Although a small country, Belgium offers an immense amount of diversity. From its dual languages of mostly French and Dutch (and small contingent of German) to its varied landscapes of rural, small villages and UNESCO World Heritage Sites to its medieval to modern architecture and street art to its varied cuisine of beer, chocolate, waffles and frites; all of which they are so famous for. Belgium offers a little bit of everything to its visitors and is a very cost-effective destination compared to France or Italy.
While most people who visit Belgium are likely to spend most of their time in Brussels, there are many more wonderful cities to visit that are just as spectacular. Beyond Brussels, here are 5 others that are a close car ride away that you don’t want to miss. And, here they are…
One of the best reasons to visit this large city is the shopping! Truth be told, I love to shop and this city definitely earns its status as a fashion city. Everything is within walking distance and you could easily spend an entire day, if not more, just shopping. And, of course it has a large and lively market square.
Here is a quick breakdown of the 6 main shopping zones in the city:
- Historic City Center – contains 2 inside shopping centers, the nicest being Stadsfeestzaal with its glass dome with gold leaf and the largest being the Grand Bazar.
- Meir – all within the historical buildings in the traffic-free zone houses some of the major European chain stores.
- Station District – is located by the massive metro/train station and is closest to the city’s china town, including unique small boutiques and a kilometer-long row of diamond stores.
- Quartier Latin – is where you will find the luxury brands interspersed with some small boutiques, cafés and restaurants.
- Fashion District – it is where up and coming and established fashion designers open their shops.
- Wilde Zee – it is five traffic-free streets that flow into one another and where you will find exclusive shops (for foodies, home décor or fashion).
Being a big city, there are so many choices for food and drink. We always try and look for those cute little alleyways that are hidden away from the busy city center. Like the one below, a quite respite from the busy streets.
This waterborne city where a large network of canals with cobblestone bridges lined with trees and historical homes make this a romantic city. It is often referred to as the ‘Venice of the North’ for that very reason. The city’s central square has an incredible display Gothic architecture. Many buildings were rebuilt in the 16th century or later, but the Stadhuis, Belgium’s oldest town hall, is an original building built in 1376.
The best way to take in the city is by boat, as you duck under the many low hanging and narrow bridge ways but able to leisurely take in all of the glorious architecture.
This is such a picturesque small city with the River Meuse running right through the middle of it. The Collegiale Notre Dame de Dinant is the main landmark as a 13th-century Gothic cathedral with an iconic 16th-century pear-shaped bell tower. It is truly an amazing structure and is perfectly back-dropped by the cliff behind it where the town’s citadel sits. Guarding the city below is the fortress built in 1815 fortress.
To ascend, get ready for the 400-step climb (or can take cable car) and you will be awarded with fantastic 360 degree views.
This is one of the best-preserved medieval cities with beautiful historic homes, churches and guildhalls. The long winding cobblestone streets, that are car free, lead you to a spectacular city center with an open pavilion designed by architects Robbrecht & Daem and Marie-Jose Van Hee. The roof structure with its use of glass, wood and concrete is impressive.
Overlooking the city center is the tallest Belfry in Belgium, at 91 meters; along with two others, one in Saint Bavo Cathedral and the other in Saint Nicholas’ Church.
The most impressive building in this university town would be the Stadhuis (town hall) with its amazing turrets, gothic stonework and flags. The city center square offers a weekly flower and food market on Thursday or artisanal market on Saturdays; or why not just sit and people watch in one of the many restaurants or cafés lining the square. Leuven is also home to the most well-known Belgium beers, Stella Artois, where you can tour the brewery.
As a holidaymaker, this country often gets overlooked by travelers, and it really shouldn’t. If you were to make Brussels your home base, rent a car, you can easily travel to some of the most picturesque places, and that includes the bordering Germany, Netherlands and France.