Best Places to Visit in Belgium

Belgium, known as the “crossroads of Europe,” is a country that seamlessly blends the charm of its medieval towns with the modern cosmopolitan vibe of its cities. While it may often be overlooked by travellers in favour of its more well-known neighbours, this hidden gem is a treasure trove of history, culture, and natural beauty.

With its strategic location, Belgium has been influenced by various cultures throughout history, resulting in a unique blend of architectural styles, culinary traditions, and artistic expressions. One of the major draws of Belgium is its compact size, making it easy to explore multiple cities and regions in a relatively short amount of time (as well as visit its neighbours, the Netherlands, Germany and France). Whether you’re a history buff, an art enthusiast, a nature lover, or a foodie, Belgium has something to offer for everyone.

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Famous landmarks, historical sites and sightseeing highlights in Brussels

Parc du Cinquantenaire, Brussels, Belgium
Parc du Cinquantenaire, Brussels

Belgium is home to a plethora of famous landmarks and historical sites that showcase its rich heritage. When it comes to must-see tourist attractions in Belgium, you can’t miss the iconic capital city of Brussels.

Known for its stunning architecture, Brussels boasts the magnificent Grand Place, a UNESCO World Heritage site that is a testament to the city’s rich history, as well as the famous Parc du Cinquantenaire. Built in 1880 and also known as Jubilee Park and the Triumphal Arch, the structure commemorates Belgium’s 50th anniversary celebration of independence.

The Atomium, Brussels, Belgium
The Atomium, Brussels, Belgium

The Atomium, a futuristic structure that symbolises the atomic age, is another must-visit attraction in Brussels, as is the magnificent Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula. This Gothic masterpiece is a marvel of architectural beauty and houses stunning stained glass windows.

Belgium is also known for its vibrant cultural scene and world-class museums. The Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium in Brussels house a vast collection of paintings, sculptures, and other artistic masterpieces from renowned artists such as Bruegel, Rubens, and Magritte.

For music lovers, a visit to the Musical Instruments Museum in Brussels is a must. This unique museum showcases a diverse collection of musical instruments from around the world, allowing visitors to explore the rich history and cultural significance of music.

Must-see tourist attractions in Bruges

Bruges, Belgium
Bruges

An absolute must-see destination in Belgium is Bruges, often referred to as the “Venice of the North.” With its picturesque canals, medieval buildings, and cobblestone streets, Bruges exudes a fairy-tale-like charm.

The Belfry of Bruges, a medieval bell tower offering panoramic views of the city, is a popular attraction among visitors. The Historic Centre of Brugge meanwhile is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that showcases the town’s medieval charm. The Markt, another popular tourist spot, is a vibrant square that dates back to the 10th century and offers stunning views of the Belfry Tower and Cloth Hall.

For those interested in history and culture, the Basilica of the Holy Blood is a must-see. It is said to house the relic of Christ and his blood. Art enthusiasts will also enjoy Salvador Dali’s exhibition, located in the Belfry.

Other noteworthy places to visit include Burg Square, with its ancient buildings, and the picturesque canals of Bruges, which provide a beautiful backdrop for boat rides or leisurely strolls. Overall, Bruges offers a perfect blend of history, art, and natural beauty, making it a top destination for travellers.

Must-see tourist attractions in Ghent

Gravensteen Castle, Ghent, Belgium

Ghent is another city that offers a plethora of attractions for visitors to explore. The largest city in the Flanders region, Ghent boasts numerous classified buildings that showcase its rich history and architectural beauty. From medieval castles to stunning cathedrals, this city is a treasure trove of historical sites.

One of the must-visit attractions in Ghent is the Gravensteen castle, a magnificent fortress that dates back to the Middle Ages. Its imposing walls and towers are a testament to the city’s past. For a picturesque view of Ghent at a different angle, head to St Michael’s Bridge, where you can admire the city’s skyline reflected in the tranquil waters of the canal.

St Bavo's Cathedral, Ghent, Belgium
St Bavo’s Cathedral, Ghent

Another iconic landmark is St Bavo’s Cathedral, an 11th-century masterpiece that will leave you in awe with its stunning architecture and beautiful stained glass windows, while the Cathedral of Our Lady, an imposing Gothic structure adorned with stunning works of art, includes paintings by renowned artist Peter Paul Rubens.

Apart from its architectural wonders, Ghent also offers a vibrant food and beer scene. In fact, locals are so passionate about their beer that the Gravensteen fortress was taken over by rebellious students in 1949, who were protesting against high prices. With its wide variety of brews, including famous Trappist beers, Ghent is a paradise for beer lovers.

Must-see tourist attractions in Antwerp

Antwerp Central Station, Belgium
Antwerp Central Station

When visiting Antwerp, you can expect a city that beautifully blends history, art, and fashion. As you wander through the streets, you’ll come across a variety of tourist attractions and landmarks that showcase the rich cultural heritage of this trendy and fashionable city.

