UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Belgium

La Grand-Place

La Grand-Place in Brussels is a remarkably homogeneous body of public and private buildings, dating mainly from the late 17th century. The architecture provides a vivid illustration of the level of social and cultural life of the period in this important political and commercial centre. Around a cobbled rectangular market square, La Grand-Place, the earliest written reference to which dates back to the 12th century, feat ...
Founded: 17th century | Location: Brussels, Belgium

Belfry of Bruges

The belfry of Bruges, or Belfort, is a medieval bell tower and one of the Bruges" most prominent symbols. The belfry formerly housed a treasury and the municipal archives, and served as an observation post for spotting fires and other danger. A narrow, steep staircase of 366 steps, accessible by the public for an entry fee, leads to the top of the 83-metre-high building, which leans about a metre to the east. The be ...
Founded: c. 1240 | Location: Bruges, Belgium

Historic Centre of Brugge

Brugge is an outstanding example of a medieval historic settlement, which has maintained its historic fabric as this has evolved over the centuries, and where original Gothic constructions form part of the town"s identity. As one of the commercial and cultural capitals of Europe, Brugge developed cultural links to different parts of the world. It is closely associated with the school of Flemish Primitive painting. B ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Bruges, Belgium

Antwerp City Hall

The Antwerp City Hall was erected between 1561 and 1565 after designs made by Cornelis Floris de Vriendt and several other architects and artists, this Renaissance building incorporates both Flemish and Italian influences. The City Hall is inscribed on UNESCO"s World Heritage List along with the belfries of Belgium and France. In the 16th century Antwerp became one of the busiest trading ports and most prosperous ci ...
Founded: 1561-1564 | Location: Antwerp, Belgium

Cathedral of Our Lady

The Cathedral of Our Lady contains a number of significant works by the Baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens, as well as paintings by artists such as Otto van Veen, Jacob de Backer and Marten de Vos. The belfry of the cathedral is included in 'Belfries of Belgium and France' in the list of World Heritage Sites. Where the cathedral now stands, there was a small chapel of Our Lady from the 9th to the 12th century, which acqui ...
Founded: 1352 | Location: Antwerp, Belgium

Belfry of Ghent

The 91-metre-tall belfry is one of three medieval towers that overlook the old city centre of Ghent, the other two belonging to Saint Bavo Cathedral and Saint Nicholas" Church. Its height makes it the tallest belfry in Belgium. The belfry of Ghent, together with its attached buildings, belongs to the set of belfries of Belgium and France inscribed on UNESCO"s World Heritage List. Construction of the tower began in 1313 a ...
Founded: 1313 | Location: Ghent, Belgium

St. Peter's Church

Saint Peter"s Church is situated on the Leuven Grote Markt (main market square), right across the ornate Town Hall. Built mainly in the 15th century in Brabantine Gothic style, the church has a cruciform floor plan and a low bell tower that has never been completed. It is 93 meters long. The first church on the site, made of wood and presumably founded in 986, burned down in 1176. It was replaced by a Romanesque chu ...
Founded: 1425-1497 | Location: Leuven, Belgium

Bruges Béguinage

The Princely Béguinage Ten Wijngaerde is the only preserved béguinage (architectural complex which formerly housed beguines, lay religious women who lived in community without taking vows or retiring from the world) in Bruges. There are no more Beguines living there, but since 1927 it functions as a convent for Benedictines, founded by canon Hoornaert. In the same year the houses at the west side were also reshaped and ...
Founded: 1240 | Location: Bruges, Belgium

St. Rumbold's Cathedral

St. Rumbold's Cathedral is the Belgian metropolitan archiepiscopal cathedral in Mechelen, dedicated to Saint Rumbold, Christian missionary and martyr who had founded an abbey nearby. His remains are rumoured to be buried inside the cathedral. Construction of the church itself started shortly after 1200, and it was consecrated in 1312, when part had become usable. From 1324 onwards the flying buttresses and revised choir s ...
Founded: c. 1200 | Location: Mechelen, Belgium

Ypres Cloth Hall

The Cloth Hall in Ypres was one of the largest commercial buildings of the Middle Ages, when it served as the main market and warehouse for the Flemish city"s prosperous cloth industry. The original structure, erected mainly in the 13th century and completed 1304, lay in ruins after artillery fire devastated Ypres in World War I. Between 1933 and 1967, the hall was meticulously reconstructed to its prewar condition, under ...
Founded: 1304/1933 | Location: Ypres, Belgium

Mechelen Town Hall

Mechelen town hall on the Grote Markt consists of two parts: the cloth hall with unfinished belfry and the Palace of the Great Council. The cloth trade went into decline in the 14th century and there wasn"t the money to complete the building. For two hundred years the belfry was no more than a shell, until it was eventually provided with a temporary roof in the 16th century. The belfry is now a UNESCO world heritage ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Mechelen, Belgium

Plantin-Moretus Museum

The Plantin-Moretus Museum honours the printers Christophe Plantin and Jan Moretus. It is located in their former residence and printing establishment, Plantin Press, at the Friday Market. The printing company was founded in the 16th century by Christophe Plantin, who obtained type from the leading typefounders of the day in Paris. Plantin was a major figure in contemporary printing with interests in humanism; his eight- ...
Founded: 1576 | Location: Antwerp, Belgium

