UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Belgium

Belgium is a tiny little country, but it has a whooping 13 UNESCO World Heritage sites! Well, actually many many more, because 3 of those are groups of monuments scattered across different cities, making the actual number of places to 61!!!! How many have I seen? Well, I'VE BEEN TO ALL 13 UNESCO SITES OF BELGIUM.... but not all 61!!!! Read on and I'll explain what I mean by that!

There are a total of 56 belfries of Belgium and France, including the famous Belfry of Bruges, listed together under UNESCO. 32 of those are in Belgium. Most of the towns had 2 towers, one over the townhall and another over the church, which kept of growing as the aldermen (politicians) & church had more power of the other, as time went by. Belfries are essentially one of / both these 2 towers with bell atop of it, depending of who was more powerful by the end of medieval times, in the respective towns/cities. I've been to Ghent, Tournai, Bruges, Mechelen, Ypres, Mons, Antwerp, Leuven and Namur so far, totaling to 11.
 
UNESCO Flemish Beguinages - Leuven
 
2. FLEMISH BEGUINAGES
(13 places)
The Flanders region of Belgium had this history of Beguinages. These are something like nunnery, but not really as strict as nunneries! The women here in the Beguinage, called Beguines, were dedicated to God, but they had economic independence. They lived in communities called Beguinages, located in the outskirts of the towns. I've been to the Beguinages of Ghent, Leuven, Bruges and Mechelen, totaling to 5.
 
UNESCO Major Mining Sites of Wallonia
 
3. MAJOR MINING SITES OF WALLONIA (4 places)
 
Coal mining was one of the primary commercial activity, a few decades back, in Wallonia region of Belgium. There are quite a few coal mines here but 4 of those are listed under UNESCO for their exceptional character. I've been to 3 of those - Grand Hornu & Bois du Luc near Mons and Blegny Mine near Liege. The one I'm yet to visit is Bois du Cazier near Charleroi.
 
UNESCO Four lifts on the canal du centre, la louviere
 
4. THE FOUR LIFTS ON THE CANAL DU CENTRE AND THEIR ENVIRONS, LA LOUVIÈRE AND LE ROEULX 
As mentioned earlier, Wallonia was the commercial hub in the era bygone with all the coal mining happening here. So yeah, the coal has to be transported and for that the 2 rivers here - Meuse & Scheldt, were used much. A canal was made between the 2, but the 2 are in different altitudes, so to help the boat transition the altitude change, there were this series of 4 boatlifts, which are still functional today! This is closer to Mons.
 
 
5. GRAND PLACE, BRUSSELS
This is the major town-square of Brussels which has been in existence and the hub of commercial activities since 13th C  CE, but the current structures are primarily from 17th C CE. The first ever time I visited Brussels on a day-trip from London, I was here for the Flower Carpet of 2016. Since then I've also attended Flower Time 2017 and Flower Carpet 2018. The best time to visit here is perhaps during Flower Carpet/Time, Christmas or Brussels Lights. The gorgeous structures are well-lit and would make you feel the magic!
 
UNESCO Major town houses of Victor Horta - Hotel Solvay
 
6. MAJOR TOWN HOUSES OF VICTOR HORTA, BRUSSELS (4 places)
Art-Nouveau movement and Brussels go hand in hand! Most of the gorgeous architecture in Brussels belong to either Art-Deco or Art-Nouveau time periods. Victor Horta is one of the visionaries of Art Nouveau era and 4 of the buildings - 3 historic hotels & 1 house cum studio are listed together. Unfortunately the 3 hotels (they're not functional currently) are inaccessible to public and they have an annual opening for a few days and somehow I've never been able to track those dates and visit the interiors! I've only seen these from outside. The house is currently converted as Horta Museum and open to public on weekends.
 