One must-visit landmark is Antwerp Central Station, a stunning architectural masterpiece that will leave you in awe. Architecture enthusiasts will also enjoy the Cathedral of Our Lady, a magnificent Gothic cathedral. Another notable landmark is the Museum Plantin-Moretus, a UNESCO World Heritage Site where you can learn about the art of printing.

Grote Markt, Antwerp, Belgium
Grote Markt, Antwerp

If you’re an art enthusiast, make sure to pop into Rubens House, the former residence and studio of the renowned painter Peter Paul Rubens. And don’t miss the chance to visit the Red Star Line Museum, which offers fascinating insights into the history of emigrants travelling to America.

Apart from these landmarks, Antwerp also boasts the historic Antwerp Zoo, one of the oldest zoos in the world, Grote Markt which is right at the heart of the old city quarter, and the stylish Stadsfeestzaal Shopping Centre. Additionally, chocolate lovers can indulge in the World’s Largest Belgian Chocolate Museum in Antwerp.

Exploring the most beautiful places in Belgium

Dinant, the Ardennes, Belgium
Dinant, the Ardennes

While Belgium is known for its historical sites and landmarks, it also boasts breathtaking natural landscapes. The Ardennes, a picturesque region in the south of Belgium, is a haven for nature lovers. With its dense forests, rolling hills, and charming villages, the Ardennes offers endless opportunities for hiking, biking, and outdoor adventures.

Another stunning natural gem in Belgium is the Belgian coast. Stretching over 65 kilometres, the coastline is dotted with beautiful sandy beaches, charming seaside towns, and vibrant beach resorts. From sunbathing and swimming to enjoying fresh seafood and water sports, the Belgian coast offers a delightful escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Off-the-beaten-path destinations in Belgium

Leuven University Library, Belgium
Leuven University Library

While Brussels, Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp are undoubtedly popular tourist destinations in Belgium, the country is also home to several hidden gems that are off the beaten path. The city of Leuven, for example, is often overlooked by tourists but offers a wealth of attractions. These include the stunning Town Hall and the world-famous University Library.

Another hidden gem in Belgium is the picturesque town of Durbuy. Nestled in the heart of the Ardennes, Durbuy is known for its cobbled streets, medieval architecture, and charming atmosphere. Strolling through the town’s narrow alleys and discovering its hidden courtyards is like stepping back in time.

Belgian cuisine and culinary experiences

Belgian waffles, Brussels, Belgium
Belgian waffles, Brussels

No visit to Belgium is complete without indulging in its world-renowned cuisine and culinary delights. From mouth-watering chocolates and delicious waffles to hearty Flemish stews and flavourful beers, Belgium is a food lover’s paradise.

Brussels, in particular, is famous for its gastronomic scene. The city is home to numerous Michelin-starred restaurants, as well as cosy brasseries and charming street food stalls. Don’t forget to try the iconic Belgian fries, which are traditionally served with a variety of sauces, and the famous Belgian chocolates, which are made with the finest ingredients and exquisite craftsmanship.

Planning your trip to Belgium: transportation and accommodation options

Inside Antwerp Central Station, Belgium
Inside Antwerp Central Station

When planning your trip to Belgium, it’s important to consider transportation and accommodation options. Belgium has an efficient and well-connected public transportation system, making it easy to travel between cities and regions. The train network is particularly convenient, with high-speed trains connecting major cities like Brussels, Antwerp, and Ghent. You can also rent your own car, with Discover Cars and Qeeq both offering rentals in the region.

In terms of accommodation, Belgium offers a wide range of options to suit every budget and preference. From luxury hotels and boutique guesthouses to budget-friendly hostels and cosy bed and breakfasts, there’s plenty to choose from. It’s recommended to book your accommodation in advance, especially during peak travel seasons. Check out Booking.com and Hostelworld to see what’s available.

Tips for a memorable visit to Belgium

Mont des Arts at sunset, Brussels, Belgium
Mont des Arts at sunset, Brussels

To make the most of your visit to Belgium, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  1. Plan your itinerary: Belgium has a lot to offer, so it’s a good idea to plan your itinerary in advance to ensure you don’t miss out on any must-see attractions. Get Your Guide, Viator and Tiqets are good platforms to book attractions and experiences.
  2. Try local specialties: Belgium is known for its culinary delights, so be sure to try some of the local specialties, such as moules frites (mussels and fries) and speculoos (spiced biscuits).
  3. Respect local customs: Belgians are known for their politeness and respect for etiquette. It’s important to be mindful of local customs and traditions during your visit.
  4. Learn a few basic phrases: While many Belgians speak English, it’s always appreciated to learn a few basic phrases in French or Dutch, the country’s official languages.

If you require emergency assistance in Belgium, dial 112 to contact emergency services.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Belgium is a country that offers a myriad of attractions and experiences. From its enchanting medieval towns to its vibrant cities, and from its historical landmarks to its stunning natural landscapes, Belgium truly has it all. So why wait? Start planning your trip to Belgium today and embark on an adventure of a lifetime.

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