Solo Female Travel

Discussion in 'Belgium' started by SoCaliC8, Mar 22, 2016.

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  1. SoCaliC8

    SoCaliC8 Initiate (0) Jan 28, 2010 Idaho

    So...finally planning my dream solo beercation. Planning on flying to Brussels April of 2017.

    Some ?'s for those of you who have done this previously:

    As a 35 single, American female, will I be okay? I don't speak any foreign languages (except some horrible Spanglish), I've heard most places have people who speak English.

    I want to go to Westy, but is a trip there really worth it, or could I drink most of their offerings in Brussels?

    Besides Brussels, is there another city in the region that is worth checking out? Ghent? Brugges? A short train ride, etc?

    I won't be renting a car, so driving to out of the way breweries aren't really an option or would I be smart to go on one of those Belgian beer bus tours, but I know the European travel network is amazing.
  2. Hayley_86

    Hayley_86 Initiate (0) Jan 1, 2014 Netherlands

    I can't give you all the best tips but on a day like today let me tell you, yes it is safe. Things can happen anywhere but in general Belgium is one of the safer countries in Europe and with that in the world. So don't be afraid.

    Don't worry about languages, you will get around just fine speaking English. It will be slightly easier in the flemish part of belgium but also in the wallon part enough people would speak english.

    Brussels is a nice place to visit but besides beers not my favourite place in Belgium. I really enjoyed Antwerp. But very high on my wishlist is Brugges. From all I've heard it's beautiful. Getting to Antwerp from Brussel by train is easy.

    I think enough Belgian BA's here can help you with other good tips.

    If you happen to travel a bit north up to Holland I can give you more advice on where to visit here.
    SoCaliC8 and Pacioli1445 like this.
  3. Bierman9

    Bierman9 Poo-Bah (5,150) Dec 20, 2001 New Hampshire
    Society Trader

    I'm not hot on Brussels, but Antwerp and Brugges? By all means!!! Highly recommended....

  4. SoCaliC8

    SoCaliC8 Initiate (0) Jan 28, 2010 Idaho

    Brussels is just a lot easier to fly into.....and Cantillon :slight_smile:
  5. Albin

    Albin Initiate (0) Aug 18, 2013 Sweden

    Belgium is a small country and the railroad is very well planned. So it's very easy to get to antwerp, ghent and brugge. All within 1 hour from Brussels. So even if you stay i Brussels you can make day trips to the other cities. Wesvleteren is available in some of the bottle shops in brussels but you may have to pay 10-15€ per bottle.
  6. reprob8

    reprob8 Initiate (0) May 22, 2008 England

    Ghent, Brugge and Antwerp are all worth heading to. You will have no problems with language, or being a single female traveling alone. Oh, and nobody will understand you if you ask for a Westy.
  7. Ruds

    Ruds Initiate (0) Sep 15, 2008 England

    I would recommend booking a transfer flight to Westy regional airport if you can.

    Should save time on transferring in Brussels for the Westy Express !
  8. Euroglot

    Euroglot Disciple (325) Dec 16, 2015 Belgium

    As a Belgian I can assure you that Belgium is a safe place (yesterday was a giant and devestating exception). Most of the people in Flanders (Gent, Brugge, Antwerpen, ...) and Brussels speak English. So you don't have to worry for language issues.

    Gent, Brugge and Antwerpen are very pretty, historical cities and you have a lot of beerdestinations (shops, bars, breweries) in those cities. If you want to go to Westvleteren you need to have a car (rental, taxi or BA's). You can't visit the abbey, but you can drink all three Westvleteren in 'In De Vrede'. They also sell sixpacks there (which beer depends on the stock they have). From Brugge it is more or less 35 a 35 min drive, from Gent longer. I don't know if you have that time in your schedule. You can drink (or buy) Westvleteren in a couple of bars/shops in Gent, Brugge and Antwerpen but you will pay around 10 or 12 euros for one.

    If you need any advice or extra help, just let me (or other Belgian BA's) know, we will be happy to help.
  9. ventura78

    ventura78 Initiate (0) Nov 22, 2003 Massachusetts

    I'll be leaving there about the same time you are arriving next year. It will be my 15th visit. I think you would enjoy basing yourself in Brugge. From the airport take the train in the lower level to Brussels, about a 20 minute ride. The train stops at 3 stations there, Nord first, then Centraal , then Midi. Get off at Nord and onto a Train to brugge, a 58 min ride.

