Where to stay in Belgium
Hotels in Belgium range from luxury 5-star options to privately owned pensions − all of them usually equipped to a high-standard. The narrow medieval street layouts in cities such as Bruges and Ghent have prevented international chain hotels like Radisson and Best Western squeezing in, but they can still be found on the city outskirts. Those in Brussels often offer attractive weekend rates when businesspeople and Eurocrats depart for home. City tax (usually just a euro or so) can be charged as an extra in some establishments.
Grading: The Belgian Tourist Office issues a shield to all approved hotels by which they can be recognised. Hotels which display this sign conform to the official standards set by Belgian law which protects the tourist and guarantees certain standards of quality.
Belgium is particularly strong on quality B&Bs and they offer great value for money. Owners go to a great deal of trouble to make you as welcome as possible from elegant rooms with top-quality fixtures to home-cooked, organic breakfasts. Ghent in particular offers a huge variety. Special rates are often offered to guests staying two or more nights. Local tourist offices can arrange bookings free of charge.
All the main cities have campsites situated on the outskirts of town, with good transport links into the centre. The Ardennes and the coast are particularly popular with campers and booking ahead is advised. Camping out in places other than recognised sites requires permission from the landowner. A list of addresses, rates and other information can be obtained from local tourist offices.
Youth hostels: Belgium has two youth hostel associations: the Vlaamse JeugdHerbergen (www.vjh.be), which operates in Flanders, and the Les Auberges de Jeunesse (LAJ) (www.laj.be), that operates in Wallonia. Outfits in Flanders are very modern; those in Wallonia less so. Almost all include breakfast in their rates. Travellers without a Hostelling International card will have to pay €3 extra on top of the standard bed price in some establishments. Booking in advance is highly recommended, especially during the busy summer festival period and around Christmas.
Aparthotels: A combination of a rental apartment and a hotel: travellers have the independence of a private apartment, but receive hotel perks such as room cleaning and breakfast delivered.
Self catering: There are ample opportunities to rent furnished villas or bungalows for a holiday period, with a particularly wide choice available in the Ardennes and on the coast. Rental prices are determined by the number of bedrooms, the amenities, the location and the season. Properties are classified into five categories according to the standard of comfort they offer.