Are you wondering which places you should visit in Belgium? Perhaps you need prompting for a good reason to visit this country. And so, let’s give you a couple: 2,000 chocolatiers and 650 types of beers, some declared UNESCO heritage.
And although we are pretty sure that chocolate and breweries are two good enough reasons to induce you into rushing to book your next flight, we can add that there is also far more to see and do! Belgium is a country that is absolutely worth visiting, especially with the approach of winter and Christmas festivities.
Despite being a minute nation, this country has its own well-defined identity through its many nuances. There is the artistic one, with no fewer than 350 buildings in Art Nouveau style and 35 sites declared UNESCO heritage, there is the strong and independent nuance of the Flemish cities and the political one with the European Parliament. There’s the quiet undertone of the Walloon villages and then the most melancholic and slightly romantic one of the North Sea. There are really countless things to do and places to visit in Belgium, we have tried to gather them all, from cities that do not need much of an introduction such as Bruges or Brussels, to smaller places like Dinant in Wallonia, passing through all the treats that you can eat here besides chocolate (have you ever heard of “les frites”? That’s right, we will make your mouth water!). Here is a list of unmissable things.
If you are wondering which is the first place to visit in Belgium, we can only answer Brussels, generally considered the capital of Europe as the seat of the European Parliament.
If you love politics, you can visit the Parliament building and even participate in a plenary session. One of the things to see in Belgium and the symbol of the city is the Atomium. It is a futuristic structure 102 metres high, composed of 9 steel balls, representing an iron atom magnified 165 billion times. It was created by André Waterkeyn for the Expo ’58 World Fair and, as a temporary structure, it has become a landmark for the Belgian capital.
Brussels is not just politics and science. It is also culture. Among the many museums, do not miss the Museum of Fine Arts or the Comic Book Museum where you can retrace the stories and creations of the designers for Smurfs, Tintin and Lucky Luke. The heart of this cultural centre is the works of Flemish painters: from Rogier van der Weyden to Petrus, from Christus to Bosch, passing through a room dedicated to Bruegel and sections with paintings by Rubens, Jordaens and van Dyck. The museum also houses neoclassical works by Jacques-Louis David, such as the ‘Death of Marat’. There are also pieces of Romanticism by Delacroix, early Van Gogh, Gauguin and De Chirico.
Also pass by the Ilot Sacrè (Sacred Island). It is a set of small streets, packed with cafes and restaurants where writing artists of the calibre of Baudelaire, Alexandre Dumas and Victor Hugo would put quill to paper.
A small detail of Brussels: in every corner of the city you will notice fountains depicting a peeing child, called “Manneken pis” in Flemish. It is said that he was the city’s saviour by extinguishing a bomb fuse with his pee. A curious fun fact: this little boy’s wardrobe could also make Olivia Palermo envious with over 600 clothes left to him by tourists over the years!
You just cannot miss Bruges among the places to visit in Belgium. It is one of the most romantic and evocative destinations in Europe. It is an enchanting city of Flanders renowned for the canals that have earned it the nickname of “Venice of the North”.
Your visit can only start from Grote Markt, the heart of Bruges’ historic centre, which will satisfy both your palate and desire for art and history, thanks to the monuments dedicated to the heroes from the Battle of the Golden Spurs of 1302 (to clarify the one where the Flemish obtained independence from the French).
We are referring to one of the main markets where you can find all the local specialities, including french fries, fresh mussels, craft beer and fried doughnuts. Among the unmissable museums in the city, choose the Gruuthusemuseum, where you can see how Flemish merchants lived in the past.
Regarding city landmarks and symbols, we recommend a trip to Belfort, a bell tower built in 1200 that offers a panoramic view that alone is worth the effort to climb all its 366 steps.
In addition to Venice, there is also a little Amsterdam in Bruges, given the presence of mills. There are four that are mainly used to grind wheat. One of the most visited is called Sint-Janshuis and offers a fine view of the city. To climb to the top, you have to take a walk inside the surrounding park. From its summit, you can admire the other mills.
Among the places to visit in Belgium, could the country’s second city be missing? Of course not, so let’s head on over to Antwerp, a fit-for-humans metropolis. It has all the comforts and historical beauties of a great city, but it’s rather modest in size so getting around is incredibly easy. Antwerp is very famous among art lovers. It is a tiny jewel from an architectural point of view: It retains all its splendour and medieval charm, made of large epochal buildings, small cobblestone streets, and cafes with a somewhat bohemian flavour.
