20 Cities in Belgium

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Nestled between France and Germany is a small Western European gem – Belgium. While visitors usually plan a trip to Belgium to visit its capital city of Brussels, other cities in Belgium are often overlooked. Packed with many attractions, beer culture and the famous Belgian chocolates and waffles, the cities of Belgium are a delight to explore. 

Belgium has always played an important part in Western European history and politics. Napoléon met his match in Belgium, in the Battle of Waterloo and Belgium was also constantly on the frontlines during the First and Second World Wars, with many Belgian cities taking the brunt of German forces. You can find a piece of European History in almost every Belgian city or town, from war memorials to grand palaces, medieval streets to battlefields, centuries-old towers to 14th-century guild halls. Le Grand Palace in Brussels, The Battlefield of Flanders, Ghent’s Old Town, Belfry of Bruges, Waterloo: Belgium is not short of historical places. 

Like its neighbour Netherlands, Belgium’s a small country; every town and city is just a few hour’s train or bus ride from Brussels. The greatest number of people reside in Antwerp, as the city is a port town and lies close to the Dutch border. Ghent, famous for its ten-day-long Ghent Festival, is one of the oldest medieval cities in Belgium. If you are still wondering why Belgium is a big deal in European politics, here is something you might not be aware of – Belgium is one of the six founding members of the European Union.

Brussels, the Capital city of Belgium, is the de facto capital of the European Union. There’s more – Belgium is also one of the founding members of the European Union, NATO, OECD, WTO and the headquarters of NATO. Belgium is a very cosmopolitan, with almost 1/3rd of the population being non-Belgians. With a large ex-pat population residing in Brussels and Antwerp, you will find almost every cuisine available (and in many other cities to some extent).

While most of us know about the Belgian Waffle, the Liege Waffle, Belgian Chocolate, (perhaps not so popular) Brussels Sprouts, and some of the local delicacies such as Oliebollen, Boulets Liegeois, Vol au Vent, Carbonnade Flamande are some of the dishes you’ll start loving here. If you still crave familiarity, add a side of Belgian fries and a mug of local beer, and you will finish your meal with a grin!

Like many of its neighbours, Belgians are welcoming when it comes to tourists and are great at hospitality. Visit the country from April to September, when you’ll find the weather hospitable and tourists everywhere. While many packaged tour companies use Belgium as a stopover and hardly spend more than a few days exploring the country, most restrict themselves to the major cities of Brussels, Antwerp, Bruges and Ghent. For those of you willing to give Belgium more time, many cities in Belgium are delightful. 

Fun Fact: With three official languages – Dutch, French and German, Belgium is as European as it gets.

20 Towns And Cities In Belgium

Cities In Belgium

1- Brussels

Panorama Of Brussels
Brussels is one of the top cities in Belgium to explore if it’s your first time in the country.

The capital city of Belgium is the first on anyone’s list of places to visit in Belgium.

You’ll never be bored in Brussels, whether you are a history connoisseur, a business person with a family, or a happy backpacker.

With the status of also being the capital of the European Union, Belgium gives you a taste of everything you expect from a European city.

While it’s customary to taste the ubiquitous waffles and visit a Belgian chocolate artisan shop when you come here, do it with a sip of your favourite Belgian beer on the side.

While many would wonder why Belgium has three official languages, it is here in Brussels that you would understand why.

Being a hive of culture and diversity, Brussels brings together the Flanders and Wallonia regions and the Dutch and French people.

If you are in a hurry, the iconic Grand Palace, the bronze statue Manneken Pis and the Atomium must be on your itinerary.

The Royal Palace of Brussels, the miniature park of Mini-Europe, Waterloo (where Napoleon was finally defeated) and an array of top galleries and museums around Mont des Arts are worth your time.

If you are in the mood for good food, Brussels is home to many Michelin-starred restaurants famous across the world.

Children will love the Brussels COMICS Figurines Museum and Comics Art Museum.

Top tours and tickets in Brussels:

2- Antwerp

Aerial View Of Antwerp City
Antwerp is one of the most popular cities in Belgium to visit.

While Brussels is the official capital of the European Union, Antwerp is the world’s diamond capital.

