07/27/2011 10:19 am ET Updated Sep 25, 2011

Backpacking In Belgium

Belgium, specifically the cities of Brussels and Bruges, offers an entirely different backpacking experience than it's more popular neighbors, France and Germany. The people here have an easy-going disposition and the old cities are beautiful. Belgium may play second fiddle, but it plays it quite well.

Food & Drink
Chocolate - Few foods are so universally beloved as chocolate and Belgium - home of chocolatiers Godiva and Neuhaus, among others - is a mecca for fans of finely processed cacao. While one can't expect to stock up in Belgium, as prices can be rather steep, just a taste is enough to appreciate what has become a form of art for many artisans in the past and present.

Waffles - These aren't your mother's waffles (unless mom's Belgian.) Served with an avalanche of sweet, whipped cream and your choice of chocolate and fruit (I, personally, prefer the full monty.), these waffles comprise an entire category of deserts unto themselves.

Quick - Yes, yes, this is a fast-food establishment. That being said, Quick is of particular interest because - in Belgium - it outnumbers even McDonald's, a rare feat that Belgians appear rather proud of. Try the "Giant" burger, which is completely reasonably sized by American standards.

The Cities
Bruges - Bruges is a sleepy town near the Belgian coast, about an hour's drive west of the capital and is certainly worth a visit. Wandering the narrow streets is more than enough to keep any visitor occupied for a night but beware, being a relatively small town, most shops and pubs close early. If you're so inclined, find a bar that suits your interests and sit down to a glass of fine Belgian White.

Brussels - When stepping out of the main train station -- Midi -- you may be surprised at the appearance of Belgium's capital city. Initially, it doesn't appear to be one of the most important political centers in all of Europe (as the capital of the European Union), but a five minute walk all but avails any misconceptions about the city. Buildings gilded in gold rise from the city center and Belgium's premier art museum - Beaux Arts - overlooks the entire city, featuring a stunning collection of Magritte. Brussels is the perfect home base of any Belgian trip.

Want more Belgium? Check out Mike Yarbrough's (travel) blog.