It is a city so special that it even enchanted the painter Rubens, who spent some of his life here. His presence is still very strong in the city. You can visit his house, atelier and tomb. Moreover, its huge statue welcomes tourists to Groenplaats Square. Staying on the subject of Rubens, you cannot miss the Cathedral of Our Lady of Antwerp, or Onze Mild Vrouwekathedraal.
It houses some of his works and is a great artistic masterpiece. So much so that it is considered one of the most beautiful Gothic cathedrals in all of Belgium. Antwerp is also famous as the city of diamonds: it is the world capital for cutting these precious elements. It is a tradition that has lasted for over 500 years and today is all concentrated in the “Diamantkwartier” district. We recommend you visit this truly local experience. Among the things to see in Antwerp, you cannot miss Grote Markt, which represents the city centre’s hub. Just like in Bruges, it is the market square where you will encounter numerous bars and restaurants. You can also find the Town Hall and the Baroque fountain of Brabo.
When asked what are the best places to visit in Belgium (and what should we see in Flanders), we can’t help but answer Ghent. It is a small gem with a double soul, the youthful one of the university nightlife (alongside Leuven, it is an Erasmus destination) and the romantic and nostalgic medieval one.
Walking through Ghent, or Gent as the Flemish call it, is a constant succession of modern and ancient. The city centre is the largest pedestrian island in Belgium and this makes it easy to discover all its beauties.
Once you are here, the first stop can only be the Beffroi, one of the three highest towers of Ghent, a symbol of the city’s independence and a UNESCO site. Another must-see stop is San Bavo’s Cathedral, an absolute place to visit in Belgium.
It is the paramount centre of worship for the whole city and inside, in addition to the baroque beauty, you will be enchanted by the “Adoration of the Mystic Lamb“. It is a huge painting of about three and a half metres by four, covering 12 oak boards.
Walking through Ghent, take a stroll on Werregarenstraat, the street of artists. It is far more than just a street. It is an open-air art gallery made of graffiti and murals. To appreciate the medieval charm of the city, we recommend a stop at the castle of the Counts of Flanders, or Gravensteen.
It is one of the places to visit in Belgium even if you have little time. It is a fine example of medieval fortification and stands between two rivers, the Leie and Scheldt. The last stop in Ghent is a visit to one of the beguinages, or places of quiet and reflection, often defined as the bastions of modern feminism. They are self-sufficient houses belonging to secular nuns and often wealthy widows who lost boyfriends and husbands in the crusades.
We’ve put Dinant on our list of things not to miss in Belgium. It is a small village in Wallonia, often referred to as the “Pearl of the Meuse”.
So let’s immediately give you a great reason to visit and love it: this is where Leffe beer was born.
For greater beer-loving friends than Homer Simpson, we have fabulous news for you. Here you can visit the famous brand’s museum. It is situated in a unique location, an ancient monastery where you can sample different types of this beer.
Lovers of music, we have something to tell you too: here Alexander Sax, the inventor of the Saxophone, was born. In the city, you will not miss countless small statues shaped like the beloved instrument dedicated to him.
And lastly, we have not forgotten you either dear sportsmen. Despite being a small town, Dinant offers countless activities such as boat trips or kayaking, medium difficulty hiking that will lead you to the discovery of elegant castles and beautiful mountains. And finally, a visit to some of the most exquisite natural caves in Belgium, “La Merveilleuse”.
Whatever you choose to do in the city, do not forget to replenish some calories with “frites“, the famous Belgian fries. They are said to be exceptional here.
When we think of Waterloo, two things come to mind. One is the incredibly popular ABBA song and the other is the historical event, Napoleon’s inexorable defeat. And if the Swedish singers only hinted at the concept of fatality and destiny that saw the French leader defeated, in the city you can really breathe history.
The fate of Europe was written here. Of course, there are numerous places to visit to relive the battle of 1815. It is possible to see the battlefield, which has remained unchanged. There are also numerous museums and monuments that tell the story of Napoleon in those last days as a victorious leader.
