10 Best Places to Visit in Belgium

Belgium, a jewel nestled in the heart of Europe, offers an array of captivating attractions that beckon travellers from around the globe. This small yet mighty nation is steeped in history, brimming with architectural marvels, and rich in cultural diversity. It’s a land where mediaeval castles stand in harmony with modern art and where vibrant city life seamlessly blends with serene natural landscapes. As a tourist destination, Belgium is unique in its ability to offer such a wide range of experiences within its compact geography.

The country’s significance as a tourist hotspot is not just in its picturesque towns and historical monuments but also in the diversity it presents. From the enchanting canals of Bruges and Ghent to the grandeur of the Grand Place in Brussels, from the poignant battlefields of Flanders to the innovative Atomium, and from the artistic treasure troves in the Horta Museum to the tranquil beauty of the Ardennes, Belgium is a tapestry of experiences. These attractions are not mere points on a map; they are chapters of a rich historical narrative and windows into the soul of the Belgian people.

The renowned culinary treats of Belgium, such as its top-notch beers, waffles, and chocolates, as well as its longstanding tradition of cordial hospitality, further increase the country’s appeal to tourists. The country’s efficient transportation network makes it easy to explore, inviting visitors to discover the charm of each region. Whether it’s for a weekend getaway or a longer exploration, Belgium offers a multifaceted experience that caters to all types of travellers, from history enthusiasts and art aficionados to nature lovers and food connoisseurs. In Belgium, every visitor is bound to find a corner that feels like it was made just for them.

1: Grand Place, Brussels

10 Best Places to Visit in Belgium

The Grand Place, or Grote Markt, in Brussels is not just the city’s beating heart; it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site and a masterpiece of architectural grandeur. The lavish guildhalls, the city’s Town Hall, and the King’s House that surround this central square represent the best of Belgian art and history. Its origins trace back to the 10th century, evolving through time to become a symbol of Brussels’ cultural and political significance.

The most striking feature of the Grand Place is its eclectic mix of architectural styles, primarily Baroque, Gothic, and Louis XIV, making it a visual feast for history and architecture enthusiasts. The square is not just about static beauty; it’s a living, breathing space that hosts numerous events throughout the year, including the famous Flower Carpet Festival, a biennial event where the square is adorned with a stunning carpet of begonias, creating a mesmerising spectacle.

For visitors, the Grand Place offers more than just a walk through history. There are cafes and shops all around it, giving you the opportunity to savour Belgian delicacies like chocolates and waffles or to sip Belgian beer in a neighbourhood pub. The evening brings a different vibe to the square, with the buildings illuminated, showcasing their intricate facades in a new light. Visitors are advised to explore the Grand Place both day and night to fully appreciate its beauty and ambiance. Proximity to other tourist attractions, like the Manneken Pis and the Brussels City Museum, makes it a convenient starting point for a deeper exploration of the city’s rich heritage.

2: Bruges’ Historic Centre

10 Best Places to Visit in Belgium

Bruges’ Historic Centre, often referred to as the Venice of the North, is a mesmerising blend of mediaeval architecture and idyllic canal networks. This exceptionally well-preserved part of the city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, renowned for its cobblestone streets, quaint bridges, and stunning buildings that take visitors back to the Middle Ages. The charm of Bruges lies in its ability to transport one to a bygone era, where time seems to stand still amidst the bustling modern world.

The city’s most iconic landmark, the Belfry of Bruges, towers over Market Square, offering panoramic views of the city to those who brave the 366-step climb. The canals, another focal point of Bruges, provide a serene way to explore the city. Boat tours navigate these waterways, offering unique perspectives on ancient bridges and historic buildings, each with a story to tell.

Culturally, Brussels is a treasure trove, with its numerous museums and art galleries showcasing everything from mediaeval to contemporary art. The Groeningemuseum, for instance, exhibits a remarkable collection of Flemish and Belgian paintings, giving insight into the region’s rich artistic heritage.

For visitors, wandering through Bruges is akin to walking through a living museum. Each street corner, church, and market square tells a tale of the city’s prosperous past. Adding to the experience are the numerous chocolate shops and cafes where one can indulge in Belgian chocolate and other local delicacies, making a visit to Bruges’ Historic Centre not just a visual but also a culinary delight.

