Nestled between France, Germany and The Netherlands, Belgium is an incredibly welcoming country, particularly accessible to UK visitors and best explored by in a motorhome. It has designated motorhome and RV parking in most towns and cities. The diesel price is usually 10-15p cheaper per litre than the UK, and although tolls are required for all commercial vehicles over 3,500kg, this doesn’t apply to motorhomes so you can enjoy the road system free of charge.
But there are also many reasons to take off on a road trip through Belgium. If you’re a history buff, this country is for you - it has more castles per m2 than anywhere else in the world (a figure somewhere in the region of 3,000!) and a turbulent history of military occupation and resistance. Many people will know of this small country’s culinary gifts to the world: sugary waffles, crisp fries, well-crafted beers and fine chocolates, to name just a few.
The Belgian Coast and Bruges
The ideal road trip through Belgium begins in the West Flanders province, which is close to France’s northern ferry ports Calais and Dunkirk. On your first day, en route to the first iconic destination, Bruges, make a stop in De Haan for a dip in the North Sea. De Haan is a coastal village with a low skyline and many buildings in the beautiful Belle Epoque style. Tracks run through expansive coastal dunes to a long, sandy beach, which is a great place to stretch your legs or sit and enjoy some quintessential frites from the highly esteemed Frituur Picasso.
Bruges cannot be missed from you Belgium road trip itinerary. It’s one of the few cities in Belgium that have never been destroyed, and you will notice that the minute you step foot into this fairy tale city. It’s a maze of canals, cobbled streets and medieval buildings. Visit the Markt square and just admire the magical architecture around you while you enjoy a Belgian waffle (the first of many)!
On the outskirts of the city is Kalmthoutse Heide, a beautiful nature reserve with enormous ecological and cultural value. It’s very popular for long walks or bike rides. You’ll spot a lot of bird species, find some beautiful views, wildflowers, and more natural dunes and sandy tracks. Enjoy this area on day two, after strolling around Bruges. Whilst enjoying the West Flanders region, stay at the Camping Memling. This site has a quiet woodland location despite its proximity to the Bruges, as well as modern, clean facilities and an indoor swimming pool. There’s a heated wash block with baby changing areas and access for people with reduced mobility, as well as widely accessible WiFi. Caravans and motorhomes pitch up on roomy hardstanding pitches.
Hardstanding motorhome pitches range from €16 to €28,00 depending on the season.
Veltemweg 109 – 8310 Brugge
On day three, the next leg of your Belgium road trip takes you into Ghent, a cultural hub where historic architecture and the modern vibe of a university town collide. Its pedestrianised centre is also known for medieval architecture, such as the 12th-century Gravensteen castle, moated, mysterious, and right in the middle of the city. It was once used as a courthouse, then a prison, and eventually was left in ruins. It has now been restored and you can take a self-guided tour. Other icons in Ghent include, the Graslei, a row of guildhalls beside the Leie river harbour, and the ‘graffiti street.’ It’s popular for big groups to do a bike tour, but you can just hire them and go at your own pace. If you’re visiting in the summer, the Jazz festival puts Ghent on the global music map, with big names like Herbie Hancock, Van Morrison and Sting set to play at the rescheduled 2021 event.
After a day in Ghent, stay at the Blaameersen campsite nearby. This is a perfect stopping place to discover the city for a day, with a short bus departing from the site that goes directly to the city. It has a municipal leisure area adjacent to it, with a swimming lake, waterslide and beach, and fishing area. There’s an adventure park, multisport courts, outdoor fitness area and bike hire, too. The site also offers clean, accessible washroom facilities with plenty of hot water (despite the site’s popularity in peak seasons, especially during the jazz festival). The pitches are in paddocks of ten, so the campsite feels small and convivial for its size. They are shaded and part-shaded and some are hardstanding, mostly within reach of 10A electricity (note that a cable up to 50m may be needed). The site is also dog-friendly with designated walks, has WiFi, allows barbeques, and offers motorhome servicing and ice pack freezing.
A hardstanding pitch for 2 adults with electricity in the high season is €30.90.
