UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Belgium
UNESCO has listed 15 sites in Belgium as World Heritage sites. These places are notable for their historical value and architectural splendor.
Here is the list of all 15 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Belgium:
1. Belfries of Belgium
The Belfries of Belgium and France are a cluster of 56 historical buildings that serve as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. They represent a collective civic pride that is largely rooted in architecture. Despite their modest scale, they offer a glimpse into the history of their cities. These buildings, some of which are still in use today, are truly beautiful and worth seeing.
Belfries are usually constructed in the center of a public space and are decorated with images of the region. Historically, they were a symbol of freedom and independence. But, in recent times, they have come to symbolize a more secular power. Today, most belfries are attached to other buildings, and some have been rebuilt after being destroyed.
These bell towers are not only beautiful but also functional, and can serve many purposes. They can house communal bells, store civic treasures, and host council meetings. They also serve as watchtowers and prisons. They can be a magnificent sight, and can be found on many Belgian town squares.
The word “belfry” is French for “to defend” or “to shelter.” A belfry can also be a symbol of a town’s importance. The Belfries of Belgium are a must-see for any tourist visiting the country. These ancient towers are a symbol of freedom and independence for the Belgian people.
They have been around for centuries, and archaeological excavations have found that some of them date as far back as the second century BC. Originally, the belfries served as watchtowers with bells that sounded when danger threatened the town.
2. Colonies of Benevolence
During the 19th century, the Society of Benevolence began building agricultural colonies to help poor people. The Society was trying to avoid poverty in cities by settling beggars, orphans, and vagrants in rural areas. The first colony, Frederiksoord, was founded in 1818. It served as the Society’s headquarters.
The colonies of Benevolence in the Netherlands were built during a time of high poverty in the country. The experiment was seen as a utopian response to the growing problem of poverty. The driving force behind the project was Johannes van den Bosch. He believed that if the poor worked on agricultural lands, society would provide them with housing.
The colonial settlements began in the early nineteenth century in Belgium and the Netherlands, as an attempt to reduce poverty in those countries. The colonies were large collective structures that housed poor families and vagrants. However, their original function was interrupted after a few decades.
Now, these colonial settlements have developed into village areas. The Dutch Water Defence Lines, Arslantepe Mound archaeological site, and Colonies of Benevolence are on the Unesco World Heritage List. The Dutch Water Defence Lines, the former northern boundary of the Roman Empire, are also on the list.
3. Flemish Bguinages
The Flemish beguinages are unique places in Belgium. They are famous for their charm and historical value. Founded in the 13th century, they have survived the French Revolution, the Protestant Reformation, and both World Wars.
Though the beguinages were abandoned in the early 1900s, they are now owned by the University of Leuven and used as housing for students. There are about thirty Flemish cities with beguinages, most of which are still in use today. They are typically found on the outskirts of cities and are grouped into several types.
There are city-style beguinages, square-style beguinages, and mixed beguinages. A city-style beguinage is tightly integrated with the city’s medieval street plan, while a square-style beguinage is based around a central square. Flemish beguinages reached their heyday in the 15th and 16th centuries.
Some of them housed as many as 2500 beguine. However, in the 17th century, the Protestant Reformation pushed many beguines to join new religious orders. As a result, the beguinages slowly declined in popularity, and by the 18th century, most had been closed.
UNESCO declared Flemish beguinages a World Heritage Site in 1998, helping preserve the villages for future generations. Many beguinages have been renovated with the help of European Union funding.
4. The Historic Centre of Brugge is One of the Most Impressive Medieval Settlements in Europe
The Historic Centre of Brugge is one of the most impressive medieval settlements in Europe, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This medieval city features Gothic and neo-Gothic architecture. The historic center was once a bustling metropolis, with trade and art flourishing. In addition to the historic architecture, the area was also a hotbed for the Flemish Primitive style of painting.
The medieval city center is centered on Market Square. Here, you can find the statues of Jan Breydel and Pieter de Coninc, two heroes of the Battle of the Golden Spurs in 1302 that forced the French to recognize the emancipation of the Flemish people. The buildings are also reminiscent of medieval times, with warm colors and a sloping roof.
The Historic Centre of Brugge is the birthplace of the Flemish Primitives and a center of patronage for painting in the Middle Ages. The architecture of the city is a testament to the significant exchange of influences that took place during the city’s history. The city’s brick Gothic architecture, which is typical of northern Europe and the Baltic region, strongly reflects the history and character of the city.
