Belgium is a small country with a big personality. This kingdom in western Europe is an underrated travel destination. But don’t let the size fool you as Belgium has a ton to offer. And we’re not just talking about the food – although hello, fries, chocolate, waffles, and beer!
Whether you are looking for art and culture or an adventurous outdoor experience, Belgium has something for everyone. From elegant cities to charming little towns, and from sandy beaches to rugged mountains, you are spoiled for choice when it comes to picking your itinerary.
With so many gorgeous views and exciting spots to choose from, where do you even start? That’s why we picked the ten most beautiful places to visit in Belgium to help you plan your next trip.
Brussels is not only the capital of Belgium but also the de facto capital of Europe. It is the seat of many important European organisations. As a result, Brussels is an incredibly international and multicultural city. Politicians and diplomats from all over the world have made it their own and turned the town into a bustling metropole. But while Brussels is known as a city of bureaucrats, it is also a popular tourist destination.
Brussels has a rich history with beautiful architecture from a variety of periods. From the famous central square (Grand Place) with its imposing Town Hall to elegant 19th-century mansions. And from quirky art nouveau buildings to the modern skyscrapers of the business district. Brussels is also a city of art, with many galleries taking advantage of the relatively low rental prices compared to nearby Paris. And who can forget the famous statue of Manneken Pis, the little peeing boy?
Where Brussels is all business, Antwerp is all fun. The capital of the Flemish region is the second biggest city in Belgium. Antwerp also boasts the biggest port of the country and the critical trading position made the city rich in the 16th century. During that time, Antwerp also became a hub of art and culture.
Antwerp is known as the city of diamonds, due to its crucial position in the diamond trade. The historically orthodox Jewish diamond district still processes 85% of the world’s uncut diamonds. It lies close to arguably the most beautiful building in Antwerp: the central train station. This gorgeous gothic structure is lovingly nicknamed the railway cathedral.
To learn more about the history of Antwerp visit the MAS museum. Art lovers will get their fix in the Rubens House, where the famous Belgian painter once lived. Antwerp is also an excellent destination for shopping queens, with lovely designer boutiques and, of course, diamonds.
Ghent is not the biggest city in Belgium, but it is one of the best-loved. Both locals and tourists immediately succumb to the charm of this beautiful city. From the gorgeous Medieval city centre to the trendy bars and boutiques, Ghent is a must-visit in Belgium.
Ghent is a university town with a relatively young population. As a result, the city has a lively atmosphere, a fun nightlife and a thriving art scene. There is never a dull moment in Ghent!
Explore the historic city centre with its impressive Gothic architecture, charming harbour and an actual castle, for instance on one of the cute water trams. The Cathedral, which houses the famous painting “The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb”, is also worth a visit as well. After this, stroll through the cobblestone streets of Patershol to eat in one of the hip little eateries.
Bruges might be the most beautiful place in Belgium and is also undoubtedly the most famous! This fairytale town attracts around 8 million tourists annually. Not bad for a city with a population of just under 120,000. As a result of its popularity, Bruges struggles with over-tourism, especially in the summer months. For a more relaxed experience, visit Bruges offseason. The city is particularly charming in the winter with a real winter wonderland atmosphere and festive lighting.
Walking through Bruges truly feels like stepping back in time. The Medieval inner city is one of the best-preserved in Europe and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000. It is hard to pick any specific landmarks from such a wealth of beauty, but the Church of Our Lady, the Basilica of the Holy Blood, the market square and the 13th-century Belfry are absolute must-sees.
Join one of the many tours or visit the Historium Museum to learn more about the history of Bruges. Or explore the city by yourself and dive into every little side street you see as there are many hidden gems to discover.
As we get to some of the lesser-known cities in Belgium, Mechelen is a personal recommendation. It is a lovely little city with a beautiful historic city centre. The short distance to Antwerp makes it a great spot for a day or afternoon trip.
