Belgium is truly a gem in the heart of Europe, where history meets contemporary vibrance in a harmonious blend. This country, though compact, is teeming with architectural wonders, gourmet delights, and rich culture that make it a must-visit destination. Here’s a guide to help you explore the very best cities in Belgium to visit.
Brussels: The Heart of Belgium
As the capital city, Brussels is naturally at the forefront of Belgian cities. With a population well over a million, it’s also among the top Belgian cities by population. As you wander through its picturesque streets, you’ll understand why it’s one of the best cities in Belgium to visit.
Getting there: Brussels is conveniently connected to other European cities via an extensive train network. If you’re travelling from London, the Eurostar is a quick and comfortable option.
Why visit: Don’t miss the iconic Grand Place, a UNESCO World Heritage site, which is the city’s cultural and historical heart. Sample delicious Belgian waffles and fries, and of course, don’t forget the world-renowned Belgian chocolates!
Antwerp: The City of Diamonds
Antwerp, another bustling Belgium city, is a hub for diamond trading, fashion, and art. It ranks high among Belgium cities to visit for those with a penchant for sparkling gems and avant-garde fashion.
Getting there: Antwerp is easily accessible by train from other Belgian cities or neighboring countries.
Why visit: Marvel at the grandeur of the Cathedral of Our Lady, shop in the trendy boutiques, and if diamonds intrigue you, a visit to the Diamond District is a must.
Ghent and Bruges: Medieval Wonders
These two Belgium towns are like pages from a medieval fairy tale book. Ghent, with its well-preserved architecture, and Bruges, with its enchanting canals, are among the best cities to visit in Belgium.
Getting there: Ghent and Bruges are well-connected by trains and buses from Brussels and other cities.
Why visit: Enjoy a peaceful boat ride in Bruges, and don’t miss the chance to see the adoration of the Mystic Lamb, a renowned artwork in Ghent’s Saint Bavo’s Cathedral.
Other Belgian Destinations
Belgium offers a plethora of Belgium things to do. For example, the city of Leuven is known for its prestigious university and vibrant beer culture, making it one of the most enticing Belgium cities to visit.
Travel tip: When planning your trip, consider visiting during one of Belgium’s many festivals to experience local culture at its best.
The Sweet Tooth’s Delight: Best Waffles in Brussels
When you think of Belgium, it’s impossible not to think of Belgian waffles. These fluffy, sweet delights are an integral part of Belgium’s culinary scene. If you’re wondering where to find the best waffles in Brussels, you’re in luck. There are many delightful spots where you can sample this national signature treat. From gourmet waffles sprinkled with sugar to those generously topped with cream and fresh fruits, you’re sure to find a variety that pleases your palate.
Experience Brussels on a Shoestring
If you’re a budget traveler looking for free things to do in Brussels, you’ll be thrilled to know that the city offers a wealth of experiences that come without a price tag. From exploring historical sites like the iconic Atomium and the Parc du Cinquantenaire, to people-watching at the bustling Place du Jeu de Balle flea market, there is a plethora of costless experiences in Brussels that are sure to enrich your visit.
The Pearl of Wallonia: Namur
Venture south into the French-speaking region of Wallonia to discover Namur, a charming city located at the confluence of the Meuse and Sambre rivers. Known for its strategic Citadel, it offers visitors a unique blend of history, nature, and culture.
Getting there: Namur is a quick train ride from Brussels, making it a perfect day trip.
Why visit: Explore the labyrinthine passages of the Citadel, enjoy a scenic boat ride on the Meuse, and savor the local produce at the vibrant Namur Market.
Belgium is a country that keeps on giving. Each city offers a unique blend of experiences that cater to diverse tastes and interests. So, whether it’s your first visit or you’re a returning traveler, there’s always something new to discover in the vibrant cities of Belgium.
An Architect’s Dream: Ghent
Ghent is another city that undoubtedly belongs on your list of the best cities in Belgium to visit. An open-air museum of medieval life, Ghent stands as a testament to the country’s architectural grandeur.
Getting there: Ghent is conveniently accessible by train from both Brussels and Antwerp, making it an easy addition to your itinerary.
Why visit: Wander through the city’s historic center and admire the stunning Gravensteen Castle, the Belfry, and Saint Nicholas’ Church. Be sure not to miss the Ghent Altarpiece at Saint Bavo’s Cathedral, one of the most influential paintings in history.
The Venice of the North: Bruges
Bruges, with its canals and cobbled streets, offers a fairytale experience unlike any other. Often referred to as the “Venice of the North,” this Belgian city will capture your heart with its timeless charm.
Getting there: Bruges is well-connected by train with other Belgian cities like Brussels and Ghent, making it easy to reach.
Why visit: Take a boat tour along the city’s dreamy canals, visit the impressive Markt Square, and climb the Belfry for a panoramic view of the city. And don’t forget to try some famous Belgian chocolate while you’re there!
The Rose of Belgium: Leuven
Home to the oldest Catholic university in the world, Leuven is a vibrant city teeming with young energy and historical charm.
Getting there: Leuven is a short train ride away from Brussels, making it a perfect destination for a day trip.
Why visit: Visit the Grand Béguinage, a UNESCO World Heritage site, admire the intricate detail of the Town Hall, and enjoy the lively atmosphere in the Old Market Square, often referred to as the ‘longest bar in the world’.
As we’ve explored, Belgium is a compact yet diverse country, offering a mix of experiences to cater to all types of travelers. With its rich history, architectural splendors, delightful gastronomy, and easily accessible cities, it provides a unique European experience that will leave you with unforgettable memories. Now that you’ve got a sneak peek into what each city has to offer, it’s time to start planning your Belgian adventure!
