7 Incredible Belgium UNESCO Sites Worth Visiting

Welcome to Belgium! A country brimming over with medieval cities, each featuring a grand belfry. Many of those are designated as Belgium UNESCO sites.

Those medieval cities were built between the 11th and 17th centuries, showcasing Roman, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque styles of architecture. For such a small country, it ranks high on architectural gems.

A self-professed seeker of historical marvels, I set out from the heart of Brussels, using it as my home base for two weeks, to embark on day trips that promised to reveal the fascinating Belgium UNESCO World Heritage Sites scattered across the country.

In fact, there are 15 places designated as Belgium World Heritage sites. Places recognized for their natural, historic, and cultural significance, were selected by representatives of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to preserve these historical places in Belgium.

Of the total of 15 historic sites in Belgium, I will share 7 of the best ones. UNESCO World Heritage sites in Belgium.

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Are the Belgium UNESCO Sites Worth Visiting?

Without a shadow of a doubt, the UNESCO World Heritage Sites Belgium offers are unquestionably worth visiting.

Belgium’s UNESCO sites, ranging from the iconic Grand Place in Brussels to the awe-inspiring Belfries of Belgium and France, are great ways to plan your itinerary in Brussels and beyond.

Belfries are large towers in the central part of the city representing the influence of a council, or the people, rather than the church. They form part of Belgium’s cities’ architecture, acting as a symbol, often decorated ornately reflecting the culture and history of that time.  

Under the category of The Belfries of Belgium and France, one of the 15 sites listed, there are a whopping 33 belfries that have been inscribed.

1. Belfry in Ghent UNESCO Site

tall belfry tower is a belgium unesco sites
Photo by: Cecilie of Worldwide Walkers

The Belfry of Ghent stands as Belgium’s tallest bell tower, soaring to a remarkable height of 91 meters.

Constructed in the late 14th century, during the Middle Ages, this architectural marvel holds significant historical value. Throughout the centuries, it served various functions, housing town records and acting as a watchtower for the city.

Today, it remains Ghent’s paramount landmark, preserving its importance and grandeur.

My recommendation: ascend to the top via an elevator, offering breathtaking 360-degree views of the cityscape.

2. Belfry in Leuven UNESCO Site

white buildings, bikes in historical sites in belgium
Photo by Antoine and Marielle of Offbeat Escapades

Leuven, from both architectural and cultural perspectives, stands out as one of the best cities in Flanders.

Boasting two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Flemish Béguinages (known as Groot Begijnhof) and the Belfry at St. Peter’s Church, it is a must-visit destination.

Situated near Leuven’s iconic Town Hall in Grote Markt, St. Peter’s Church was originally intended to have three towering structures, reaching an impressive 170 meters, which would have made it the world’s tallest building in the early 1500s.

Although construction was halted, the church’s towers, slightly taller than its roof, still command attention.

My recommendation: visit the church that hosts the renowned art masterpiece “The Last Supper” by Flemish Master Dieric Bouts, a captivating piece that has adorned the church for over six centuries.

3. Belfry in Mechelen UNESCO Site

tall belfry tower as one of belgium unesco sites
Photo by Lucy of Family Hotel Expert

Dominating Mechelen’s skyline, St. Rumbold’s Cathedral and its belfry, completed in 1520 after over 300 years of construction, offer panoramic views accessible by climbing 538 steps.

My recommendation: climb to enjoy the vista encompasses Mechelen and, on clear days, extends to Brussels and Antwerp.

Ideal for couples or families seeking a weekend getaway, Mechelen holds historical tales, including the legendary story of the Belfry. In 1687, a resident mistook the moonlight on the Cathedral for a fire, earning locals the whimsical moniker ‘moon extinguishers’ after rushing to douse the imaginary flames.

4. Historic City of Bruges UNESCO Site

colourful row of buildings on market square belgium unesco
Photo by Lyubomira from Bulgarian On The Go

Bruges, a captivating blend of medieval and Gothic architecture dating from the 12th to the 15th centuries, is celebrated for its well-preserved heritage, earning its historic center and the Belfry UNESCO World Heritage status.

