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  • Writer's pictureKushagra Singh

Belgium's Artistic Marvels: Exploring the Flemish Masters and Beyond

In the very heart of Western Europe rest a small but mighty land - Belgium.


Though often overlooked on the crowded European map, this plucky country holds an embarrassment of artistic riches within its compact borders.


Belgium is a country where the medieval melds seamlessly with the modern. Centuries-old cathedrals and guild houses brush up against contemporary art museums and sleek cafés.


This fusion creates an energetic artistic spirit that permeates every city and town. An eclectic aesthetic where old and new are not only embraced, but celebrated.


From the vibrant whirl of brushstrokes by Baroque masters to the soaring spires of Gothic grandeur, Belgium offers a bonanza of visual splendor awaiting discovery.


Once you arrive here, one thing becomes clear - you don't have to be big to make a mammoth artistic impact. Sometimes, the greatest creative wonders come in small packages. And this is what this small euro- nation proves this magnificently.

A beautiful view of a Belgian city

(Source: Unsplash)


Now, sit back and relax while we take you across the top attractions in the country-


Brussels

A street full of people in Brussels

(Source: Unsplash)


Brussels remains one of Europe’s most enticing capitals for art and architecture devotees. The city brings Belgium's finest structural designs together, from medieval guildhalls to Art Nouveau façades.


The Grand Place exemplifies Brussels' aesthetic appeal with Gothic towers and intricate baroque details adorning its historic central square.


In Brussels you can stroll through ornate Art Nouveau neighborhoods to admire Victor Horta’s UNESCO-protected houses, including the magnificent Stoclet Palace.


For an immersive overview, the CIVA Centre’s exhibits masterfully display eight centuries of Brussels' architectural evolution. As a pilgrimage point for Art Nouveau, the city’s mansions, churches, and commercial buildings transform Brussels into a living museum of Belgian craftsmanship and style.


Places to visit- Grand Place, Art Nouveau Neighborhoods, Victor Horta Houses, CIVA Centre


Bruges

Steep Sloped houses across a river in Bruges

(Source: Unsplash)


Romantic canals and medieval charm establish Bruges as one of Europe's most picturesque art cities. Bruges brings the legacy of Belgian art to life with architecture spanning eight centuries.


You can visit the egg-shaped Lake of Love for stunning views of the 13th century belfry towering over august buildings or the Groeningemuseum where 15th century Flemish Primitives take center stage, including Jan van Eyck’s “Madonna with Canon van der Paele.”


Wander around beetling cobblestone lanes and discover almshouses, patrician residences, and hidden churches adorned with works by Bruges’ Flemish masters.


For a quintessential Bruges experience, take a moonlit canal boat ride and enjoy the city’s twinkling architectural marvels, shaped by generations of artists’ brushstrokes.


Places to visit- Lake of Love, Belfry Tower, Groeningemuseum


Ghent

A cathedral in Ghent

(Source: Unsplash)


With its medieval towers, guildhalls, and patrician mansions reflected in winding canals, Ghent encapsulates the splendor of historic Flemish cities.

As one of the largest canal metropolises, Ghent intertwines art and architecture seamlessly. St. Bravo's Cathedral safeguards the Ghent Altarpiece, featuring the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, Jan van Eyck’s pioneering 15th century masterwork.


Bask in the grandeur of Graslei’s guild houses along the Leie River or venture to the 1460 Belfry and its bell tower views rising above a labyrinth of architectural marvels below, Ghent is for you.


From Romanesque to Renaissance to Gothic revival styles, the city exemplifies Belgium’s finest architectural achievements and the art it has inspired for centuries.


Place to visit- St. Bravo's Cathedral, Graslei, Belfry of Ghent, Gravensteen Castle


Antwerp

Aerial View of a huge building across a river

(Source: Unsplash)


As the center of baroque style, Antwerp indulges art lovers with Rubens’ lavish paintings around every corner.


The ornate guildhouses and step-gabled warehouses lining the Scheldt River reflect the prospering port’s 16th century Golden Age.


Make a pilgrimage to the Rubenshuis, the iconic painter’s home and studio, to view his epic works firsthand and lose yourself within Antwerp Cathedral, whose towering Gothic spire dominates the skyline, while interiors house art-adorned chapels and the impressive Raising of the Cross triptych.


As the day winds down, join locals at a lively cafe along Grote Markt square, Antwerp’s radiant centerpiece, and toast to the city’s artistic heritage lasting through the centuries.


Places to visit- Rubenshuis, Antwerp Cathedral, Grote Markt, Plantin-Moretus Museum


Leuven

Roadside view of a street in Leuven

(Source: Unsplash)


With its soaring late Gothic St. Peter’s Church rising above ornate Renaissance facades, Leuven reflects the rich artistic heritage of central Belgium.


As the capital of the Brabant province, Leuven cultivated influential early Flemish painters like Rogier van der Weyden. Wander the historic center and encounter stately 15th century architecture, including elaborately carved medieval halls lining the Town Hall.