UNESCO Stoclet House, Brussels
 
7. STOCLET HOUSE, BRUSSELS 
More Art-Nouveau. This private residence of Adolphe Stoclet, designed Josef Hoffmann, in 1905 is an exemplary masterpiece of Art-Nouveau architecture in Brussels. While it is architecture is fascinating to view from outside, the interiors, which holds masterpieces of various artists including Gustave Klimt, cannot be accessed!!! So no, you cannot technically visit the Stoclet House... 
 
UNESCO Tournai Notre Dame Cathedral
 
8. NOTRE DAME CATHEDRAL, TOURNAI 
This is the birthplace of France! Here's the thing - Belgium was formed very recently, unlike France which has been in existence since several centuries. A small portion of France (along with a portion of NL) formed Belgium. So quite amusingly the birthplace of France is in today's Belgium (so is the birthplace of fries - yup, they're Belgian fries, not French fries)!
 
UNESCO Historic City Centre of Brugge
 
9. HISTORIC CENTRE OF BRUGGE
This romantic city of canals, that has served as the filming location of many movies, including the bollywood super hit PK! A weekend trip from Brussels would be perfect to roam about the entire city & canals, see its belfry, beguinages, city hall, several museums with gorgeous paintings of Flemish Masters and more!!
 
UNESCO Neolithic Flint Mines of Spiennes
 
10. NEOLITHIC FLINT MINES AT SPIENNES 
This is perhaps the site that I enjoyed the most! As the name suggest is the mines where flints were excavated by stone-age people!!! The best-part, you get to climb 10m down inside these mines using a ladder and explore the neolithic chambers, complete with exposed flints! This is also closer to Mons.
 
UNESCO Primeval Beech Forests - Sonian Forest, Belgium
 
11. SONIAN FOREST
 
This is listed as Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe under UNESCO. Carpathians is a mountain range that spreads from Romania to Czech republic where the main tree that grows in Beech. So the forests where Beech trees are the primary foliage, not only in Carpathians but elsewhere in Europe as well, are listed together under UNESCO and the only forest in Belgium in this listing is Sonian Forest! There are 5 enclaves within the Sonian Forest - 2 closer to Watermael-Boitsfort, 1 closer to Groenendaal, 2 closer to Solvay Castle.
  
UNESCO Plantin-Moretus House-Workshops Antwerp
 
12. PLANTIN-MORETUS HOUSE-WORKSHOPS-MUSEUM COMPLEX, ANTWERP 
This is the only museum listed in UNESCO! This museum was a printing and publishing house since 16th C CE which printed not only bible, but also other literature, dictionaries and scientific publications, not in just 1 or 2 languages, but a whole array including Aramaic, Hebrew, Old Syriac, Arabic, Latin, Greek etc.
 
UNESCO Le Corbusier Architecture - Maison Guitte, Antwerpie
 
13. MAISON GUIETTE, ANTWERP 
This building is one of the architectural work of Le Corbusier. There are 17 buildings, across the world, listed together and only Maison Guitte is in Belgium. Its located a bit away from the city centre of Antwerp and requires a short tram ride to reach here, but again, like Stoclet House, this too is a private property and you cannot visit Maison Guitte, but can only see it from outside! 

Apart from these, 18 more sites are in the tentative list including World War sites of Ypres, Waterloo Napoleonic battlefield, Historic City Centre of Ghent, Historic Spa towns including Spa, Palais du Justice in Brussels and more...
There is a single site under UNESCO Geopark - Famenne ArdennesThen there are the intangible cultural heritage including Belgian beer, Processional carnivals, Carillon culture and several more...
Back to the actual list, as I mentioned in the beginning, there are 61 actual places to see in Belgium listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, though the count is only 13. So yes, I've been to all 13, meaning, atleast 1 of the multi-location sites. Of the 61? That would be 32....Et toi? En jij?
UNESCO Sites in Belgium UNESCO Sites in Belgium

Bhushavali

An ardent traveler by passion. I am a wanderlust.. Read more about me here.

16 comments:

  1. Looks Belgium has so many UNESCO world heritage sites and I never heard about Neolithic Front Mines. It sounds so interesting which tells story about atone age time.Also the story of belgium cathedral and Born of it looks interesting.