Upon entering the inner city, your first stop is the Grote Markt. This charming market square is lined with landmarks like the City Hall and many cute cafes. Mechelen is filled with Medieval architecture and churches, of which the Cathedral is the most impressive. The unfinished belltower offers a great view of the city. It is also worth taking a stroll along the canal and trough the Begijnhof and its many courtyards. Art lovers will enjoy a visit to the City Museum in the Hof van Busleyden.
Like many Belgian cities, Leuven boasts an array of Medieval architecture. The 15th century, ornately decorated City Hall is the crowning glory of the city. You can join a daily tour to learn more about this Gothic masterpiece. The 13th-century Beguinage, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is also worth a visit.
Leuven is also home to one of the best universities in Belgium, especially when it comes to the arts and humanities. The Catholic University Leuven has many beautiful buildings, but the library is particularly impressive and houses a permanent exhibition on the history of the city.
Belgium has an old beer culture and brews some of the best beers in the world. In Leuven, you can tour the brewery of the famous Stella Artois brand. Or sit down for a drink at the market square which has the longest row of bars in Europe.
One of the most popular tourist destinations in Belgium is the small town of Spa. Its natural springs produce the world-famous “Spa” mineral water. It is also home to the Belgian Grand Prix, the world first beauty pageant in 1888 and one of the oldest casino in Europe.
But aside from quirky claims to fame, Spa is a massively popular resort town. Since the 14th-century, people have flocked here to enjoy the supposed health benefits of the natural spring water. The city’s name has become synonymous with wellness, health and hydrotherapy. Visiting the now modernised thermal baths is the main tourist attraction, but there is much more to see and do here.
The town is also surrounded by beautiful nature, perfect for long walks and bike rides. The Parc 7 Heures was a popular place to go for a stroll and definitely worth a visit. There is a funicular to the top of the hill with a view of the town, as well as a surprisingly interesting museum about the history of laundry. To learn more about the history of Spa, visit the Musée de la Ville d’Eaux.
Dinant is an important place in Belgian history. Archaeological finds suggest that people have inhabited the region along the Meuse Valley since the Stone Age. Throughout the ages, Dinant was occupied by different forces as it lies along a vital European trade route. Traces of all those influences are still visible today.
In the mid-19th-century, Dinant became a popular destination for painters and artists. It is not difficult to imagine how the picturesque town and sweeping landscapes inspired them. When you arrive in Dinant, the riverside promenade immediately catches your eye. The colourful houses and the impressive Cathedral offer a warm welcome to tourists. Towering above Dinant lies the old citadel atop a cliff.
There is a lot to see and do in Dinant, from visiting castles and enjoying the nature to touring the Leffe brewery and the saxophone museum.
The Ardenne mountains are one of the most popular and beautiful places in Belgium. The mountainous region is covered in dense forest and is popular for outdoor activities such as hiking, mountain biking and rafting.
La-Roche-en-Ardenne is a small town in the Ardenne region and the perfect base for an adventurous outdoor vacation. The historic village is nicknamed The Pearl of the Ardenne and gets quite busy in the summer. A small tourist train takes you around the sights, such as the castle La-Roche-en-Ardenne and Parc a Gibier, a natural reserve with wild animals and a petting zoo.
Other highlights are the local history museum, the Hotton caves and of course the beautiful nature.
Durbuy might look like a village, but it considers itself the smallest city in the world. The town got official city rights in 1331, and the clever motto is one of the reasons it’s popular with tourists. Durbuy is also incredibly picturesque and pretty. The well-preserved historic inner city dates back to the 17th century and looks like something out of a fairytale. Mostly thanks to the charming castle, which is unfortunately privately owned and not open to visitors.
But there is plenty to see and do in Durbuy. Climb the viewing tower to see the town from a different angle. There is also a beautiful park with topiaries, a modern art museum and a corn maze. Adrenaline junkies will enjoy a visit to the Adventure Valley Durbuy, and for foodies there are plenty of local delicacies to taste.
With so many beautiful places to visit in Belgium, it is a wonder that the country isn’t a bigger international tourist destination. Take advantage of this and visit the underrated cities, villages and natural wonders of Belgium while you can. All while enjoying some craft beer and lots of chocolate of course!
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