Often overlooked as a travel destination in favour of France, Spain, and Germany it could be said that Belgium is the underrated gem of Europe. Home to a collection of impossibly picturesque suspended-in-time medieval towns and cites Belgium actually offers some of the most beautiful – and romantic – city breaks in Europe.
That’s also not forgetting its cosmopolitan capital Brussels, the pockets of truly beautiful countryside, and of course its world-famous beer production. From a few of my very favourite towns in Europe (Ghent, Bruges, and Dinant) and beyond, here is my choice for 20 of the best and most beautiful places to visit in Belgium…
1. Dinant – a stunning picture-postcard Belgium town set between a dramatic cliff and the river
This under-the-radar beautiful gem of a city sits on the banks of the river Meuse in Belgium’s Walloon region.
The picturesque town is backed by a spectacular sheer cliff face and protected by the ancient fortified citadel and the city’s historic buildings are steeped in legend – as you meander through the narrow streets you can sense this is a place with many stories to tell.
Perhaps the city’s most famous connection comes from it being the birthplace of Adolphe Sax, the man who invented the Saxophone whose house you can now visit.
Foodies don’t miss a chance to try the delicious Flamiche (a bit like a Tarte Flambe) or Couques de Dinant which are delicious brittle honey biscuits. Definitely one of the most beautiful places to visit in Belgium!
2. Bruges – one of Europe’s most romantic and beautiful cities to visit
One of the most famously beautiful places to visit in Belgium, Bruges – the perfectly preserved medieval city – is the place to head to for couples wanting to head out on a romantic European getaway.
Thousands of visitors can’t be wrong and with a collection of attractive market squares, steep-gabled houses lining dreamy canals and winding cobbled streets all tied up in a compact, mostly traffic-free package makes Bruges, the suspended-in-time canal-side city is very romantic, it’s also undeniably photogenic.
Make sure you include Burg square, the 14th-century Stadhuis (City Hall) which has an ornately carved ceiling, Market square which features a 13th-century belfry with panoramic views and of course one of the critically acclaimed restaurants (which there are many)!
3. Brussels – Belgium’s elegant capital known for its stunning architecture and fascinating history
Forget the dull image that one of Europe’s premier cities seems to be saddled with, Brussels is in fact a very beautiful and trip-worthy city. In the last few decades, the city has become a thriving cosmopolitan metropolis.
The historic architecture (including a perfectly-preserved late seventeenth-century centre) is truly superb and add in a fine collection of art galleries, museums, a famous foodie scene – consisting of everything from chocolate and waffles to Michelin star adorned fine cuisine – and of course the delicious beer, then Brussels easily deserves a place on this list!
4. Ghent – once known as Belgium’s best-kept secret and a beautiful place to visit and explore
I loved Ghent. While most head for Brussels or Bruges, the small but beautiful port city is arguably Europe’s best-kept secret. Ghent was, in fact, the most powerful in Europe but today it’s a very relaxed picturesque place with more than a whiff of a bohemian air.
Beautiful Ghent is also story-book pretty with a collection of canal-side medieval architecture, Michelin-starred restaurants, quirky boutique stores and a rich calendar of cultural events.
To really get the feel of the place, skip the touristy canal boat trips and discover all the local hotspots instead.
5. Spa – an elegant Belgium town known for its mineral-rich thermal waters
Spa is a beautiful and elegant place to visit in Belgium which yep you’ve guessed it, it’s famous for being an ‘original’ spa.
Located in the Ardennes region of eastern Belgium it’s naturally blessed with an abundance of mineral-rich thermal waters tourists flock here to relax and enjoy the health and wellness benefits of the water and the hot springs.
It’s also very easy on the eye with beautiful buildings, thermal baths, a historic casino, an array of luxury hotels, and an endearing 19th-century retro charm.
6. Eifel Nature Park – a dramatic untamed stretch of wilderness shaped by volcanic activity which is one of the best places to visit in Belgium
With its low-hanging mist and miles of untamed rugged wilderness, this park has a mystical and almost other-worldly beauty. The beech forest-covered conversation area lies mostly in Germany but also borders Belgium.
It also happens to be home to some incredible wildlife – wild cats, wild boars, wildcats, black grouse, red deer, eagle owls all call this beautiful place home and since the new millennium, the lynx has again been sighted in this remote and highly protected area here for the first time in three centuries.
Part of the park’s moors dates back to the last Ice Age – definitely a must-see place in Belgium!
7. Durbuy – a pretty town known for its stone houses and cobbled streets which is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Belgium
With the accolade of the smallest town on earth and a population of just 500 Durbury – located just 2 hours from Brussels is living proof that the best things come in small packages.
It’s also managed to maintain its charming medieval setting and today its pedestrian streets are flowered, narrow and cobbled, winding between the old bluestone homes and buildings, attracting curious visitors to its shops, fine restaurants, and hotels.
