UNESCO in Belgium
Belgium currently has 11 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, 16 tentative sites, and 10 listings of cultural heritage. However the actual number of sites exceeds 50 because there are 13 Flemish béguinages (women who dedicated their lives to God) and 33 belfries which are both counted as only one World Heritage Site. That’s a huge amount considering Belgium is such a small country, but it does mean that you’re sure to come across at least one site as you explore this historic country.
Belgium can be reached easily from one of our ports in France or Holland and then it’s just a short hop across the border. If you take your vehicle on one of our handy car ferries you won’t need to worry about car hire or public transport, so your holiday can start the minute you arrive.
Here’s our list of some of Belgium’s finest UNESCO World Heritage sites.
La Grand-Place in Brussels
La Grand Place, or De Grote Markt, is an iconic square in the centre of Brussels. La Grand Place is one of the most important landmarks in Belgium. It attracts thousands of tourists each year and it was given the title of UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998.
The Grand Place is an outstanding blend of architectural and artistic styles with its guild houses, the City Hall and the Maison du Roi dotted around the great square. Make sure you pay it a visit at night too as the whole square is illuminated and it makes for a magical evening.
The Plantin-Moretus Museum consists of a house, museum and workshop and is the only surviving printing workshop and publishing house that dates back to the Renaissance and Baroque periods. The museum is located in the beautiful city of Antwerp and focuses on the work of the 16th century printers Christophe Plantin and Jan Moretus. It also houses the two oldest surviving printing presses in the world, complete sets of dies and matrices and a stunning old library. In 2005 the museum was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Image credit: CucombreLibre
Belfries of Flanders and Wallonia
There are a staggering 33 Belgian belfries inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list, but they are classified as just one listing. All were built between the 11th and 17th centuries and are of Roman, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque styles of architecture.
Belfries are very symbolic of this part of Europe and were built to show off power and prosperity. If you’re intending to visit some of the larger cities in Belgium then the Belfries of Bruges, Ypres, Ghent, Antwerp and Mons are all worth a visit. There are, however, spectacular belfries in most towns so try Mechelen, Eeklo or Teilt if you want to avoid the crowds.
Image credit: Wolfgang Staudt
Notre-Dame de Tournai
Notre-Dame Cathedral in Tournai is one of the most striking examples of Romanesque and early Gothic architecture in Europe and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000. Its five bell towers dominate the skyline and inside you can view paintings by Rubens and Jordaens along with 700-year-old murals, a Renaissance pulpit, and a rose window of stained glass. There is also a huge Gothic chancel, which is dominated by a marble altar originating from St. Martin's abbey in Tournai. The cathedral was built during the 12th and 13th centuries and is one of Tournai’s biggest attractions.
Image credit: Vincent Des Jardins
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