The Best of Belgium’s Cities

March 12, 2018

Though small, Belgium stuns visitors time after time with its history, diversity and architectural beauty. As well as being a hive of political activity as the headquarters of the European Union, you will also find the rich green landscapes of the Ardennes and a number of mesmerising metropolises.

Here are our top four Belgian cities.



Bruges’ historic centre, a medieval cityscape plucked straight from a fairy-tale, is, in itself, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Petit and peaceful, often the only sounds to be heard are the gently running waters of the meandering canals, and the occasional chimes echoing from the belfry tower. The belfry and Grote Markt are one of the city’s favourite attractions, with brightly coloured step-gabled buildings adding so much charisma to this quaint town.

Dip your toes into Belgian history at the Basilica of the Holy Blood, said to hold a relic of Jesus’ blood. This blackened building, made even more curious by the strokes of gold on the miniatures built into the walls. Though small, it is incredibly ornate inside, with each infinitesimal feature taken into consideration.

Get a mouthful of culture by picking up some fresh frites from a stand, rather than going into a shop. Make sure to opt for mayonnaise on the side for a truly authentic experience.



Belgium’s capital is a hub of excitement. The Grand Place may be Brussels’ most famous landmark, a enormous square that houses the palatial town hall and a number of stunning Flemish façades.

Notable for its modern, in addition to its antiquarian, architecture, Brussels also boasts the intriguing Atomium, an imposing steel sculpture and now a museum. Scale it to its summit for 360° views of the capital.

Unknown to many is the knowledge that Brussels is the greenest capital in Europe, with over 28m² per inhabitant. Gorgeous parks make for stunning walks in all weathers. Cinquantenaire Park is one of the most popular, enclosed by the massive classical Arcades du Cinquantenaire, it is favoured by naturalists and architects, alike.

Still standing today, and selling some of the finest delicacies in the country, is the first Belgian chocolate shop. Neuhaus store, situated in the luxe Galeries de la Reine where is has resided since 1857, is a true demonstration of the art instilled into the work of a chocolatier.

An essential stop if beer is your pleasure is Belgian Beer Tradition. Situated in a cobbled a side street just by Le Roy D’Espagne – a fantastic 17th century pub – in the Grand Place, this narrow beer shop is easy to miss. Once you find it your eyes will widen as you attempt to decide between 250 Belgian beers.



An important port city in northern Belgium, Ghent played a prevalent role in the Middle Ages, which is apparent in its ancient architecture. Ghent’s city centre is pedestrianised, adding to the sense of heritage that one gets when traversing the cobbled streets.

The step-gabled, Flemish establishments are again apparent here, lining the wide waterways and housing quirky bars, cosy cafés and superb restaurants. Spires are a ubiquitous presence in the skyline. St Bavo’s Cathedral, Saint Nicholas’ Church and Saint Michael’s Church are just a few of the religious establishments in the city. The 14th century Belfry is equally as noteworthy, standing at 91m with a lavish spire decorated with a gold clock face and other intricate details.



Like its northern neighbour Ghent, Antwerp, too, is a medieval port town whose history is inscribed across its buildings and culture, especially in the Old Town and Grote Markt.

Its importance continued out of the Middle Ages as it became of hub of art and fashion. Renowned 16th and 17th century painter, Pieter Paul Rubens, deemed the most influential Flemish Baroque artist, belonged to the Antwerp School of art as he created extraordinary scenes often involving mythical subjects. Much of his work is on display at the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in the city.

Into the 19th century, Antwerp took a leading role in the diamond industry, with the famed Diamond District still open and accessible with merchants, jewellers and workers all kept busy. Trade fairs and exhibitions are popular year round and give a unique insight into this fascinating trade.

Similar to Amsterdam, Antwerp’s Centraal Station is an architectural wonder. In an Art Nouveau style, it is often named one of the top train stations in the world. The interior, with marble floors illuminated by the natural light brought in by vast windows, emphasises the grandeur of the exterior. The station reveals Belgium’s pioneering role in the railway industry, the first country on the continent to open a public railway in the mid-19th century.

Equally impressive is the Stadsfeestzaal. Formerly a banquet hall, this complex and beautiful edifice is now a shopping mall. However, it offers far more than just retail therapy. Walking through you are struck by the mosaic floors, gold detailing on the walls and enormous glass dome on the ceiling.


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