailing around Europe.

Things to do in Belgium

Eat – Belgian chocolate is amazing…

Drink – Belgian beer is amazing!

Check out the traditional architecture in Grand Place (Brussels’ old town central square), and pull up a pew for some people-watching at a pavement cafe.

For those interested in war history, Ypres was one of the most significant battle sites of WWI. There are some preserved trenches you can visit such as those at Sanctuary Wood, and the last post is still performed every evening (8pm) at the town’s Menin Gate, in memory of those who fell there but whose bodies were never identified.

Resources and Useful Links for Visiting Belgium

Official website for the Interrail pass

Official website for the Eurail pass

World Nomads offer flexible travel insurance you can buy even if already overseas (most travel insurance companies won’t cover you if you’ve already left your country, and this can be a crucial point as I once found out the hard way in Thailand).

Lonely Planet: Europe on a Shoestring

Seat 61 has the details for London to Belgium by train

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(Photo Credit: david.taquin, Flickr. Used under Creative Commons license)