3: The Canals of Ghent

10 Best Places to Visit in Belgium

Ghent’s network of canals is a captivating feature that adds to the city’s mediaeval charm and allure. Unlike its more famous neighbour, Brussels, Ghent offers a less crowded yet equally picturesque canal experience, blending historical grandeur with a lively contemporary culture. These waterways, once the lifeblood of the city’s trade and commerce, now serve as serene pathways, guiding visitors through a journey in time and architecture.

A canal tour in Ghent is not just a leisurely cruise; it’s a narrative of the city’s history and a showcase of its architectural diversity. As the boat glides through the water, visitors are treated to views of stunning landmarks such as the Gravensteen Castle, the mediaeval Butchers’ Hall, and the ornate facades of the Guildhalls. These historical structures, reflected in the tranquil waters, create a mesmerising tableau of Ghent’s past and present.

The vibrant life along the canal banks of Ghent further enhances their allure. The Graslei and Korenlei, two streets running alongside the main canal, are bustling with cafes and restaurants, offering an ideal spot for visitors to relax and soak in the views. In the evenings, the canals are beautifully illuminated, presenting a whole new perspective on the city’s beauty.

Exploring Ghent’s canals provides a deeper understanding of the city’s history, culture, and architectural evolution. It’s a journey that combines the tranquilly of the waterways with the lively atmosphere of a modern European city, making it a must-visit for anyone travelling to Belgium.

4: The Battlefields of Flanders

10 Best Places to Visit in Belgium

The Battlefields of Flanders, located in the Flemish region of Belgium, are a poignant reminder of the tragedies of World War I. This area, once the scene of relentless fighting and immense loss, now serves as a solemn tribute to the millions who fought and fell on these fields. Visiting these battlefields is not just a historical journey; it’s an emotional experience, offering a stark insight into the horrors of war and the enduring spirit of peace and reconciliation.

The landscape of Flanders, dotted with cemeteries, memorials, and preserved trenches, tells the harrowing story of the Great War. Key sites include the Menin Gate in Ypres, a monumental memorial inscribed with the names of over 54,000 soldiers who went missing in action. Every evening, a moving Last Post ceremony is held here, commemorating the fallen. Another significant site is the Tyne Cot Cemetery, the largest Commonwealth War cemetery in the world, a silent testament to the scale of the sacrifice.

Visitors can explore these sites independently or through guided tours, which often provide valuable historical context and personal stories, bringing the past vividly to life. Museums like the In Flanders Fields Museum in Ypres offer immersive experiences, with exhibits and narratives that delve into the personal experiences of soldiers and civilians.

A visit to the Battlefields of Flanders is a powerful and humbling experience. It’s a journey into the heart of human resilience and a reminder of the importance of peace, making it an essential visit for those seeking to understand the true impact of war.

5: Horta Museum and Town Houses, Brussels

10 Best Places to Visit in Belgium

The Horta Museum and Town Houses in Brussels are a testament to the genius of Victor Horta, the master of Art Nouveau architecture. This architectural ensemble, including Horta’s former home and studio, now a museum, along with other townhouses designed by him, are recognised as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. They exemplify the innovative design and aesthetic that marked a departure from the traditional architectural styles of the 19th century, ushering in a new era of artistic expression.

Victor Horta’s designs are characterised by their flowing lines, organic forms, and the integration of metal and glass, creating spaces that are both functional and aesthetically pleasing. The Horta Museum, located in the house where the architect lived and worked, is a prime example of this style. Here, visitors can immerse themselves in the world of Art Nouveau, with the interiors showcasing Horta’s skill in combining architecture with furniture, glassware, and other decorative elements.

Other notable Horta-designed townhouses, such as the Hotel Tassel, Hotel Solvay, and Hotel van Eetvelde, are marvels in their own right. While some of these are private residences and not open to the public, their exteriors can be admired from the street, offering a glimpse into the revolutionary design concepts of Victor Horta.

Exploring the Horta Museum and Town Houses is not just about appreciating the aesthetics of Art Nouveau; it’s about understanding the impact of Horta’s vision on modern architecture and design. For visitors interested in architecture and art history, this attraction provides a unique and enlightening experience in the heart of Brussels.