Shop for artisanal produce, gaze at half-timbered houses, visit the beautiful Topiary Park and stop off to quench your thirst at La Ferme du Chêne which brews beer using a 14th-century method. Sporty types can also kayak or raft the Ourthe River that passes through the city.
8. Chateau de la hulpe – a fairytale castle listed as an Exceptional Heritage Site
France isn’t the only country that boasts fairytale castles and one of Belgium’s finest is truly exquisite.
Located in the municipality of La Hulpe in the Walloon Brabant and less than an hour away from Brussels, this beautiful chateau was modelled after the castles in the Loire Valley in France and served as Marquis Maximilien de Béthune’s home.
The castle itself is not open to the public but you can visit the garden which is littered with sculptures and brimming with colourful flowers and also the surrounding park which is known for its rolling lawns, small ponds and fragrant rhododendrons where you can take a walk, take a picnic and or just kick back and relax.
9. The Sonian Forest – an ancient, highly diversified forest classified a UNESCO heritage status
Part of this exceptionally beautiful forest has just been awarded a UNESCO heritage status. Beginning in the Iron Age, the 4,000 hectares of woodlands used to be part of a long natural border of beeches and oaks stretching from Brabant all the way to the north of France.
It’s a treasured, peaceful and unspoiled place in Belgium and a perfect naturally picturesque destination to spot roaming and wild boars, foxes, and roe deer.
10. Torgny – widely known as the most beautiful village in Belgium
With more than a whiff of Provence, this idyllic little village is often cited as one the most beautiful in Belgium. Lying on the southernmost tip of Belgium lies Torgny in the Gaume region in the province of Luxemburg, south of the Ardennes and surrounded by France on three sides.
Consisting of ochre-coloured, hand-hewn stones and red curved tiles, the dwellings are reminiscent of the south of France.
The village also enjoys a microclimate, so it is well suited for vineyards. It’s a quiet place so don’t expect too much going on but just kick, back relax and take in the rolling hills, the honey-coloured houses and the abundance of flowers, the local restaurants’ gastronomy and walks and bike rides in the countryside, as well as a visit to the Abbey of the Trappist Cistercian monks of Orval.
11. The Wallonia region – a picturesque region known for its medieval towns, Renaissance-era architecture, and traditional Trappist beers
A visit to Belgium would not be complete without a visit to beautiful Wallonia. This French-speaking region of the country is among the larger areas of the country but still has a traditional and laid-back feel.
Wallonia has a lot to offer both tourists and locals including medieval towns, Renaissance-era architecture, and traditional Trappist beers galore.
12. Veurne – an idyllic Belgium town and a charming place to visit
Veurne was once an area of Belgium encompassed by fortresses to fend off the impending Viking attacks. However, fortification failed and the area was invaded, but thankfully, all the scars of the past have faded and left Verne as a historical, yet beautiful part of Belgium.
As Veurne is a city of historical significance, therefore it maintains obvious markers to the past. Many of the buildings and ruins throughout Veurne depict a distinct Renaissance and Gothic style, so if this type of history is important to you, Veurne maybe your ideal location.
13. Hoge Kempen National Park – a magnificent expanse of 5,000 hectares of forest, heathland and beautiful Belgium countryside
Our national parks are treasures just waiting to be explored and in Belgium’s Hoge Kempen National Park, you can explore and stay directly in the park to immerse yourself in its intense beauty.
Hiking and camping are available at this traveller’s dream of a park and for those that are not used to such rugged conditions or for those who simply do not want to camp, Hoge Kempen National Park offers modern lodging arrangements for a more comfortable stay.
14. De Haan – a coastal town known for its long beach and restaurant-dotted promenade
Coastal regions of Belgium draw in tourists from all over the world and among the most popular is De Haan.
De Haan is populated by just under 13,000 people maintains a spectacular small-town feel.
Attractions within De Haan range from unique shopping opportunities, traditional mills, and outdoor adventures such as exploring the dune forest.
There is no limit to what you can find in De Haan and unlike other areas that only cater to high-end travellers, this area provides something for everyone and on every budget. Views from Spioenkop are among the best photo opportunities in De Haan.
15. La Roche-en-Ardenne – a beautiful region in Belgium steeped in history, culture and wonderful natural scenery
Driving around Belgium offers some beautiful scenery, but if you are looking for something to enjoy outside of your vehicle, La Roche-en-Ardenne is the perfect place to go. Situated above it all just 25km northeast of St. Hubert, you will find La Roche-en-Ardenne.
This location is full of picturesque scenery from hills to castle ruins. Enjoy your experience exploring this rugged countryside surrounded by vast wilderness.
Cave explorers and outdoor enthusiasts of all types enjoy their time in this spectacular area of Belgium. Bring a camera along, you will need it.
16. Vallee du Ninglinspo – a romantic and pristine river valley to explore in Belgium
Dubbed, “The Most Beautiful Walk in Adrennes,” Vallee du Ninglinspo, is one of the biggest outdoor attractions in Belgium. It boasts miles of trails and enjoyable scenery through remarkably beautiful wilderness.
