Are you looking for a quick hop across the channel or somewhere to spend the last day or so after a fab tour of Europe in the camper?
Belgium is so close to Calais, so if you’re short on time it’s an easy distance for a quick tour in the campervan. Bruges is only 70 miles along the motorway, meaning you can be off the Ferry and in this brilliant little city in under 1hour 30 minutes!
We love Belgium in general, it’s immensely underrated as a travel destination by us British but it’s such a great country to explore by motorhome. It’s totally campervan friendly, with plenty of Aires and lots of great archietcture, incredible war time history and a really upbeat, modern vibe.
It’s also got a brilliant infrastructure with marked cycle paths everywhere as well as a great mix of walking trails.
Here’s our list of the top places to visit in a motorhome or campervan in Belgium:
With a brilliant Motorhome Aire within just a few minutes walk to the centre of Bruges, you can’t find much better for a city stop in all of Europe. Not only is Bruges UNESCO World Heritage status, a statement in itself, but it’s also one of those cities that somehow just gets under your skin!
No matter how many times we Visit Bruges, we can’t help wanting to go back for more! It’s such a great little city, easy to navigate, full of charm, character and always brimming with atmosphere.
Cobbled streets, horse-drawn carriage rides and quirky little parks all add to the ambiance. The buildings ooze character with ornate facades edging onto the waters of the intricate canal network, where boat rides channel tourists through the maize of narrow waterways.
There’s everything to keep you entertained….from the cheeky shop window chocolate displays (yes naughty shaped chocolate is a speciality in Bruges!) to people watching, over a local beer in one of the many pavement bars or restaurants.
There are markets, fabulous squares, museums, cycle paths everywhere and if you follow the outer rim of the centre on foot or by bike, you’ll come across a selection of windmills that line the old ramparts to the city.
Bruges is just so pretty and changes with the Seasons, to make it an all year round destination.
It’s beautiful in Spring when daffodils are in abundance across the lawns.
Summer brings the mass tourists but infectious atmosphere, with queues for boat rides and full to bursting restaurants.
Autumn is quieter but the changing colours of the trees and falling leaves bring an extra special beauty to the parks and gardens.
Winter is just delightful, it can be freezing, so much so that the canals freeze over, bringing another dimension to this mesmerising city.
Larger than Bruges, Ghent doesn’t have the same intimacy but it’s a charismatic city, all the same.
What we love about Ghent is it’s modern approach mixing with its cultural charms. There’s the beauty of the canals mixed with the historical architecture, intricate carvings on the buildings where street lined cafe’s thrive.
There’s more UNESCO here too, it’s Creative City of Music status, is one of only 4 cities to have achieved this. It mixes the arts with a shopping scene to attract the more individual, creative types. There are really great food shops, flea markets and health focused cafe’s, selling the most delicious fresh food, loaded with goodness!
We managed to park on the street, which is perfect for a daytime visit at 6 Euro for the day but our van is sub 6m. For Aires, check out Campercontact App although you may need to stop on the outskirts.
This is one big, busy city! It’s very much a commercial hub with the old historic town the attraction for the tourists. It’s the second biggest city in Belgium and capital of Flanders and has a huge port, it’s bustling with energy at every corner.
There’s the mix of beautiful Flemish architecture, historic squares and hip, modern element. It’s renowned for it’s diamond quarter, the largest in the world, what’s not to love about that?! There’s the unusual elements, such as, walking through the old sewerage system, then the more original attraction of Het Steen, the 11th century castle that dominates the water front.
Overall, the busy market squares, upmarket shops and parks and gardens are an inviting addition and combined make for a great day out.
We parked up for 8.50 Euro, at an Aire on the perimeter of the city, an old campsite, Camperpark Vogelzang
The number 6 Tram from outside the Aire, took us to the city within a few minutes, we also walked the route which took us around 30 minutes.
A lovely small city, close to the coast and ideal for a leisurely stroll through interesting shopping streets which lead through to a lovely square with ornate buildings almost gothic in architecture.
There’s a small marina on the canal and across the road an Aire area for campervans, although spaces are small and it is on the road, it’s still great for parking and exploring the town.