    From there you can take day trips to Gent, Antwerpen and Brussels. You can buy westvleteren at Cambrinus in brugge, its a nice bar/restaurant. Right near there is Rose Red café , a great place for a beer and it's a hotel too.

    Enjoy your trip!
  10. Bierman9

    Bierman9 Poo-Bah (5,150) Dec 20, 2001 New Hampshire
    Society Trader

    No probs with the flight to BRU.... As others have said, train travel is super, and quick. I have even visited Brugges from Maastricht easily in a day.... I go almost everywhere by train.... Considering my intake :grimacing:, it's loads safer than driving!

    biermark likes this.
  11. djhowell

    djhowell Disciple (332) Apr 1, 2009 Wisconsin

    You'll get by just fine with just a few phrases of French. We enjoyed Brussels as a home base for train trips around the country. It's very easy to get around by train, the country is not very big (this is a neat tool to demonstrate that).

    I highly recommend buying a SIM card at the airport so you're on a local carrier for your stay. If your phone is from Verizon it is SIM-unlocked already, other carriers you may need to call to ask.
  12. Sparty93

    Sparty93 Initiate (0) Aug 29, 2013 Michigan

    I did a solo visit a couple of years ago on the tail end of a business trip. From Brussels, I drove to Westvleteren, then tried to get in to de Struisse, de Dolle, and St. Bernardus. They're all in neighboring towns, but everybody other than Westy has really limited hours (one or two days a week, only weekends, whatnot). You can do Westy in a couple hours - no real reason to stay there unless you intend to go to the other breweries, or you're into history and hit up the WWI battle sites. Spend a few days in Bruges. Tons of really great cathedrals, canals, museums, and of course beer. Just a wonderful town to wank around. You'll figure out most of the major spots, but I'll recommend a little pub called t'poatersgat (spelling?). I know it's listed here in the website's "places" section for Bruges. Not the best rated place, but it's in the basement of an old church and has a ton of personality. Ghent is an easy day trip from Bruges and definitely worth it.

    I'll be heading back to Belgium next month. Since I've done the northern portion, I'm heading south from Brussels this time. The southern portion is more scenic with river valleys and forests. I haven't figured out an exact plan yet, but the cities of Namur and Dinant, hiking some castle ruins, Orval, and the fortress of Bouillion. Maybe Bastogne. Yes, I'm a history as well as beer nerd.

    Question for the Belgian locals: is the Chateau Miranda still standing? Can it be visited (just walking around the outside)?
  13. Bierman9

    Bierman9 Poo-Bah (5,150) Dec 20, 2001 New Hampshire
    Society Trader

    I did some WWII touring in conjunction with bier-hunting a couple of times recently.... Have hit Bastogne twice. One day-trip from my base in Liege - train then bus to Bastogne. There I rented a bicycle and rode all around... Bois Jacques, Bizory, Foy, Rechamps, Houffalize.... what a day! Second visit I rented a car from Maastricht and drove around the area, then hit Malmedy on the return. Great times!

    SoCaliC8 likes this.
  14. SoCaliC8

    SoCaliC8 Initiate (0) Jan 28, 2010 Idaho

    It's still a work in progress, but I appreciate the amazing advice and tips!!
  15. atomeyes

    atomeyes Initiate (0) Jul 13, 2011 Canada (ON)

    as said in multiple other threads, you're really missing out by not checking out De Struise and De Dolle on a Saturday (and Sunday, if you have time). Westvleteren's a 10 min drive from de Struise. plan to stay overnight because you will get plenty drunk.

    is it safe? 100%. Brussels would be the least "safe" city, but it's more of a party city. More drunk people on the streets, including teenagers. but i don't see it being an issue.

    the one thing you should be aware of - and this is not meant as an insult to my Belgian friends - is Belgians are much less politically correct than we North Americans are. it's not as gropy or cat-cally as Italy, but jokes and comments that are considered offside in North America are totally fine in Belgium. you'll only hear them if people are comfortable with you, so it probably doesn't apply. coming from California? it will probably be zero issue. coming from the deep south? you may be taken aback.
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  16. Jwale73

