Belgium has a distinctive place in European history: its countryside held the most important historical events (e.g. the Battle of Waterloo), while its incredible Flemish art (especially painting between 15th and 17th century) made an influence on the latter generations and changed the course of art history. Picturesque Belgian towns with beautiful architecture are every tourist’s dream, as well as the famous beer and finger licking food such as waffles, chocolate and frites. Here are the top five Belgian cities you need to put on your bucket list.
Explore Brussels, the EU capital
In addition to being Belgium’s capital, Brussels is home to the EU headquarters. Don’t miss out on taking a multimedia guided tour and experience European politics in an extraordinary way. Visiting Atomium, the most popular tourist attraction in Brussels, is a must! For a full experience, have a dinner at the panoramic restaurant. Visit during the night to see the light show: spheres light up in a most stunning way! It takes just a couple of minutes on foot from Atomium to visit the Mini Europe, a unique place to explore the whole European continent in small – an amazing Gulliver-like experience! You can also join a city guided tour on a hop on-hop off bus: prices vary between €14 and €81. Enjoy the cobblestone streets in the Old Town, take some photos by the Grand Palace. Sweet tooth will enjoy a visit to the Chocolate museum. And did you know that Brussels is home to the famous Tintin? Comic lovers shouldn’t miss the Comics Art Museum.
Travel to the medieval times in Ghent
Ghent is truly a heaven for architecture-lovers: from castles and cathedrals to old houses and churches, there is a lot to see. For a great panoramic view, climb the Ghent Belfry and consider attending a guided tour. The Castle of the Counts is also a must-see, with its rich history and fairytale-like facades. You can visit the arms museum or the medieval torture museum inside. However, cruel ways of punishment that were practiced under the Ancien Regime are not recommended for those with a weak stomach! Enjoy the Graslei and Korenlei in the heart of the city: the medieval port offers you an opportunity to soak in the amazing architecture scenery with buildings dating all the way back to the 13th century. Visit the St. Bavo’s Cathedral: the entrance is and it’s absolutely breathtaking! However, if you want to see the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, it will cost you €4. To truly capture the spirit of these areas, consider going on a barge travel trip and cruise through the most exquisite waterways and visit all the touristic highlights of Belgium.
Discover Viking history in Bruges
Known as the Venice of the North, Bruges is best to get to know through historical and heritage tours. The most popular one is the Legend of Bruges free walking tour: no need to book your place, it’s free (donation-based), very entertaining and educational. Did you know Bruges was founded by Danish Vikings? This tour will guide you through the historical center of the city (Market square, palace of Gruuthuse, old St John’s hospital, Lake of Love, Church of Our Lady, Bonifacius bridge, Groeninge museum, Dijver, Tanner’s square, Burg square – to name a few locations), you’ll listen to interesting urban legends, and it ends with free beer at the local pub! Don’t miss out on visiting the Basilica of the Holy Blood, where it is believed a crystal holding a drop of Christ’s blood is preserved.
Visit Leuven, Belgium’s architectural mosaic
Leuven is home to several types of amazing architecture, with Gothic one being the predominant. The City Hall is the most representative building of Late Gothic style. It’s located on the Main Market square and it looks absolutely surreal! Entrance fee is €4 and it includes a booklet and a guided tour. Also, make sure to visit the University of Leuven, founded in 1425. It has a rich history and list of famous scholars to boast about, such as one of the most prominent Renaissance thinkers, Desiderius Erasmus, who lectured there. Take a tour of the Naamsestraat and explore famous college buildings – King’s College, the Premonstratensian College, and the Arras College. Nearby is the Oude Markt, where you can enjoy the baroque facades. Visit the St. Peter’s church and the Museum of Religious Art inside.
Be amazed with natural wonders in Dinant
Dinant lies on the Meuse River and is the most popular Belgian tourist attraction when it comes to natural heritage. The Grotto of Dinant and The Caves of Han are two must-sees! Enjoy the guided tours through the caves and explore the Wildlife Reservation with native flora and fauna. Make sure to wear warm clothes: temperature in the caves can go as low as 13°C. As for the city itself, it’s famous for the Gothic Collegiate Church of Notre Dame, placed in an amazing scenery right by the river.
Belgium truly is a hidden European gem! With a rich tourist offer that goes beyond yummy waffles and chocolates, you’ll be amazed what a great time you’ll have.