Belgium has a rich history that you can explore in many ways. From its beautiful medieval castles to its historical monuments, Belgium has amazing attractions that visitors of all ages can enjoy.
One of the most popular attractions in Belgium is its historical sites. This article will take you through some of the most interesting and important historical sites in the country:
Grand Place in Brussels
Located within the historic city center of Brussels, Belgium, the Grand Place is a square of architectural and historical importance. It is listed as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site due to its outstanding beauty, rich history, and social significance to Brussels.
Constructed in the 11th century, the Grand Place and the buildings surrounding it are an integral part of Brussels’ history. At different points in time, it has served as a marketplace for merchants, a political arena for citizens to express their opinions, a place of worship or refuge in times of war and conflict, and even a location for public executions.
Today, the town square has been transformed into a vibrant site full of culture and entertainment. Locals and visitors can attend festivals hosted here at different times of the year while also feasting their eyes on stunning Belgian architecture, including numerous buildings constructed by wealthy merchants, such as Maison du Roi (the King’s House). This impressive structure was built between 1402-1450 by the craftsman Braboneon family and stood tall with a 48m / 157ft spire at its center surrounded by other buildings made of brick-and-stone faηades featuring remarkable Statues holding flags.
The Grand Place truly represents Belgium’s solid cultural identity! Visitors are mesmerized by the breathtaking natural beauty this site provides, from sunsets to snowstorms alike, all while experiencing centuries-old Gothic architecture spanning various streets that border this important town square.
The Atomium, built for the Brussels World’s Fair in 1958, is a national landmark of Belgium that stands at 102m and has become one of Europe’s most visited attractions. The building, made up of nine interconnected spheres, was designed as an exhibit to show off the advances in atomic physics. Each sphere is 18m in diameter, and some escalators connect them to create paths throughout the interior. The top sphere has a tourist-friendly restaurant with panoramic views of Belgium.
In addition, The Atomium also contains many artifacts and displays related to its era, along with modern-day exhibitions about science and technology. This unique monument continues to remind us of our progress and serves as an inspiration for what can be accomplished if we continue pushing our limits.
Belfries of Belgium and France
The Belfries of Belgium and France is a collection of 56 historic structures, classified as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, scattered across culturally diverse countries. These bell towers are some of the finest examples of civil, military, and religious architecture from medieval times and later developments in architectural styles from Flanders, Hainaut, and Tournai in Belgium to Walloon and Picardy in France.
The belfries first came about during Medieval times as watchtowers for cities and towns, built to protect local citizens from enemies such as neighboring rulers or attackers. Located inside city walls or on the city’s perimeter, they initially served military and religious purposes – they were a place of refuge during attacks. In addition, they provided a point where bells would ring in alarm (hence their name). However, later developments saw them used for civil functions such as courthouse proceedings or to display symbols of power.
Each belfry is unique but typically has some standard features, such as:
- A tower structure with battlements housing a bell chamber at the top.
- Gargoyles or open galleries on their exteriors give them significant aesthetic value while maintaining a functional role.
- Sides lined with shelves designed to project sound across large distances (known as ‘sonneries’).
- Decorative stone sculptures.
- Roofs adorned with stone pinnacles or weathervanes typically impressively showcase each city’s coat of arms.
The Belfries of Belgium is an impressive showcase for craftsmanship dating back into history, which still contributes greatly to today’s cultural landscape.
Belgium is one of the best destinations for museum enthusiasts. You can explore myriad artistic and historical treasures with countless museums across the country.
The Royal Museums of Fine Arts in Brussels is one of the most famous museums in the country, showcasing masterpieces from the 14th-16th century. In addition, the Grand-Hornu industrial complex museum is a must-visit for those interested in Industrial Revolution-era artifacts.
Other noteworthy museums in Belgium include:
- In Flanders Fields Museum
- Chocolate Museum
- Museum of Musical Instruments
Royal Museum of Fine Arts
The Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Belgium is a national art museum in Brussels. Established in 1797, it houses a collection of works from well-known Flemish, Dutch and European painters from the 16th to 20th centuries.
Works featured include Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s The Tower of Babel, Peter Paul Rubens’ Descent from the Cross, Rembrandt van Rijn’s The Descent from the Cross, Jan Van Eyck’s Madonna Madonna with Canon van der Paele and Anthony van Dyck’s Adoration of Jesus. There is also an extensive collection of still life paintings based on local depictions, such as Jan Davidsz de Heem’s Still Life with books and pipe.
