Flat farmland reclaimed from the sea forms much of Belgium’s coastal lowlands. These geographical landscapes rise to the fertile plateaus in the center of the country and to the wooded hills of the Ardennes in the Southeast. The Meuse and Scheldt rivers have been important trade routes for centuries. Discover a country that is fluent in more than 3 languages with rich medieval and wartime history. Belgium and its people are equally famous for leading an epicurean lifestyle, savoring luxury foods such as chocolates and pate’.
Here are the top ten not to be missed places in Belgium.
The Grand-Place (Grote Markt) is undoubtedly the most beautiful place in Brussels and the highlight of any visit to the capital city. The Grande Place is easily accessible by metro or taxi. To discover its majestic presence, you must walk into an inconspicuous alley that is surrounded by restored old houses with baroque facades and gables. Visit the remarkable Town Hall and the Maison du Roi on the Grand Place. In the evening, their façades and grand architecture is beautifully illuminated. The main square is lined with buildings from the 17th Century that is worth a photo opportunity. If you visit the center of the square, a brilliantly patterned carpet of begonias decorates the Grand Place. This magnificent display of flowers is created there every other August. The creative locals gather a large number of plants and flowers that are heavily grown in the Belgian countryside to pursue this once every two year endeavor.
The Town Hall (Hotel de Ville) with its approximately 96-meter high tower was built in the 15th Century. At the top of the tower is a huge gilded statue of the Angel Michael, who is the patron saint of the city of Brussels. The ornate facade and the large belfry rise above the old houses along Brussels. The Belfry is the tall slender bell tower. The Town Hall was built in 1401-1421. First, the left wing was built as an extension to an existing Belfry. From 1448, the second smaller wing of the Town Hall was built. And finally, the old belfry was replaced by a new 95 meter high. From 1455 the present tower of the Brussels Town Hall was built. Incidentally, the belfry is not integrated into the center of the facade, but left of the center.
The Hotel de Ville dominates its imposing presence in the Grand Place and its tower can also be seen from almost anywhere in the city and always recognized as a reference point in other tourist attractions of the city. Everything around this place looks clean and new. There are many bars, stores and restaurants. It is also lined with Chocolate shops that showcase the authentic Belgian chocolate that will make any mouth water.
Built in 1905, the Central Station (Antwerpen Centraal) was built by Engineer Clement van Bogaert to answer the need for a faster means of transportation during the railway age. The dome of the metal and the glass has a length of 180 meters and the height is more than 40 meters. The old station was built in eclectic style, with iron frames designed by the architect Louis de la Censerie. The station is one of the famous landmark attractions of the city. This station is both modern and historic with its beautiful clock tower. From the Antwerp’s historic center, you can reach the Central Station in about 10 minutes with the equally interesting Tramway. The station building itself is located at the end of the Queen Astrid Plains and appears from the outside looking more like a giant museum or an old government building. From inside, the station is impressive with marble floors and numerous embellishments that reach high up in the dome. The whole building is pretty clean and attracts photographers from all over the world. There is a restaurant and vending machines for snacks and drinks, phone booths, and the tourist office located near the exit.
The Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp is interesting because in addition to being a historical and spectacular cathedral with great halls and cool stained glass windows, it is one of the largest museums in the city. On the walls of the cathedral you can see the four masterpieces of Flemish art genius Pietro Paulo Rubens; The Raising of the Cross, the Cross, Assumption, and the Resurrection. Beside these images there are informative guide booklets where an explanation of how each work is achieved and explained. Construction of the cathedral began in 1352 by architect Jan Appel Mans.
The original plan for the Cathedral of Our Lady by the architect should have two towers of the same height. The construction of the North and South Tower was done at different speed. In 1521, the Cathedral of Our Lady was almost finished. However, the height of the south tower reached the third place. In 1533, the new temple was badly damaged by fire. The restoration of the cathedral has not allowed the construction of the South Tower at the end. The north tower has a height of 123 meters and is the tallest bell tower in the Benelux. The cathedral currently serves as a temporary museum while the renovation of the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp is closed until its completion date in 2017.
The Historic Center of Brugee is worth a visit with young children – especially on a boat tour (about 35 minutes) through its channels that provides a wonderful overview of the city. The boat trip on the canals of this Venice of the North is a great way to learn about the humble city. An alternative to this is the ride in a carriage all around the historic center, or simply wander through the narrow cobblestone streets filled with commercial, historical and cultural establishments. Almost every building has been renovated and offers insight into the lives of people in the past centuries.
