Best Places to Visit in Belgium - A Thorough Guide to Top Attractions in Belgium
Belgium, located in Western Europe, is one of the most beautiful countries in Europe for good reasons. It is known as “the heart of Europe” for being the headquarter of NATO, the administrative centre of the Europe Union. Belgium is also where you can find the Blood of Jesus Christ relic.
Being a small country, there are a vast number of places to visit in Belgium. In this article, Cabinzero will introduce you to some of the most outstanding destinations to go to when visiting Belgium, as well as some interesting activities you might be keen on joining!
The city of Bruges, known in Dutch as Brugge, is at the top of the list of Belgium’s cities to visit for history snobs and architecture lovers. It would be difficult to top central Bruges, one of Europe's best-preserved cities, if you set out on a quest for a fairy-tale mediaeval town.
Cobblestone streets and enchanting canals connect picturesque market squares with towering buildings, antique churches, and dozens of whitewashed Godshuizen (almshouse) blocks.
The spectacular reflection of a block of Godzshuien in Bruges. - Photo by Libby Penner on Unsplash
The historic and preserved beauty doesn’t mean that tourism hasn’t filled the city, though. Bruges is no secret to international travellers: at summer’s peak, you'll be enjoying Bruges' beauty alongside waves of visitors in the historic centre.
Stay one or two nights in Bruges to fully appreciate the city's spectacular evening floodlighting, and try to opt for weekdays to avoid the weekend rush.
You’ll see Bruges at its finest in spring when flowers blanket the mediaeval Begijnhof courtyard. Winter is another ideal time to visit the city when you can roam the lanes to your heart’s content (but steer clear of Christmas).
Last but not least, the Basilica of the Holy Blood. Certainly, it is one of the main reasons Bruges is one of the most attractive cities in Belgium. Whether you’re a Christian or not, this chapel is a destination you should visit once on your journey here.
As the largest city by population and largest harbour in Belgium, Antwerp (Anvers in French) is also one of Europe’s trendiest urban destinations.
It has long been a potent draw for everyone from art collectors to fashion enthusiasts. Therefore, it is undoubtedly true that Antwerp is one of the best places to visit in Belgium for art lovers.
Grote Markt (or the Town Square) of Antwerp. - Photo by Ernest Ojeh on Unsplash
Antwerp’s many museums actively demonstrate its status as one of Europe's most significant towns in the middle of the 16th century. During this time, it was also the residence of Peter Paul Rubens, a superstar of the baroque movement.
Another defining feature of the city is its jewellery trade, which has inspired attractions such as the DIVA Museum. Here you’ll find over 500 years of diamond, gold, and silver craftsmanship to learn and marvel at.
Antwerp also suffers from numerous subsequent historical setbacks and heavy bombing during World War II. Despite that, its captivating mediaeval core with cobblestone streets lined with cafes, stunning fortresses (most notably Het Steen), and a Gothic cathedral built nearly seven centuries ago remain intact.
In modern times, Antwerp's main attractions are its thriving fashion and entertainment industries, which strike a strong cultural contrast against the architecture.
The majestic Parc du Cinquantenaire in Brussels. - Photo by Thomas Somme on Unsplash
If there is one word to describe Belgium’s capital city, it’s “multicultural”. In Brussels, diversity is present in the structures, cuisines, fine arts, and attractions.
As there are too many things to discover in Brussels, chances are you’ll have to plan your trip carefully or even spend a week in this capital if you desire to discover it thoroughly.
The city is home to the Grand Place, which is a spectacle all on its own and one of the most famous things to see in Belgium. As one of the world’s most stunning main squares and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Grand Place takes its visitors on a trip of artistic wealth from the Middle Age to modern times.
Another famous attraction of Brussels is the mascot of Manneken Pis - the symbol of fortune to the capital ever since its survival through the bombardment in 1695.
Or, you can visit the Palace of Justice - “the only worthy opponent” that can compete with the Grand Place when it comes to architectural glory.
Travellers flood to Brussels to try the world-famous Belgian beer, alongside the street-side Belgian frites, addictive waffles, and amazing chocolate.
Recently, there has been a greater emphasis on local organic cuisine, and this heavy-eating metropolis is undoubtedly becoming healthier.