In addition to its permanent exhibition rooms, the Royal Museum offers educational courses and events such as artistic debates and screening nights. It is next to two other museums: the Magritte Museum and the Museum of Ancient Art.
Royal Museum of Armed Forces and Military History
Royal Museum of Armed Forces and Military History is located in Brussels. It is a notable military and war museum with a rich collection of Belgian military artifacts dating back to the late 19th century. The museum traces the history of the Belgium armed forces and military past, as well as its involvement in international peacekeeping and security operations.
Visitors can explore interactive exhibits that explain how theories apply to practical situations. For example, learn about tactics from World War I through World War II, explore air defense technologies from WWI up to modern laser-guided missiles, or indulge in serious vehicle viewing with an impressive collection of armored vehicles spanning over a century of service. The museum also hosts temporary exhibitions that showcase various aspects of Belgium and military history. This fantastic collection makes for an inspiring visit by showcasing weapons such as rifles, revolvers, and canons alongside photographs and documents dating back to the early 20th century.
Autoworld is a private car museum in the heart of Brussels, Belgium. The museum features more than 350 cars and classic motorcycles from the nineteenth century to modern times. Autoworld also displays vintage toys, magazines, books, model kits, and original automotive posters.
Animal enthusiasts will love the ‘Crazy Zoo’ exhibit, which showcases quirky cars replicating animals like zebras and dogs. In addition to this exhibit, there are several other collections, such as Formula One Race Cars, Classic Miniatures, and a unique collection focused on royalty cars.
Furthermore, visitors can participate in special workshops such as car maintenance meetings or get behind the wheel of some of their favorite vehicles during Driving Courses – offered for adults and children.
Autoworld Museum offers something to every motorcar enthusiast alike – make sure you don’t miss out on this treasure trove of classic cars!
Belgium is known for its many beautiful natural attractions. From forests and parks to coastal areas and rivers, there is something for everyone to explore. So whether you’re looking to explore the local wildlife or take in stunning views, Belgium has some unique and diverse attractions.
Let’s take a look at some of the most popular natural attractions in Belgium:
Caves of Han
The Caves of Han are a stalactite and stalagmite-filled network of caves located in the southeastern region of Belgium, near the border with Germany and Luxembourg. The system consists of several limestone caves and a vast underground water course. The Caves of Han are considered one of the most spectacular natural attractions in Belgium.
The Caves of Han were first discovered in 1845 by an anonymous group of local cavers and have since become a major tourist attraction, receiving over 130,000 visitors annually. Inside the network, you will find several impressive chambers with numerous formations, including a flat wall covered in large clusters of mica. This silicate mineral sparkles like a diamond when illuminated.
Aside from their geological interest, the Caves also have spiritual significance for some visitors, where rituals such as weddings occur regularly inside its chambers. In addition, there are also musical performances inside its walls as part of special events or cultural celebrations consisting mostly of local performers who take advantage of its acoustic properties to create echoes and reverberations that amplify their sound up to 10 times!
Visitors will also have ample possibilities to explore cave life through organized tours that include explanations of different species, such as microscopic beetles and crystals forming large chandelier formations. A visit to this incredible underground system is an experience you won’t forget!
The Ardennes is an upland region located mainly in southeastern Belgium and consisting of wooded hills, plateaus, and valleys. Officially known as the Ardennen to its Dutch-speaking inhabitants, its rugged terrain is Belgium’s greenest area and encompasses a vast network of forests, picturesque villages, and gorges. The Ardennes is home to many mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and more than 300 bird species, such as Peregrine falcons.
The Ardennes marks part of what was once a much larger forest landscape covering much of Central Europe in prehistoric times. Today this area boasts some stunning natural attractions that range from Silent Valley Nature Reserve with its spectacular waterfalls to Malbrouck Castle with its many wildflower meadows, friendly wildlife, and rustic hospitality. Other attractions include vast caves, interesting archaeological sites, therapeutic spas, and well-endowed parks such as Orval Abbey Nature Park, where visitors can walk along the river network or explore hidden paths among the oak trees.
The Ardennes also offers many great outdoor activities throughout the year, including:
- Swimming in nature’s pools
- Cross-country skiing
- Winter climbing
Making it one of Belgium’s most popular tourist destinations at any time of year! From gentle woodland walks to thrilling mountaineering adventures or ski trips – there are endless possibilities for fun exploration within this beautiful forest region!