Admire the Jewel of Flanders and see countless museums, houses of character and the most varied attractions that show a glimpse of their past. It is considered as an open air museum where the intact medieval town and its old buildings and canals are the same up to this day. The sights are close together and can be explored on foot. If you want to explore, take a walk starting at Belfort the city tower of the 13th century which is located on the market square. In the heart of Bruges are lines of medieval gabled houses that stand next to the other.
Situated right in the center of the Castle of the Counts stands the Gravensteen Castle, one of the largest water surrounded castles in Belgium. It is located at the confluence of two rivers; Leie and Lieve. The castle was built in the 9th Century and its present appearance is designed in the style of a Crusader castle that dates back from the 12th Century era. Take part in a guided tour, and have the great opportunity of seeing the Great Hall, where the meeting of the Knights of the Golden Fleece took place.
Explore all the other interesting exhibitions like; the dungeon and its regal looking courtyard. There is a well equipped cruel Torture Museum where the torture device from the Middle Age to the 18th Century can be seen, as well as a weapons exhibition (Arms Museum) of well-preserved weapons from the middle Ages and chivalry. From the top you get a great view of the roofs and towers of Ghent.
The best time to explore the slopes of the Citadel of Liege (Coteaux de la Citadelle) is undoubtedly the first Sunday in October, the commemoration of its bombardment. Thousands of candles illuminate the path, alleys, courtyards, stairs and open spaces just for the occasion. There is a show about animations and music. The castle is composed of 28 hectares of green spaces extraordinarily preserved in the heart of the city. It is a beautiful labyrinth that overlooks a landscape where you see an amazing view of the hills that surround Liège.
It’s a long climb to the Citadel, but the view is worth more than that. You walk from the station up towards the district hospital. Then you descend the stairs with more than 300 steps to reach this interesting place.
After a long walk along the beaches of Ostend, you can find a real gem in the history of Europe. The Atlantic Wall Museum displays and describes not only the defensive value of this area during the First and Second World War, but it staged correctly uniformed mannequins and the atmosphere during that turbulent era. Everything is presented in great detail. From the rankings and medals of uniforms, to all the abundant war material, including the numerous caliber rifles, tanks and cannons. It is a true paradise for lovers of the history of Europe and its wartime past.
Explore all around its walkways and underground pitches, shooting and armored bunker. The material and equipments shown is the original one left by the fleeing Germans in the late fall of 1944. You get an audio device in the desired language, and follow a 2 hour tour route. The admission price is reasonable at a place that is very educational.
Located along the Wallonia Region, the Citadel of Namur is an impressive fortress that leads you into the art of defensive war during the Louis XIV era. It is an exceptional site which cannot be spoiled by a beautiful fragrance that truly deserves a visit. In addition to the strict military structures contained in the castle, the villas belong to a rich family of merchants from Namur where they specialize in perfume making.
Preserved for its significant importance its massive ramparts are still visible and still offers historical and archaeological interest for tourists who are fond of castles, fortifications and military architecture. The view of Namur, the Meuse and Sambre below are equally breathtaking.
The Sea Life Blankenberg Attraction is not a zoo and do not expect to see a circus spectacle with seals and whales. This is a hospital for marine animals of the North Sea. The animals shown will never be restored to their natural environment until they fully recuperate. It is an interesting park that is not far from the Belgium Pier. The marine hospital holds informative sessions that are given in many places (at the seals, penguins, otters, etc.). The children may also touch a number of marine life species (starfish, penguins, mollusks).
The Tunnel aquarium is an astounding area especially when you see the sharks passing over your head. The outdoor enclosure is quite good especially the otters. The staff is friendly and helpful. The presentations are in French and Dutch and you can ask questions and they will respond with good humor, straight facts and sympathy. The other strong point is the seal hospital area in the North Sea. The staffs do a great work for them and this is the most important goal of the attraction.
The Groot Begijnhof Leuven is really a small town in the city that is mainly inhabited by students and professors of the University of Leuven (who owns it). Begijnhof boasts of an atmosphere of peace and tranquility where you can see the red brick houses (built since the 1400’s) bordering on cobblestone roads with spacious lawns, orchards, gardens and walking paths.
Bikes can be rented to tour this car free zone community. Take the time to discover every street and corners. The church still offers services and the monasteries are still inhabited.
The Dierenpark Planckendael Zoo is conveniently located relatively close to the highway and also provides shade on hot days by the many trees inside that provides a pleasant atmosphere. For children, the petting zoo and the large playground is very ideal and entertaining. The construction of the zoo by continents is really well done and offers various performances and activities to keep the kids interested. It shows a wide variety of animals in a spacious and green park like; giraffes, wild boar, zebras, leopards, goats (for stroking), parrots, snakes, birds, and kangaroos.