The Cathedral was completed in the 15th century and it took two centuries to complete. Its interior features a stunning mural by Michaelangelo, “The Madonna and Child.” This cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
5. La Grand Place Brussels – One of the Most Important UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Belgium
La Grand Place is a central square in Brussels, centered on the city’s Gothic City Hall. The square is flanked by opulent guild houses and cafes. The square is also home to the Choco-Story chocolate museum. Nearby are century-old beer bars and restaurants serving steamed mussels.
The Grand Place is also home to the elegant Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert arcade, home to luxury boutiques, clockmakers, and chocolate shops. Originally an open market, the Grand Place dates back to the 10th century during the reign of Duke Charles of Lower Lorraine. This area was the centre of commerce in the city.
In the 11th century, a market was built near the fort, and it became the center of commercial development for the city. The Grand Place is the most important square in Brussels. It makes an impressive impression, evoking a lively metropolis in its merchant heyday. Despite its modern look, this square has remained virtually unchanged since 1695.
The eclectic architecture of the square’s buildings combines Gothic, Baroque, and Louis XIV styles. Today, it is a UNESCO World Heritage site. La Grand Place Brussels is a popular tourist destination in Belgium, and is an outstanding landmark of the city. This square features many iconic buildings and is a significant cultural hub.
It is a square comprised of both public and private structures, including old corporations. Designed as a paved rectangular town center, the square is an architectural jewel that showcases the city’s rich history.
6. Major Mining Sites of Wallonia – UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Wallonia is known for its mining heritage. The four largest and oldest coalmines in continental Europe are located in the region. Mining in this region ushered in a period of industrial development that has shaped continental Europe and the world. In addition to providing coal for the industrial process, Wallonian mines also played a vital role in the development of social and technical values.
Moreover, mining in Wallonia attracted workers from various parts of Europe and Africa. The Major Mining Sites of Wallonia are UNESCO World Heritage Sites that preserve the history of coal mining in the region. They include four mines that were once major contributors to the Belgian economy. They are located in the provinces of Hainaut and Wallonia.
The four mines are now open to the public. The four major mining sites are spread over 170 km in the east-west direction of the country. They include some of the most preserved coal mining sites and early utopian architecture of the industrial era in Europe. They include the Grand-Hornu and Bois-du-Luc collieries.
The Grand Hornu colliery is one of the oldest collieries in Europe, with many buildings dating back to the 1830s. The four major mining sites in Wallonia are UNESCO World Heritage Sites and represent the early industrial period in Europe.
The region was an important crucible for English industrial expertise and was the cradle of the industrial revolution in the nineteenth century. These sites provide visitors with an authentic look into the past while enjoying modern day amenities.
7. Major Town Houses of the Architect Victor Horta in Brussels, Belgium
The Major Town Houses of the Architect Victor Horata are four houses in Brussels, Belgium, that have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000. They were designed by Belgian architect Victor Horta, who pioneered the Art Nouveau style in the mid-1890s.
The Solvay house is the largest townhouse built by Horta, and was commissioned by the son of a famous chemist who made his fortune with the Solvay process for producing ammonia. Because the client had unlimited funds, Horta could design the interior in exquisite detail. The architect used imported woods and precious stones.
Although the house is privately owned, you can visit it only if you make special arrangements in advance. The Horta’s Major Town Houses are not only architectural marvels. They are also important historical landmarks that reflect different stages in the history of Brussels. Built at the end of the 19th century, they were influential in the development of art nouveau architecture in Belgium.
Today, four of them have been included in UNESCO World Heritage Sites.During the early twentieth century, Horta worked as an architect and many wealthy people commissioned him to design their homes. Some of them wanted winter residences, while others wanted permanent residences. Three of his major town houses were designed for wealthy clients and the fourth was his own mansion and atelier.
8. Neolithic Flint Mines at Spiennes – UNESCO World Heritage Sites
The Neolithic flint mines at Spiennes are some of the largest Neolithic flint mine sites in Europe. They were active between 4,300 BC and 2,200 BC. The Neolithic flint mines of Spiennes are located near the village of Spiennes in the Walloon region of Belgium. The site contains thousands of pits, and no horizontal network connects them.
Each new pit fills a different one, and the older one is used to dump rocks. In addition, the mining was done on a small scale, with no residential area in the vicinity. However, the site was used by numerous generations of people. The Neolithic Flint Mines at Spienne are among the deepest ever excavated.