6: Gravensteen, Ghent

10 Best Places to Visit in Belgium

Gravensteen, located in the heart of Ghent, is a mediaeval castle that exudes historical grandeur and intrigue. Its name, translating to “Castle of the Counts” in Dutch, aptly reflects its regal and formidable presence. Dating back to 1180, this stone fortress was the residence of the Counts of Flanders and has stood as a symbol of their power and influence. Today, Gravensteen stands as one of the best-preserved moated fortresses in Europe, offering visitors a vivid glimpse into the Middle Ages.

The castle’s architecture is a classic example of mediaeval military design, complete with a moat, towering walls, and a robust keep. As visitors wander through its imposing gates, they are transported to an era of knights and feudal lords. Inside, the castle houses a fascinating museum that showcases various mediaeval artefacts, including armour, weapons, and instruments of torture, painting a vivid picture of life (and sometimes death) in the Middle Ages.

One of the highlights of Gravensteen is the panoramic view it offers from the top of its ramparts. Visitors can gaze out over the city of Ghent, taking in the juxtaposition of historic architecture against the backdrop of a bustling modern city. The view provides a unique perspective on how the past and present coexist in this vibrant European city.

Visiting Gravensteen is more than just a tour of a mediaeval castle; it’s an immersive experience in history. The castle’s preservation and presentation make it an educational and intriguing destination for history buffs, families, and anyone interested in the legacies of Europe’s feudal past.

7: Atomium, Brussels

10 Best Places to Visit in Belgium

The Atomium in Brussels is an architectural marvel and a symbol of modernity and innovation. Constructed for the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair (Expo 58), this iconic building represents an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times, embodying the atomic age’s optimism and the era’s faith in science and progress. Its futuristic design, comprising nine stainless steel-clad spheres connected by tubes, continues to captivate visitors as a timeless emblem of Brussels and Belgium.

The Atomium isn’t just an architectural wonder; it’s a cultural and educational experience. Each sphere houses exhibitions related to science, design, and society, offering insights into both the past and the future. The central tube contains the fastest elevator of its time, taking visitors up to the top sphere, which features a panoramic viewing gallery. From here, one can enjoy breathtaking views of the cityscape, stretching far into the Belgian countryside.

The Atomium is more than just a sightseeing spot; it’s a venue for various cultural events and temporary exhibitions, ensuring that each visit offers something new. At night, the structure transforms into a glowing beacon, with lights outlining its unique shape, making it a remarkable sight against the Brussels skyline.

Visiting the Atomium provides a unique blend of architectural admiration, educational enrichment, and panoramic enjoyment. It’s a landmark that encapsulates the spirit of Brussels as a city that blends history with forward-thinking dynamism, making it a must-visit destination for anyone travelling to Belgium’s capital.

8: Royal Greenhouses of Laeken, Brussels

10 Best Places to Visit in Belgium

The Royal Greenhouses of Laeken, situated on the outskirts of Brussels, are a stunning example of 19th-century glass and iron architecture. Built in the reign of King Leopold II, these greenhouses are not only an architectural masterpiece but also a botanical wonder, housing a vast and exotic collection of plants and flowers. Open to the public only during a brief period each spring, they offer a rare opportunity to explore a royal treasure.

The complex comprises a series of interconnected domes and galleries, extending over a large area. The primary structure, the Winter Garden, features a high glass dome and is filled with lush, tropical vegetation, creating a serene and almost otherworldly atmosphere. Other notable parts include the Congo Greenhouse, reflecting Belgium’s colonial past, and the Orangery, which offers picturesque views of the surrounding royal estate.

The greenhouses are not just about plant life; they are a testament to the opulence and aspirations of the Belgian monarchy in the late 19th century. The intricate ironwork and the grand design are representative of the Art Nouveau movement, making it a visual treat for architecture enthusiasts.

A visit to the Royal Greenhouses of Laeken is a unique experience that blends horticultural richness with architectural elegance. It allows visitors to step into a world of royal luxury and botanical beauty, making it a must-see attraction for those visiting Brussels during its limited public opening times.

