As the mornings are slowly getting lighter, prizing myself out from underneath my oh-so cosy duvet is gradually becoming less painful. Thankfully I have a lot of things to look forward to in March, including a mini-cruise to Amsterdam with my friends as well as a weekend at the very swanky Randolf Hotel in Oxford to celebrate my Mum’s birthday. It has also only recently occurred to me that with Easter comes a heavenly 4 day weekend thanks to the two bank holidays that are generously plonked either side of the weekend (if this is news to you, then please feel free to take a moment to rejoice). The prospect of this 4 day weekend got me rather excited, and as a travel fanatic it got me thinking about where I could best spend my 4 days of freedom…
The Eurostar is often my transport of choice when it comes to making a quick getaway, with its high-speed rail link that can whizz you over to the continent in just 1hr 30 mins. It cuts valuable travelling time that is so often eaten up by lengthy airport check ins and frequent flight delays. But I think it’s a travesty how many Brits only think as far as Paris in terms of using the Eurostar. The Eurostar from London St Pancras International actually runs to 14 destinations in Europe, many of which are in Belgium. In fact, you can reach Brussels in just 2 hours! So here’s a run down of my 3 favourite Belgian cities to help you plan your perfect Eurostar Easter Getaway.
Destination 1 – Brussels
Being the Belgian capital, it would be rude not to mention Brussels first. If you like the sound of quaint cafés, stunning architecture, cobblestone squares, incredible European cuisine and the world’s finest chocolates, you could be onto a winner here. Various Eurostar and hotel packages to Brussels provide a convenient and great value way of enjoying this beautiful and seriously underrated capital. The city is both multicultural and multilingual, with 3 official languages (French, Dutch & German) spoken across the whole of Belgium. And if your French only stretches as far as un croissant, fear not, English is widely spoken by most Belgians too.
As well as encompassing that laid back, European street-café vibe that us Brits go ga-ga for, Brussels also has a rich collection of attractions and museums for you to sink your teeth into. High-brow culture vultures should head to Bozar, Brussels’ centre of cultural and artistic life, and wander through the astonishing mammal gallery at The Natural Sciences Museum. If you’re after something a little more light-hearted or have the kids in tow, head to Mini Europe, a funpark packed with mini replicas of Europe’s greatest landmarks. Brussels is also a city of romance, with its candlelit evening river cruises, quirky restaurants and eclectic collection of buildings of Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque architecture.
Destination 2 – Antwerp
For many, getting away means escaping the crowds and finding somewhere with an ultimate laid-back atmosphere. If you don’t fancy hitting a capital, the medieval Belgian town of Antwerp is a fabulous option. In just 4 hours, you can arrive in Antwerp via Eurostar and begin to discover this historical and vibrant town.
The beauty of Antwerp is that there are so many ways to explore it. Hire a couple of bikes and spend the day weaving through its picturesque streets, take a boat trip around the port or simply get lost exploring the town on foot. Attractions are available in abundance including the Antwerp Underground Vaults, Antwerp Zoo (one of the oldest and best known zoos in Europe) and Aquatopia (Belgium’s answer The Sea Life Centre – with a much more elegant name).
The town is also a foodie heaven; with culinary walks, buzzing food markets, rustic artisan coffee shops, wine tastings and of course, endless eateries serving the famous Belgian waffle (For listings check out the Taste Guide Antwerp).
Destination 3 – Ostend
Seeing as the words Belgium and beach are rarely associated with one another, you may be surprised to hear that my final Belgian Eurostar destination boasts 5, yes 5, fine beaches. Ostend, literally translating as ‘East End’, is based on the Flemish coast of Belgium and 17km from Bruges. Whilst I admit that ‘dipping your toes in the North Sea’ may not sound quite as tempting as ‘diving into the Mediterranean sea’, Ostend’s idyllic sandy beaches and Royal promenade provide the perfect setting for a relaxing coastal break.
The promenade is lined with gorgeous seaside villas and hotels and stretches over 9km along Ostend’s bracing beach front. Although its main attraction is of course, its lovely beaches, Ostend is known as ‘the city by the sea’ and is home to museums, galleries and boutique shops. The harbour is bustling with yachts, fishing boats and charming seafood restaurants and provides the perfect place to savour an al-fresco dining experience.
With an easy journey time of just 4 hours from London St Pancras International, Eurostar and Hotel packages to Ostend are becoming increasingly popular and provide an exciting and alternative option for a short Easter break.
Are you planning to go on an Easter break? Let us know about it!