With lots of positive feedback on our last dog-friendly post (in Edinburgh), I thought it would be appropriate to do another one for Belgium. So, without further ado…our experience of dog-friendly Belgium:
Luna and I actually couchsurfed in Ghent, Belgium. That’s right, couchsurfed! Originally, I rented a flat in the city for the whole month of July, but, due to a burst pipe, a week before leaving Edinburgh I was scrambling for a new living situation. I put out a “Help! We have nowhere to stay!” post on couchsurfing and was amazed at the outpouring of support from the local community. More than one person offered me their spare room. And the dog? No problem. So, this is where I’ll offer up my gratitude for an amazing community here in Ghent. And it’s also where I’ll encourage anyone coming to the city (even if you are renting a hotel room or such) to reach out to the couchsurfing community and grab a coffee while you are here. They’re a rich source of information, incredibly caring, helpful people, and wonderful to wander the city with.
Pups on Trains
Taking Luna on the train was no problem and cost just a couple extra euros each trip.
Taking the ferry with your pup can be a little tricky. Luckily, the customer service staff at P&O Ferries are some of the nicest people ever. For the most part, you have two options when traveling with your pup in tow: 1) leave your dog in the car or 2) have your dog in a hard-sided kennel (which you must buy and bring, I believe) with water, pee pads, etc. If your dog is a service animal, it can stay in cabin with you. And for ESAs, even though Belgium and the UK do not have an ESA designation, they might also make an exception and let you keep your dog in cabin with you (as in our case). Whatever your situation, just talk to customer service. In my experience, they’ll do their best to help you out.
Eating Out & Shopping With Your Pooch
Have I mentioned that I love Belgium? On day one alone, Luna and I (with our new couchsurfing friends) went into at least four restaurants or bars. No one batted an eyelash. In fact, more than one person stopped over to pet her and coo to her in several different languages, offering her bowls of water and treats in the process.
Of the three cities I visited in Belgium, Ghent was (by far) the most dog friendly. I took Luna into every restaurant, every bar, every shop (including chocolate shops), and every cafe – and the staff in those places usually just cooed at her or offered dog biscuits and water.
The second most dog-friendly spot was Brugge. We did have to leave two chocolate shops and I did see a couple no-dogs-allowed signs, but just about everywhere was dog friendly.
The least dog-friendly of my three cities was Antwerp. A lot of the shops and restaurants had no-dogs-allowed signs, so going out in Antwerp with your pooch takes a little more planning. Call ahead to restaurants or take a friend shopping so that one of you can stay outside with the dog if you want to stop into a less-than-dog-friendly place.
We didn’t have to visit them (so I can’t speak to the experience), but the vet in my notebook (just in case) was the University Vet Services program. As far as I can tell from their website, they offer regular vet care, as well as emergency services. Contact info is:
Prof. Dr. Luc Van Ham
Address: Salisburylaan 133, 9820 Merelbeke
Tel: ++(32)(0)9 264 77 00
++(32)(0)9 264 76 75
weekend and after-hours.
Fax: ++(32)(0)9 264 77 91
Dog Treats & Supplies
We picked up our hypo-allergenic dog food and treats at Maxi Zoo, Ghent’s major pet supply retailer.
Our Favorite Walks
Downtown Ghent and Brugge top the list. While there are occasionally cars or buses, it’s generally just walkers, cobblestones, gorgeous architecture, and the occasional green space. Ghent has a slightly smaller downtown area with more graffiti and grit. Brugge is less car-ridden and has more green spaces.
Brugge also has a gorgeous, fairy-tale park just a couple minutes from its train station. Just head straight out of the train station (toward the main center of Brugge) and make a right into the park (green, tree-lined walkways to your right just over the little bridge – you can’t miss them). The whole thing is really quiet and lovely.
Things That Are Not Dog-Friendly
The Muslim neighborhood has lots of no-dogs-allowed signs (which makes sense, as the Koran calls them “unclean”), so don’t try to take your pooch inside any kebab shops. Dogs were also banned from the one or two churches we tried to go into.
My husky dog couldn’t do this because huskies have the most senstive digestive tracts and get sick from eating other than the normal dog food. Happy to hear that you and your baby aer making out okay.
Yeah. Food was definitely something I worried about. I just choose foods with similar ingredients in every place and it seems to be working out okay. I know another traveler that makes their own dog food, as well.
Awesome!!!! Thank you so much for this post!! We may have to go to Belgium soon! Gigi this is wonderful!
So glad it was helpful! And, yes, you and Monte should most definitely come to Belgium!
Dogs are accepted in most places in Europe, usually not a problem in restaurants, though obviously not in food shops or supermarkets (though I often see them in French ones…!). Only Americans are shocked that dogs are allowed in restaurants LOL They tried banning dogs in the local McDonald’s but that failed miserably. Now they are allowed in all of them here in Switzerland, France, too. The only store I can’t take my dog in (any more) is Ikea, which is a shame. I guess a few black sheep spoiled it for everyone else. Germany can be fussy at times.
People who have had a bad experience accepting dogs in their store or restaurant may bar them, but this is really unusual, I find. We took our Bernese Mountain cross everywhere with no trouble, now the same with my English Cocker.
Yeah. I love that about Europe. The no-dogs-in-restaurants rule in America bums me out.
You had a Berner? I love Berners! When I was first getting a pup, I thought about getting one, but I decided to go small for travel purposes. They’re still high up on my list of favorite dogs, though.
If you look at my blog archive, you’ll find a post about Hamish – he was a very special Berner (grey with blue eyes…) :)
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This is so helpful. I am going to Ghent soon and really want to take my dog, Buster with me. Thank you so much for all the helpful advice.
Glad to help!
We travel through Europe quite frequently with our miniature schnauzers. I am always looking for places with internet and dog friendly. Last year we stayed in Antwerp for a week on our way back to the UK and rented an apartment. I would like to try Brugge next time. Thank you for the info on this as it seems a very interesting cultural city which we would like to investigate.
We travel every 6 months from Isle of Wight through Europe to Southern Spain, Antequera. One of my fav stopping points on route is San Sebastian.
If anyone wants somewhere to stay our house takes dogs and has a large fenced garden. http://www.antequeravillarental.com
Would love to keep in touch and share traveling experiences with our four legged friends.
Aww, love schnauzers! Luna is half-schnauzer and our family dog when I was in high school was a full schnauzer. They’re so smart and lovely.
We are moving from Panama to Brugge, and need a Hotel that we can not only take our dog Apollo 105 lbs German Shepard, but leave him during the day, like a kennel or so while we are looking for a house.
Please can you help!
Have you tried Airbnb? I always find a rental I like and then ask if they’ll make an exception for the dog.
So glad I found your blog! My husband and I are moving to Belgium for the next three years and we are so excited for travel opportunities with our dog. We’ve been in the Middle East for the last couple years so you can imagine how unreceptive to dogs they are. Whiskey will have so much fun getting out and exploring with us!
So glad to hear it! And yes, I think you’ll find Europe quite a bit more dog-friendly. :) Feel free to reach out if you have questions.
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