The 16 Best Things to Do in Belgium

Brabo Fountain & City Hall at dusk
Shaun Egan / Getty Images

Despite its small size, Belgium offers memorable experiences to travelers. Home to the European Capital (Brussels), the country has three official languages (French, Dutch, and German), over 1,500 beer labels, medieval castles, and many cities with well-preserved medieval architecture. Belgium has world-class art museums, and they excel in creating the best chocolates in the world, so trying the most famous Belgian sweet is far from an everyday experience.

The best time to visit the country is during the spring and summer when the days are often sunny, and there are many festivals. Although three days are enough to see the main attractions in Brussels, a perfect vacation in Belgium includes traveling beyond Brussels and exploring cities that blend tradition and modernity perfectly. Luckily, most places are connected by its efficient railway, and it's easy to plan a Belgian vacation. 

01 of 16

Appreciate the Grand Place's Architecture in Brussels

Grand Place at dusk
Jorg Greuel / Getty Images

Built in the 15th century, the Grand Place was known as an important political center. The place underwent several changes through the centuries, but its well-preserved and impressive architecture turned the square into Belgium's most famous landmark. Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the place is surrounded by the former guild houses (used for tax collecting in the past), the City Hall, and the Maison du Roi, the royal household of the King of France.

The Grand Place has excellent restaurants, including Le Cirio, Osteria A l'Ombra, and La Maison des Crèpes. The Delirium Café, a famous bar with over 2,000 brands of beers from across the globe, is just a few meters away. 

02 of 16

Discover the Atomium, Belgium's Most Famous Structure

Atomium from Basilic Brussels
chachastephane / Getty Images
Pl. de l'Atomium 1, Laeken 1020 Bruxelles, Belgium
Phone +32 2 475 47 75

The Atomium represents an elementary iron crystal cell enlarged 165 times. However, Belgium's most famous structure was supposed to be a temporary monument. The Atomium was built for the world's fair Expo 58, the first after World War II. The design is even more impressive inside, and it's possible to enter five of its nine orbs, where visitors will find exhibitions, light displays, a restaurant, and a gift shop. On top of that, the Atomium has a viewpoint with a panoramic view of Brussels.

The Atomium ticket also gives access to the Design Museum Brussels, which is dedicated to design history.

03 of 16

See All the European Wonders at Mini Europe

Av. du Football 1, Laeken 1020 Bruxelles, Belgium
Phone +32 2 474 13 13

Mini Europe is located at the foot of Atomium and allows visitors to discover the whole European Union in a few hours. This open-air park features 350 miniatures of essential landmarks from 80 cities in Europe. The park has recreated spots such as the Grand Place (Brussels), Big Ben (London), and the Eiffel Tower (Paris) at a scale of 1/25.

Although it's a popular attraction for visitors with children, the complexity of details impresses people of all ages. For example, the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral (Spain) was perfectly recreated after 24,000 years of work, while the Town Hall of Brussels has 300 handmade sculptures.

04 of 16

Visit at Least One of the Royal Museums of Fine Arts

Rue de la Régence 3, Pentagone 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
Phone +32 2 508 32 11

The Royal Museums of Fine Arts are six renowned art centers in Brussels, and they display the country's most important collection of visual art. The museums have a collection spanning over 20,000 drawings, sculptures, and paintings from different periods in History. Located in the heart of Brussels, the Museum of Ancient Art is the largest of them, and visitors can admire the work of classic artists, such as Van Dyck and Rubens. The Museum of Modern Art has a collection dating back to the 19th century, and the Belgian Surrealist artists are its highlight.

The Magritte Museum and the Fin-de-Siècle Museum are close to the main buildings. The Constantin Meunier Museum and the Antoine Wiertz Museum are located in another part of the city, allowing visitors to discover those artists' work while visiting their homes and studios.

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05 of 16

Walk Along the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert

People walking quickly through Galaries St Hubert
stevenallan / Getty Images
Galerie du Roi 5, Pentagone 1000 Brussel, Belgium
Phone +32 2 545 09 90

The Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert in Brussels are among the first shopping arcades built on the continent and are close to the Grand Place. It features three galleries named after royal titles: the Queen's Gallery, the King's Gallery, and the Princes' Gallery. Tourists and locals visit the place to admire its classic architecture inspired by the Italian Palace covered with a glass roof. The Galeries Royales display an array of luxury boutiques, jewelry shops, cafés, restaurants, Belgian chocolate shops, a cinema, a theater, and a bookshop. It's also possible to stay at the gallery, as there are hotel rooms and flats on the top floor, overlooking the galleries.