The three mediaeval buildings overlooking the Old Town Square of Ghent. - Photo by Christian Lue on Unsplash
Ghent (or gent in Dutch) is perhaps one of the oldest Belgium cities to visit. Though it is not a spacious area, it is large enough for travellers to enjoy themselves to the fullest with a rich heritage of mediaeval and gothic architecture.
Visiting Ghent, you cannot miss the three fascinating architectures overlooking the old city centre: the Ghent Belfry, St. Bavo’s Cathedral and St. Nicholas’s Church.
These constructions are the remarks of the Middle Ages art style that will surely amaze you with how majestic yet detailed every pattern is.
There are a large number of art museums and galleries in Ghent, typically the Museum of Fine Arts, The Municipal Museum of Contemporary Art, and many more.
If you are art lovers who are already ‘fed-up’ with the mediaeval buildings and want to explore other aspects of art, Ghent is a go-to city for you.
These museums and art galleries cover a wide range of masterpieces from the Middle Ages to the modern era.
From brilliant artists of the Renaissance to amateurs who want their work to be appreciated, you will find them all here. Give it a try and you won’t be disappointed visiting these destinations!
Lion's Mound is a famous attraction built to honour Prince William II who was wounded in a battle in Waterloo, Belgium. Photo by Guillaume Vandenneucker on Unsplash
You are a history geek and have a chance to visit Belgium? Don’t miss the Napoleon Route, one of the best things to do in Belgium!
This route is certainly a must-do in Waterloo, as its path covers most of the main attractions of the city. So, taking part in the route means that you are already joining a “whole-package” tour around Waterloo.
One of the remarkable places you should stop by on your journey of tracing the emperor’s footsteps is the Memorial Museum. It’s where one can adore the colourful and interactive collection concentrating on the battle of Waterloo. There’s even a surprisingly well-made 4D movie about the battle.
Another famous mark of Napoleon Route is The Lion’s Mound, which is now a protected area. There are a lot of reenactments of the battle, including the use of original guns and cannons, happening here.
Therefore, when you visit The Lion’s Mound, remember to have your ears covered unless you want to be blown away by loud sounds from these reenactments.
There are also numerous other landmarks, such as the three museums in three farmsteads, or the Ferme de Mont-Saint-Jean. Squeeze your chances to visit all these monuments to explore more about the history here.
The city of Liege, lying along the Meuse River, is a French-speaking Belgian city in the Wallonia region. Like many other cities in Belgium, Liege covers a wide range of gothic architecture as well as museums.
The Palace of the Prince Bishops, a charming attraction in Liege. - Photo by Flaviu Boerescu - stock.adobe.com
However, what makes Liege one of the most popular places to visit in Belgium is the mixture of different qualities. You can find gigantic Middle Ages constructions and the vast landscape of nature, as well as landmarks with futuristic style, that exist alongside each other.
Let’s be honest, even in major cities, it is challenging to find such an interesting combination. As Liege is a “whole-package” city, depending on what your cup of tea is, you can choose to visit different places and areas in this region.
If you are art lovers who die for gothic architecture or Mosan Art, feel free to head to St. Bartholomew’s Church or St.Paul’s Cathedral. There are plenty of options to satisfy your love for such architectural beauties.
Are you into modern and futuristic art styles instead? Then come to Liege-Guillemins Station or Musee Des Beaux Arts de Liège to witness the fascinating structure of these buildings.
There’s something for folks who are in love with the scenic beauty of nature, too. High Fens is an ideal place to take a walk. There’s nothing like strolling through the endless pathway while taking in the landscape in this beautiful attraction.
Dinant is a small but picture-perfect city in Belgium. - Photo by Didier Laurent - stock.adobe.com
Located on the banks of the Meuse River, Dinant seems to be just as peaceful and pleasant as the river flowing through it.
Coming to Dinant, you won’t be able to find the hustle and bustle of major cities like Bruges or Brussels. Instead, you may enjoy the historic landmarks blended with nature - the hills, and the woods.
Even though there are many more well-known destinations, a small town like Dinant is still one of the most remarkable attractions in Belgium tourist history. Why so?
Dinant is known as the hometown of Adolphe Sax - the inventor of the saxophone. Therefore, during your time here, you may encounter saxophone figures at almost every single spot. Try counting it to see how many saxophones you can get!
If you want to have a closer look into this instrument’s history and its variations, you may pay a visit to the Sax Museum, which was originally the house of Adolphe Sax.