Then there are the viewpoints where you can relive the tension of this epic clash. One of these is Lion Hill, a small man-made knoll where you can find a large statue of a lion. As you walk, pay attention to the ripples in the ground, which made the French strategy ineffective in battle. At the foot of this hill, there is a building we recommend you visit. It houses one of the most impressive pictorial representations of the historic battle and was painted by Louis Dumoulin in 1912.
Among the places not to be missed is Hougomont’s farm which is also mentioned in Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserables”. Here the Allied troops faced Napoleon for the first time. The writer says more than 300 bodies of French soldiers were thrown into the farmhouse’s well. Although it is a strong image, which conveys a sense of defeat, it is not corroborated by any historical writings.
In 2016, Belgian beer became World Heritage. What made it such was not only its taste and inimitable character but also the power that this drink arouses from a cultural point of view in Belgium. And then you cannot miss Rochefort, the city of Trappist beers!
This destination cannot be missed from the list of places to visit (and things to drink!) in Belgium. As with all Trappist beers, even the city beer is produced according to some basic standards. Among these is the production in the Trappist monastery, i.e. the Abbey of Notre-Dame de Saint Rémy, 3 km from the city centre. Like all productions that follow this method, the proceeds from sales of these beers finance the abbey and are used for charitable works.
Unfortunately, there is a kind of secrecy and aura of mystery that the tradition wants to maintain. So you may not visit the monastery’s brewery, but can sample this particular beer in every pub in the city!
The city is truly unmissable (and not just for beer). The centre is small and cosy. You can see a magical castle, which seems straight out of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast”: Château Comtal. It is a private castle and can be visited for about € 10. No one forbids you to imagine that it is yours, with knights, dragons and damsels to save! We also point out the Cave of Lorette to visit in this city. It is a short underground passageway with tunnels that you can visit in about two hours. Inside you can observe preserved fossils from 300-400 million years ago.
We talked about fairytale castles a few paragraphs ago. Now, let’s move on to fairytale forests. Hallerbos is a truly enchanted place in the south of Belgium. It is a beech forest that is also home to oaks, maples and linden trees.
The best time to visit this place is certainly spring: at this time of year the Bluebell blossoms. It is a floral species that covers the entire undergrowth like a carpet, colouring it with a particular blueish purple.
Numerous tourists come here every year and fall in love with this breathtaking nature. There are so many ways to enjoy this wonderful show. Obviously, you can take long walks in a blue lake of flowers. You can ride a bicycle or ride on horseback and officially experience the plot of the next Disney or Dreamworks film.
Hallerbos is not only trees and flowers. There are also many species of animals including foxes, squirrels, rabbits, hares and roe deer. There are also more than 100 different species of birds that you can see nesting among the many shrubs. Hallerbos Forest is also easily accessible by car and public transport. Setting off from Brussels in your own car takes about 40 minutes. By train, you get off at Halle station and then continue by bus.
Have you ever heard the saying good things come in small packages? Surely yes and we confirm that it is true. Indeed the city of Durbuy confirms this rule.
It is one of the must-see cities in Belgium and is also the smallest in the world. Inhabited by only 400 people. Durbuy is visited by numerous tourists who populate it, especially at weekends. Summer is also very busy and there is a fairytale atmosphere.
With its medieval alleys and its castle, Chateau des Comptes d’Ursel, it seems suspended in time.
Besides the historical charm, Durbuy will fill your dreams with its scenic beauty. Are you ready to fall in love with “La Falize”? It’s a wonderful, entirely rocky wall in the city. Here you can also visit Topiary Park. Don’t worry, this is not a zoo for rodents. Rather, it is an ancient art, that of creating figures by pruning hedges. Here you can find astonishing plant sculptures.
WeRoad in Belgium
We talked about UNESCO heritage, chips, magical gardens, fairytale castles and craft beers. How could WeRoad stand back and not organise a trip here?
If you are wondering which places are best to visit in Belgium spending five days, our tour is the answer to your question. We will visit Brussels together, admiring the European city that hosts all the main institutions of the Union. We will discover the most iconic places of Ghent, we can fall in love with the canals of Bruges and we will obviously sample everything that Belgium has to offer us in terms of beers and food! In a nutshell, a short but intense trip packed with beauty to share with many new friends and travel companions!