Belgium is a little country with a huge personality. I traveled to Belgium on a university trip and spent two weeks falling in love with everything about it, including it’s people. Aside from great food, chocolate, and beer, Belgium is a destination you should put on your list if you want a cultural, diverse, and historic traveling experience. Along with the fantastic city of Brussels, here are three Belgian cities that stole my heart.
Bruges is often referred to as the “Venice of Belgium” for its canals, but it also contains medieval architecture, a charming village atmosphere, and cobbled streets. It is the largest city and the capital of the Flemish region in Belgium. Bruges’ iconic Burg square holds the ornately carved city hall. The city is also known for its lace, made by hand and of high quality. The local Markt is a highlight within the center and hosts some fantastic restaurants. The Belfry of Bruges is the medieval bell tower that stands out in the main square. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch the belfry giving a Carillon concert to those listening below. The Basicila of the Holy Blood is home to a sacred relic: a blood-stained cloth believed to belong to Jesus after his death on the cross. Some days, this relic is on display for the public, but even if it’s not, this majestic basilica is worth seeing. Walking through Bruges feels like a Belgian fairytale. Spend some time to get lost within its picturesque streets, do some shopping, and of course, buy some Belgian chocolate! Bruges is my absolute favorite city in Belgium, and I would return in a heartbeat.
Complete with a medieval castle, walking through Ghent feels like transporting back in time to the Middle Ages. Today, Ghent is considered a cultural hub, but its history and personality from long ago shines through. Saint Bavo’s Cathedral reigns tall over the city with its Romanesque architecture. Be sure to go inside and see the famous Ghent Altarpiece. Gravensteen, the medieval castle, dates back to 1180 and has now been re-purposed as a unique tourist experience. The Count of Flanders resided here until 1353. The vibrant Graslei city center has a scenic riverfront view with lively cafes and historic views. The Roman-Catholic Saint Nicolas’ Church holds Baroque-style paintings if you are hungry for more art.
Dating back to Medieval times, Antwerp is just an hour outside of Brussels with a lively atmosphere. Walking out of the gorgeous train station, you can wander the streets to the diamond district, take a stroll by down the second largest seaport in Europe, or shop the central square, Grote Markt. One of my favorite parts of Antwerp was shopping in the Grote Markt and finding gifts for family and friends back home. You will find some unique and quirky little spots if you explore! Famous painter, Peter Paul Rubens, lived and painted here in the 17th century. You can now visit the Rubenshuis museum in Antwerp to see his paintings, sculptures, and tapestries. If you’re craving a yummy splurge, I’d recommend stopping by Creme de la Creme ice cream shop!
What do you love about Belgium?! This country is so near and dear to my heart, and I truly felt at home in every city I visited. If you go, I encourage you to travel a little outside of Brussels to experience these cute, little towns. Travel far, travel often…bon weekend!