Want to discover Belgium? Let us introduce you to our 4 favourite destinations and the must-see and must-visit things in these cities!
Do we really need to point out that the Belgian capital is an indispensable destination for all those who have not yet visited it? Brussels is not only the pentagon, the historic district. Brussels is 19 municipalities, the capital of Belgium and also the European capital. To guide you through the city of Brussels, here are a few places not to be missed:
- The Grand Place and the Manneken Pis: the most beautiful square in the world (or almost, at least that's what all Belgians and Victor Hugo will tell you) where you can find the town hall and many houses representing different guilds. As for the Manneken Pis, a rather strange symbol of Brussels and Belgium in general, it is also known as "Little Julien". This little boy who pees is the subject of many legends. And did you know? Manneken Pis was stolen twice: once by the English, and a second time by the French in 1747 (with the star in 2018, that's a lot). Anyway, if there's one place to start in Brussels, it's there.
- The Atomium: another important Belgian symbol, it is located in Laeken. This imposing monument with nine balls (you'll never see that many, Karen) was built for the 1958 World Expo. If you are wondering what this building represents, it is an iron crystal, enlarged 165 billion times. It was built at a time when people wanted to celebrate their confidence in science and progress.
- The Cinquantenaire and the Royal Army Museum: if you are looking for a place to walk, run, do a group tango or capoeira session, have a drink on the lawn or sunbathe in the summer, the Cinquantenaire Park is for you. Around the Cinquantenaire Arcades (built for Belgium's 50th anniversary of independence) you will find several museums, including the one that interests us most: the Royal Army Museum, one of the largest military museums in the world. You will find weapons, armour, equipment, uniforms, photos, planes, etc. In short, a place full of history.
- MIMA & the canal: not so far from the city centre, along the Brussels canal, in Molenbeek (pronounced -béék- not bèk...) is MIMA, the Millennium Iconoclast Museum of Art. In the former Belle-Vue brewery, this museum dedicated to contemporary art, urban art and 2.0 culture offers various exhibitions. There is also a rooftop where you can watch the sun set over the canal.
- Comic book/street art tour: Brussels is THE place for a street art tour, especially thanks to the comic book frescoes that can be found all over the historic centre. As you probably know, Belgium is the birthplace of many comic strip writers (Hergé, Franquin, Jijé, Cauvin, Geluck, Peyo, etc.) and the heroes of these comics can also be found drawn on the streets of Brussels. Other works of street art also decorate the façades of the city centre. A walk that gives you the opportunity to visit the historic centre at the same time.
This is just a brief overview of what you can find in the city, another article has already been written on places to visit in Brussels, if you want to read it here.
In Flanders, between the two most beautiful cities with canals that Belgium has done best, we have the choice between "little Venice", Bruges, and the city of the Counts, Ghent. It is the latter that we have chosen to present to you because we have fallen in love with this student city (more than 80,000 pupils/students after all!).
- Gravensteen, the castle of the counts: we already presented it to you in this article. It dates back to the Middle Ages and its defence system is still - more or less - intact! It is a must-see in Ghent: you can still visit the torture room, the dungeon, a crypt, see the artefacts of the time, admire the ramparts and the residence of the counts.
- St. Bavo's Cathedral and the Mystic Lamb: after the Mona Lisa, the Mystic Lamb by the Van Eyck brothers must be in the top three most famous paintings in the world (and if not, let's change the ranking). Well, it is in Ghent, in St Bavo's Cathedral. Fun fact about this important gothic building: whole sections of the cathedral were built with human tibias, femurs and skulls. Charming, isn't it?
- Stroll along graslei and korenlei: along the river lys, it's the perfect place to relax and have a drink or simply meet up with friends after a long day at university. You can admire the facades of the houses in front of you, the Saint Michael's bridge and the Saint Michael's church.
- Werregarenstraatje: if you've been following us for a while, you'll know it, we've already introduced you to it. This is for all art lovers, but especially for photo and Instagram enthusiasts: if you're looking for a spot to take a picture of yourself in an original setting, go there. The "graffiti street" is where street artists meet to cover the walls of this small alley with their works.
- The MAS, Museum aan de stroom: you go there for the architecture of the building, for its exhibitions and for the panoramic view of Antwerp on the top floor. The history of Antwerp, its ports and its links with the world are on display here.