The flint from the mines were struck into large blocks for use as axes. As a result, the flint at Spiennes was so incredibly fine that it could be used to make axes as large as four inches long! The Neolithic flint mines at Spiennes in Belgium are one of the largest and most extensive ancient mines in Europe. The Neolithic flint miners used these mines to manufacture weapons and other tools.
The mining methods employed at Spiennes were very advanced for their time and are a prime example of how the human race evolved and adapted. The mine is closed on Mondays, but there are archaeologists working at the site and can provide English-speaking guides. The visit to the mine lasts for about 2.5 hours. You should book your spot in advance if you wish to visit the site, as space is limited.
9. Notre Dame Cathedral in Tournai, Belgium
Tournai Cathedral, also known as Cathedral of Our Lady, is part of the Diocese of Tournai in Tournai, Belgium. It has been listed as a major heritage of Wallonia since 1936 and has been a World Heritage Site since 2000. The cathedral’s stunning Gothic architecture and unique interior have made it a popular tourist destination worldwide.
The cathedral dates to the fifth century CE, although major construction only began in the 12th and 13th centuries. This is when Tournai became the capital of France under King Philippe Augustus. The interior of the cathedral has a Gothic-style ambulatory surrounded by massive Romanesque domes.
The juxtaposition of styles creates a unique harmony. The cathedral was consecrated in 1175. Its four-storey nave was originally Romanesque, but Gothic styles were added in the thirteenth century. The Gothic choir was inspired by the cathedral in Amiens. The cathedral also houses the most extensive collection of Romanesque wall paintings and sculptures in Belgium.
Notre Dame Cathedral in Tournai is an important pilgrimage site, located along the Way of Santiago de Compostela, and gained UNESCO World Heritage status in 2000. The interior of the cathedral is adorned with works of art by Rubens. In addition, the cathedral is also home to a small museum housing ancient religious relics.
One of the highlights is the reliquary of the Procession of Tournai by Nicholas of Verdun. Other treasures include a 14th-century ivory statue of the Virgin, as well as an exquisitely sculpted 10th-century Byzantine cross.
10. The Plantin-Moretus House Workshops Museum Complex in Antwerp, Belgium
The Plantin-Moretus House-Workshops-Museum Complex in Antwerp, Belgium is a cultural UNESCO World Heritage site that showcases the art of 16th-century printing. The complex includes the works of two printers who worked for the Plantin family, Jan Moretus and Christophe Plantin. Today, the complex is a museum and private residence.
The Plantin-Moretus Complex is a superb example of 16th to 18th century family life. It is also a hub of ideas and literary works, which influenced the Flemish Renaissance. The museum complex is open to the public daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission costs EUR8 for adults. Children aged 12 to 25 pay EUR6.
Visitors can view two of the oldest surviving printing presses in the world. They can also view complete sets of matrices and dice, as well as the archives of the Plantin business. The archive was listed on the UNESCO Memory of the World Programme in 2001. Another highlight of the Plantin-Moretus House Workshops Museum Complex is the Print Cabinet, with over twenty thousand drawings.
These are a great way to learn about the artists of Antwerp during this time period. The Plantin-Moretus House-Workshops Museum Complex is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The historic buildings are home to a number of themed exhibits and period rooms. Besides being a UNESCO World Heritage site, the complex is also a popular tourist attraction.
11. Belgium Travel Guide – Stoclet Palace
Stoclet Palace is a mansion in Brussels, Belgium. It was designed by Austrian architect Josef Hoffmann for financier Adolphe Stoclet. Its interior is reminiscent of a classical Italian villa. The building is now a museum. You can tour it for free if you have a day to spare. The Stoclet House is a huge, imposing building that dominates the city skyline.
Its interior and garden are a visual feast, with a private garden and a grand marble staircase. It was built in 1905 by banker Adolphe Stoclet, an art lover. The architect was Josef Hoffmann, an architect who was involved with the Vienna Secession movement. Aside from being a museum, the Stoclet House is also a private residence.
Though it is privately owned, it is an UNESCO World Heritage Site. In 2009, it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today, it is home to two caretakers. It is a must-see for any lover of architecture. Designed by Josef Hoffmann, Stoclet House was built for art lover and banker Adolphe Stoclet.
The mansion was completed in 1911 and is considered Hoffman’s masterpiece. It features numerous works of art by Gustav Klimt and Koloman Moser.
12. The Architectural Work of Le Corbusier
The architectural works of Le Corbusier are among the most important works of architecture in the twentieth century. They represent a magnificent response to fundamental social and architectural problems of the twentieth century.