06 of 16

Find Out the Secrets Behind the Belgian Beers

Two Mugs of Beer
Dado Daniela / Getty Images

Belgium has approximately 1,500 beers and hundreds of breweries scattered over the country. Although they can be easily purchased anywhere, visiting at least a brewery is a true immersion in the traditional beer culture. Located in Bruges, De Halve Maan Brewery is a family business, and they host tours where visitors can see how the beers are made.

Brewery De Koninck in Antwerpen offers an interactive experience and a tapped tasting before and during the tour. Of course, Brussels has a vast array of breweries, and Cantillon is arguably the favorite among tourists. The family business was created in 1900 and features a museum. 

07 of 16

Try the Best Chocolate and Waffles

Bruges and its chocolate
Just a click / Getty Images

Besides beer, Belgium is also famous for its chocolate and waffles. The Place du Grand Sablon in Brussels is a paradise for chocolate lovers, featuring a vast array of world-famous chocolatiers. The Artisan Chocolatier Mary ranks among the most popular shops in the area and exudes sophistication. The Frederic Blondeel sells freshly handcrafted chocolates as they roast the cocoa beans, aiming to highlight the flavor. The Wittame shop has a royal warrant, and their chocolate can be found at parties at the palace.

Waffles are another Belgian tradition, and they are traditionally served with butter and confectioner's sugar, but it's also possible to top it with fruits and cream. Maison Dandoy, Gaufres and Waffles, and the Waffle Factory are popular places to try the famous dessert. 

08 of 16

Take a Day Trip to Dinant

Dinant, the citadel, the cathedral and the Meuse
Frans Sellies / Getty Images

Located in the Wallonia region and 63 miles from Brussels, Dinant is a perfect destination for a day trip from Brussels. The picturesque town was built during the Middle Ages along the Meuse River overlooking a cliff. Visiting the 13th-century gothic church and the Maison Adolphe Sax (Saxophone's inventor) are the highlights of visiting Dinant. The Château fort de Crèvecœur stands above the city and has a panoramic view popular among visitors.

Beer fans can also visit Leffe, a village next to Dinant, which is home to one of Belgium's most famous beers. The Maison Leffe preserves the History of the beer named after the city.

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09 of 16

Spend a Day Wandering on the Streets in Bruges

Water town in Belgium
Photography Aubrey Stoll / Getty Images

Bruges' historic center has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site thanks to its preserved medieval buildings and Gothic architecture. Tourists are attracted by its cobblestone streets, medieval architecture, and the famous market square, which has been held every Wednesday since 985. Yet, visitors can enjoy the restaurants on the historic buildings during the whole week. The historic center is turned into a vast Christmas market during the holiday season, featuring dozens of stalls, a giant Christmas tree, and an ice rink.

It's possible to spend the day wandering the streets on foot, taking a carriage, or seeing the city on a boat. The canals offer different angles from Brugges, going around the historic center and other areas.

10 of 16

Enter a Medieval Castle in Ghent

Castle of Ghent
thehague / Getty Images
Sint-Veerleplein 11, 9000 Gent, Belgium
Phone +32 9 225 93 06

Few cities can claim they have a medieval castle located in the city center. The Gravensteen castle (or Castle of the Counts) in Ghent was built in the 9th century and is intertwined with the complex city's political History. One of the most well-preserved castles in Flanders is open for visitors, and during the tour, people can enter the count's residence, stables, torture chamber, ramparts, and gatehouse.

It's also possible to see the castle on a 40-minute guided boat tour through Medieval Ghent. The tour passes by other important landmarks, such as the St. Bavo's Cathedral and monasteries that date back to the 13th century. 

