Belgium usually stays off people’s radar when they travel to Europe. Sure everyone knows about Belgian chocolates, waffles and beer, but the vast majority of tourists only visits cities such as Rome, London, Paris, Berlin and Amsterdam. Some of them may take a side trip to Bruges and find themselves to be pleasantly surprised. Other people may pass through Brussels on their way to other destinations and find it to be unexpectedly beautiful. The Belgian towns of Ghent and Antwerp are definitely worth visiting as well. This is the first post in a two-post series about lesser-known cities and towns in Belgium that are well-worth your time.
More of Belgian Towns to Visit
The city of Leuven is Belgium’s largest college city. There are no less than 90,000 students studying at one of world’s oldest universities. Add to that the fact that Leuven is also home to the world’s largest brewery – InBev – and you have an amazing combination. It is an old medieval city and the town hall may just be the most beautiful Gothic building on the planet. Besides that there is a medieval beguinage, churches, cobbled streets, numerous bars and restaurants and a more-than-healthy nightlife. I studied there myself for a year and I had an absolute blast!
Dinant lies in the French-speaking south of the country and is home to the Leffe brewery, beautiful collegiate church and a massive citadel overlooking the town. The fortified citadel is definitely worth a visit and one of the major attractions in the region. Dinant’s main feature, however, is that it is the birthplace of Adolphe Sax, the very man that invented the saxophone.
The quiet city of Lier is located in the Dutch-speaking province of Antwerp and has a beautiful medieval town square. The highlights here are the belfry and the town hall, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city’s other UNESCO listed site is the gorgeous beguinage, a great and peaceful site in the city centre of Lier, one of the most historic Belgian Towns.
Hidden in the Ardennes forest, the small town of Bastogne is known as the centre of the Battle of the Bulge in the Second World War. The battle started on December 16 and the fighting went on for three freezing weeks. General McAuliffe uttered the world-famous ‘Nuts’ in Bastogne after being asked to surrender by the Germans. The town’s highlights are all related to the war.
Tongeren is the oldest among Belgian Towns, founded in 15 BC by the Romans as a supply station. Today’s highlights include Roman as well as medieval city walls, ancient city gates, a massive basilica, the statue of the legendary Belgian tribe leader Ambiorix who destroyed a Roman legion, a beguinage and the totally awesome Gallo-Roman Museum.