Most interesting wonders of Belgium
Below are listed the most amazing natural and man made landmarks of Belgium.
- Caves of Han-sur-Lesse – Namur. Some 16 km long caves with approximately 1 km long underground river, formed in limestone by karst processes. Can be accessed only with a vintage tram, it is a popular show cave.
- Caves of Remouchamps – Liège. Impressive karst cave, the main attraction here is drive with a boat over the distance of some 600 m. Settlement of Paleolithic people 8000 years ago.
- Grotte de Rosée – Liège. Vast cave network with beautiful speleothems, includes some gours.
Man made landmarks
- Grotte de Spy – Namur. Excavations in this cave in 1886 proved the existence of Neanderthal man. Many later excavations have provided rich information about Paleolithic age.
- Neolithic flint mines of Spiennes – Hainaut. Impressive flint mines which were in use in 4300 – 2200 BC. Mines are spread over an area of 100 ha and include up to 15 m deep mines.
- Bruges Old City – West Flanders. Once important trade center, this city has almost intact medieval architecture and numerous canals. The site of first stock exchange (1309) and numerous important financial institutions.
- Dinant – Namur. Gorgeous town, stretched along the River Meuse and large cliff. The small town has impressive Gothic church and the impressive Citadel of Dinant above the town, on the cliff.
- Ghent Old City – East Flanders. Well preserved medieval center of once very rich city. Numerous great structures have been preserved including a complex of magnificent Gothic towers.
- Grand Place – Brussels. Central square of Brussels, one of the most beautiful city squares in the world. It is surrounded by gorgeous medieval structures, town hall among them. These structures were built in the late 17th century. Especially impressive the square is in the beginning of August when it is covered with intricate flower carpet.
- Tournai – Hainaut. One of the oldest cities in Belgium with numerous very old buildings in Romanesque and Gothic styles. Here are some of the oldest private houses in Europe which were built in 1175 and 1200 in Romanesque style.
- Zurenborg – Antwerp. District of luxury mansions in Art-Nouveau and other luxurious styles.
- Beersel Castle – Flemish Brabant. This brick structure was built in 1300 – 1310 and is surrounded with a moat.
- Borrekens Castle – Antwerp. Impressive medieval castle, well preserved. Built in the 13th century, water castle.
- Bouillon Castle – Luxembourg. Mountaintop castle rising above the town of Bouillon, for most part built in the 11th century.
- Cleydael Castle – Antwerp. Water castle from the 11th – 14th century, basically a donjon with a curtain wall around it, surrounded by a moat.
- Gravensteen – East Flanders. Well preserved castle in the center of Ghent. Castle has a fortification wall and castle in the middle. Constructed in 1180.
- Jehay-Bodegnée Castle – Liège. Fine water castle with interesting facade, for most part built in the 16th century.
- Lavaux-Sainte-Anne Castle – Namur. Fine, well preserved water castle, built around 1450 – 16th century, although rebuilt in later times.
- Vêves Castle – Namur. Well preserved castle which looks like a small fairy-tale castle. Current structure built around 1410.
- Walzin Castle – Namur. Renaissance castle, built in impressive place – on the top of cliff which is towering over Lesse river.
- Annevoie Castle – Namur. Beautiful castle – palace, built in the 18th century and surrounded by impressive water garden.
- De Viron Castle – Flemish Brabant. Beautiful palace which was built in 1863 in Tudor style.
- Freÿr Castle and gardens – Namur. Impressive and gorgeous complex of large palace and extensive garden with numerous valuable samples of architecture. Includes 6 km long hedge maze.
- Sterckshof – Antwerp. Replica of castle, enormous palace complex which was built in the 1920ies. In many aspects it resembles a fairy-tale castle.
- Basilica of the Holy Blood in Bruges – West Flanders. Rather small church with two parts – well preserved Romanesque style structure from 1134 – 1157 and Gothic – Neo-Gothic part. The building has ornate, unusual facade. Contains a valuable relic of the Holy Blood.
- Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Brussels (Koekelberg Basilica) – Brussels. Enormous and ornate church, built in 1905 – 1969 in Art Deco style.
- Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp (Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal) – Antwerp. Magnificent Gothic cathedral with a 123 m tall belfry. Built in 1352 – 1521. One of the towers has not been completed. Contains valuable artworks by Rubens and other artists.
- Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula – Brussels. Magnificent Gothic cathedral, built in 1226.
- Church of Our Lady in Bruges – West Flanders. Enormous church in Gothic style, built from brick. Its tower is 122.3 m tall. Constructed mainly around 1270 – 1280, with some later additions. Contains sculpture by Michelangelo.
- Collegiate Church of Saint Gertrude in Nivelles – Walloon Brabant. Outstanding example of regional style of Romanesque architecture – Ottonian architecture. Consecrated in 1046.
- Saint Bavo Cathedral in Ghent – East Flanders. Large cathedral in Gothic style, built in the 14th – 16th century. Contains the Ghent Altarpiece – masterpiece by Jan van Eyck and Hubert van Eyck, one of the greatest works of Northern Renaissance.
- St. Rumbold’s Cathedral in Mechelen – Antwerp. Great Gothic cathedral, built in 1200 – 1520, with magnificent and unfinished, 97 m tall tower. It was planned to be 167 m tall, the tallest in the world.