Once a pivotal European trading port and a Renaissance art and architecture hub, Bruges boasts the iconic Belfry, constructed in 1240.

My recommendation: take in the panoramic city views after ascending the 366 steps of its belfry.

The city perpetuates its religious and cultural traditions, with the renowned Procession of the Holy Blood, a springtime spectacle occurring 40 days after Easter on Ascension Day.

5. The Grand Place in Brussels UNESCO Site

flower carpet on market square
Photo by Nichola of Global Mouse Travels

Enter Brussels’ Grand Place, and you’ll instantly grasp why this stunning central square is hailed among Europe’s finest. Known as Grote Markt, it is enveloped by lavish buildings and museums, with origins dating back to the 10th century.

This historic square has been the heartbeat of commerce and city life in the Belgian capital for centuries, adorned by gilded townhomes and the enduring Town Hall, one of the most iconic landmarks in Belgium.

Grote Markt is not just a cultural gem but also a fun family-friendly destination.

My recommendation: plan your visit around its top-notch events like the Belgian Beer Weekend and the biennial Flower Carpet, where the entire square is transformed into a colourful tapestry of over a million begonias.

6. Art Nouveau Town Homes in Brussels UNESCO Site

tall curved windows with wood details

Renowned for its Art Nouveau architecture, Brussels boasts the distinction of being home to the world’s first Art Nouveau building, designed by architect Victor Horta.

From 1890 to 1910, over 1,000 structures in this style adorned the city, though only half endure today, creating hidden gems. Notable among them are four Horta townhouses, including:

  • Hôtel Tassel (1893)
  • Hôtel Solvay (1894)
  • Hôtel van Eetvelde (1895)
  • Horta House (1901)

My recommendation: take an Art Nouveau walking tour to discover these architectural treasures and more scattered throughout the city.

7. Plantin-Moretus Museum in Antwerp UNESCO Site

red brick building with gardens
Photo by Paul of Anywhere We Roam

Christophe Plantin, born into poverty in France, later moved to Antwerp in the 16th century, establishing a prosperous publishing business that elevated him to prominence in Antwerp society.

An adept diplomat, he achieved an uncommon feat for his time – printing scientific books. His former mansion and printing plant, now the Plantin Moretus house, offer a rich glimpse into Antwerp’s high society.

Housing early scientific books and original typesets, the museum’s architectural significance and the displayed archives, represent the most prolific publishing house of the 16th century.

My recommendation: explore this opulent mansion and its artifacts, including works by Rubens, which stands as one of the best things to do in Antwerp.

Other Belgium World Heritage Sites

Beyond these 7 incredible World Heritage Belgium sites, here are the remaining ones:

  1. Neolithic Flint Mines at Spiennes (Mons): an archaeological site with mining shafts and galleries from the Neolithic period.
  2. Notre-Dame Cathedral in Tournai: a medieval cathedral showcasing a mix of Romanesque and Gothic styles.
  3. Stoclet House (Brussels): a private mansion designed by architect Josef Hoffmann, representing the Vienna Secession movement.
  4. Major Mining Sites of Wallonia: four mining sites in Wallonia, showcasing industrial landscapes and infrastructure from the 19th and 20th centuries.
  5. Neolithic Flint Mines at Spiennes (Mons): an archaeological site with mining shafts and galleries from the Neolithic period.
  6. The Architectural Work of Le Corbusier, an Outstanding Contribution to the Modern Movement: Part of this site includes the Maison Guiette in Antwerp.

UNESCO World Heritage Sites by Country

Beyond the UNESCO Belgium sites, why not plan your next European trip to see more UNESCO sites?  

As a Holidaymaker

Although a small country, Belgium offers an immense amount of diversity as you can see through its designated Belgium UNESCO World Heritage sites. 

Read more:

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