They also demonstrate the unprecedented exchange of values that has occurred globally over the past half century. As the pioneer of the Modern Movement, Corbusier’s work paved the way for new trends in architecture. Specifically, his work marks the emergence of three major trends in modern architecture.
His first design was a house for his parents, which was completed in 1912. A year later, he opened his own studio in Paris with his cousin Pierre Jeanneret. After a brief period of designing for his own family, he went on to write numerous books and theoretical papers about modern architecture. While his architecture was influential, Le Corbusier’s work was often controversial because of his political views.
The Architectural Work of Le Corbusier includes several works that are on the UNESCO World Heritage list. The crypt of Chartres Cathedral is open to the public for free, but you must pay to enter the chapel’s interior. You can also purchase guided tours for 3 euros. The town of Chartres has some delightful places to eat lunch.
Villa La Roche is another notable building by Le Corbusier. Built in Poissy, it is one of the most outstanding examples of International style. This residence was originally built for the Savoye family but is now owned by the state of France. This museum has extensive collections of Le Corbusier’s drawings and plans.
13. The Four Lifts on the Canal Du Centre and Their Environs
The Four Lifts on the Canal du Centre in Belgium are a series of four hydraulic boat lifts that are classified as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. They are located in the historic industrial belt of Belgium. The lifts were constructed in the 19th century and are still in use today.
There is a visitors centre near the bottom of the lift. From here, you can tour the facility or take a canal boat cruise. As the lift lifts the boat, it is pushed by a caisson. Visitors can also observe the operation from the bridge connecting the two sides of the canal. During construction, the canal was planted with a tree planting programme.
Different species of trees were planted along the banks of the canal, including ash, maple, oak, poplar, and sycamore. Other trees planted in the area surrounding the lifts included chestnut, ash, and lime. The Canal du Centre has four boat lifts that are more than a century old. These lifts raise boats 17 metres using water alone. They represent an apogee of engineering technology in canal construction.
The four lifts were constructed by the John Cockerill company and date back to 1888. Located near houses and recreation areas, the lifts on the canal are a beautiful sight. Their industrial design adds a touch of beauty to the canal while blending in with its surroundings. The first lift was built on the canal in 1888 and was fairly simple. However, later lifts were built and modernized.
14. The Great Spa Towns of Europe
Spa towns are built around natural mineral water springs. In this list, you will find 11 spa towns in 7 countries, including Austria, the Czech Republic, Belgium, France, and Italy. These towns have unique qualities that make them a perfect destination for a spa vacation.
The cities are all a pleasant, comfortable drive from major European cities, and each offers unique experiences and amenities. The Great Spa Towns of Europe have received a World Heritage designation from the UNESCO. They are UNESCO World Heritage Sites and promote intercultural exchange of human values, innovation in town planning, and cultural tradition.
The towns have a rich history of spas dating back to the eighteenth century. Marianske Lazne in the Czech Republic is a neoclassical spa town located near the German border. It is known for its mineral springs and beautiful architecture. During the 19th century, it was a popular retreat for European aristocracy.
The spa town hosted important scientific meetings and political negotiations, and inspired many artists. In addition to its thermal baths, the town features a beautiful central park and a wide range of neoclassical spa buildings. In 2009, the European spas were officially inscribed on the World Heritage List. The list features 11 spa towns across seven countries.
These towns represent a unique urban typology and cultural phenomenon that have influenced the development of spa culture in Europe since the 1700s.
15. Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians
The ancient and primeval beech forests of the Carpathians are part of the UNESCO World Heritage list. These forests are part of a transnational network of 12 countries and are among the largest remaining virgin beech forests in Europe. They are also home to some of the world’s tallest beech trees.
Ancient and primeval beech forests are important for the study of Fagus and its evolution. Their wide distribution in the Northern Hemisphere makes them of great ecological importance. They have one of the most diverse ecological patterns in the world, representing all five altitude zones.
The ancient and primeval beech forests of the Carpathians are incredibly rich in biodiversity. They are home to 20 percent of central Europe’s terrestrial fauna. This includes a variety of woodpeckers, six species of bats, and numerous forest birds. The forests also contain a huge beetle fauna.
These ancient and primeval beech forests are the only places in Europe where beech trees were once widespread. Today, they are still abundant and are home to a remarkable diversity of plants and animals. These forests are home to more than 71 mammal species, 101 bird species, and at least 74 mollusc species. The region is also home to eight species of woodpeckers.