Not only is Dinant attractive for its symbolic features, but also its historic constructions. The Citadel of Dinant is probably the most popular Belgium tourist attraction here, along with the War Memorial of 1914.
The heaven-reaching St. Rumbold’s Cathedral from afar in Mechelen. Photo by Frank on Unsplash
Mechelen lies between the capital Brussels and Antwerp city in Northern Belgium. The city is very accessible as it can be reached from many directions.
Lying between the two ‘giants’ has its own benefits, but there are drawbacks as well. Even though Mechelen has a rich heritage of historical and religious buildings, namely the St. Rumbold’s Cathedral, the St. John’s Church, the Kazerne Dossin, etc. Mechelen is an underrated attraction in Belgium compared to its neighbours.
Besides its mediaeval buildings, the city also offers different destinations for young people to discover new aspects of Mechelen.
For instance, the Toy Museum where families can take on a journey of exploring thousands of toys is a great place for young travellers.
There are also various other family-friendly options: Planckendael zoo with lions, penguins and many other races of animals, or Technopolis where visitors such as toddlers can also comprehend science!
A peaceful afternoon on the land of Namur. - Photo by Alex Vasey on Unsplash
Unlike Brussels, which shares similar functions as the capital city, it might be a bit shocking to learn that Namur is not a crowded city at all. Instead, Namur is a gentle city surrounded by the Meuse River.
The city has many open-space areas with miles of greenery. One of the most outstanding destinations for people who love wandering around and blending themselves in nature is the Semois Valley.
Although Namur might appear as a gentle and peaceful city, it used to experience sieges during the World War due to its strategic position. Therefore, as a shield to the city, the Citadel of Namur is also a must-see for any travellers when they visit Belgium.
Besides, visitors can also take a cruise along the Meuse River to admire the scenery here in Namur. Les Jardins d’Annevoie is another frequently visited attraction for nature lovers.
The majestic gothic architectures in Ypres are its selling point. Photo by streetflash - stock.adobe.com
Being a used-to-be mediaeval centre, Ypres has a long rich history that is well expressed by its landmarks. This also makes Ypres one of the most worthy places to visit in Belgium.
During WWI, the city was heavily damaged with the collapse of many cathedrals, including St. Martin's Cathedral and its spire. Even so, the city was rebuilt with respect for the past.
Visitors coming to Ypres can experience the local museums and historic sites such as the In Flanders Fields Museum, or the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing.
Tourists can also wander around the city ramparts to admire the historic beauty of Ypres. For beer lovers, the Kazematten Brewery is certainly a must-see destination in which you can experience the production of this famous brand yourself.
Ypres also offers great camping sites to explore the surrounding area, memorial sites, cemeteries and battlefields, especially by bike. Families can also have fun at Bellewaerde theme park located on the site of a former battlefield.
Durbuy, with a population of 400, is “the smallest city in the world”. Photo by Michael Maga-ao on Unsplash
Durbuy is located at the edge of the Ardennes Forest, on the River Ourthe. It is near the joint point of the three Belgian Provinces (Luxembourg, Liège and Namur). With thousands of visitors coming to Durbuy daily, it is one of the most popular attractions in Belgium.
The town has used the slogan “smallest city in the world” ever since it gained municipal freedom in 1331. Durbuy only consists of 400 residents, a small number compared to the number of visitors coming to the city.
Despite being a small city, Durbuy has a variety of places to explore. Visitors can admire the mediaeval buildings in the Old Town of Durbuy, or enjoy tasty vegetarian dishes at the castle Chateau de Petite Somme (Radhadesh).
Durbuy also offers its visitors a wide range of open-space attractions such as the Topiary Park, the Labyrinth of Durbuy or the Adventure Valley.
Coming to these places, tourists can just wander around and witness the beauty of nature, or join exciting activities there.
The breath-taking Hôtel de Ville (City Hall) of Mons - Photo by Alexis Mette on Unsplash
The famous author Victor Hugo described Mons as “a charming town” for its richness of history and culture. It seems like his words are true, as visitors are coming from all over the world charmed by this city.
Mons has a wide range of museums that account for the most current or historical artistic trends. It is also renowned for science and history.
If you are history and heritage lovers, it would be such a shame to miss the Museum of the Doudou, the Maison Van Gogh in Cuesmes, or the Mundaneum – widely known as the “paper Google”.