The City of Diamonds: Antwerp
Antwerp, known as the world’s diamond capital, is a vibrant city that seamlessly blends the past and the present, making it one of the best cities in Belgium to visit.
Getting there: Antwerp is well-connected by train from Brussels, making it an easily accessible destination.
Why visit: Delve into the world of precious stones at the Antwerp Diamond District, soak in the artwork at the Royal Museum of Fine Arts, or marvel at the Antwerp Central Station’s architectural prowess. Don’t forget to indulge in some traditional Belgian waffles, a gastronomical treat that is sure to make your visit more enjoyable!
The Hidden Gem: Mechelen
Mechelen might not be the first city that comes to mind when you think of Belgium, but this charming city nestled between Brussels and Antwerp has plenty to offer.
Getting there: Mechelen is just a short train ride away from either Brussels or Antwerp, making it a perfect spot for a day trip.
Why visit: Explore the Grote Markt, climb up the St. Rumbold’s Tower for a panoramic view of the city, or take a relaxing boat tour along the Dijle river. The city is also home to Technopolis, an interactive science and technology center that is a hit with kids.
The Medieval Marvel: Dinant
Located in Belgium’s French-speaking Wallonia region, Dinant is a picturesque city straddling the Meuse River.
Getting there: Dinant is about a 90-minute train journey from Brussels, offering a change of pace from the bustling capital.
Why visit: Take a cable car ride up to the Citadel for breath-taking views of the city, explore the fascinating caves of Grotte la Merveilleuse, or learn about the history of the saxophone, invented here by Adolphe Sax, at the Maison de Monsieur Sax.
Belgium is brimming with diverse experiences, from tasting world-renowned chocolates in Bruges to diamond shopping in Antwerp. Each city has its unique charm and attractions, making Belgium a fascinating country to explore. Pack your bags and set out on a Belgian adventure that promises unforgettable experiences and picture-perfect moments!
The Star of Wallonia: Namur
The capital of Wallonia, Namur, is an ideal spot for those looking to experience the French-speaking side of Belgium.
Getting there: Namur is easily accessible from Brussels, with direct trains running frequently.
Why visit: The city is dominated by the Citadel of Namur, an ancient fortress offering panoramic views. Also, take a stroll through the old town and soak in the ambiance of this less-touristy, authentically Belgian city. Here’s a guide to help you explore Namur.
Art Nouveau Treasure: Saint-Gilles
Located within the Brussels-Capital Region, Saint-Gilles is renowned for its rich Art Nouveau architectural heritage.
Getting there: Being a municipality in Brussels, it’s easily reachable via public transport within the city.
Why visit: The Horta Museum, located in the former home of famous Belgian architect Victor Horta, is a must-visit for architecture lovers. You can find more about it here.
The Venice of the North: Ghent
Last but certainly not least, Ghent is a must-visit city known for its rich history, university life, and vibrant atmosphere.
Getting there: Ghent is merely a 30-minute train ride from Brussels, making it an easy day trip.
Why visit: Ghent offers a multitude of attractions such as the Saint Bavo’s Cathedral, the Gravensteen castle, and the charming old town. Learn more about what Ghent has to offer here.
Wrapping It Up: The Belgian Experience
In the end, it’s hard to pin down the “best city” in Belgium to visit because the country offers so much variety. Each city, from Antwerp to Ghent, Brussels to Namur, and beyond, presents a unique slice of Belgian life. Whether you’re a history buff, a foodie, or just a traveller seeking the road less taken, there’s a place for you in Belgium.
Exploring Belgium means more than just visiting cities. It’s about immersing yourself in the culture, tasting the waffles and chocolates, and letting the rhythm of the local life seep into your travel experience. It’s about walking the cobblestone streets, marvelling at the architectural marvels, and absorbing the history etched into every corner.
One could say the real charm of Belgium lies not only in its cities but in the moments and memories you create while exploring them. Whether you’re wandering through the vibrant streets of Brussels, exploring the artistic heritage of Saint-Gilles, or unwinding in the serene surroundings of Namur, you’re participating in a uniquely Belgian story that continues to unfold.
Our journey through Belgium might have reached its conclusion, but yours is just beginning. So here’s to your Belgian adventure – may it be filled with awe-inspiring discoveries, heartwarming experiences, and the delight of exploration. Bon voyage!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is the most beautiful city in Belgium?
While beauty is subjective, many travellers are enchanted by Bruges’ fairy-tale charm. With its medieval architecture, charming canals, and cobblestone streets, Bruges offers an idyllic setting that seems straight out of a postcard. However, cities like Ghent and Antwerp, known for their vibrant culture and historic grandeur, are equally captivating in their own right.
What is the most beautiful area in Belgium?
The Ardennes region, located in the south-east of Belgium, is often hailed as one of the most beautiful areas in the country. Known for its forested hills, quaint villages, and scenic hiking trails, the Ardennes offers an escape into nature’s embrace. Additionally, the Belgian coastline, with its wide sandy beaches and charming coastal towns, offers its own unique allure.
What are the most visited cities in Belgium?
The most visited cities in Belgium are typically Brussels, Bruges, and Antwerp. Brussels, the capital city, is known for its vibrant multicultural ambiance and iconic landmarks like the Atomium and the Grand Place. Bruges attracts visitors with its medieval architecture and picturesque canals, while Antwerp, known as the world’s diamond capital, offers a blend of historic charm and contemporary vibrancy.
What are 3 major cities in Belgium?
Three major cities in Belgium are Brussels, Antwerp, and Ghent. Brussels, the capital city, is the administrative and political heart of Belgium. Antwerp, the second-largest city, is a significant hub for international trade and fashion. Ghent, while smaller in size, is renowned for its historic architecture, vibrant culture, and high student population.