11 things to see in Flanders, Belgium
West Flanders is by far the most touristy province of Belgium . Bruges is known among foreign tourists who never tire of the charm of its lodges. The North Sea coast also has something to do with this success, the locals rush to it, and understandably so, since the allure of seaside walks is irresistible. And if all this makes you want to visit West Flanders, all you have to do is admire the charm of the area. Here are 11 must-see places to visit in West Flanders.
Who hasn’t heard of Bruges, known as the Venice of the North? The city is the provincial capital and the first place to visit in West Flanders.
Architecture . The pointed canal-side houses are what Bruges is known for. They also make you want to photograph them all one by one. But be careful not to fall into the trap, because few are 100% medieval in origin. Many were completely restored in the 19th century in the Neo-Gothic and Arts & Crafts styles.
A walk along the canals remains the best way to appreciate the charm of the historic center. Finally, walk to the Beguinage, an oasis of tranquility away from the hustle and bustle of the Grand Place.
Museums . In addition to the narrow streets that invite you to stroll, Bruges boasts numerous museums. They can imbue the spirit with a display of masterpieces of Belgian art as well as the taste buds of food lovers. Sweet lovers can visit the Choco-Story Museum, and hop lovers can discover the De Halve Mann Brewery.
Diamond lovers go to the Diamond Museum. Or for something a little more unusual, the roof terrace of the concert hall will do. Here you can create your own music with the recorded sounds of Bruges’ 150 bells.
A change of scenery in Ypres. This city to visit in West Flanders is especially recommended if you want to learn more about the First World War. It is also visited by the British, who come here to pay tribute to their soldiers. Much of the city was destroyed, but rebuilt just as it was, including the magnificent Cloth Rows on the Grand Place, of course, turned into a museum of the fighting in Flanders.
If you want to continue exploring the memorials, go to St. George’s Church and the Menin Gate. Otherwise, despite the destruction, the city center is not devoid of nuggets, such as St. Martin’s Cathedral, the Beebeke House and many other small architectural treasures. And to enjoy the greenery, there’s nothing better than a stroll along the ancient ramparts.
Only thirty kilometers separate it from Lille, and it would be a shame not to discover this charming Flemish city. Kortrijk has long been a secret, little known behind such celebrities as Bruges or Brussels. Thus, the city staked on an important resource to develop its attractiveness: shopping!
It makes sense because the city had the first pedestrian shopping street in Belgium, and its shopping center K is a true shopper’s paradise. But, of course, Kortrijk is not only that, but also the charming old town. Among the places not to be missed is the UNESCO-listed Beguinage, with its white houses. However, its twin, the Baggaertshof, is sometimes preferred first because of its beautiful gardens.
Another symbolic monument worth seeing are the towers of Broel, which controlled the passage across the river. Finally, to admire the modern transformation of Kortrijk, take a walk along the picturesque paths along the banks of the Leie.
4. Zwyn Nature Park.
Zwin was a former strait that allowed ships to reach the ports of Bruges and Damme. Today it is silted up and is by far the most beautiful natural area in West Flanders. It has been nicknamed the “airport of birds” because of the wealth of fauna and flora. More than 300 species of birds have been identified.
Its exceptional number of visitors is due to the great diversity of the environment between the dunes, mudflats and brackish meadows. Depending on the season, the vegetation is colored in magnificent colors, such as the purple of the heather or the red of the saltbush. Zwin is also a series of events designed to raise public awareness of the importance of these natural environments. The exhibit center presents the world of migratory birds in an interactive way.
Outside, a walkway of themed huts allows you to listen to birds sing, hear stories, or observe insects under a microscope.
4. Zwyn Nature Park.
Damme, a few kilometers from Bruges, was historically a port of call in its heyday. Goods arrived by large ships from the North Sea and passed through Zwin. But after Damme the draught was too small, so the goods had to be transshipped to other flatboats.