The Meuse Valley
The Meuse Valley is a picturesque region located south of Belgium, running through the provinces of Liège, Namur, and Luxembourg. The scenic landscape of these valleys and hills is dotted with numerous historical villages, from modest hamlets to vibrant towns and bustling cities.
The valley runs along the famous Meuse river, which forms one of the main attractions for visitors to this area. Visitors can appreciate panoramic views of meandering riverside paths or take a boat or canoe to explore its many waterways. In addition, various nature-based activities are available such as cycling and hiking, taking in stunning natural vistas, including forests, meadows, and sandy hillsides.
The valley is also home to many architectural treasures; while strolling by the riverside, you’ll come across some magnificent abbeys, churches, castles, and manors dating back centuries – a refreshing reminder of its vibrant past. The region also boasts three prestigious Natural Regional Parks. Les Fourons Nature Park in Luxembourg province covers 65 hectares, Alsace Lorraine Regional Nature Park covers 450 square kilometers in Eastern Belgium, and Hallerbos Nature Park attracts visitors from far away during Springtime for its carpeting blankets of bluebells.
No matter what type of experience you’re looking for – be that historical trails through quaint villages or outdoor excursions – a trip down the Meuse Valley will surely not disappoint!
Belgium has a wide range of cultural attractions for travelers of all ages. From breathtaking cathedrals and churches to vibrant museums, there is something for everyone to explore in Belgium. Additionally, various festivals are held throughout the year, which provides an opportunity to experience the country’s culture in all its glory.
Let’s take a look at some of the cultural attractions of Belgium:
Manneken Pis is a small bronze fountain sculpture of a little boy urinating into a bronze basin. The beloved statue stands almost two feet tall and is located in the center of Brussels. It was initially placed on the city’s former fence, which Louis XV later removed due to overcrowding. The statue is believed to have existed as early as 1618 and quickly became one of Belgium’s most beloved characters, with people from around the world visiting it each year.
The Manneken Pis has a history steeped in folklore and local legend, making it an integral part of Belgian identity and culture. Over time, the little fellow has been dressed in hundreds of different costumes for various special occasions ranging from family milestones to national holidays. The statue also changes outfits regularly throughout different seasons, including special attire for Christmas and Easter and national sporting events or holidays like St Patrick’s Day or Bastille Day.
Manneken Pis has been featured on many postcards throughout Europe, allowing visitors worldwide to experience its charm first-hand. It has also been replicated in several other cities across Belgium, such as Gent and Ixelles. So whether you’re stopping by out of curiosity or looking for an iconic landmark to snap a few photographs at before heading home, Manneken Pis should be at the top of your list when visiting Brussels!
Belgians take chocolate seriously, and it is one of the most popular attractions in Belgium. Belgian chocolate is renowned worldwide, and tourists come from around the world to experience an array of unique taste varieties. Belgian chocolate makers use only the finest cocoa beans, imported from Ecuador and Ivory Coast, blended in unique ways with other ingredients, like speculoos cookies, pralines, nut pastes, caramelized biscuits, and more.
Most chocolatiers offer customers a chance to watch their professional staff make the desserts in front of their eyes. Visiting a chocolate shop is perhaps one of the most delicious activities for tourists eager to sample authentic liqueurs-filled bonbons or discover how sailors made truffles hundreds of years ago. Some manufacturers also offer guided tours explaining the different types and processes used to make Belgian chocolates.
For a truly educational experience, museums are explicitly dedicated to chocolate dotted across Belgium’s cities showing the history and different aspects of the beloved confectionery product. Examples include Chocolaterie Beussent Lachelle (frequently mentioned as one of Europe’s top 10 Chocolate Producer museums) or Cote d’Or Museum near Brussels, which belongs to Barry Callebaut (the world’s largest cocoa purchasing company).
No matter where you go in Belgium – the old streets of Brussels’ City Center or small villages in West Flanders – finding artisanal cafes specializing in chocolates is easy as they have become a quintessential symbol for this country internationally recognized. Belgian chocolate is an exciting experience not to be missed if you ever visit!
Belgium is renowned as one of the best places in the world to enjoy beer. Belgian beers come in various shapes, sizes, and styles throughout the country. With more than 1,500 Brands of beer brewed there, you may be hard-pressed to sample them all. From creamy white ales to robust and flavorful stouts, you will surely find something unique while exploring Belgian beers.