As you explore more of the town, you’ll notice that the city is filled with historic structures. Some of the outstanding ones are the Collegiate church of St Waltrude, or the Belfry of Mons - a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Grote Markt (or the Grand place) is another popular attraction in Mons as many stunning architectural constructions are lying there. One of which is Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall), the building that can be easily recognized with its marvellous turquoise tower on the top.
Oude Markt is undoubtedly an ideal meeting place in Leuven, especially in warm weather. Photo by kevin liebens on Unsplash
Leuven (Louvain in French) is the oldest university town in the Flanders region, Belgium. However, the city may amaze any visitors coming to it with the versatility it owns.
On one hand, the city of Leuven has an age-old heritage: the Botanic Garden, the country’s oldest university, as well as the incredible Gothic architecture of the Town Hall.
On the other hand, the university fills the city with the breath of the younger generations. These youngsters bring a thrilling, innovative vibe with them to Leuven, making it one of Belgium's best cities to visit along with many other popular regions.
Visitors coming to Leuven can pay a visit to these aforementioned destinations. Another amazing destination is Museum M in which priceless collections of contemporary artworks from the 15 to 17 centuries are displayed.
You’re tired of sightseeing constructions? Flee yourself from those with the park around Keizersberg Abbey, or the relaxing Dijlepark.
A part of the massive Kapermolen Park, Hasselt. - Photo by Bent Van Aeken on Unsplash
Hasselt is not a major city in Belgium; however, recently, it has become one of Belgium’s tourist attractions. This is thanks to the fact that Hasselt can be easily reached from the leading cities such as Liege, Brussels and Antwerp. Along with that, there are one-of-a-kind attractions in Hasselt that help it to stand out amongst Belgium’s cities.
Visitors coming to Hasselt must check out the Japanese Garden of Hasselt (Japanse Tuin Hasselt), which was designed by Takayuki Inoue in the 17th century as a symbol of friendship between Hasselt and Itami, Japan. The garden is a great place for families to relax and enjoy the beauty of the cherry blossoms and Koi fish.
Other attractions in Hasselt are Hasselt Cathedral, the UNESCO World Heritage Site Hasselt’s beguinage and especially, the street walls where a huge number of street art are displayed.
Taking a stroll along the Quays of the River Scheldt in Tournai is an exhilarating experience. Photo by JFBRUNEAU - stock.adobe.com
Tournai, also known as “the hidden gem of Belgium”, is famous for its UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It is a city for exploration, where your adventure senses will take you to the most unexpected and wonderful places to visit in Belgium.
The Notre Dame Cathedral (or Cathedral of Our Lady) of Tournai is a stunning wonder of Belgium and the world. The cathedral survived both World Wars and experienced a reconstruction in some parts damaged in a tornado.
The Notre Dame was recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000 as a tribute to the Tournai's beauty and culture. If you are a traveller who adores gothic architecture, this is a must-see destination in Belgium.
Another honour of the city is the Belfry of Tournai. This freestanding bell tower is a combination of the Gothic, Roman, Renaissance and Baroque architectural styles.
To visitors who witness the Belfry for the first time in their life, its heaven-reaching height would surely surprise you. There are various sculptures and other fascinating figures to admire in the interior.
Tournai also offers its tourists other interesting attractions, namely the Grand Place of Tournai - one of the most common places for both the locals and the tourists to gather around and enjoy different activities.
A glance to Bouillon from up high. Photo by Alexander Van Steenberge on Unsplash
The last among the Belgium places to visit on our recommendation is Bouillon, a small town located in the heart of the Belgian Ardennes.
The town is famous for its mediaeval castle - Château de Bouillon. The castle overlooks the Semois river, and visiting Bouillon without coming to this castle will certainly be something you shouldn’t do.
Bouillon, however, isn’t just famous for its castle only. Covered in hills, the city offers its visitors beautiful hiking trails on the Bouillon Belvédère to explore and enjoy the spectacular views of the Bouillon.
Or, you can just wander around the quaint town of Bouillon and let the historic beauty of the town embrace you.
If you want to expand your European itinerary, planning a trip to Germany, the neighbouring country, to explore its most wonderful places is a good start. Alternatively, the best tourist destinations in France are also within train ride distance.
All in all, Cabinzero has provided you with a list of the best places to visit in Belgium. We hope that our article will be a useful guide for you to be well-prepared before taking a trip to this beautiful country.
Leave a comment