I’ve already spoken about a handful of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Flanders, but in this post I would like to zoom in on a particular one, a site that’s probably my favorite.
Belgium happens to be home to no fewer than eleven World Heritage Sites, which is quite impressive for such a small country. Three are located in Flanders, four in Wallonia, three in Brussels, and one is spread out over the entire country.
Belfries of Belgium – Major Highlights
Tall towers dominating cityscapes all over Belgium and northern France, belfries used to symbolize the independence and power of those cities. At the same time that other autonomous cities in Europe were erecting elaborately decorated city halls, those Belgium opted to build belfries. The biggest difference between a belfry and a city hall is that a belfry has more than one function. Belfries were not only places were the city council met and discussed politics, but also the city’s treasury, prison, watch tower and sometimes bell tower.
Medieval Belgian cities basically had three towers: the keep, the bell tower and the belfry. The city’s ruling lords lived in the keep, while the bell tower was attached to a church and housed the church bells. The belfry, on the other hand, housed the communal bells. However, in some cities, the church tower was the belfry.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site “Belfries of Belgium and France” is made up of more than 50 belfries (including church towers, separate towers and even city halls). 33 of them are located Belgium. What I like most about this is that almost all those belfries are spread out across the nation. They are found in more than 30 different cities, which makes it incredibly easy to stumble upon a UNESCO World Heritage Site whenever you visit Belgium.
The most spectacular belfries in Belgium are in Aalst, Ypres, Antwerp, Bruges, Mechelen and Ghent—but they’re all worth seeing, really!