Campinglaan 16, 9000 Gent
On day four, head to Antwerp. This is Belgium’s capital of cool, and you ought to spend at least one full day and evening exploring it. Antwerp has the largest storage of coffee beans in the world, and that’s no surprise looking at the sheer volume of high-quality coffee in this port city or awesome cafes to get it from. There’s also an abundance of record stores, independent cinemas and flea markets. To get into the history of the city and of the country, there are plenty of immersive museums as well as monuments and architectural feats, such as medieval Flemish Renaissance of the Grote Markt, and the ultra-modern MAS museum and Port House, an incredible glass structure that sails over a previously disused fire station towards the Scheldt, the river upon which Antwerp was founded.
Whilst iconic cities are unmissable points for your road trip through Belgium, it’s nice to enjoy the open space, fresh air and freedom that road tripping in a motorhome brings. The Camping Houtum is the perfect place to do this. Run by a brother duo, this spot has a wild feel as it is in the Hoge Kempen Nationaal Park, a riverine area of healthland and pine forest which is a popular tourist getaway for nature lovers. Day 5 should be spent exploring the ‘De Kempense Heuvelrug’ hiking network or various junctions of its cycling network. You can also go canoeing on the Nete, a watercourse where no motorized transport is allowed. It is not a wild rippling stream, but a calm river, ideal for a relaxed trip. You can book craft nearby at Kempen Kayaks, or rent a boat for an hour from their neighbour, Netherust. Founded in 1975 and run by a duo of brothers, this is a homely-feeling site with boundless opportunities to stretch your legs, cosy up quietly with a book, or get to know the Kasterlee region of Flanders and its culture.
The site has friendly staff, clean bathroom facilities including baby changing, a double shower and plenty of hot water, WiFi, an onsite shop and bar restaurant, which is well-stocked with plenty of Belgian beers. There are big pitches with electric hook up for campervans, and there’s lots and lots of room to relax.
Standard campervan pitches for up to 6 people are €22 in the low season and €27 in the high season.
Houtum 39, Kasterlee, Antwerp, Belgium 2460
The port city of Antwerp and the Camping Houtum are just a short drive away from Brussels, another one of Belgium’s points of interest. Spend day 6 here, easily the most gorgeous city in Belgium. The Grand Place is a good starting point. There, you’ll be struck by the grandeur of the Brussels City Museum and Town Hall, and just around the corner from Manneken Pis, a beloved statue who is the city’s cheeky little mascot. Another Brussels icon is the Atomium. Built in the 1950’s, it’s a little outside the city centre but is 100m tall, so it’s a great place to see some views of the city. Be sure to head to Mont des Arts for sunset for a mesmerising view of the Town Hall and downtown, and to wander around the historical monuments and buildings of this district.
You’ll find delicious waffles all over the city, with many places offering them via street stalls or independent little coffee houses. For some seriously tasty waffles, head to Maison Dandoy tearoom (who also make the creamiest ice cream and crunchy speculoos), the Waffle Factory (and get overwhelmed by choice of s toppings) and Mokafe (for the best banana and chocolate waffles). For some of the best chocolatiers in Brussels, pop over to Maison Pierre Marcolini, Godiva or Wittamer. And, for all its historical charm, this city has flowing in its veins. You’d do well to stock up on some traditional, tasty brews for the rest of your road trip from Brussels. Or, discover these breweries and much more through the medium of your appetite for either world-famous beer or chocolate on a themed walking tour!
On day 7, head to one of the most amazing sites to see on near Brussels: the enchanting Hallerbos Forest. Also known as the Blue Forest, every year in the spring, from about mid-March to early May, it blooms with a magical carpet of bluebells. Don’t miss Gasbeek either, easily accessible on your road trip from the outer Brussels ring road. It’s a romantic 13th century castle and museum to a huge art collection, a real time capsule!
The best campsite on the city’s green outskirts is the Camping Grimbergen. It’s small and equally charming, offering 80m2 worth of pitches with some hardstanding and 10A electric hook up available. They have WiFi, chemical waste disposal areas and a spacious, modern, heated sanitary facilities with baby changing and accessible washrooms. Whilst hot water is included in the day tariff, their washing machine and dryer are used at an extra fee. You can bus to Brussels from a stop just 200m from the campsite, and buses are every half an hour. If you need a pause from the city, the village is within walking distance and has its own choice of good restaurants. There’s a spa centre about 1km away, called the Thermae Grimbergen and in the campsite reception you’ll find lots of tourist information about walking and biking in the region.
