Belgium is a small nation with a big role to play in European life and world history. If you are interested in either of the world wars, Belgium has a million sites to keep you busy during your visit. If you want to learn about government, it’s the home to the European Union. But what most travelers come for is the beer, chocolate, and fries. There are over 1,000 breweries in this little country and Belgium brewers were some of the first to perfect beer brewing. Belgium’s chocolate rivals the Swiss, and the frites will make you look at french fries differently for the rest of your life. This country usually just gets glossed over as travelers – a day in Brussels, Bruges, and maybe a trip to Ghent – and then onward, but, when you look deeper, you see this country has a great many medieval towns, historical sites, and parks worth sticking around for. This travel guide to Belgium will help point the way.
Top 5 Things to See and Do in Belgium
2. Eat and drink
5. Flanders Field
Other Things to See and Do
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1. Visit castles
There are more castles per square mile in Belgium than anywhere else in the world, and with over 3000 to explore, it’s hard to know where to start. Castle of Bouillon in the Ardennes is one of the most interesting ones. Other must-sees are Beersel and Gravensteen.
At the site of the famous battle, there is a memorial in the form of a statue of a lion (looking towards France) on a hill, with 226 stairs, called La Butte du Lion. Other attractions related to the battle are the Wellington Museum and the Roman Catholic Church of St. Joseph.
3. Ardennes Forest
Ardennes Forest is the place to go for skiing or hiking. Aside from sporting pursuits, there is a lot of good meat here: game, wild boar, venison, smoked ham, the region’s famous paté, as well as the world-renowned Trappist beers.
4. Cathédrale Notre-Dame
The Cathedral of Our Lady in Tournai is one of the most striking examples of Romanesque architecture in Europe and is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The cathedral has five towers, magnificent stained-glass windows, and paintings by Rubens and Jacob Jordaens.
5. Mannenken Pis & Jeanneken Pis
These two iconic sculptures can be found in Brussels and are considered by many as a ‘must see’. There is always a group of people checking them out. They are simple, nude male and female children’s figures, peeing. The male is often dressed up in costumes. They are pretty weird tourist attractions.
6. Antwerp Zoo
Located in the center of Antwerp next to the train station, this zoo is a full afternoon attraction. Open since 1843, it is one of the oldest and most famous zoos in the world. There are several exhibits and unusual garden features to be seen, including crazy animal sculptures. Admission is 24 EUR. It’s open daily from 10am-5:30pm.
7. Oostende Fish Market Visserkaai
This is where the Ostend fishing fleet sells their catch. If you’re a fan of seafood, this is an awesome place to check out. There are numerous restaurants along the seafront, and you are guaranteed to get a fresh meal.
This museum complex started in 1880 and has continued to expand over the past several years. It lies on the Southeast side of Brussels and is host to the Army Museum, the Auto World Museum, an art museum, and more.
9. Basilique de Koekelberg
The Basilica of the Sacred Heart is the 5th largest church in the world. In addition to its amazing architecture and impressive art deco, the height offers beautiful views of the city and the surrounding area. The church is very close to the center of town and inexpensive to see.
10. Take a canal tour in Bruges
Take a canal trip down the arteries of Bruges. A half hour boat trip on the waterway takes you around secret gardens, picturesque bridges, and ornately designed medieval buildings. This is a perfect way to capture the magic of the city, which costs around 8 EUR.
The country’s second largest city, Antwerp is an excellent shopping location and offers an extraordinary variety of local food and beer for visitors to enjoy. For those interested in art, the Royal Fine Arts Museum houses the world’s best collection of the Flemish Masters’ works, including the largest group of Rubens masterpieces in existence.