    Jwale73 Poo-Bah (4,777) Aug 15, 2007 Rhode Island
    Society Trader

    How long will you be there? Brugge is a very easy city on foot and you can easily occupy yourself for three-four days.
  17. ventura78

    ventura78 Initiate (0) Nov 22, 2003 Massachusetts

    The Medieval ambiance of that city is always a draw for me
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  18. atomeyes

    atomeyes Initiate (0) Jul 13, 2011 Canada (ON)

    i'd suggest 2 days.
    food is overpriced and not great. there are a few very good bars there. and it's a good roaming city, but not enough for one to do for more than 2 days, in my opinion.
    it is a very lovely city.
  19. einhorn

    einhorn Aspirant (297) Nov 3, 2005 California

    Well, if you're doing a beercation, you really need to look into neighboring countries, all easily accessible with train and special "all inclusive" passes. So many options, so much to see. My advice is to take as much time as possible to travel and experience Europe and the side places, whether it's beer-related or not.
  20. jesus_man

    jesus_man Initiate (0) May 8, 2015 North Dakota

    We've been to Brugge twice and it's a great city. We've always had kids in tow so our touring is slow, but I do believe a solid 2 days there is plenty. Brussels is about the same. Have not toured Ghent or Antwerp.

    In Brugge - do book a tour at the De Halv Maan brewery. Quite entertaining and make sure you get yourself a Straffe Hendrik Quad to try.

    Westvleteren is a unique experience, but unless you have an appointment to buy your two cases, In De Vrede isn't anything special. Beers there are around 5 EUR and you can usually buy a 6'er or two at ~21EUR ea. But the money and time you spend getting there probably isn't worth it. Just get yourself one of each at a local bottle shop. Actually, I'd skip the Blonde and just go with the 8 and 12

    As mentioned earlier - asking someone if they speak English in their native language goes a long way, even if it's horribly done. Youtube can probably help you with pronunciations. If you can get French and Flemish down, you should be good.

    We've been to Bastogne quite a few times and the history there is amazing! I could recommend some things to do there if you decide you want to venture that far south.

    Maybe see if you can find a beer fest to attend!

    As to safety, just be aware of your surroundings, especially at busy public places, and be sure someone knows where you are at any given time. I would also recommend getting yourself a SIM so you have communication.

    Lastly - don't plan to do it all. Leave some things to come back to as I can almost guarantee if you're coming for beer, you'll want to come back!
  21. Maakun

    Maakun Initiate (0) Oct 12, 2012 Netherlands

    No it's not fine. I don't think it has much to do with political correctness 9whatever that is) but with old males being sexist idiots. I think it's way less common with younger people though, which is great.
  22. SoCaliC8

    SoCaliC8 Initiate (0) Jan 28, 2010 Idaho

    My goal is to go for 8-10 days; stay in Brussels 3-4; Antwerp, Ghent & Brugge all 2 days/nights each.
  23. drtth

    drtth Initiate (0) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    If what you want mostly is to sample the three Westvleteren beers, they seem to be in stock fairly regularly here:

    This place is easily found near The Grand Place and has a very nice range of other Belgian beers on offer. During one two week visit it was the only place I needed to stock up on things not tried before, pricey (not surprising that close to a major tourist attraction) but convenient.

    Another place quite convenient to the center is here:

    and their range of offerings included some things not found in the Biertempel, but I don't think they sell the Westvleteren beers.
    SoCaliC8 likes this.
  24. Stevenwings

    Stevenwings Initiate (81) Jan 15, 2014 Belgium

    Maybe try to fit in Zythos and Leuven innovation beerfestival if your coming in april/may
  25. jesus_man

    jesus_man Initiate (0) May 8, 2015 North Dakota

    Just off the Grand Place in Brussels is a Carrefour Express (Rue au Beurre 27, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium). Their selection is limited and only for more common beers, but that's not to say they aren't good. But perhaps check there before you go to any bottle shops as the price will be around 33% cheaper there.
  26. Jwale73

    Jwale73 Poo-Bah (4,777) Aug 15, 2007 Rhode Island
    Society Trader

    We did a lot of the tourist things - Canal tour, churches, climbed the tour, torture museum. I loved going to the Little Beer, Cafe Rose Red, Le Trappisete and De Garre. The Duvelorium was even cool - great view of the square. Just a great walking city.
  27. lwhcchh

    lwhcchh Initiate (0) Aug 31, 2010 Oklahoma

    SoCaliC8, you may want to check out BelgianBeerMe! beer tours. A great website. They have had single women in their tour groups before and it would be a great way to introduce yourself to Belgium, its history, and beer culture. They have several different tours and one that will probably be just what you want. Specific questions, message me. Cheers!
  28. atomeyes

    atomeyes Initiate (0) Jul 13, 2011 Canada (ON)

    ghent and bruges are kind of one and the same. kind of.
    i suggest you choose one (bruges, perhaps) and take the train to ghent for the day. i wouldn't pick up and move to ghent.
    ghent has few good beer bars compared to the other cities.
    also 3-4 days in Brussels = a lot.
  29. Sparty93

