A foodie’s paradise, renowned for its world-class chocolate, waffles, and beer, Belgium is one of Europe’s finest countries. It is nestled along the northeastern border of Europe and is the established neighbor to other wonderlands like France, the Netherlands, Germany, and Luxembourg.
As one of the leading European industrial hubs and as the seat of the European Union, this small but significant country calls to tourists and immigrants alike. Whether it’s food, architecture, or year-round parties that tickle your fancy, Belgium has something for everyone.
However, due to the booming economy and their recent adoption of the Euro currency, the country is not the most affordable of destinations. This is not to say that there are no options for those who would prefer off-season prices, or for those who would prefer milder temperatures and even milder crowds.
Whenever you decide to visit this small but significant country, always ensure that you give yourself enough time in whichever part of the country you visit. So, here are a few things to consider before deciding when is the best time to visit Belgium.
When is the Best Time of Year to Visit Belgium?
Belgium has events and attractions all year round, but their rates may vary with the season and some are only available with good weather. While the choice of when to visit is ultimately yours to make, those things you can’t control (like rain or seasonal prices) can make a holiday less enjoyable.
Belgium’s climate is of the milder European variety, where the summers are cool and the winters are rainy. The country’s spring and fall months can be quite comfortable and even enjoyable. The coldest and wettest regions are closer to the coast, courtesy of the stormier climate of the North Sea.
So, if you wish to get nothing but Belgium’s finest weather during your stay and don’t mind a hefty crowd, then early fall months of September and October are the best choice.
If the large tourist crowds are not to your liking, then the months closer to the off-season are your best bet, namely March when the weather is not too nippy.
It might be one of the smaller European countries, but do not let Belgium’s size fool you. The splendor to behold in both the countryside and urban spaces is enough to dwarf any doubts you may have.
Quick Tip: Belgium is one of 27 countries that form part of the Schengen Area, where some nationals are required to apply for a Schengen visa. US citizens with valid passports, but no visas, are permitted to stay 90 days in the country for tourism or business.
Belgium in the Summer
Belgium’s summers are cooler than most and can reach an average high of 70°F (21°C) in July. The summers can actually be quite pleasant and especially perfect for tourism. Not only are all the attractions open for business, but there are also more outdoor activities to add to your itinerary.
Unfortunately, you can expect travel and leisure to cost an arm and a leg during this season. The crowds and subsequent foot- and vehicle-traffic also increase considerably, which can be bad for time — something you will crave more of in this country.
On the plus side, summer in Belgium is as much festival season as it is tourist season.
In Liège, there is the August 15 festival, a three-day celebration held in the Walloon Region. Towards the coast in the city of Ghent is the Gentse Festeen which is a 10-day festival that includes musical performances, street theater and even family events like parades.
Belgian summers also happen to be the much-anticipated time for the famous Tomorrowland festival, held in July in Boom park, for all the youngsters craving an epic rave.
Quick Tip: Belgium’s primary languages are Dutch and French, and have their own regions: the Flemish Region (Flanders) is Dutch, and the Walloon Region (Wallonia) is French. Do not speak French in Flanders or Dutch in Wallonia as language is still a sensitive topic in Belgium. The Brussels-Capital Region, however, is permissibly bilingual.
Belgium in the Spring
It is easily assumed that summer is where Belgium shines brightest, but not many know that Belgian springs can be just as enchanting. Neither too cold nor too warm with crowds that are not too overbearing, you might just find that Belgian springtime is exactly what you are looking for.
In April and May most attractions start opening their doors in anticipation of the tourist season and burgeoning summer. Not only are the conditions perfect for exploring the country’s many cities and towns, it is also the perfect time to explore the blooming expanse of the Ardennes uplands.
Here, you can find numerous opportunities to cycle, hike, or even canoe in the canals. Or, for the retrophiliacs, try exploring some of the castles and forts scattered throughout the forested hills. There are villages in the area that offer affordable accommodation to pair with the priceless views and atmosphere of the region.
However, there is no guarantee that these prices will stay affordable as the year inches towards summer. Your best bet for an affordable, relatively empty Belgium is in March. Regardless of which spring month calls to you, remember to pack light in anticipation of sunny weather.
Warning: It is wise to be cautious in the crowds that fill the streets during the holiday season. Pick-pocketers are drawn to tourist crowds and busy areas like public transportation.
Belgium in the Fall
Like spring, Belgian falls are comfortable and lively despite the cooling weather. As the rainy season starts to roll in, tourists from the summer start to vacate the country, which significantly reduces the hustle and bustle of the season.
The months of September, October, and November are ideal for those who wish to take in the best of Belgium at their own pace. Not only are the busier cities of Antwerp, Brussels, and Bruges emptier, the locals are also more welcoming towards visitors during this season.
You will also have a better chance at scoring accommodation and tours at reduced prices. This may be your best chance at securing a day trip from Amsterdam to Bruges without intense competition for spots.
Quick Tip: Do not forget to pack an umbrella or raincoat when traveling in the fall. While the downpour is not too frequent, you should expect a handful of rainy days during your stay. You should also pack at least one item of rainwear for any Belgian season, just so that you’re not caught off-guard.
Belgium in the Winter
This time in Belgium is when the wet season is at its fiercest. Even though the temperatures are not freezing, your stay could get quite uncomfortable without proper protection against the elements.
The trade-off is that the country is relatively tourist-free, with many of the major attractions being closed for the season. Accommodation and travel should be cheaper, although shop prices will rise during Belgium’s winter months as the country prepares for Christmas.
Belgium in November is when the off-season begins, but from December all the way to February the country is alive with festive celebrations. On 6 December is Saint Nicholas Day, which celebrates the folklore of Saint Nic or Sinterklass, an early Christmas for Belgian children.
There is also the Carnival of Binche, which is held from the Sunday to the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. The quaint town of Binche comes alive with masquerades and music, which culminates in a spectacular costumed parade on Shrove Tuesday.
Quick Tip: Belgium is historically Roman Catholic, although many citizens are not religious today. Catholic identity forms as much a part of Belgian culture as their folklore, and both should be respected in all of their various forms when vacationing in Belgium.
Bonus Tip: For those with a sailor’s thirst, Belgium specializes in many kinds of beers for any kind of palate. For Christmas, breweries serve a specialized, high-density beer called Stille Nacht (Silent Night) to really get the festive season going. It also makes for a perfect souvenir or Christmas gift.
Finals Thoughts: Best Time to Go To Belgium
There are a multitude of exciting activities to do and places to see, and their beauty does not fade but rather transforms with the seasons. It simply depends on what kind of beauty you would prefer for your trip to Belgium.
No matter what season you find yourself in and no matter what city in Belgium, you will find that somehow, you will always want more time there.