Daily prices are €6.50 per adult, €6.00 for campervans and €9.00 for motorhomes, plus €4 for electricity.
Veldkanstraat 64, 1850 Grimbergen.
Liège and Dinant
On day 8, if you head east out of Brussels on the E40, you’ll soon arrive in Belgium’s second-biggest city, Liège, which found itself first in Germany’s firing line at the beginning of both world wars. Luckily, twenty-five years earlier, Belgium had prepared for a future invasion by constructing 12 concrete forts in a belt around the city. Despite eventually succumbing to Germany’s advanced weapons, the story of Liège is one of courageous resistance. 10 of the forts are open to the public for an above and below ground, immersive historical experience.
After Liège, prepare yourself to be blown away by the city of Dinant, easily one of the most beautiful towns in Belgium. The city centre and the Meuse river running through it is observed proudly by the Citadelle de Dinant, which offers great views if you hike up but looks equally gorgeous from the riverside. Whilst in Dinant, enjoy Furfooz, a nature reserve filled with forests, meadows, and the ruins of Roman fortresses. Within Furfooz is also Château de Walzin, a neo-gothic castle also built atop a cliff, just above the Lesse river. It’s known for its hiking paths, mountain bike trails and kayak trips, so you can turn a visit to Walzin into a day’s adventure. Kayak down the river through the nature park, passing the Aiguilles de Chaleux cliffs. An intermediate mountain bike route that passes the castle, or there’s a hiking route that runs to the nearby Château de Vêves. There’s also an outdoor adventure park located a few kilometres from the castle, and you can swing along a high-ropes course above the Meuse Valley.
Dinant is also the birthplace of Adolphe Sax, who invented the saxophone. His home is now an interactive exhibit on the instrument’s development. It’s the perfect way to break up your road trip from Brussels to the Ardennes, and a must-see.
When you arrive in the Ardennes on day 9, under 40 minutes’ drive from Dinant, pull up at the Campsite Relaxi. Aptly named aside a sleepy river, under a shady wooded bower, this site is a haven for travellers, adventurous or weary as they may be. Various cycle routes start at the site and you can hire mountain bikes there. You can swim or fish in the river, and you don’t always have to cook thanks to the camp’s snack bar, pizzeria and restaurant. It supplies fresh bread, and groceries at the site shop, too, or the village’s amenities are just 1.5km away. WiFi is widely accessible. The washrooms are clean, heated and there are hot water washing up sinks, a communal microwave and barbeque areas. Washers and dryers are available for extra.
Daily prices for motorhomes start at €23.50 in the low season and €29.50 in the high season.
116 Rue de Jemelle, 6953 Forrieres, Belgium.
Mountainbiking in the Ardennes
The Ardennes is a hilly, densely wooded region in the east of Belgium on the German and Luxembourgish border. It’s famed for its authentic villages and as a mountain biking mecca, though there are endless other options for outdoor recreation, for example, the caves like Han Sur Lesse within the wildlife haven Domain Grottes de Han. Don’t miss the spectacular Tombeau du Geant in the Southern Ardennes, right on the French border, too. You can easily continue into the heart of Europe from here in Belgian Luxembourg, or head into France and back to the northern ferry ports via more awesome cultural hubs, like Riems or Paris.
Final tips for your trip
You will require a green card to prove you have motorhome insurance cover when travelling in Europe. Check out the AA’s information about what you need to carry when driving your motorhome or campervan in Belgium specifically. Note that if you want to drive through Antwerp, Brussels or Ghent, there are Low Emissions Zones (LEZ) in certain areas, and you must register for access prior to entering them. Also check out more information about the LEZ. Also, make sure you know the spelling of your destination in both French and Flemish, or you may miss a sign! For example, Antwerp is Anvers in French. Finally, when you are stationary, do not start and leave your engine running, as you can be fined.
Now you have all the information you need to take off on your Belgium road trip at the next possible opportunity! Unless, of course, you want to stay longer in this gorgeous country and get to know it even better. In which case, take a look at the best campsites in Belgium for some more inspiration. Happy travels!