Flag of Flanders

Flanders (Dutch: Vlaanderen) is the Dutch-speaking, northern part of Belgium wedged between the North Sea and the Netherlands in the north and Wallonia and France in the south. This region has an immense historical and cultural wealth made visible through its buildings, works of art and festivals.


Five official regions of Flanders
East Flanders
Flemish Brabant
West Flanders



Nowadays, Flanders is one of the three federal regions of Belgium (the other two being Wallonia and Brussels). This means that it has its own government, a parliament and separate laws. The capital, however, is Brussels, over which Flanders has only partial jurisdiction. But Flanders has travelled a long historic road before arriving at its present situation. Once being its own County of Flanders, the territory has been part of several larger countries or empires. Since Belgium's founding in 1830, tensions between the Flemish and French-speaking population have led to the federalisation of Belgium.

The split between the regions is quite noticeable when travelling via public transport. The bus line operator in Flanders differs from the one in Brussels and Wallonia, resulting in different ticket types and different prices. The train network is a uniform network, however, but the announcements are adapted to the language of the region the train is driving in. Also when travelling by car, you'll see that the traffic signs are translated, so it's better to look up the name of your destination in Dutch and French before you leave.

Get in

By plane

Flanders has several airports:

By boat

There are several ports of entry at the coast and on the Schelde you can find several small ports too.
From English coastal ports such as Dover there are regular ferries to different Oostende and Zeebrugge

By car

The E19 goes through Flanders, also the E40 crosses the region.

By train

Big cities in neighbouring countries such as Paris, Amsterdam and London have connections to bigger cities in Flanders. From there you can change train and reach every city in Flanders.

Other means

By bicycle or on foot. As we are in the European Union there are no borders and you can travel freely. Several places have nature parks and allow you to walk in and out (often following old-smugglers routes).

Get around

By car

All roads are free of charge in Flanders except that some tunnels, such as the Liefkenshoektunnel in Antwerp, have tolls.

The roads and signalisation are pretty good and almost completely lit during the night.

Many foreigners find in-town traffic nervous due to the many twisty, small roads with very busy traffic. Older towns can appear to be a maze of one-way streets, where a single missed turn might takes you to the other side of the town. One-way streets also often change, causing navigation units and paper maps to be outdated very soon (even if you just installed new updates). Often it is better to park your car and continue on foot. Do not forget to look out for bicycles when you're driving in a town, bikes might ride fast and appear from everywhere. Car drivers are also held completely responsible when they are involved in an accident with bikes or pedestrians. The maximum speed in towns is normally 50 km/h, and quite often reduced to 30 km/h. In general, the towns are not large, and most towns have a ring-road, allowing you to drive to the other side without driving through the town.

In-between smaller towns, the road-network consists mostly out of 2-lane roads, where the speed limit changes between 90 km/h (in the fields) and 50 km/h (when you cross a village). The roads are quite straight, the road surface is well-maintained, and the cyclists normally have separated lanes. So outside towns, driving cars is a better option.

The motorway network in Flanders is quite well developed, and connects all bigger cities, and gives good access to the neighbouring countries. But during rush hour (around 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.), there are many traffic jams around Brussels and Antwerp. In the summer, there are also traffic jams on the E40, connecting the coast to the mainland. The maximum speed on motorways is 120 km/h.

By public transport

The national train-company is called NMBS. Trains will get you to most cities.

In cities you will find buses, trams and metro from De Lijn(The Line). The same ticket is valid for 90 minutes for one zone. You can buy multiple-ride tickets (Lijnkaart), this is cheaper than buying a ticket per ride. Depending on the number of trips you make in a day, buying a day pass might be cheaper than using multiple single tickets or tickets for multiple zones. Buying tickets from a machine or ticket office (Lijnwinkel) is cheaper than buying from the driver. De Lijn ticket offices might be closed in the off-hours. De Lijn tickets are valid in every Flemish city, but not in Brussels.

Google Maps show bus and tram stop locations within Flanders. If you click on the tram or bus symbol, you will get a list of bus or tram routes that use that stop. On Google Maps and the De Lijn website you may often see the word perron; this means "platform" in Dutch.

Antwerp and Ghent also have a tram network, and the coast also has a single tram-line, connecting all coastal towns. The tram networks are, just as the bus lines, operated by De Lijn. There are no metro lines in Flemish cities.

By bike

Flanders has a vast network of special roads for bicycles. Get a map in a tourists office, because sometimes they can be hard to find.

Inside towns, cyclists normally ride between the cars due to the narrow streets, so be cautious. Outside towns, most big roads have dedicated cycle lanes, though small roads (even when they have no dedicated cycle lane) are more relaxing to ride on.

At most train stations, you also have the opportunity to rent bicycles.

The cycle node network

Flanders implemented a cycle node network. See the map. The network connects streets where cycling is relaxing. Every crossing between relaxing streets received a node number. When you create a route, you only need to write down the node numbers on a small piece of paper, and tape it to your bike. This way, there's no need to mess with big paper maps, or trying to attach a navigation device to your bike. However, you should always carry a map with you, in case you miss a sign. The cycle node network is ideal to create your own roundtrips in the countryside, or to bring you from one town to another.

By foot

Getting around by foot is by far the easiest inside towns. You don't need to take one-way streets into account, and most streets have raised sidewalks. Quite often, streets in the town centre are completely reserved for pedestrians. Many of the historical streets do have cobblestones as their primary pavement, so be sure to wear comfortable shoes. Most towns are also small enough to visit them purely on foot.


The official language of Flanders is Dutch. Belgian Dutch, the official standard variety, has some vocabulary not used in the Netherlands and a distinct, soft accent but it is still standard Dutch. Nearly all Flemings, with the partial exception of senior ones, are capable of speaking standard Dutch.

Most people know English at least moderately. French is learnt in schools by everyone, but not everybody is fluent in French, French is accepted in the tourist areas. However, in the Flemish region around Brussels, many locals might not appreciate you ask something in French. So English is a better bet. A big number of people also understands German, but many have difficulties speaking it due to the different pronunciations and conjugations. Other languages are most likely unknown.

Tourist brochures are often available 3 or 4 languages (German is sometimes excluded). Official information (s.a. public transport schedules and traffic signs) are very often only in Dutch. Town names on the traffic signs are also translated to Dutch (s.a. "Luik" instead of "Liège", "Rijsel" instead of "Lille", etc.)

Viewing a movie in Flanders is also possible. Most films are shown in the original version (see OV at the theatres) with French and Dutch subtitles, only child-movies are often dubbed (noted with NV at the theatres).


The beguinage in Bruges


Music festivals

There are many music festivals organised throughout the summer. The bigger ones happen in a small village, because there is lots of space and not many neighbours to complain about the noise.

Some of the famous ones are:

The festivals organised in towns are often free and very nice. They stay away from commercial music and have good bands playing combined with small local bands. Flanders has some nice music bands with some international fame(dEUS, Das Pop, Zita Swoon, Soulwax,...)


This page uses the following price ranges for a typical meal for one, including soft drink:
Budget 7-20 €
Mid-range 20-60 €
Splurge +60 €


Stay safe

Flanders is very safe. You will find that people are usually very helpful. In towns, you should of course beware of usual things (pickpockets in tourist places) but outside Brussels, everything is safe.


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This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Sunday, November 29, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.