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  2. Belgium has never made it to my bucket list. I just never found anything interesting about it except from beer and waffles. (I love nature and mountains). But after reading your article I would be curious to visit neolithic mines and the mining sites of Wallonia.

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  3. I can't believe that the number of times I have been to Europe, I have never been to Belgium. Not that I don't want to go but always going to other places instead but you have so convinced me to add this to my list next time. I would absolutely love Flower carpet and no way are they Belgian fries! C'mon! LOL

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  4. Oh my God, this post is exactly for me. I love UNESCO sites and I always seek them on the official website before I visit a country. More speaking, I plan my route based on the UNESCO sites, even if they are remote. Unfortunately, I haven't been to Belgium but Historic Centre of Brugge would definitely be my cup of tea. Also the mines, I am sure they worth a visit.

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  5. I had never heard of the Sonian forest. I didn't know that a forest can be part of Unesco Heritage sites. The Neolithic mines is the kind of place I would want to visit. And 61 UNESCO heritage sites for a country as small as Belgium, sounds wonderful. If I ever visit Belgium, I will come back to your post.

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  6. I didn't know that Belgium has so many UNESCO World Heritage sites! I love visiting UNESCO sites and always try to see them on my trip, so this article is a spot on. Out of this list, I only visited Historic Centre of Brugge. I went to Antwerp but missed both museum and Maison Guitte. Such a miss!

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  7. Had no idea Art Noveau is a thing in Brussels, but I love it and as an architecture geek I am so happy to learn more about it. Also it's nice to learn more about the rest of Belgium, as a lot of people tend to focus on Brussels. The flint mines sounds awesome for me, as an archaeologis, and once again I am surprised I didn't find out about it earlier. Thanks for the great tips, I will keep them in mind for my future trips to Belgium.

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  8. I have been to 4 out of this list. Really glad about that. :)I regeret about not timing my visit to flower carpet show there, so much like the floral decorations during Onam here. And though I have been to Antwerp missed visiting the museum, some bad timing then.
    If there is a next time I am keen to time myself and add Neolithic Flint Mines at Spiennes to my list.

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  9. I had no idea Belgium had so many UNESCO sites! Notre Dame Cathedral, Tournai has tobe one of my favorites, and the history of "Belgian Fries." Who would have thunk it!? I also loved the Neolithic Flint Mines at Spiennes. The history of early man is a passion of mine!

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  10. I haven't travelled to any parts of Europe, that's why it always interest me to read travel blogs exploring this continent. I only know Notre Dame from movies, and based on your story it is such a very important landmark in Belgium. I do wish to visit this place. Our target Europe trip will be 3-years from now.

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  11. I grew up in the Netherlands, but have only visited Belgium a few times. We would usually only drive through on the way to France. But now I realize there is so much to see in Beglium! It's amazing how many of these historic places you've visited. It definitely inspires me to plan a trip to Belgium to see a few of these UNESCO sites for myself, especially Brussels, the belfries and the beguinages.

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  12. I lived in Brussels for about 6 months and I had the opportunity to visit many of the places you listed in the article. The most impressive is the city of Bruges: I fell in love with its beauty. Every corners, every spots is so different from the others and so beautiful. You can find inspiration everywhere there but during springtime it's even better.

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  13. I didn't know that Belgium had so many UNESCO heritage sights to be honest with you, but of course that makes perfect sense. Thanks so much for the careful rundown here. I'll make use of it when I can be on the move once again!

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  14. Oh, I think out of these, Brugges would be my favorite. Loved the place so much, when I was there a few years ago. Really hoped to come back, but stuck in my country during the whole summer.

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  15. I never knew about a lot of places you mentioned here. Really impressed by seeing all the beautiful places, now I would love to experience them as well. Belgium is definitely next on my list.

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  16. Oh so neat! Love finding world heritage sites in my travels! Clearly a reason they were chosen as such and learning that history is so interesting. I was only in Belgium for a short daytrip but will have to return to check these all out!

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