- Tournai Cathedral – Hainaut. Largest church in Belgium, outstanding landmark. One of the greatest achievements in Romanesque architecture although part of the church is also in Gothic style. Built in 1110 – 1255.
- Belfry of Bruges – West Flanders. Gorgeous bell tower, 83 m tall. Constructed around 1240 and rebuilt around 1280.
- Belfry of Ghent – East Flanders. 91 m tall bell tower. Built in Gothic style in 1313 – 1380. On the top is a gilded dragon, belfry has 54 bells.
- Antwerp City Hall – Antwerp. Ornate city hall, built in 1561 – 1564 (when Antwerp was fabulously rich), one of the forerunners of Northern Renaissance style which left profound influence on the development of architecture in this part of Europe.
- Bruges Town Hall – West Flanders. Old, Gothic style town hall, built in 1376 – 1421. Beautiful facade.
- Brussels Town Hall – Brussels. Sumptuous structure in Flamboyant Gothic style, built in 1402 – 1420. The tower is 96 m tall, facade is adorned with numerous sculptures.
- Leuven Town Hall – Flemish Brabant. Unusual building in Brabantine Late Gothic style. Its facade is adorned with stone lace.
Modern villas and city houses
- Horta Museum (Maison & Atelier Horta) – Brussels. House of the distinguished architect Victor Horta, built in Art Nouveau style in 1898 – 1901. The ornate interior, numerous household items have been well preserved or restored, museum contains also numerous other Art Nouveau style items.
- Hôtel Solvay – Brussels. Outstanding example of Art Nouveau architecture, created by Victor Horta who designed every detail including furniture, carpets, door bell. Built in 1898 – 1900.
- Stoclet Palace – Brussels. Magnificent mansion in Secession style, built in 1905 – 1911. The refined interiors include many works of art including mosaic friezes by Gustav Klimt.
- Tassel House – Brussels. Most likely this is the very first building in Art Nouveau style. It is designed by Victor Horta and built in 1893 – 1894.
- Atomium – Brussels. Unique exhibition complex with nine spheres united by 3 m wide tubes and forming an enormous, 102 m tall representation of the cell of iron crystal. Constructed for Expo 58 in 1958.
- Lion’s Mound – Walloon Brabant. Monumental complex in the battlefield of Waterloo – 43 m tall mound with an enormous statue of lion on the top. Built in 1826.
- Manneken Pis – Brussels. Small, unsightly sculpture of a naked boy urinating in basin, put in this place in 1618 or 1619. It is one of the best known sculptures in the world, linked to many stories and traditions, often dressing it in different attires.
Other man made landmarks
- Antwerpen-Centraal railway station – Antwerp. One of the most beautiful railway stations in the world, built in 1895 – 1905 in Eclectic style. The giant structure had numerous impressive innovations for its time.
- Grand Béguinage in Leuven – Flemish Brabant. One of the largest beguinages – sites where unmarried women lived semi-monastic lives by helping those who are poor and sick. This beguinage forms a small town with some 100 medieval
- Palais de Justice – Brussels. Possibly the largest structure built in the 19th century, built in 1866 – 1883, with 104 m tall dome.
- Plantin-Moretus Museum – Antwerp. Unique museum of printing history, in a printing house from the 16th century. The beautiful house contains world’s oldest printing presses, rich library and numerous historical printing utensils.
- Ypres Cloth House – West Flanders. One of the largest commercial buildings in the medieval Europe, 125 m wide, with 70 m tall belfry. Originally built in Gothic style in the 13th century – 1304, rebuilt in 1933 – 1967.
Described wonders of Belgium
This picturesque country is very rich with great architecture. It is even hard to single out which architecture here is the most impressive and interesting – be it Romanesque and Gothic churches, extremely well preserved castles and palaces or the magnificent Art Nouveau jewels. Most impressive landmarks in Belgium are:
- Historical cities and towns – many cities and towns here have well preserved (or carefully rebuilt) medieval centers but few cities in the world can rival the beauty of Bruges and the magnificent Grand Place in Brussels.
- Castles and palaces – there are several thousands of castles and manors in Belgium and many have outstanding architecture. Often these castles are surrounded by beautiful gardens. It is hard to single out the best among the best but Gravensteen in Ghent is one of the most impressive castles in the world while Freÿr Castle and its gardens provide some of the most impressive sights of man made landscaping anywhere.
Featured: Tournai Cathedral
The giant Tournai Cathedral is like a swan song for the retiring style in architecture of the 12th century – Romanesque style. Its architecture is grand and daring, ornamentation – very rich and in many respects this beautiful cathedral has no analogues in the world.
Stroll through the bustling city streets, explore the Caves of Hotton, and visit the Euro Space Center when you travel to Belgium and Luxembourg. See history, art, and more in these unique and vibrant countries.
Inside Rick Steves Belgium: Bruges, Brussels, Antwerp & Ghent you’ll find:
– Comprehensive coverage for spending a week or more exploring Belgium
– Rick’s strategic advice on how to get the most out of your time and money, with rankings of his must-see favorites
– Top sights and hidden gems, from the European Parliament and Flanders Fields to boutique breweries and cozy cafés with perfect Belgian fries