    Sparty93 Initiate (0) Aug 29, 2013 Michigan

    Agree. I've always found that after I've seen the sights, pretty much all large cities start to feel the same to me.
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  30. StoutSnob40

    StoutSnob40 Poo-Bah (2,701) Jan 4, 2013 California
    Society Trader

    Fly into Brussels.. Train to Bruges.. That should be your central location.
    Train to Poperinge.. Rent bike.. Ride to In de Vrede..
    Then just spend the rest of your trip at De Garre drinking the house Tripel and eating your weight in cheese.
    #30 StoutSnob40, Mar 26, 2016
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2016
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  31. atomeyes

    atomeyes Initiate (0) Jul 13, 2011 Canada (ON)

    this pretty much goes down as one of the worst suggestions in the thread.

    De Garre is what it is. It's beer made by a major brewery that is tasty, but hey, 1, maybe 2 glasses of the tripel and you're done. 1 hr in de Garre is all one needs. eating the cheese? it isn't even great cheese. Bruges is known for their cheese (as is Damme), so if you can find a fromaggerie in Bruges, then buy your cheese there. not at De Garre.

    Riding to In De Vrede? sure. if you have time. it's neat. but it's probably the least important and exciting thing i'd do on my Belgium itinerary. mmm, drinking overrated and much-too-young Trappist beer....mmmmm....eating the gross cafeteria food...mmmm....

    and missing out on Brussels? And Antwerp? and Oostvleteren/Diksmuide? you mad?
  32. StoutSnob40

    StoutSnob40 Poo-Bah (2,701) Jan 4, 2013 California
    Society Trader

    Sweet! Does the worst suggestion get like, some more Beer Karma points or something? Not everyday someone gets that distinction.
  33. atomeyes

    atomeyes Initiate (0) Jul 13, 2011 Canada (ON)

    just unlimited eyerolls
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  34. StoutSnob40

    StoutSnob40 Poo-Bah (2,701) Jan 4, 2013 California
    Society Trader

    Like that?
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  35. tduecen

    tduecen Initiate (0) May 6, 2014 Louisiana

    Did Brussels this past summer, the language was never a problem as everywhere spoke English.
    I was able to try almost everything and I bought plenty to bring back to the states. I visited Ghent, Antwerp, Brugge, Liege, and Namur and had a blast. Went to a couple of breweries but mostly just stuck to drinking in the City and around the towns we visited. You can take a train (or bus) to every where. I did rent a car so I only took a train once just to see more of the countryside. Everyone I met was extremely friendly and helpful so that made it a positive experience.

    I was able to buy and drink Westy 12 and 8 many places. I visited Delirium (they have a lot but you need to check out the main one,) Moeder Lambic, Cantillion, A La Mort Subite, Bier Circus (bought a 2009 Fou Foune from the vintage list,) A La Becasse (great little bar,) Monk, The Old Oak, Le Corbeau and others
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  36. slaneja

    slaneja Initiate (0) Mar 26, 2010 Indiana

    To echo what atomeyes said above, 3-4 days in brussel alone is too much. If you do stay that long and are there on a saturday, at least take a short train ride over to leuven, rent a bike and go to Hof Ten Dormaal in Tildonk. One of the better brewery visit experiences in Belgium (along with De Struise).
  37. tduecen

    tduecen Initiate (0) May 6, 2014 Louisiana

    Also I did 10 days in Belgium, I spent most of my time in the city and found stuff to do each and every day. From going to look at the churches, to the parks, to the atorium, to drinking, etc.... Unless you want to see just the "highlights" of the city you can find stuff to do for awhile. Cartoon museum, city center, chocolate tour, beer tour, palace, etc
  38. ventura78

    ventura78 Initiate (0) Nov 22, 2003 Massachusetts

    De Garre is a great visit, I could go there every day for several hours. Vino Vino on Grauwwerkersstraat is also a good place to have a few. I could spend two weeks in Brugge and feel that it wasn't long enough.
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  39. tduecen

    tduecen Initiate (0) May 6, 2014 Louisiana

    Thinking about heading back as I can get round trip tickets for 900 right now for June
  40. FrenchBeerGeek

    FrenchBeerGeek Initiate (82) Dec 23, 2014 France

    I'm the founder of the biggest french beer geek community, don't hesitate to PM me if you are looking for advices or anything in Paris
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