We’ve all heard of Waterloo, even if it is through the Abba song! This town to the South of Brussels was home to one of the most famous battles in history, the Battle of Waterloo. Fought between the great Napolean and Wellington, this bloody battlefield of 1815 is now swathes of green fields and makes for a captivating visit.
Parking for the van is easy with a large parking area, the battlefield itself is on the outskirts of the town. A visitor centre leads you to the main attraction, Lion Mound, a grassy formation with a Lion statue, looking out over the battlefield. Steep steps lead you to the summit, to gain these incredible views under the watch of the Lion.
In Waterloo town, you can visit the old headquarters of Wellington himself, now a museum, it houses lots of artefacts for those battle enthusiasts.
This Flanders town was a significant stopping off post for the British during the First World War. It escaped occupation by the German’s and was known as “Pop” to the British soldiers who were based here, where they set up hospitals and lodgings for use on the way to and from the horrors of the front line.
Today, it’s a busy town with the scars of WWI still cemented in it’s history. It was here in the courtyard to the Town Hall, that executions took place of those so called ‘deserters’ of the war, unbelievable to imagine in our now peaceful lives.
These young men, many suffering from shell shock and savagely damaged by war, were shot at dawn, to be made examples of, for all to see. It’s a heartbreaking and tragic reminder of what these young heroic men went through.
The Poperinge of today is a pleasant town and now it’s known as the hops capital of Belgium, so be sure to grab yourself a beer in one of the many bars!
Parking was easy on our day visit, there are Aires in the vicinity too.
In the heart of WWI historic sights, Ypres is home to the Menin Gate. It’s here that the “Last Post” is sounded by Buglers, all volunteers of the local fire brigade, it’s one of the most emotional and poignant experiences and one that we won’t forget.
Since 1929 at 8pm each night, this commerative ceremony has remembered all those who fell during the first world war, the only time that it hasn’t occurred is during four years of the second world war.
Ypres and its surrounding countryside and townships are full of World War I historic sights. We drove to the battlefields of Hill 60 and 62, a few miles from Ypres, followed by the Hooge Crater Museum.
The Yorkshire trench and dugout in the middle of an industrial estate were found in 1992 and full excavations between 1998 and 2000 revealed the full extent of the British trench and tunnels here. The dig unearthed the remains of 155 soldiers, only one of which was able to be identified, a true testament to the horrors of war.
Essex Farm is not far from here, the cemetery and bunker was the location of a field hospital. It’s here that John McCrae is buried, a surgeon from Canada, he wrote the iconic poem “In Flanders Fields”.
From here we drove the same route that the soldiers had taken to Passchendaele.
There is a campsite just outside the town of Ypres and an Aire a little further out. The CamperContact App has details.
The scale of destruction from the muddy hell of the battle at Passchendaele can be seen at Tyne Cot Cemetery. It holds the graves of 12,000 commonwealth war dead, rows of white graves dominating the landscape. The glistening walls bear the names of 35,000 British men who were never found, only their names remaining, carved into the stone as a memorial and acknowledgment of their sacrifice.
We have visited many historic sights from both WWI and WW2, all are a heroic testament to those that fought but this, being the largest in the world for Commonwealth soldiers.
The area around Passchendaele and all of Flanders is scattered with the remnants of a war which ended 100 years ago, yet where the scars of devastation are still vivid and distinctively real still.
We always say that people should visit these sights, to realise how fortunate we are today and to give thanks to our ancestors who went through the hell of these conflicts, which are beyond our imagination.
There is parking at the Memorial Museum.
The North Sea resorts between De Panne and Zeebrugge are, like many seaside towns, a little bleak in Winter but thriving in Summer. We’ve been in Winter and Spring, so we’ve probably never seen it at its best! The miles of sands and all the fun of the seaside on a warm Summer’s day would be well worth a visit.
One thing’s for sure, this stretch of coastline is surprisingly upmarket with designer stores and affluent restaurants. It’s full of recreational activities too, such as walks among marked trails along the sand dunes and it’s also perfect for getting out the bikes along the miles of Cycle Paths.
A 67km coastal tram links the towns along the coast, making it the longest in the world! So you can even just park up and hop on to save driving.
We managed to park easily off season, in all these coastal towns, for overnight stops check out the Camper Contact App