Antwerp has a lot to offer with its hip and stylish crowd, fashionable boutiques, and eclectic mix of medieval and contemporary architecture.

The city is right on the Dutch border and well-connected with every major European city by train.

The Antwerp Central train station is easily one of Europe’s most gorgeous train stations.

Close to the central station lies the Antwerp Zoo which is a worthy stopover, especially for children.

Get dazzled by the diamond jewellery on display in the Diamond district.

Or get awed by the fashion couture of Antwerp by visiting a chic fashion boutique, designer shop or even a fashion museum in the fashion district.

Don’t forget to take a selfie at the Brabo’s Monument.

If you like chocolates, visit the quirky chocolate nation museum, where you can also taste chocolate.

Many visit Antwerp just for the museums, like the Royal Museum of Fine Arts, MAS, Museum Mayer van den Bergh and the new Red Star Line Museum. 

Also, don’t miss the popular Het Steen castle, one of the oldest in Belgium.

Brussels and Antwerp have so many attractions between them that you could be forgiven if these are the only two cities in Belgium you visit.

Top tour: Antwerp Highlights: 2-Hour Bike Tour.

3- Ghent

Aerial Panoramic View Of The Historic City Of Ghent
Ghent is one of the famous cities in Belgium and there’s plenty to do there.

Take a short ride from Brussels towards the north, and you’ll suddenly be transported to one of Europe’s oldest urban regions, Ghent.

This is the city where you’ll find many forms of European architecture – from 14th-century houses, the medieval Gothic church of Saint Michael’s, the Gothic cum Italian Renaissance building of the City hall, the Art Nouveau architecture of Hoecke-Dessel House, the century-old café turned socialist palace of De Vooruit, the massive and very popular Gravensteen castle, to the ultra-modern architecture of City Library De Krook.

The controversial but equally adored City Pavilion and Book Tower buildings are other examples of why Ghent amalgamates architecture.

This pedestrian-friendly city is also lined with many canals and a picturesque riverside area of Graslei and Korenlei, which are ideal for unwinding.

You can taste some of Ghent’s best food in the historic neighbourhood of Patershol.

Top tour: Ghent: 50-Minute Medieval Center Guided Boat Trip.

4- Liège 

aerial view of Liege at night
Liege is one of the exciting cities in Belgium to visit.

Liege is not on many Belgian itineraries, mainly due to the reputation of being an industrial city in the olden days.

But today, more and more tourists are getting attracted to the welcoming city of Liege.

As soon as your train stops at Liege, you will start marvelling at the modern Liege station, which includes a monumental arch.

A visit to Parc Boverie river island will not disappoint you.

It has everything from well-maintained gardens and lawns to picnic grounds laced with sculptures and the interesting La Boverie Museum of fine arts.

Stroll along the river promenade, visit one of the many museums, or climb up the stairs of Montagne de Bueren to the Citadelle.

The stairs that are lighted up during festivals and look amazing during La Nocturne and Bueren-en-fleur festivals are magnificent sights.

5- Bruges

Medieval Belgian City Of Bruges buildings by a canal
Bruges is one of the major cities in Belgium to tick off your to-see list.

If you are a movie buff and don’t know about Belgian cities, the 2008 film In Bruges is probably the first time you heard of Bruges.

Nevertheless, this incredibly well-preserved medieval city, fondly known as Venice of the East, should be on your Belgium itinerary.

Did you ever want to enter a fairytale with tree-lined canals, cobblestone streets, charming bridges and pretty streets lined with old-fashioned cafes and centuries-old red gingerbread houses?

Bruges has all that and more.

Taking a stroll or riding a bike in the Old Town, Markt, and stopping at the Basilica of the Holy Blood and Burg is everyone’s favourite activity here.

You can also take a canal ride under one of the 54 canal bridges, sipping a local beer for a unique city perspective.

Oh, and did also mention you can climb up the medieval bell tower called Belfry and soak in the city views.

If you have some more time to spare, visit the Groeningemuseum Museum of Flemish fine art, a brewery tour, a relaxing break at Minnewater Park, or even a trip to the nearby coast will be worth your time.

Top tour: Bruges: Boat Cruise and Guided Walking Tour.

