Little Belgium is a country full of sights. And not only is it a significant part of Western modern Europe, but it also has a very important history related to the past of the Old Continent. You can visit UNESCO-recognized sites in the capital of Brussels, which date back to the 14th century, walk through the medieval streets, carrying the aroma of past eras, learn that it was in Belgium that Napoleon met his match at the Battle of Waterloo, and during the First and Second World Wars this country was pushed to the front line. To this day, the battlefields of Ypres from the First World War are iconic places of worship, which are among the most popular tourist attractions in Belgium. As the wise have said, one thing is big or small only in meaning, not in size. Here are the things to do in Belgium, places worth visiting to remember forever your trip to this important European country:
- Grand Place, Brussels
- The Atomium
- The Canals and Belfry of Bruges
- The Battlefields of Flanders
- Horta Museum and Town Houses
- Cathedral of Saint Bavo, Ghent
- St. Peter’s Church, Leuven
- Basilica of the Holy Blood, Bruges
- Grand Place (Grote Markt), Antwerp
- Mechelen Old Town
- Meuse Valley
- Semois Valley
- Ghent’s Gravensteen and Old Town
- Mons Old Town
The great general, the invincible Napoleon, was eventually defeated at Waterloo. For fans of history, this is a place that attracts. At the very least, you will feel the spirit, although today the place where the decisive battle took place is a beautiful landscape of agricultural fields, among which rises an artificial hill, reminiscent of the event – a memorial sculpture of a lion on top. If you are lucky enough to go to this peak, you will enjoy a magnificent view of the countryside.
Grand Place, Brussels
Grand Place is a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its late 17th-century architecture. La Grand Place is surrounded by beautifully preserved guildhalls and other spectacular buildings that illustrate the splendor of local Belgian architecture, such as the richly decorated medieval town hall, a classic of Gothic architecture. The square is lively at any time of the year by both tourists and locals but is the most colorful in August of the alternating years when the center is filled with a 75 by 24-meter flower carpet woven from over 700,000 begonias. This is a place where you would be happy to spend many pleasant hours.
Being in Belgium, you will find many things to do and see. And stepping into the capital Brussels, be sure to marvel at the nine giant steel balls connected by thin tubes – this is the Atomium, a remarkable architectural structure that is designed to look like an iron crystal, but blown up to 165 billion times its size. The sculpture is currently located on the Hazel Plateau in Laeken, a suburb in northwestern Brussels. This is a jewel at the World’s Fair in Brussels in 1958 – the anti-gravity Atomium, which remains one of the symbols of the city.
The Canals and Belfry of Bruges
Among the brightest tourist attractions in Belgium are the beautiful bell tower and the Halle, located on the main square of Bruges. One of the most popular things to do in Belgium is to take a cruise or walk around these canals, which are reminders of the city’s rich history. You have the option to download a walking tour map from the tourism website to explore the inland canals. There you will find beautiful views of picturesque bridges and hidden gardens. The other option is to go around the canals with a rental boat. And the most challenging experience here is the successful ascent of the 366 winding and narrow steps of the bell tower because once you reach the top, you will discover unique panoramic views. The building dates back to the Middle Ages and was once a major city market.
The Battlefields of Flanders
Another place for those who are interested in historical sites, including battlefields. Here are the preserved trenches and extensive cemeteries of the thousands of soldiers killed here, the British Tyne Cote and the German War cemetery of Langemark are loud reminders of the brutal battles that took place here. In particular, the battlefields of Flanders around Ypres are a major place of worship and remembrance of heroic deeds.
Horta Museum and Town Houses
The work of Victor Horta, the most influential architect and style designer of the early 20th century, is one of the attractions in Belgium that you should not miss. The style itself is called the famous Art Nouveau, and several of its masterpieces have survived in Brussels. They are currently under the auspices of UNESCO for their contribution to the world’s architectural heritage. The combined buildings of his house and studio show Art Nouveau in all its glory, and his four large houses: Hôtel Tassel, Hôtel Solvay, Hôtel van Eetvelde and Maison & Atelier Horta, are also on the UNESCO list. Explore the Horta Museum, with its original stained glass windows, mosaics, and wooden decorations. The author was the first to maximize and scatter natural light with themes from nature, including elegance in the smallest detail.
Cathedral of Saint Bavo, Ghent
This beautiful cathedral is the pinnacle of Gothic, showing the best of religious architecture in Belgium. Of course, it is and is the most famous tourist attraction of Ghent. Even if you look at it from the outside, it’s worth it, but keep in mind that inside there are nice murals, valuable works of art, such as the Flemish masterpiece – the Altar of Ghent, the impressive crypt under the cathedral, which has significant tombs.