A hiker’s paradise to be sure, Vallee du Nignlinspo offers something new around every bend.
Waterfalls, natural pools, and rocky landscapes mix beautifully with unspoiled wilderness in this area.
When you visit Vallee du Ninglinspo, be sure to bring your camera and respect the natural beauty of the land by bringing any trash out so everyone else can enjoy its splendor for many years to come.
17. Damme – a picturesque medieval town with lovely traditional scenery
Damme is an area of Belgium that encompasses Oostkereke, Vivenkapelle, Sint-Rita, Sijsele, Lapscheure, Hoeke, and Moerkerke. The population of this growing area is just under 11,000 people. It remains a remarkably small, intimate town, but has a lot to offer tourists and locals alike.
Book enthusiasts flock to Damme, located in Belgium’s north region, as it is home to an increasing number of book stores. If you are among the many bookworms and poetry enthusiasts, you will enjoy your time in Damme!
Damme has a very walkable layout, but also maintains an excellent bus route and is a bike-friendly area, so no matter how you choose to travel in Damme, you will enjoy this picturesque village.
18. Gaasbeek Castle – a romantic-style castle dating from medieval times with artworks and sprawling gardens
Are you looking for a romantic spot to take the one you love? Gaasbeek Castle is the ideal location in Belgium.
From April 1 to August 30, visitors can visit Gaasbeek Castle for an unbelievable tour. Romance surrounds at every turn throughout the castle and the surrounding grounds are among the most beautiful in all of Belgium.
Admission to the grounds is relatively inexpensive and tours of the actual castle are available at various times throughout the day. Be sure to bring your camera as you will want to take advantage of the never-ending photo opportunities at this epic castle.
19. Oud Rekem – once boasted the title of the prettiest village in Flanders
Dubbed, “The Most Beautiful Village in Flanders,” Oud Reken is simply waiting for visitors to stroll their historic pathways and cobblestone pathways.
If you are among the many who like to take things a little slower, Oud Reken is the perfect place. The Castle d’Aspremont-Lynden is one of the most famous sites, but it is not the only one.
Visitors enjoy access to this historical village full of various museums, both indoor and outdoor, as well as friendly locals around every corner. If quaint is your idea of perfection, Oud Reken should be on your list when visiting Belgium.
20. Ypres – a pretty and historically important Belgium town surrounded by WW1 battlefields
A city of almost 35,000 people, Ypres is not a small village, but a thriving city ready to make your touristic dreams come true.
Historically, Ypres has seen its share of fighting, including during WWII, but today’s Ypres is full of beautiful sites and a key pilgrimage site for those wishing to pay their respects to those who tragically lost their lives during war times.
Among the many historical sites found throughout the city, tourists enjoy walking along the shores of the Yperlee River and taking pictures of the many memorials placed around Ypres.
History comes alive in the city of Ypres, so bring your camera and a good pair of walking shoes to take it all in.
A unique place stay in Belgium
For a beautifully unique place to stay in Belgium, I stayed in Indrani Lodge which is located in the heart of the historic Brabant-Wallon village of Loupoigne, only a 45-minute drive from Brussels.
Combing contemporary stylish luxury with historic elegance and a personalised service, the lodge is a meticulously renovated medieval farm set amidst rural farmland – so a place to get escape city hassles but still in easy reach of the cultural attractions of one of Europe’s quirkier cities.
Surrounded by beautiful lush green landscapes hike or walks or horse ride through rural farmland, ancient abbeys, historical battle sites, or a round of golf at one of a number of nearby courses! Indrani Lodge offers 5 luxuriously appointed and designed en-suite bedrooms, a relaxing leafy garden, and a rejuvenating sauna.
In keeping with the harmonious surroundings, they’ve also recently launched a new retreat programme offering a wide selection of wellness retreats and a focus on the themes of yoga, wellness, mindfulness, and healthy eating. For more information head to the Indrani Lodge website.
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Becky Moore – Owner, writer and photographer
My first true adventure began as a six month voyage around South East Asia as a fresh faced backpacker and ever since I’ve lived a semi nomadic existence, clocking up visits to over 40 countries. I’m a lover of US Road Trips, deserted beaches bathed in warm glow of a sunset, Cuban mojitos, travel destinations far away from the tourist crowds and all things Scandinavian – from cloudberry liquors to Nordic noirs. When not wandering the world and running Global Grasshopper, you’ll find me walking my ex Athens street dog in leafy South West London, strolling around the Brighton Lanes on random day trips, hunting for photogenic landscapes or daydreaming about my favourite places; Havana, Copenhagen, Italy, Borneo, Finland, Greece, Berlin, Laos, California and the surreal and beautiful landscapes of a wintry Iceland.
I’ve been quoted in Forbes, National Geographic, The Times, Yahoo Travel, Huffington Post, Business Insider, Thrillist, British Airways Magazine, Entrepreneur, express.co.uk, Wanderlust, Telegraph Travel, Daily Mail and metro.co.uk. Find me on Linkedin or Facebook.