Belgium, located in western Europe, is well-known as being the host of the European Union’s headquarters. Along with being a political hub, the country also is home to many cultural, historical, and fun things to do. Here are my travel tips for what to do in Belgium, excluding the capital city of Brussels.
Visit Mechelen, a former capital
Mechelen is a small city in Belgium that was the capital of the Netherlands from 1506 to 1530. The area may be tiny, but it is filled with history and activities. Visit the late-medieval Saint Rumbold’s Tower, with its unique wood carvings and 15th, 16th, and 17th century religious artwork. Boat tours and brewery tastings are also a popular option, and a stop at the Brewery Het Anker will give you the option to taste beer chocolates. Moreover, a walk around the main square of town will give you the chance to see eight beautiful churches.
Canalside houses in Mechelen
Make a stop in Durbuy, the world’s smallest city
Durbuy, which claims to be the world’s smallest city, is a traditional Belgian town in the French speaking part of the country. Simply wandering around the tiny city and its quaint streets can make for a relaxing day, and stopping at a local cafe for a strong brew can make the day even better. Begin your tour of Durbuy at the Chateau des Comtes de Marchin, where you will be given stunning views of the river Muse and also delicious Belgian waffles in their cafe. Next, move on to the Grotto de Han, a cave that has been offering tours since the 1800’s. Long stretches of tunnels and a natural cathedral are all part of the experience.
Durbuy by pickinjim
Admire the Grote Markt in Antwerp
The Grote Markt (Great Market) is a giant square in the center of the old city. You will be able to take in 16th century architecture, golden statues, fountains, and lavishly decorated houses of the Guilds.Â Visit town hall, shop in boutique stores, sip a coffee in a cozy cafe, or enjoy a pint of Belgian beer at one of the square’s pubs. The atmosphere is quite romantic, and although it is a favorite spot for locals and tourists, and prices are still reasonable. Read Karen’s tips for what to do in Antwerp.
Â Grote Markt by Alan Stanton
Travel back to the Middle Agest at the “Castle of the Count”
In Ghent, you can visit Gravensteen Castle, a castle as well as a historical museum. The castle dates back to the Middle Ages and in Dutch literally means “castle of the count”. Not only are visitors to this castle treated to amazing views of the city, but also an authentic castle experience with a moat, dungeons, and various torture devices that were once used in the city.
Gravensteen Castle by Coy!
Experience the food and drink culture of Bruges
For those who love to eat and drink, Bruges is the perfect city to visit in Belgium. Home to the Chocolate Museum, Frite Museum, and the De Halve Maan Brewery, this city will have you donning loose-waisted pants the entire trip. De Halve Mann is the still-active family brewery in Bruges, and for 6 euros you can get a guided tour and tasting. At the Frite Museum, you will learn all about Potato Fries, which originated in Belgium. Best of all, this is the only museum in the world to be dedicated to this particular food favorite. And a stop at the Chocolate Museum will give you a chance to learn about the history of the treat while also participating in cocoa-inspired workshops.
Life-sized chocolate statue at the Chocolate Museum by tim2ubh
Pay your respects at the Trenches of Death in Diksmuide
The Trenches of Death is a historical site in the peaceful countryside town of Diksmuide. The site itself is a network of trenches from WWI located next to the River Yzer. An small building provides visitors with information before their journey into the solemn area of the trenches, which have been restored to look exactly like they would have during the war.
Trenches of Death by CityWodge
Expand your knowledge at the Grand Curtius Museum in LiÃ¨ge
Located on the Meuse River in LiÃ¨ge, the Curtius Museum is a historical and cultural museum dedicated to archeology and art. Originally built around the early 1600’s, the museum was originally known as the Musee Curtius (Curtius Museum) but reopened in 2009 after extensive renovations to be called the The Grand Curtius Museum. Visitors can peruse more than 7,000 years of regional and international artifacts and over 5,200 items on display in chronological or thematic order. The collections include decorative arts, Mosan art, archeological treasures, religious art, weaponry, and glass pieces.
Art from Curtius Museum by groenling
Explore the Neolithic Flint Mines in Spiennes
The Neolithic Flint Mines are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and covers more than 247 acres. They are the biggest and most ancient group of land mines in all of Europe. The existence of the mines actually gives evidence of the inventiveness and technological progress of Neolithic cultures. For only 2,50 Euros, you can see this amazing site for yourself and get a glimpse into the extraordinary past of the area.
Neolithic Flint Mines by ines saraiva
Hear the oldest belfry in Belgium in Tournai
The Belfry of Tournai is the oldest belfry in Belgium dating back to medieval times. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and at 72 meters high and with 256 stairs to reach the top, can be seen from miles away. Although a fire damaged the building in 1931 and some of the 44 bells had to be replaced, the largest bell of the period as well as the fire bell were preserved. A visit to this site will show you beautiful architecture and a picture of history.
Belry of Tournai by girolame
See the Waterloo Battlefield up close
In the town of Waterloo resides the Waterloo Battlefield, a historic site from Battle of Waterloo during the War of the Seventh Coalition. A 40 minute tour with historic narration is offered, as well as an impressive lion monument, a wax museum with life-like figures of Napoleon and other soldiers, enlightening films, and restaurants. While there is a great area with panoramic views just be cautioned that there are quite a lot of stairs. For ticket prices, click here.
Waterloo Battlefield by bruxelles5
Read more tips in The Crazy Tourist’s 25 Things to Do in Belgium.