6- Mons

Mons is a quirky city close to the French border that makes for an excellent day trip from Brussels.

Your first stop in the city is the Grand Place Square, where you can taste local food and beer and plan your day there.

There are many photogenic places in Mons, like the Saint Waltrude Collegiate Church that looks intricate and amazing, climb the Belfry, and appreciate art at The Artotheque.

The city and its surroundings have several interesting tourist places like the Neolithic flint mines of Spiennes, beautiful chateaus, the famous Pairi Daiza zoo, the historical museum of Grand Hornu and more.

Mons has some exciting festivals, like the annual Doudou Festival, which includes a dragon-slaying ritual, Mons Street Festival, featuring performers from around the world, and Mons Arts de la Scène, which has many theatre and musical performances.

Top tour: Mons: City Center Bike Rental for Sightseeing & Exploring.

7- Namur

Cityscape Of Namur aerial view
Namur is one of the best cities in Belgium to explore off the beaten track.

The historic regional capital of Namur is a relaxed city with plenty to see and experience

The first thing that you cannot miss in Namur is the impressive 10th-century fortress (rebuilt later) called Citadelle which is aptly perched on top of a hill between the city’s two rivers.

While the fortress gives you a panoramic view of the surroundings, the Terra Nova underground caves give you a peek into the tunnels and trenches used during WWI.

For those who want to explore your spiritual side, Namur’s Belfry, Église catholique Saint-Loup church and Saint Aubin’s Cathedral are good stopping points.

If you want to explore the fun side of Namur, there are many activities like taking a cable car ride to Citadelle, feeling lucky in a casino, or heading to the adults-only museum of Félicien Rops.

One of Northern Europe’s best hiking places – The Ardennes forests and mountains – starts from Namur, and the city sees a lot of hikers and backpackers during the summer season.

Top tour: Namur: City Exploration Game ‘Secrets of Namur’.

8- Ostend

sepia photo of a hotel in Ostend, Belgium
Ostend is one of the lovely cities in Belgium for a holiday.

Part of the Belgian coast on the North Sea, the small coastal town of Ostend is home to some of Belgium’s best beaches and spas.

If you are feeling particularly lucky, the casino on the beach is the right place to try one of the many casino games.

If you want to explore Ostend, take a stroll into the Mu.ZEE modern art museum or the De Plate historical museum, play mini-golf at Maria Hendrikapark or get on the deck of the Mercator sailing ship

Ostend’s pier is a good place to take in the fresh sea air for a long walk, while a mini-trek to the Westelijke Strekdam monument will surely whip up your appetite.

Top tour: Ostend: Mu.ZEE Belgian Modern Art Museum Entry Ticket.

9- Leuven

Sint Geertrui Church In Leuven
Leuven makes it onto the list of cities in Belgium to visit for its historical attractions.

If you want to go on a tour to see beautiful medieval architecture and impressive historical buildings and visit a famous brewery, visit Leuven. 

Famous for its oldest Catholic university in the world, Leuven’s young student crowd belies its centuries-old buildings and architecture.

Like any university city, on weekdays, you’ll come across students everywhere, in cafes, museums, parks, and even nooks and crannies on cobbled streets, perhaps reading a book or spending time among friends, while on weekends, many places would be empty.

In Grote Markt, the picturesque Historical Leuven Town Hall is hard to miss with its amazing Gothic architecture.

A short stroll would take you to the Oude Markt, a busy tree-shaded cobbled street lined with ornate mansions or the M-Museum Leuven, a contemporary art museum.

For those who love beer, a guided tour of Stella Artois Brewery is a must-do to tick off your list. 

Top tour: Leuven: Self-Guided Walking Tour with Offline Access.

10- Kortrijk (Courtrai)

Old Town In Kortrijk
Kortrijk is one of the top cities to visit in Belgium for a small-town atmosphere.

Kortrijk can be identified on the border with France by its iconic Broel Towers, built in the 14th century.

A short distance from Lille and the North Sea coast, the city lies on the Lille-Ghent train route and is an easy day trip from both these cities in Belgium. 

The city’s proximity to major cities made it a major trading and textile hub in the earlier days.