Some popular offerings include Kwak Beer which features a sweet aroma and some tart flavor. Stouterik is a dark fruity stout, while Leffe Blond has a sweet flavor with notes of banana and orange. At the same time, Chimay Blue offers a well-balanced profile with a special touch from its hints of raisin and plum. Belgium also produces some great examples of fruit-flavored Lambic style beers and other unusual beverages such as Gueuze, Kriek, and Framboise ales.
Additionally, brewery visits are a common way for travelers to get an inside look at the beer culture in Belgium. From Anheuser Busch Museum located in Louvain-la-Neuve or Brewery Piedboeuf in Jupille-Sur-Meuse, visitors will have an opportunity to learn about the production process behind some popular Belgian ales while sampling some tasty brews!
Festivals and Events
Belgium has a rich history and culture, and many annual festivals and events occur throughout the year. Festivals such as the Gentse Feesten, the Ghent International Film Festival, and the Tomatina in Binche draw large crowds of locals and tourists alike. You can enjoy food, drinks, music, and other activities while attending these events.
Let’s explore some more of the festivals and events in Belgium:
The Binche Carnival is an annual event in the city of Binche, located in Wallonia, Belgium. This festival lasts from the last Sunday of February to mid-March and attracts thousands of visitors from all over Europe. UNESCO also recognizes this carnival as one of the treasures of mankind’s intangible heritage.
The Binche Carnival is exceptionally well known for its parade on Shrove Tuesday, or Mardi Gras, which has been celebrated since the 16th century. During this parade, which typically lasts from 8 am to midnight, Gilles (men in costume wearing ruffs and adorned with a wide-brimmed hat) parade through the streets throwing oranges at the crowd and performing various dances and acrobatic feats. Another fun sight during this celebration is Pères Fouettards (threatening figures in masks whose purpose is to scare away children who misbehave).
The whole atmosphere during this festival is one of joy and celebration – filled with traditional music, costumes, floats, and processions. If you ever find yourself in Wallonia at this time of year, you should certainly not miss out on this fantastic experience!
Brussels Jazz Marathon
The Brussels Jazz Marathon, held every year in May, is an annual jazz event that brings over 200 musicians and bands to the city. In addition, the event attracts thousands of music fans from across Europe who come to enjoy performances of world-renowned jazz musicians and up-and-coming talent.
The festival is held over two days in the city’s central squares and parks. It includes concerts, exhibits, and workshops. The lineup consists of traditional and modern jazz styles worldwide, making it one of Europe’s most diverse jazz festivals. In addition, enjoy performances by well-known international artists. It is also a platform for Belgian talent to showcase their musical prowess on some of the biggest stages in Brussels.
Whether you’re looking for an intimate club setting or a whole open-air stage experience at this iconic event – there’s something for everyone!
The Flanders Festival is a Belgium annual event celebrating music and the arts. Organized by the Flemish Music Centre, the event is held in various cities across Belgium each summer. The festival’s core objective is to promote culture and support artisans and musicians from different backgrounds. Activities at the Flanders Festival include concerts, theatre performances, dance and operas, readings, meetings with artists, poetry recitals, discussions, master classes, and more.
The main components of the Flanders Festival are:
- Classical music concerts – These are performed by soloists or ensembles performing a wide range of styles, from baroque to modern or contemporary pieces.
- Chamber music – Featuring smaller scale creations for strings or wind instruments in concise auditoriums or locations with atmospheric acoustics.
- Special music events – Extravaganzas in concert halls such as newly discovered works or musical experiments within genres like classical vs. jazz vs pop culture events.
- Theatre performances – Featuring classic masters like Shakespeare to bold Dutch-language interpretations of newer works for the stage in traditional theatres and other smaller intimate locations around town.
- International Dance & Light Shows – Showcasing professional dancers worldwide performing all spectacular dance routines.
- Rossini Marathon Operas – A series of three operettas condensed into one evening performance; these innovative productions delight audiences every year with catchy melodies and romantic themes found in popular operatic pieces by Rossini himself.
The Flanders Festival has expanded its program to include various activities. Among them are excursions into nature, cinema screenings, lectures on topics such as literature, architecture, and, more recently, even virtual reality presentations on art topics by guest speakers from various countries around Europe.