Schepenhuis

The Schepenhuis (Aldermen"s House) of Aalst is a former city hall, one of the oldest in the Low Countries. Dating originally from 1225, it was partially rebuilt twice as a result of fire damage, first after a 1380 war and again after a fireworks accident in 1879. The belfry tower at one corner of the building was completed in 1460, and in the next year was equipped with a carillon built by master craftsmen from Mech ...
Founded: 1225 | Location: Aalst, Belgium

Belfry of Tournai

The belfry of Tournai is a freestanding bell tower of medieval origin, 72 metres in height with a 256-step stairway. This landmark building is one of a set of belfries of Belgium and France registered on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Construction of the belfry began around 1188 when King Philip Augustus of France granted Tournai its town charter, conferring among other privileges the right to mount a communal bell to r ...
Founded: 1188 | Location: Tournai, Belgium

Belfry of Mons

The belfry of Mons is one of the more recent among the belfries of Belgium and France. It is classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO since 1999. It is the only one in Belgium that is constructed in baroque style. With an altitude of 87 meters, it dominates the city of Mons, which is constructed on a hill itself. The building was designed by architecture Louis Ledoux. He led the works from 1662 until his death in 16 ...
Founded: 1662-1669 | Location: Mons, Belgium

Grand Béguinage

The Grand Béguinage of Leuven is a well preserved and completely restored historical quarter containing a dozen of streets in the south of downtown Leuven. With some 300 apartments in almost 100 houses, it is one of the largest still existing beguinages in the Low Countries. It is owned by the University of Leuven and used as a campus, especially for housing students and academic guests. As a community for unmarri ...
Founded: 1234 | Location: Leuven, Belgium

Tournai Cathedral

The Cathedral of Our Lady in Tournai has been classified both as a Wallonia"s major heritage since 1936 and as a World Heritage Site since 2000. There was a diocese centered at Tournai from the late 6th century and this structure of local blue-gray stone occupies rising ground near the south bank of the Scheldt, which divides the city of Tournai into two roughly equal parts. Begun in the 12th century on even older founda ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Tournai, Belgium

Large Béguinage

Beguines are women who could not or did not want to enter a convent, but lived together as a community to support themselves. Around 1560 the beguinage outside the city walls of Mechelen was destroyed. The beguines re-established themselves inside the city walls, where the Large Beguinage (Groot Begijnhof) grew up. They bought up existing buildings and built new dwellings, which explains why the Large Beguinage is rather ...
Founded: 1560 | Location: Mechelen, Belgium

Horta Museum

The Horta Museum is dedicated to the life and work of the Belgian Art Nouveau architect Victor Horta and his time. The museum is housed in Horta"s former house and atelier, Maison & Atelier Horta (1898), in the Brussels municipality of Saint-Gilles. Housed in the Art Nouveau interiors is a permanent display of furniture, utensils and art objects designed by Horta and his contemporaries as well as documents relate ...
Founded: 1898 | Location: Brussels, Belgium

Grand-Hornu

Grand-Hornu is an old industrial mining complex in Hornu in the municipality of Boussu. It was built by Henri De Gorge between 1810 and 1830. It is a unique example of functional town-planning. Today it is owned by the province of Hainaut, which houses temporary exhibitions in the buildings. As one of four Major Mining Sites of Wallonia, UNESCO designated it a World Heritage Site in 2012
Founded: 1810-1830 | Location: Boussu, Belgium

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Goseck Circle

The Goseck circle is a Neolithic circle structure. It may be the oldest and best known of the Circular Enclosures associated with the Central European Neolithic. It also may be one of the oldest Solar observatories in the world. It consists of a set of concentric ditches 75 metres across and two palisade rings containing gates in places aligned with sunrise and sunset on the solstice days.

Its construction is dated to c. 4900 BC, and it seems to have remained in use until 4600 BC. This corresponds to the transitional phase between the Neolithic Linear Pottery and Stroke-ornamented ware cultures. It is one of a larger group of so-called Circular Enclosures in the Elbe and Danube region, most of which show similar alignments.

Excavators also found the remains of what may have been ritual fires, animal and human bones, and a headless skeleton near the southeastern gate, that could be interpreted as traces of human sacrifice or specific burial ritual. There is no sign of fire or of other destruction, so why the site was abandoned is unknown. Later villagers built a defensive moat following the ditches of the old enclosure.

The Goseck ring is one of the best preserved and extensively investigated of the many similar structures built at around the same time. Traces of the original configuration reveal that the Goseck ring consisted of four concentric circles, a mound, a ditch, and two wooden palisades. The palisades had three sets of gates facing southeast, southwest, and north. At the winter solstice, observers at the center would have seen the sun rise and set through the southeast and southwest gates.

Archaeologists generally agree that Goseck circle was used for observation of the course of the Sun in the course of the solar year. Together with calendar calculations, it allowed coordinating an easily judged lunar calendar with the more demanding measurements of a solar calendar.