If you are travelling here by car, Kortrijk’s city centre is one of the largest car-free areas in Belgium and you need to park accordingly.

Take a stroll along the old streets of Beguinage to experience the city’s past, and climb up the Belfry to have an aerial view of the city.

Top tour: Kortrijk: Sherlock Holmes Smartphone App City Tour.

11- Veurne and De Panne

Veurne Town Hall, Belgium
Veurne is a historical city in Belgium.

Veurne is an excellent place to stay close to the Belgian coast, enjoy many of the nearby beaches and children’s theme parks, and even visit the nearby cities of Ypres, Dunkirk, Nieuwpoort and Diksmuide.

The polder villages nearby also make for an excellent trip for their unique dykes, canals and farmlands.

Veurne isn’t short of great architecture, take a walk around Grote Markt, and you’ll be rewarded with views of buildings dating back to the 17th century.

Kids will especially love the Plopsaland De Panne theme park near the De Panne beach.

12- Mechelen

Rainy Morning in Veemarkt In Mechelen
Mechelen is a smaller place and one of the best cities to live in Belgium.

On one of the busiest routes in Belgium is the Brussels – Antwerp route, lies the city of Mechelen.

Steeped in history, the city is a perfect stopover if you want to enjoy a break and explore the city’s architecture, some of which go back to the 13th century and earlier.

If you can climb 500 stairs, the view from the top of St Rumboldt’s Cathedral is too good to miss.

Even if you can’t go to top, you can still admire Mechelen’s Baroque and Gothic architecture, centuries-old ornate houses and medieval market square.

Kazerne Dossin, housed in an 18th-century barracks, is where you can remember and pray for the Jews and Gypsies who lost their lives during WWII.

For a fun and cheerful experience, stop at the Toy Museum, where you can enjoy displays of old and new toys from across the world, and visit Planckendael, a zoo housed on the grounds of a historic castle.

Top tour: Mechelen: Escape Tour – Self-Guided Citygame.

13- Dinant

Aerial View Of Dinant Town
Dinant is one of the important cities in Belgium you’ll most definitely want to see.

The town of Dinant, located amidst scenic Ardennes Mountains, is where you get the picture-perfect postcard pictures for your trip to Belgium.

This hidden gem in Southern Belgium has scenic views in every direction.

The Collegiate Church of Notre Dame, with its onion-shaped dome, lies right behind the town’s long thin line of buildings on the river banks.

Behind the church lies the medieval fortress and museum – Dinant Citadel, which can be reached by a cable car.

The views of the town and surrounding areas from the Citadel are quite beautiful.

Dinant is also a good stopover for a trip from Brussels or Namur to the neighbouring country of Luxembourg.

Fun Fact: The inventor of the saxophone, Adolphe Sax, was born in Dinant.

Top tour: Dinant: Romantic Walking Tour with Park Furfooz & Citadel.

14- Ypres

Cloth Hall And Belfry In Ypres
Ypres is one of the best cities to visit in Belgium for its rich history.

WWI wasn’t kind to the prosperous town of medieval Ypres.

Many of the city’s original buildings and landmarks were destroyed and later reconstructed, like the beautiful St Martin’s Cathedral and the historic Lakenhalle, a 13th-century cloth market.

The view from the top of the imposing Belfry is quite good too.

If you want to understand more about Ypres’ role in WWI, a guided tour of the In-Flanders Fields Museum inside Lakenhalle will be an interesting way to spend your time in this historic West Flanders city.

If you are travelling with kids, Bellewaerde Theme Park will provide a day full of fun activities and enjoyment.

Top tour: Ypres: Sherlock Holmes Smartphone App City Game.

15- Hasselt

Panorama Of Hasselt At Night
Hasselt may not be one of the largest cities in Belgium, but it has its charms.

If there is one thing you should visit Hasselt, for its famous gin festival.

The Jeneverfeesten, or Gin Festival, happens in October every year and is a must-visit for those who want to experience all tastes and colours of this famous drink.

Even the city fountain isn’t left behind during this time when it spews out gin instead of water!

If you cannot attend the festival, you can still enjoy this city’s pleasant car-free historic centre amidst beautiful buildings lined with shops, restaurants and cafes.

