Top 10 Reasons to Visit Belgium

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Caitlin Johnson
It's small, but it's mighty interesting. Welcome to MojoTravels and today we'll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Reasons to Visit Belgium.
For this list, we're looking at the best activities, attractions and destinations that Belgium has to offer.
#10: Ghent

One of the country’s larger cities, Ghent is a place you can’t afford to miss. With a rich history of prosperity dating back to the middle ages,the city was a hugely important European city a few centuries ago. Now, it’s a cultural center with plenty of opportunities for tourism. You can visit beautiful Gravensteen and uncover the dark history of this fairy-tale castle, built on a legacy of medieval torture. Or there’s St Bavo’s Cathedral, the city’s oldest church commissioned back in the 15th century during a period prosperity and affluence for the country. There are also idyllic canals flanked by picturesque houses to see as well!

#9: The Ardennes

A place of beautiful natural scenery, the Ardennes is a huge region of ancient forests along a complex border between Belgium, Luxembourg, France and Germany. Because of this, it became an important and bloody battleground during WWII - a central location to Europe’s western front. Today, while bearing much of that history, the area remains a gorgeous stretch of old forests just waiting to be discovered. The dense woodland lends itself more to hiking than cycling, but it’s certainly worth taking the time to explore – and who knows, maybe you’ll even stumble across some wartime relics along the way.

#8: Antwerp Zoo

The oldest animal park in Belgium and one of the oldest in the world still operating today, the Antwerp Zoo has been a popular attraction since it first opened in 1843. It’s enormous and incredibly diverse, featuring plenty of rare animals you can’t typically find in other European zoos, including white rhinos. Since World War II, the zoo has been a major research center for conservation efforts to protect endangered species, and has always focused on making itself the best possible place for the animals it contains. Visiting Antwerp Zoo is money well spent, and you’ll be funding the ethical protection of threatened animals.

#7: Basilica of the Holy Blood

Located in Bruges, this cathedral is one of the few places in the world said to contain a sample of Christ’s blood. This makes it important in both Belgian culture and the Catholic faith - the basilica attracting religious people from around the world. Thankfully getting there is easy because it’s right by a station! The blood sample was supposedly collected by Joseph of Arimathea after the crucifixion, and then brought the Belgium during the Second Crusade. The architecture has changed a lot over the years, most prominently when the structure was rebuilt in the Gothic revival style.

#6: Chocolate. Beer, Waffles and Fries

Belgian chocolate is famous for being arguably the best in the world, and you’ll find no shortage of it in the country itself. Most small towns and villages will have at least one specialty chocolate shop, and in the bigger cities chocolate is found in abundance. It isn’t Belgium’s only tasty export, however; craft beer is also incredibly popular, and there are tours of the country dedicated to experiencing the best breweries. To top it off, why not treat yourself to a traditional Belgian waffle with any number of delicious toppings? And did we mention Belgium is the birthplace of frites?

#5: Waterloo

Visit the site of the historic Battle of Waterloo, a defining moment in European history when the emperor Napoleon and his armies were finally defeated. In the center of the battlefield a huge mound has been erected with an enormous statue of a lion on top of it, and there are even war reenactments carried out on the land by history buffs. If you want to learn even more about the Napoleonic Wars, there are a number of museums in the surrounding area, aptly dubbed the Lion’s Hamlet. Situated right outside Brussels,Waterloo is conveniently located for an informative afternoon outing.

#4: The Menin Gate

This vast structure is one of the largest WWI memorials in the world. Located in Ypres, the monument is dedicated to all the British and Commonwealth soldiers killed in the city whose bodies were never recovered. To make sure the enormous sacrifice of these soldiers and the tragedy of World War I is never forgotten, the Last Post Ceremony has been held here every day at eight o’clock PM since 1928. There are almost 55,000 names carved into the Menin Gate’s walls, all of them reported missing in the Ypres Salient during the war, and millions have visited to pay their respects.

#3: Bruges

Nicknamed “the Venice of the North,” Bruges is potentially Belgium’s prettiest destination. A medieval merchant town, traces of the city’s rich history can be seen in all of its most popular streets - densely-packed but beautiful old buildings surrounded by an array of canals. You can ride up and down these canals in small boats, taking in the many celebrated riverside restaurants, and the entire city center is so historically important it’s a UNESCO world heritage site. An international destination with charm to go around, Bruges is also known to be extremely welcoming to visitors.

#2: Grand Place, Brussels

The major town square in Brussels is a product of Belgium’s mercantile history, and displays the affluence the country possessed in the middle ages. An economic center, the Grand Place has a diverse array of distinctive architecture, all attesting to its commercial importance in Europe for hundreds of years. Today, it’s a UNESCO site most famous for the stunning buildings that surround it. Though, for the best panoramic look at the city’s skyline, you’ll want to head south to the Place Poelaert, where “Elevator to the Sky” offers a great bird’s eye view. You can also take tours of the area, stopping off at the famous Rue des Bouchers, a photogenic and historic little street.

#1: Flanders Fields

Immortalized by the First World War poem “In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae, this area of Belgium is arguably the most famous WWI battlefield. Once decimated by trench warfare and mass tragedy over 100 years ago, today the region is full of memorials dedicated to fallen, most prominently Tyne Cot Memorial Cemetery, the largest Commonwealth military ceremony on earth. This region is also where the red poppy symbol of remembrance comes from, widely recognized in Europe, and there are many important monuments, sights and museums where people can learn about this tragic but important chapter in world history.


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