11 of 16

See the Famous Ghent Altarpiece

Saint Bavo Cathedral, Gent, Belgium
Vladislav Zolotov / Getty Images
Sint-Baafsplein 1, 9000 Gent, Belgium
Phone +32 9 269 20 45

The Van Eyck brothers painted the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb in the 15th century, popularly known as the Ghent Altarpiece. The painting consists of 18 panels representing scenes from the Bible, starting with Adam and Eve. The masterpiece is displayed at St. Bavo's Cathedral, a landmark in the city.

St. Bavo's Cathedral is the most famous of the Drie Kerke, three medieval churches near each other, and a famous Ghent tourist attraction, even among non-religious visitors. The Saint Nicholas' Church and Saint Michael's Church also feature a Gothic style and are open to visitors. 

12 of 16

Have a Drink at Graslei and Korenlei in Ghent

Belgium, Ghent, old town, Korenlei and Graslei, historical houses at River Leie at dusk
Westend61 / Getty Images

Graslei and the Korenlei are quays dating back to the 11th century. Considered one of the most beautiful spots in Ghent, the place is one of the city's postcards thanks to the image of its historical buildings reflecting on the Lys River's waters. Most old houses along the river were turned into cafés and restaurants, where locals and tourists sit for a drink. The place becomes crowded during summer when more people take boat tours along the river.

One of the most famous spots at Graslei and the Korenlei is the Lovely Grasbrug, a bridge connecting Graslei and the Korenmarkt, a popular shopping area. 

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13 of 16

Admire the Details at the Antwerp Central

Main hall with clock of art deco station Antwerp, Belgium
kruwt / Getty Images
Koningin Astridplein 37, 2018 Antwerpen, Belgium
Phone +32 2 528 28 28

The Antwerp Central Station is often ranked among the most beautiful train stations in the world, and it was inaugurated in 1905. Also known as the Railway Cathedral, the place was inspired by the Roman Pantheon, and it bears a resemblance to a religious building. The combination of glass, stones, and metals has created this unique station, also known for its heritage preservation and modern technologies.

Bars and restaurants surround the station. The Zoo Antwerpen, one of the best in the country, is just a few steps away from the station, and many families with children travel to Antwerp to visit it. 

14 of 16

Hire a Private Tour to Explore the Diamond District

Antwerp is widely known for being home to diamond mining companies responsible for supplying diamond dealers in many countries. The Diamond District is filled with jewelry shops, diamond workers, and merchants. It's possible to visit the area independently or hire a private tour that explains the details of the whole process involving the diamonds. The tours also stop by famous fashion ateliers in the city.

The DIVA, a museum dedicated to diamonds, jewelry, and silver, is essential for understanding the history of Antwerp and diamond dealing. The place is undergoing renovation, but visitors can stop by their atelier and museum shop until they reopen in March 2023.

15 of 16

Visit Pairi Daiza, One of the Best Zoos in Europe

Portrait Of Giraffe At Pairi Daiza
Steven Swinnen / EyeEm / Getty Images
Domaine de Cambron, 7940 Brugelette, Belgium
Phone +32 68 25 08 50

Pairi Daiza, located in Brugelette, is a private zoo and botanical garden spanning over 65 hectares and home to over 7,000 animals from different continents. This award-winning Zoo has been voted the best in Europe, and it's recognized for its work in taking care of endangered species. They offer different experiences to visitors, including being a zoo keeper for one day and a special tour for children (available only in French).

Visitors can also have an immersive experience by spending a night at the Pairi Daiza Resort, which gives guests access to the Zoo one hour before it opens to the public. 

16 of 16

Spend a Day at Villers Abbey Ruins

the abbey of villers la ville / Getty Images
Rue de l'Abbaye 55, Villers-la-Ville 1495 Villers-la-Ville, Belgium
Phone +32 71 88 09 80

The Villers Abbey, situated at Villers-la-Ville, was built in the 12th century and destroyed during the French revolution. The bucolic location kept attracting visitors, including the writer Victor Hugo. The ruins are open year-round, giving a glimpse of life back then, as they offer guided tours and walks and host open-air concerts, theater plays, and art exhibitions.

The ruins are located 20 miles from Brussels and can be reached by train or bus. Locals mainly visit the place, so it's an excellent activity for travelers trying to skip the crowds. The best time to see the site is during the spring and summer. 

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The 16 Best Things to Do in Belgium