Something often overlooked is the fact that Belgium possesses a number of gems protected by UNESCO. Belgium has a total of 12 special cultural and natural heritage sites, 10 of which are presented below.
Always wanted to know which cultural and natural heritage sites in Belgium are on the UNESCO World Heritage list? Here is a top-10 put together for your convenience and your next holiday trip to Belgium!
1. Grand Place in Brussels
The Grand Place, or Grote Markt, is one of the most famous landmarks in Brussels. Belgians even call it the ‘most beautiful square in the world’. But that’s something you can only judge for yourself when you are there. Its listing among UNESCO’s World Heritage gems is especially due to its magnificent architecture and rich history, dating back to the 16th century.
2. The beguinages of Flanders
During the Middle Ages beguines settled in beguinages (begijnhoven), which are spread over 26 locations in Flanders. Beguines are women who have devoted their entire lives to God, withdrawing to these beguinages, yet not completely withdrawing from the world. The quaint houses all have a very characteristic courtyard and share a private chapel.
3. Shiplifts of La Louvière
The 4 shiplifts nearby La Louvière not only look like historic works of art, but in fact are. What makes them unique is that they are still in use to this very day! They were built between 1888 and 1917 and are used to bridge a height difference of 66 metres.
4. The belfries of Belgium
There are no less than 32 belfries in Belgium, spread out over 32 different cities. They are all considered as UNESCO World Heritage sites. The belfries were built in the Middle Ages and served the purpose of watchtowers with alarm bells. The belfries were a symbol of power and independence for each respective city.
5. Victor Horta mansions in Brussels
Belgian architect Victor Horta was one of the most innovative architects of the 19th century. Iconic to his style was his sense of space, use of light and curved lines through the building. It’s no surprise that 3 hotels, a mansion and workshop have been included as UNESCO World Heritage sites.
6. Our Lady of Tournai Cathedral
She is one of the largest churches in Belgium. The five great bell towers, all of which are exactly the same size, ensure Tournai Cathedral can be seen from every angle. The cathedral was built in 1134 in the gothic style.
7. Historic city centre of Bruges
The whole Gothic-style-center is considered as a UNESCO World Heritage!. A couple of must-see attractions are the beautiful town hall and St. Salvator’s Cathedral. Both undeniably contribute to the cosy and romantic atmosphere that Bruges is famous for.
8. The flint mines of Spiennes
The Neolithic flint mines of Spiennes are spread over 100 hectares and are among the largest flint mines in Europe. Not only the largest actually... they are also the oldest! The cavernous mines already existed since 4000 BC but were only discovered about 100 years ago by chance.
9. Plantin-Moretus Museum in Antwerp
The Plantin-Moretus Museum was the very first museum to be included as part of the UNESCO World Heritage list. It stands out thanks to its extremely well preserved prints from the 16th century. The museum also has plenty of historic manuscripts, books and woodcarvings on display. The Plantin-Moretus Museum is located at the port of Antwerp.
10. Stoclet Palace in Brussels
The Stoclet Palace is an impressive mansion especially built for the Stoclet family in 1905 by Austrian architect Josef Hoffmann. Not necessarily because they needed a place to live, but purely because they could afford it. The construction took 6 years, but the stylish work of art as a result is simply spectacular. The villa has remained uninhabited since 2002 and has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2009.