When in Leuven make sure to visit the M Museum Leuven, home to the world’s most comprehensive collection of early Netherlandish masterpieces, including rare works by Robert Campin and Jan van Eyck.


After admiring the city’s architectural gems, relax at a lively outdoor café on the Oude Markt, a square bustling with university culture and legacy. Leuven provides the perfect blend of medieval charm, Renaissance beauty, and lively modern energy.


Places to visit- St. Peter’s Church, Leuven Town Hall, Groot Begijnhof, Park Abbey


Mechelen

Windy night on the streets of Mechelen

(Source: Unsplash)


Mechelen is a hidden gem overflowing with architectural splendor. While smaller than Bruges or Ghent, Belgium’s capital of culture punches above its weight class with artistic treasures.


Gothic spires peek above candy-colored houses along tree-lined canals. The monumental City Hall lords over the central square, beckoning visitors inside to see its lavish interior and paintings. St. Rumbold’s soaring cathedral towers above all, its 556-foot spire climbing to the heavens.


As day fades to night, witness Mechelen’s buildings glow under spotlights while strolling canal-side and listening to carillons ring out from church towers. An intoxicating blend of intimate charm, monumental awe, and artistry, Mechelen delights at every turn.


Places to visit- St. Rumbold's Cathedral, Beguinage, Church of Our Lady


Tournai

Aerial view of a night in Tournai

(Source: Unsplash)


Nestled along the winding Scheldt River, Tournai reveals its artistic brilliance at every turn.

Known as the oldest city in Belgium, Tournai’s Romanesque architectural treasures transport visitors back centuries.


The soaring five-towered Notre Dame Cathedral, dazzling stained glass windows, and the elaborate 12th century baptistery exemplify Tournai’s medieval majesty.


You can wander the Grand Place and discover ornate guildhalls, the delicate Renaissance belfry, and the birthplace of acclaimed Flemish Primitive painter Robert Campin.


With plenty of museums, galleries, and historic buildings to uncover, Tournai immerses art aficionados in the richness of early Belgian creativity.


Places to visit- Tournai Cathedral, Belfry of Tournai, Notre-Dame Bridge


Mons

Drone view of the city of Mons

(Source: Canva)


Mons is an architectural gem revealing the richness of Wallonian design across the centuries.


The UNESCO-listed beguinage neighborhood contains Mons’ best preserved medieval houses, with traditional brick facades and quintessential cobblestone lanes. Mons Cathedral dazzles with its imposing Romanesque tower and renovated collegiate church in the Italianate Baroque style.


Grand Place is a study in Mons’ artistic variety, with the 15th century belfry's soaring Gothic spire contrasting the intricate stonework of the Renaissance City Hall.


From the medieval, to the Baroque, to the contemporary, Mons provides an immersive tour through Wallonia's architectural evolution and artistic heritage.


Places to visit- Saint Waltrude Collegiate Church, Chapelle Nivelles, Beffroi Theater, Spanish Pavilion


Ypres

A green hill surrounded by a river and the city of Ypres

(Source: Canva)


Blending medieval charm with post-World War I reconstruction, Ypres delights architecture aficionados.


The magnificent Gothic Cloth Hall in Ypres presides over the central market square, its imposing belfry towering over the cityscape. Beyond the Cloth Hall lies a treasure trove of architectural gems.


Amongst one of them is the St. Martin’s Cathedral which impresses with its grand Gothic interior, carefully restored after the war. Stroll through the quaint medieval alleyways and discover the traditional Flemish style reflected in brick gabled houses along the canals.

For a complete immersion into Ypres’ architectural spirit, climb to the top of the Cloth Hall’s UNESCO-listed belfry for panoramic views of the city’s Gothic Revival rebirth and enduring medieval outlines.


Places to visit- Ypres Cloth Hall, Ramparts of Ypres, Menin Gate Memorial, Flanders Field American Cemetery


Namur

Night view of a city across the river

(Source: Canva)


At the confluence of the Meuse and Sambre rivers, Namur displays the robust fortifications befitting its strategic stronghold status.


Namur's hilltop citadel provides a majestic architectural anchor, with winding ramparts and a Grand Place showcasing Baroque buildings constructed when the Spanish ruled. Below the citadel, the city features architectural gems from Namur's time as a medieval powerhouse.


The imposing St. Aubain Cathedral blends Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance styles. You will also find a pleothra of 18th century mansions and facades along the rivers.


Interested in the industrial revolution? Visit the Grognon neighborhood to discover Namur's industrial heritage of metalworking within the old factories and foundries.


From its mighty fortress to modern innovations, Namur lets visitors trace the evolving architectural landscape of Wallonia.


Places to visit- Namur Citadel, St Aubain Cathedral, Les Batimens des Anciens Grands Magasins Jadot, Grognon Footbridge



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