UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Belgium and Abroad

By - February 2, 2010 (Updated: December 10, 2015)

The historic centre of Brugges - not a surprise to see on the UNESCO list.

The historic centre of Bruges – not a surprise to see on the UNESCO list.

As I was reading through my Twitter list this morning, one of the travellers I follow mentioned visiting over 100 UNESCO World Heritage sites. I found that pretty impressive, even if it is someone who travels full-time.

As someone whose bucket list includes visiting every continent, I was curious about how many of the UNESCO sites I’ve visited and decided to create my own list, which you can see here.

It turns out, I’ve seen 54 sites which sounds pretty good until you learn that the entire UNESCO World Heritage Site list contains 890 sites. It looks like I have a lot more travelling to do…

In regards to the Belgian World Heritage sites, there were a few surprises. Of course there were such travel standards as Brussels Grand Place, Bruges and the Victor Horta Buildings. But I had never even heard of the Neolithic Flint Mines at Spiennes (Mons) or the Plantin-Moretus House-Workshops-Museum Complex. I have also not yet visited The Four Lifts on the Canal du Centre and their Environs, La Louvière and Le Roeulx (Hainault), or Notre-Dame Cathedral in Tournai. I have added Stoclet House to my list because I’ve passed by it a million times. Although I would love to go inside, it is still privately owned and tours are rare.

Windows of the Hotel Van Eetveld a Horta designed building in Brussels.

Windows of the Hotel Van Eetvelde, a Horta designed building in Brussels.

The Victor Horta buildings are listed together but there are actually four: Hôtel Tassel, Hôtel Solvay, Hôtel van Eetvelde and The Maison & Atelier Horta, which is now the Horta Museum.

The Belfries of Belgium and France is a long list containing 56 belfries in total, with 33 in Belgium. I’m not entirely sure why they are all lumped together. I would have thought that Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal in Antwerp, at least, would have deserved its own mention.

I was surprised not to see anything about the battle fields of Flanders, such as the Menin Gate in Ypres. And as usual, Wallonia was basically overlooked. The Fort in Namur would have been one of my choices, or even the Meuse Valley in general (since the Rhine in Germany is on the list). I would also consider adding the Spa town centre. I’m sure there is a rigorous set of criteria that might eliminate my choices but hey, this is my blog and I’m all-inclusive.

So, I’m curious, if you were on the World Heritage site committee, what Belgian sites would you want to see added?

In the meantime, why not check out our list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

If you like this, you might like:

Alison Cornford-Matheson is a Canadian freelance writer and travel photographer and the founder of She is the author of The Foodie Guide to Brussels: Local Tips for Restaurants, Shops, Hotels, and Activities. Alison landed in Belgium in 2005 and, over the years, has become passionate about slow and sustainable travel, in Europe and beyond. She loves to discover hidden gems - be they museums, shops, restaurants, castles, gardens or landscapes, and share them through her words and photos. She has visited 45 countries and is currently slow travelling through North America in an RV, with her husband, Andrew, and two well-travelled cats. You can also follow her work on Google+
- 7 days ago


  1. Comment by Danielle Barkhouse

    Danielle Barkhouse February 2, 2010 at 16:44

    I love the center of Brugges! It’s like it’s been untouched by time. I bought french fries at that very spot, chatted to some senior tourists and enjoyed the cathedral bells. And not far from that spot, I found the yummiest chocolate and the most beautiful lace.

    Your photograph is beautiful. Thank you for invoking such lovely memories this morning 🙂

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison February 2, 2010 at 17:30

      Aw, Thanks Danie! I’m glad you liked it. Brugges is a pretty spot I agree, but I’m always kind of curious why it is such a huge tourist magnet while other lovely Flemish cities aren’t – Ghent, Leuven even Antwerp doesn’t seem to have Brugges’ fame.

      I’m glad you had a good time there, and you got to enjoy some of the delicious Frites and chocolate!

  2. Comment by expatraveler

    expatraveler February 7, 2010 at 17:38

    54 is definitely impressive. I wouldn’t know what to add since I’ve only visited Belgium once and that was to Antwerp. But some of the sites are very impressive and I know that I think the same: I’ve got a lot of traveling ahead of me!

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison February 8, 2010 at 09:50

      Yes, lists like this just remind me of all the things I haven’t done yet 🙂 We’ll get there!

  3. Comment by Rich

    Rich July 14, 2010 at 19:29

    Definitely The Citadel in Namur.

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison July 15, 2010 at 08:43

      Hi Rich, I think that would be a great addition as well.

  4. Pingback: The Plantin-Moretus Printing Museum, Antwerp | Expat Life in Belgium, Travel and Photography | CheeseWeb

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