Belgium, a land of fairytale castles, the best artisan chocolate, flavorful beers and notable museums and architecture. Located on the North Sea it is part of the Benelux countries with Belgians speaking three distinct languages, French, Dutch and German. This small country is about the size of Maryland and within this small area you won’t believe how it’s filled with interesting sights to see. And, they won’t disappoint you for even one minute.
Travel to Belgium is easy with nonstop flights that arrive from all over the world and within Europe. Day trips from Paris are perfect for a day trip excursion with as little as a 2 hour ride by rail from Paris to Brussels. Taking the train is half the fun while you travel through sprawling rolling hills and forested lands. It is picture perfect.
Places to See in Belgium
The capital of Belgium is a vibrant city filled with impressive historic monuments. The city of Brussels is a mix of Gothic and Art Nouveau architecture, which the community is very proud of.
A must see attraction is the Town Hall. The building is a stunning Gothic structure located within the Royal Palace and has the best tapestry exhibit. In fact the king of Belgium still resides in the Royal Palace today. Built in the 13th century the Grand Palace is by far the most beautiful square in Europe. Best part is the famous Flower Carpet is held here every other year in August. This is something you would want to see in your life time, it’s magnificent! Camera’s are a must for this event.
Other attractions you won’t want to miss are Manneken Pis the city’s most distinguished statue. The Museum Horta is a dedication to Art Nouveau’s famous Belgian architect Victor Horta. Then Magritte Museum a sanctuary filled with Europe’s most famous artist’s masterpieces. Trendy eateries fill the city and with so many choices it will be hard to choose where to go first.
A fave of so many who come to visit Europe. Brugges is considered the Venice of the Northern countries and its a dream to visit. Things not to miss when in Brugges of course is to take the scenic boat ride through the city’s medieval canals. This is the best way to experience the incredible but also romantic views this town has to offer. Second, go Chocolate tasting! Just about every street has a specialty chocolate shop filled with truffles, creams, praline’s, bars, caramel’s and fudge and more. It’s a chocolate lovers haven! A couple of our faves would be Dumon Chocolatier and The Chocolate Line.
Check out art at the Groeninge Museum to get a glimpse of Flemish history through the works of Renaissance artists. Take a hike up the 366 steps at Belfry Tower. It’s located in Brugges main square and will give you a spectacular view of the whole city. No trip to Brugges is complete without a stroll through Markt Square where they hold their farmers market and local crafts. The market sits in front of Belfry Tower where you will also find cute traditional buildings that will keep you busy with cafe’s and shops, and for your viewing pleasure a couple historical statues.
Belgium’s largest port city and diamond center of the world. Antwerp caters to the fashion conscious and those just wanting to have fun. There is no shortage of trendy bars and shops. You will also find this destination a little more lively than some others in Belgium. Although Antwerp no longer has its historic city wall the buildings still yell out Renaissance!
One of the best sites to visit is the Antwerp Centraal Station which by the way has over 30 diamond shops. This rail station has a large domed building and 8 towers that were rebuilt in 2009 after being demolished since the 1950’s. Glittering marble and stone arches for the decor with high vaulted ceilings, a glass fanned clock tower that has gold accents and marble staircases make this a note worthy stop. The station also has plenty of shops and restaurants.
Other noteworthy sights
Just behind the station is the Antwerp Zoo. Considered one of the oldest and best zoo’s in the world. For being in the middle of the city they have a great variety of exotic animals which most visitors do not expect. Animal’s like the Siberian tigers to penguins, Asian elephants to zebras, hippopotamus to buffalos I think I read there were more than 7000 animals here. Not bad! Walk around the grounds and gardens for another sweet surprise. There just happens to be an Egyptian temple that is very well done, along with other fascinating buildings . It is one of the best zoo’s to visit in the world!
Other attractions not to miss are Cogels Osi lei for the best in Art Nouveau architecture, the Cathedral of our Lady has some very impressive altar pieces which is located in the popular Grote Market. It’s a great place to shop and eat some more chocolate while there. One last must see is the Ruben’s House the home of Peter Paul Rubens, a flamboyant painter who had a passion for colorful sensuous scenes. Turns out he was a diplomat and scholar.
Hedged in by the rivers Leie and Scheldt Ghent this university town was once one of the most profitable cities in all of Europe. Now it is considered to be one of the most beautiful historic cities anywhere. Ghent has a way of attracting visitors from all over the world with the best foods, a beautiful historic city center, some of the best museums in Belgium and of course their own Ghent Jazz Festival. Here is a short list of the best sightseeing starting with the Graslei and Korenlei two streets that run along the river Lei.
This is one of the busiest places to see in Ghent, where streets are lined with medieval homes and architecture you expect to see in Belgium. It’s a great area to dine at since it’s next to the river. Enjoy your meal as you watch small boats lazily sail by. Choose from a variety pubs and music and kick back with a large Belgian beer.
What to see in Ghent
St. Michaels starts a historic walking tour of the iconic Three Towers. An interesting but unique attraction is just a short walk from here. Gravensteen Castle give you a first hand education on what a torture chamber was like in Medieval times along with it’s vintage weapons. If weapons are not your idea of a good tour the views you see from Gravensteen will make the admission worth it.
The Three Towers include the Belfry of Ghent which is probably the most notable. The Belfry was in its time used as a warning system for the town and treasury. Saint Bavo Cathedral is the respected seat of the diocese of Ghent. Most treasured at Bavo is “The Adoration of the Mysic Lamb”, a masterpiece of medieval art paintings by the Belguims own Van Eyck brothers. The last of the trio is Saint Nicolas Church. This beautiful Gothic church was once used as a horse stable during the French Revolution. Saint Nicolas is has an open, tall ceiling sanctuary that is known for its stunning pipe organ.
These are just a few of our favorites. Other towns we suggest you visit are Liege along the Meuse River and Mechelen along the River Dyle. Both have a great history, interesting churches and the best food. Belgium is full of good surprises around every corner and should be on everyone’s bucket list!