On my recent trip, I got to check out a few Belgian small towns that aren’t necessarily at the top of everyone’s Belgium bucket list. It was fun to see some areas that showed me what life is like in a tiny Belgian town. I love to travel, but sometimes rather than seeing the top tourist destinations, I like to experience normal life. Maybe it’s a little strange, but I enjoy walking into a grocery store or observing a local neighborhood. I always picture what my life would be like if I lived there. I’ve written a little about each city and included my must-see places & restaurants.
Out of these three towns, you may have heard of Dinant. I found it on a few “Most Beautiful Destinations in Belgium” lists. It’s not too far outside of Brussels, so it’s perfect for a day trip. And I would recommend just doing a day trip there. While I fully enjoyed the gorgeous view of Dinant, from what I observed there isn’t too much to do in the city apart from the main tourist attractions.
The church in the photo is the Collegiate Church of Notre Dame de Dinant, which dates back to 1277. The inside is beautiful and worth a look. The Citadel of Dinant, located at the top of the hill, is also available for touring. I sadly made it there after it closed. I will be honest and say that I only spent about two hours in Dinant. Totally worth it for the view, but not a lot of options in terms of restaurants or shopping.
Genval is also fairly close to Brussels. The main thing to see is Lake Genval, which is surrounded by a running/walking trail. There were a lot of people out enjoying the lake while I was there, although the weather was pretty chilly. The area surrounding the lake is filled with turn-of-the-century homes from the Belle Époque. They are absolutely gorgeous, I couldn’t get enough of the unique structures.
I found myself in Louvain-la-Neuve because I was spending the week with my parents, who were there for business. It is an unusual city, because it was created and built in the 1960s to establish a campus for the Université Catholique de Louvain. Originally, the university was part of the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, but they split due to linguistic reasons. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but there are actually a lot of hidden gems in the city.
One of my favorite restaurants was The Butcher. It had delicious food, a great vibe, and eye-catching branding. If you like Trader Joe’s cookie butter, then you will definitely want to try The Butcher’s tiramisu au spéculoos.
My other favorite place was a micro-brewery called Le Brasse-Temps. They brew four of their own beers and also serve other Dubuisson beers. You can get various tasting flights for a very reasonable price. I loved the Peche Mel Bush beer (and really just all of the beers in general).