St. Peter’s Church, Leuven
The church of St. Peter in Leuven is wonderfully beautiful with its pointed arched windows and pillars. It is a valuable attraction for the whole of Belgium and is one of the best-preserved examples of Gothic style. And not only is the beauty of the 15th century external but also internal, because art lovers will be able to see many things. The choir and outpatient clinic house a museum that houses religious art through some of the finest Flemish paintings illustrating scenes from the Bible, and the carved pulpit and Dirk Bouth’s painting of the Last Supper are a sight every connoisseur will enjoy.
Basilica of the Holy Blood, Bruges
The paradise of stunning churches in Belgium continues with this unique one. If you intend to see only one church in Bruges, it must be the Basilica of the Holy Blood. And not only because it is a beautiful mixture of Romanesque and late Gothic architecture, but also because of the sacred relic inside. In the upper chapel is the famous bottle, for which the church bears its name. It is said to contain a drop of blood from the Lord Jesus Christ, which was returned to Belgium after the Second Crusade. The entire church interior, completed in the 16th century, is rich in gilding, so there is something to see and gasp for while inside.
Grand Place (Grote Markt), Antwerp
In the famous Belgian city of Antwerp is the wonderful Grand Place of the city, or Grote Markt, where you can see some of the best examples of guild house architecture in the country. They have a typical appearance and have a bell roof. An example of construction from the 16th century is the Town Hall, whose interior is also worth seeing because of the rich collection of paintings representing the history of the city. And don’t forget to check out the facades of Coopers ‘House and Grocers’ House, which are also bright examples of Belgian architecture.
Mechelen Old Town
The old town of Mechelen is the perfect place to feel the spirit of medieval Belgium. This is especially evident in the architecture, expressed in exquisite buildings that remain preserved, such as Town Hall and Lakenhall, Sint-Rombouts Cathedral with its clock tower, and others. And farther from the main square, where you can take a pleasant walk, you will have the opportunity to see the typical architecture of guild houses, which is of interest to fans of history.
Along with the cities, churches, and historical evidence, there is more to do in Belgium – to enjoy its natural features, such as the Meuse Valley. Located south of Brussels, this place is one of the best for feeling the rural atmosphere. There is the river Meuse, revealing beautiful views on a river trip; there are also dense forests, among which is a hill on which a rocky castle and the ruins of a fortress were built. There are also small coastal towns supported by limestone cliffs, and once you head to the Meuse Valley, you will find a home to many hiking and cycling trails.
And another paradise for nature lovers – the Semois Valley, where you will immerse yourself in the magnificent nature, next to the Semois River, which passes through agricultural land, surrounded by densely forested hills. Ideal painting for walks. Truk is definitely a place where you understand that even far from the cities there is something to be done in Belgium. You can stay in the villages of Membre, Alle, and Laforet, which offer middle-class guest houses or relax in a campsite. And to see the valley in its most beautiful picture, come in the spring when wildflowers bloom profusely.
Ghent’s Gravensteen and Old Town
There are tourist attractions in Belgium that once you find yourself, you feel like you are in the setting of a fairy tale. Such a place is the Gravensteen fortress, which was once home to the counts of Flanders, who built castles on the idea of castles built by the Crusaders in Syria. Today, Gravensteen is considered one of the best surviving examples of a moat fortress in Europe. Perfectly preserved, with thick and high walls, it rises from the waters of the River Leve right in the middle of Ghent’s old town. And when you go inside, your amazement will continue, because the inner arched halls and chambers contain exhibits from medieval life. Also, go up the stairs to the roof to see a great panoramic view of the city, then get off and go for a walk through the cobbled streets of Ghent.
Mons Old Town
Another old town in Belgium identified as one of the best places to visit – this is Mons. It is a real pleasure to walk around it, to reach the main square, dotted with ornate buildings dating back 400 years. Such examples are the Toison d’Or House from 1615 and the Chapel of St. George from 1604. But this does not end the charm of the old town, because it gives you many more opportunities to see the sights: the UNESCO bell tower on the hill above the city, the church of Sainte-Waudru, inside which there are many artistic and religious relics, and other attractions.
Belgium is a destination that will reveal itself in all its beauty, will surprise you with many things to do, will captivate you with its beauty, and will envelop you with a special spirit that you will feel at every point of your visit.