Today the Hanseatic trade no longer exists, but the canal still connects Bruges to Damme. It is very pleasant to sail or take a boat at sunrise that runs back and forth. Because even though Bruges is very busy, Damme is quiet and surrounded by bucolic scenery, as you can see by walking through the ancient fortifications.
The narrow streets have preserved characteristic houses, and there are some beautiful monuments in the center of the city. Among the most beautiful are the town hall, the 13th century church and the San Giovanni hospital of the same period. In short, Damme is a beautiful discovery not to be missed.
This is another little-known town in West Flanders! Pretty as ever , Furness is worth a stop. Its 17th-century Grand Place has lost none of its splendor, so take a break to admire the many details adorning the Renaissance facade of its town hall. From the top of the church, you can admire the city and the surrounding area.
When you return, take a walk to discover other picturesque buildings, such as the old covered marketplace or the Noble Rose House, where Marie Curie and Victor Hugo stayed. Speaking of monuments, take a walk through the nearby village of Wolveringham, where a beautiful romantic castle awaits you before you leave.
7. Coast Tram
It would be unthinkable to visit West Flanders without a trip to the North Sea coast. It’s a realm of charming seaside resorts and sand dunes. And whether you want to organize a multi-day trip or go for just one day, the best way to get around and enjoy the scenery is to take the coastal streetcar. The line runs along the entire coast from La Panne to Knokke Heist.
In other words, from the French border to the Dutch border. The line is modern, but its origins go back to the 19th century, so it offers great views of towns and coastal scenery. There are 68 stops in all, so you have a lot to look forward to.
7. Coast Tram
Newport has become the fashionable resort of West Flanders. Perhaps because it is the largest marina in Northern Europe. Thanks to its location between the River Isère and the sea, cyclists can engage in their favorite sport, whether surfing, kayaking, kitesurfing or water skiing, if they wish. For walking, there is the nature reserve “De Isermonding”, which shelters between salt and fresh water a great variety of fauna and flora.
Since this area is freely accessible, it is especially recommended to go there to watch the sunrise or sunset. On the mundane side, the city center is nothing to envy in terms of historic buildings. In fact, once the waterfront is traversed, it’s a cultural heritage that’s a pleasure to stroll through.
In short, there is something special about Newport that makes it a must-see.
If there’s one picture of Blankenberge that you must have seen, it’s a picture of the waterfront pier. It is an iconic place in the city and understandably the only one in Belgium. The first building dates from 1894, but was destroyed during World War I and rebuilt in 1933. The total length of the building is 350 meters, it juts into the sea and ends with a brewery with an exceptional view.
In the center you can also admire the beautiful buildings. The tourist office has also prepared itineraries to explore the most beautiful Art Nouveau villas. For an even more picturesque visit, visit the coffee museum maisonette de Majutte, which is located in an old fisherman’s house from the late 18th century.
If Knokke-Heist doesn’t tell you anything, you probably know Knokke-les-Zouthe. It is undoubtedly the most popular and most photographed area on this coast with its magnificent villas. On its own, it is worth a stop in the town, which is the last seaside resort you can visit in West Flanders, just before the border.
It is also the largest of the coastal towns and can accommodate several thousand people in the summer. The waterfront is 9 kilometers long and there is no shortage of water sports. In the fall, the city hosts a famous event, the Zute Grand Prix, which brings together legendary car models. But if you prefer peace and quiet, you can always get some fresh air in the nearby Le Zwin Nature Park.
11. shrimp fishing in Ostwinkerke.
Finally, why not enjoy a unique attraction in West Flanders? There is an activity in Ostwinkerke that has almost disappeared and is therefore registered with UNESCO. It is shrimp fishing on horseback. Usually you can’t help but notice the fishermen in their yellow wax suits and their powerful scrap horses, the brabansons.
This fishing takes place at low tide because that’s when the shrimp are harvested. Horses pull the trawl into the water, and the fishermen hope that it will be filled with crustaceans, which unfortunately are becoming fewer and fewer. Although fishing usually lasts several hours, shorter demonstrations are organized to familiarize the public with this activity. So you should take advantage of this and end the outing with a good tasting.