9: Tournai Cathedral

10 Best Places to Visit in Belgium

Tournai Cathedral, officially known as the Cathedral of Our Lady in Tournai, stands as a magnificent representation of religious architecture in Belgium. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this cathedral is renowned for its remarkable blend of Romanesque and Gothic styles, showcasing the transitional elements between these two significant periods in architectural history. Situated in the city of Tournai, one of Belgium’s oldest cities, the cathedral is not only a symbol of historical and architectural importance but also a beacon of cultural heritage.

The cathedral’s five imposing towers dominate the skyline of Tournai, presenting an awe-inspiring sight as one approaches. The structure has undergone various stages of construction and renovation, dating back to the 12th century. This has resulted in a fascinating amalgamation of styles, with the Romanesque nave and choir contrasted against the Gothic transept and chapels.

Inside, visitors are greeted by a spacious and luminous interior adorned with impressive artwork, including wall paintings and sculptures. The cathedral also houses the Shrine of Our Lady, a remarkable piece of Mosan art. Another highlight is the richly detailed rood screen, a masterpiece of Gothic stonework.

In recent years, the cathedral has undergone extensive restoration work to preserve its structural integrity and artistic beauty. Visiting Tournai Cathedral offers an insightful glimpse into Belgium’s religious and architectural history, making it a must-visit for those interested in mediaeval architecture and European cultural heritage.

10: The Ardennes

The Ardennes

The Ardennes, a region of extensive forests, rolling hills, and quaint villages, offers a stark contrast to Belgium’s urban centers. It’s a haven for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts, known for its dense forests, meandering rivers, and diverse wildlife. The area spans across southeastern Belgium, stretching into Luxembourg and France, and is celebrated for its natural beauty and the opportunities it offers for outdoor recreation and relaxation.

The landscape of the Ardennes is a paradise for hikers, cyclists, and kayakers. The region’s numerous trails and river paths provide a variety of challenges and experiences, from gentle walks through serene woodlands to adventurous kayaking down the Semois or Ourthe rivers. The area is also rich in wildlife, with chances to spot deer, boars, and numerous bird species in their natural habitat.

Beyond its natural allure, the Ardennes is steeped in history. The region played a significant role during the Battle of the Bulge in World War II, and numerous monuments, museums, and memorials, such as the Bastogne War Museum, pay tribute to these events. The area is also dotted with mediaeval castles and fortresses, adding a historical depth to its natural beauty.

The Ardennes is not only about outdoor activities; it’s also a place to unwind. The region’s small towns and villages, such as Durbuy and La Roche-en-Ardenne, are perfect for enjoying local cuisine, exploring quaint shops, and experiencing the relaxed pace of rural Belgian life. Whether seeking adventure, history, or tranquilly, the Ardennes offers a refreshing escape into Belgium’s natural and cultural heritage.


In conclusion, Belgium’s array of tourist attractions reflects the country’s rich tapestry of history, culture, and natural beauty. From the grandeur of historic sites like the Grand Place in Brussels and the mediaeval charm of Bruges to the poignant battlefields of Flanders and the architectural splendour of the Horta Museum, Belgium offers a diverse range of experiences for every aveler. The serene canals of Ghent and the towering presence of Gravensteen provide insights into a glorious past, while modern marvels like the Atomium showcase Belgium’s forward-looking spirit.

The Royal Greenhouses of Laeken and the majestic Tournai Cathedral are testimonies to Belgium’s architectural and artistic prowess. Meanwhile, the Ardennes region offers a refreshing retreat into nature, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the tranquilly and beauty of the Belgian countryside.

This blend of historical depth, cultural richness, and natural beauty makes Belgium a unique destination. Each attraction, whether a bustling city square, a quiet mediaeval town, a poignant historical site, or a natural landscape, tells a part of the story of Belgium. They collectively present a country that, despite its modest size, offers a wealth of experiences capable of both educating and enchanting its visitors.

Tourists in Belgium are thus encouraged to explore beyond these top ten attractions. Each corner of this vibrant country has its own unique story and charm, waiting to be discovered. Belgium, with its mix of languages, cultures, and histories, truly offers something for everyone, making it a must-visit destination in the heart of Europe.

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