I’m very pleased to have Katie from Haute Apple Pie as a guest blogger today! Read about her recent beer-lover’s trip to Europe and perhaps pick up a few ideas for your next overseas trip. Thanks again, Katie, for the great tips, tricks and inspiration!

Pleased to meet you and welcome to my beer-cation!  Actually it was much more than that, but it was our serious love of beer that drew my husband Bill and I to our recent Benelux (BE-lgium-NE-therlands-LUX-embourg) adventure.   If you’re a beer aficionado yourself, or just looking to move beyond Europe’s typical destinations, a Belgian vacation is worth putting on your list.

The Course: Amsterdam > Antwerp > Bruges > Brussels > Rochefort > Luxembourg City > Antwerp > Amsterdam

By plane, by train, by car, by foot…we practically did it all to hit up six cities on our route.  Flying in and out of Amsterdam is typically the most economical and from there trains run multiple times a day to Antwerp, Belgium.  Within Belgium you can take trains to major cities, but renting a car will give you flexibility to see more.   The highways are easy to navigate and since Belgium is small, nothing is very far away.  Beware though, Belgians have lead feet so drive fast or move over!

If you choose to drive, be sure to reserve a GPS with your car in advance.  We forgot and were living in map-ville, which proved tricky in the cities with street names that switch from Flemish to French by the block.

The Breweries, The Beers:

It wouldn’t be a beer-cation without visits to breweries! There is so much great beer in Belgium that you’ll be sick of it by the time you leave…almost.  Not all breweries offer tours (especially the six Trappist monasteries) but we managed to hit four diverse tours and one non-touring abbey.

Benelux Vacation from Haute Apple Pie

Heineken, Amsterdam – the glitzy “experience” tour

Halve Maan, Bruges – the local brewery with a fab view

Cantillon, Brussels- the self-guided tour of gueze, the original way beer was made

Achouffe, Achouffe- the hilarious, non-English speaking tour in the middle of nowhere. Bonus: the gnomes!

Abbey St Remy, Rochefort

Two of the best beer bars are also located in Bruges – Café ‘t Brugs Beertje and Cambrinuswhich carry huge menus of hard to find beers like Holy Grail of Belgian Trappists, Westvleteren.

We found it most fun to drink whatever beers were local to the area we were in at the time.  If you’re really a beer nerd like us, you’ll bring along Michael Jackson’s Great Beers of Belgium book to seek out your faves and track them down again at home.

The Breakdown:

Amsterdam:

Benelux Vacation Amsterdam

Lodging: Amsterdam is very walkable, so as long as your hotel is somewhere in the main canal districts or the Jordaan you can get pretty much anywhere you wish….just bring a comfy pair of shoes!

See & Do: Stroll along the three main canals, the city centre and the artsy Jordaan neighborhood.  We spent at least half our time just strolling, admiring and occasionally plopping down for a beer outside.  For culture buffs, the Anne Frank House is worth a visit as are the multitude of history and art museums around Museumplein, including the lovely Van Gogh Museum.  And of course if you’re into more hedonistic delights, Amsterdam is full of them.

Belgium:

Benelux Vacation Belgium

Lodging Faves: Belgium has a bounty of charming B&Bs with friendly hosts.  My personal fave was Charming Brugge, which had impeccably decorated rooms and excellent hosts.  I found them, along with many other good looking picks on Trip Advisor.

See & Do:

I preferred picturesque Bruges and lively Antwerp to the grittier, metropolitan Brussels.  All three have a great deal of walkable sight-seeing, however. If you go south, there are fewer sights to see so check out the caves at Han-sur-Lesse and the Bastogne memorial.  Rent bikes for a day to really feel like a local.

As you’re wandering, be sure to try some waffles and frites of course.  Belgium makes wonderful cheeses and chocolates as well. Look for stores or stands on side streets off the main tourist traps for the most authentic food.

Luxembourg City:

Benelux Vacation Luxembourg City

We were advised to only spend one night in LC and wisely so.  While it’s posh and clean, LC is not that big and you can see easily see the sites in a day.  Stay longer if you’re a lover of high-end shopping or if you’re an investment banker type.

See & Do: Stroll around the city’s walled walkways and admire the stunning (and steep) views along La Chemin de la Corniche.  The fortressed city is set amidst steep and lush forests, making it easy to imagine that you’re in your own long-lost fairytale.

Thanks so much to Colleen for letting me share my trip with you!  If you can’t get enough of the Benelux fun, you can also check out my Belgian beer infused dessert or my euro-décor inspirations over at Haute Apple Pie.

Prost!

Katie