Make time to visit the Jenever Museum dedicated to gin or attend tea tasting at the Japanese Garden and you’ll end the day happy.

The Pukkelpop Festival of Music in August is one of the largest music festivals in Belgium and a great time to visit and enjoy the city.

Top tour: Hasselt: Plopsa Indoor Hasselt Theme Park Entrance Ticket.

16- Tournai

Tournai lies on the French-Belgian border, close to the French city of Lille.

While Tournai isn’t the most visited city in Belgium, it has a unique and diverse history owing to its importance in medieval times.

Tournai was ruled at some point by Franks, Romans, Dutch, English, Austrians, Germans and even the Spanish.

If you are fascinated by belfries in Belgium, the Belfry of Tournai is a must-visit as it is the oldest in the country.

Your visit to Tournai wouldn’t be complete without taking a stroll through the Grand Place.

Lined with many museums, cafes, shops, restaurants and an incredible atmosphere, the Grand Place and the nearby Notre Dame Cathedral is a must-visit in Tournai.

Top tour: Majestic Tournai – Family Walking Tour.

17- Knokke-Heist

Famously known as the seaside resort town where Belgium’s elite go for vacation, Knokke-Heist is where you can go for a luxury vacation.

Divided into five districts and lined with luxurious rentals, beach houses and posh B&B properties, the town gets quite crowded during summer.

The town has many high-end hotels, casinos, malls and boutiques where you can occasionally spot a few celebrities.

Many shopping areas are served by free shuttles, and regular events happen throughout the year, including music festivals, grand prix events, cycling events and other seasonal events.

With hundreds of unique local businesses, shops, restaurants, art galleries, events and exhibitions, and hotels, KH is quite an attractive seaside destination.

18- Spa

Ever wondered where the term “Spa” came from? It’s from the town of the same name from the Ardennes region near the German border in Belgium.

True to its name, the city of Spa has been famous since medieval times for its mineral-rich thermal waters sought after for their healing properties.

The city is exactly where you want to unwind and splash in the thermal waters, enjoy the beauty of nature, play golf, go to a casino, and watch a motor race in a Formula One circuit.

While in Spa, a visit to the Museum of the City of Water and a relaxing dip and massage at the Thermes de Spa are a must.

19- Durbuy

View of Durbuy
Durbuy is one of the most charming cities in Belgium.

As soon as you enter Durbuy, you’ll feel like you entered a small medieval town nestled in the middle of a forest.

Durbuy is an ideal stopover for those exploring the Ardennes trails or those who want to experience nature and try adventure activities outdoors.

From kayaking, hiking, rock climbing to paintballing, many activities keep you busy here.

The Old Town is laced with cobblestoned streets and dotted with pastoral stone houses, strolling through the narrow winding lanes would evoke scenes you might have witnessed in one of the medieval era dramas.

For a dose of spirituality, you can visit the Radhadesh chateau and enjoy its ambience, food and even do some yoga if you are up for it.

You can also visit the Durbuy Castle and enjoy contemporary art at the DHAM museum.

Belgium Cities Day Trip – Hoge Kempen National Park

Belgium isn’t just about the historical buildings, cobblestoned streets, medieval castles and UNESCO sites.

You will find several hiking trails, camping and nature-related activities in the country dotted with many small towns.

Hoge Kempen National Park’s location close to the Dutch and German borders makes it an excellent getaway for several cities like Maastricht, Hassel, Aachen and Liege. 

The sprawling national park is where you can stretch your legs and go hiking, camping, cycling, visiting a planetarium and recreation areas, and even visiting a former mine.

With over 200 km network of hiking trails and 40 loop-shaped walks, the landscape of purple heather-covered meadows and rolling lakeside dunes is as inviting as nature can get. 

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Vamsee Chandra lives in Hyderabad in India and is a financial markets trader by profession. An engineer with an MBA, he is a free-spirited traveller at heart. He has visited 17 countries on three different continents (Asia, Europe and North America) and has a personal target of visiting 50 countries before he retires. His favourite city is Paris, for its amazing museums and people. His favourite building is Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the tallest building in the world, and his favourite countryside is the Bavarian region in Germany, where the Neuschwanstein Castle is located.