11 things to see in Flanders, Belgium
Are we interested in the Dutch Renaissance? Regardless of the answer, the Antwerp City Hall in the central Grote Markt is a must-see because it is a striking example of the Dutch Renaissance, one of the first buildings built according to the classical canons of the era.
Boys and girls and their parents, don’t you want to see hippos? That is how the Antwerp Zoo could jokingly invite visitors if it were not already one of the most popular among the oldest and most beautiful zoos in the world.
Dominating the beautiful panorama of the city’s central square Grote Markt in Bruges, the Belfort Tower is considered the most important of all the city’s towers. It is also the most important tower in the city and has been designated a World Heritage Site by Unesco.
Grote Markt translates from Flemish as ‘market square’: to this day there are covered markets in the heart of the Belgian city of Bruges, which gave it its name. Many tours of the city originate here, at the famous Market Square.
Castle of the Counts of Flanders
The Castle of the Counts of Flanders is one of the most visited attractions in Ghent. The old fortress was built in the 12th century, but in spite of the past centuries, it is well preserved to this day, as you can see on a tour.
One of the popular routes for walks in Antwerp begins on the right bank of the Scheldt, namely the stone castle Sten, which, without thinking too much, and called “stone. This is because in the 13th century, when the fortress was built, the other buildings were mostly made of wood.
St. Bavon’s Cathedral
St. Bavon’s Cathedral is considered the main temple of Ghent. According to historical sources, the first mention of this church dates back to the first half of the 10th century, but the Cathedral of St. Bavon as it has survived until the 14th century at the earliest.
Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp
The collection of the Royal Museum of Fine Arts (Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten van Antwerpen), housed in a 19th century building, consists of more than 7,000 paintings, sculptures, drawings and prints, covering the period from the 14th to the 20th century.
The richest collection of paintings and drawings from the Middle European Renaissance can be found in the Gruninge Museum. Back in the early 18th century, local art lovers founded the Academy of Fine Arts and obliged each artist to donate one of his or her paintings to it as payment for the right to work in Bruges.
Museum Mayer van den Berg
The Museum Mayer van den Bergh collection once belonged to collector Fritz Mayer van den Bergh, who devoted his entire life to art. The museum holds masterpieces from the Middle Ages and Renaissance, as well as a number of 19th-century works, tapestries, drawings, sculptures and stained-glass windows.
The Vrijdagmarkt, or “Friday Market”, is Ghent’s main square. It was so in the Middle Ages, the epicenter of city life and crowds of tourists this place remains today. But first a few words about the history of the Vrijdagmarkt.
The transparent church
If you look at it from one side – it’s an ordinary Catholic church with a pointed dome, like many in Europe. But as you walk around it, you start to see miracles: the walls seem to open up, letting in sunlight.
City Hall of Ghent
The City Hall is not to be confused with any other landmark of Ghent. The three-story building attracts attention primarily because of its unusual architectural style. On the one hand this town hall is made in the best traditions of restrained Gothic style, but on the other hand you can easily guess the luxurious style of Renaissance.
The Cathedral of Our Lady of Antwerp
Since ancient times, Antwerp has fanatically and reverentially worshipped the Virgin Mary, who has been seen as the city’s protector and patroness. The statue of Our Lady was kept in a small chapel in the center of the city, where the beautiful Cathedral of Our Lady of Antwerp grew over 250 years.
Antwerp Central Station
Located on Astrid Square, not far from the diamond quarter, the modern Antwerp Central Station itself boasts a diamond gallery with 30 jewelry boutiques. Of course, it also works for its main purpose.
Church of the Holy Blood of Christ
Among Bruges’ famous religious buildings is the Church of the Holy Blood of Christ, named after a relic brought back from the Holy Land by the Crusaders in the 12th century. The church is on the city’s main square, Grote Markt, and may seem inconspicuous compared to the ornate facade of the City Hall.