- Conscienceplein and its library: this square was the first to become pedestrianised in Antwerp. You can admire the facades of the St. Charles Borromeo church and the statue of Hendrik Conscience. The Henri-Conscience library and especially the Nottebohm room are also worth a visit. The entire Flemish heritage and history of Antwerp can be found in this library. The Nottebohm Room has a Hogwarts-like setting. It is only open for conferences, concerts or guided tours, so make sure you book before you go, it is a place not to be missed.
- Grand Place: simple, basic. A big square, nice facades, a town hall, a statue/fountain (Brabo) in the middle of the square, cafés and restaurants everywhere, a good atmosphere.
- Antwerp station: one of the most beautiful stations in the world! (It was ranked 4th by an American magazine in 2009) It is located on the Astridplein, next to the Antwerp Zoo. If you ever have to go to Antwerp, we really advise you to come by train. First of all, because finding a parking space there is a pain in the ass, but more importantly, you'll have the chance to walk through the station and find yourself in the hall of lost steps, admiring its floor, its stairs, its clock and its prestige, quite simply.
- Het Steen: another castle in Belgium! We put it in our article because it is the oldest building in the city and therefore worth a visit.
- A bike ride: if you go to Antwerp, be prepared to ride on two wheels. Bikes are the holy grail here, they are everywhere. A tip for a bike ride: ride along the Kattendijdok to the Havenhuis (the harbour house, by the architect Zaha Hadid, who has nothing to do with Gigi), that special building that looks like a faceted ball boat. Then stop off at one of the bars along the quay to quench your thirst, continue on to the droogdokkenpark for a little break on a deckchair and end up driving to the St. Michael's quay at the end of the day to watch the sun set over the Scheldt.
After Flanders, let's go to Wallonia and more particularly to its capital, Namur.
- We start with the most beautiful, the Citadel. It is one of the largest in Europe and among the oldest (more than a thousand years of history): you can enter the Visitor Centre, discover the underground passages of the Citadel or take a tour on a small train, passing through the entire fortifications.
- You can also visit the Namur Belfry, although it is not as imposing as the belfries of neighbouring towns. The Tour Saint-Jacques was originally only a tower in the medieval city walls and not a belfry. It obtained this title following the destruction of the belfry by bombing in 1745.
- Head for the Royal Theatre of Namur: located in the historic centre, on the Place du Théâtre, this Italian-style theatre dates from 1863. You should admire it from the outside but also go there for its plays, exhibitions, circus shows, concerts etc.
- A stroll through the city centre to soak up the culture of Namur. We pass various monuments/places that are worth stopping at (in no particular order): the Delta - the provincial cultural space, the Félicien Rops museum, the Halle Al'Chair, the Cathedral of Saint-Aubain, the Place d'Armes and the old Stock Exchange and finally the Place de l'Ange (especially if we have some shopping to do).
- Then we'll walk along the Sambre until we reach the Meuse: we'll stroll along the quays and admire the citadel from below, or we'll take a namourette for a ride on the river.
- The cable car (+ the old one): since May 2021 a new cable car has been in operation, it takes you from the Place Maurice Saint-Servais (city centre) to the top of the Citadel. No need to climb up there on foot! And if you want to see a vestige of the old cable car, you can see an old cabin in the courtyard of the restaurant Fenêtre sur cour, in the old part of Namur, which sometimes changes colour depending on the events.
- Finally, we end at the Ratin-Tot: the oldest estaminet in Namur, dating from 1616. Also located in the heart of the city centre, this bar was built on the old city walls, which you can still see in the cellar of the establishment! All kinds of beers are served here today and you can enjoy its terrace on sunny days!
And you, what are your favourite cities in Belgium?
And as you can imagine Karen, we wouldn't finish an article without mentioning the fact that our urban games (urban escape games, treasure hunts) are obviously available in each of the cities mentioned in this blogpost as well as in many other Belgian cities that are worth a visit! You don't need to look for a way to visit the cities, just book a Coddy game! Our urban adventures will help you discover the most important places as well as the more hidden parts of the city and all this while playing!
So Karen, what are you waiting for to book a game with your friends or family?