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

Hôtel Solvay

The Hôtel Solvay is a large Art Nouveau town house designed by Victor Horta on the Avenue Louise in Brussels. The house was commissioned by Armand Solvay, the son of the wealthy Belgian chemist and industrialist Ernest Solvay. For this wealthy patron Horta could spend a fortune on precious materials and expensive details. Horta designed every single detail; furniture, carpets, light fittings, tableware and even the ...
Founded: 1898 | Location: Brussels, 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 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

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

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

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

Hôtel Tassel

The Hotel Tassel is a town house built by Victor Horta in Brussels for the Belgian scientist and professor Emile Tassel in 1893–1894. It is generally considered as the first true Art Nouveau building, because of its highly innovative plan and its groundbreaking use of materials and decoration. Together with three other town houses of Victor Horta, including Horta"s own house and atelier, it was put on the " ...
Founded: 1893 | Location: Brussels, 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

Bois-du-Luc

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Bois-du-Luc mine site is an exceptional testimony to the Industrial Era. This fully-preserved, authentic heritage offers an eloquent illustration of the impact of industrialisation on a technical, environmental, architectural and social level. The site relates the exceptionally long story of a mining company founded in 1685, that closed its doors in 1973. The Fosse Saint-Emmanuel pit ope ...
Founded: 1685 | Location: La Louvière, Belgium

Lier Town Hall

The present Lier Town Hall is the former clothmakers’ hall. In 1740 architect Jan Pieter de Bauerscheit the Younger substantially renovated the building, converting it into Brabant rococo style. It was designed as a large mansion adjacent to the Gothic Belfry. The council chamber is in Louis XV style. Special features worthy of note are the elegant oak spiral staircase, the painted ceiling in the council chamber, th ...
Founded: 1369/1740 | Location: Lier, 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

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

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

Charleroi Belfry

Charleroi Belfry is part of the City Hall, designed by architect Joseph André in 1936. It is a perfect blend of Classicism and Art Deco. The 70-metre-high belfry can be accessed by climbing 250 stairs and was built using blue and white stone and bricks. It is crowned with a small bronze tower. The last three levels are reserved for the chambers of the 47 bells forming the carillon. Every fifteen minutes it chimes o ...
Founded: 1936 | Location: Charleroi, 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

Maison Guiette

Maison Guiette also known as Les Peupliers, is a house in Antwerp designed by Le Corbusier in 1926 and built in 1927. It was the studio and living quarters of René Guiette, a painter and art critic. One of the Franco-Swiss architect"s lesser-known works, it is an early example of the International Style. In July 2016, the house and several other works by Le Corbusier were inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage Si ...
Founded: 1926-1927 | Location: Antwerp, 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

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

São Jorge Castle

São Jorge Castle is a Moorish castle occupying a commanding hilltop overlooking the historic centre of the Portuguese city of Lisbon and Tagus River. The strongly fortified citadel dates from medieval period of Portuguese history, and is one of the main tourist sites of Lisbon.

Although the first fortifications on this hilltop date from the 2nd century BC, archaeological excavations have identified a human presence in the Tagus valley as far back as the 6th century BC. The first fortification was, presumably, erected in 48 BC, when Lisbon was classified as a Roman municipality.

The hill was first used by indigenous Celtic tribes, then by Phoenicians, Greeks, and Carthaginians as a defensible outpost that was later expropriated by Roman, Suebic, Visigothic, and Moorish peoples. During the 10th century, the fortifications were rebuilt by Muslim Berber forces, these included the walls or Cerca Moura ("Moorish Encirclement").

Kingdom

In the context of the Christian Reconquista, the castle and the city of Lisbon were freed from Moorish rule in 1147 by Afonso Henriques and northern European knights in the Siege of Lisbon during the Second Crusade; this victory was the only notable success of that failed crusade. According to an oft-repeated legend, the knight Martim Moniz, noticing that one of the doors to the castle was open, prevented the Moors from closing it by throwing his own body into the breach, thus allowing Christian soldiers to enter at the cost of his own life. With the taking of the castle Christian forces were able to maintain the defense of Lisbon until the end of the 12th century.

When Lisbon became the capital of the kingdom in 1255, the castle served as the alcáçova, a fortified residence for Afonso III, in his role as governor. It was extensively renovated around 1300 by King Denis I, transforming the Moorish alcáçova into the Royal Palace of the Alcáçova. Between 1373 and 1375, King Ferdinand I ordered the building of the Cerca Nova or Cerca Fernandina, the walled compound that enclosed the entirety of the castle. The master builders João Fernandes and Vasco Brás were responsible for its construction. This wall, which partially replaced the old Moorish walls, was designed to encircle previously unprotected parts of the city. Completed in two years, it had 77 towers and a perimeter of 5,400 metres.

The castle and the city resisted the forces of Castile several times during the 14th century (notably in 1373 and in 1383–1384). It was during this period (the late 14th century) that the castle was dedicated to Saint George by King John I, who had married the English princess Philippa of Lancaster. Saint George, the warrior-saint, was normally represented slaying a dragon, and very was popular in both countries.

From this point onward many of the kingdom's records were housed in the Torre de Ulisses, also known as the Torre Albarrã, until the reign of Manuel I. The Portuguese National Archive is still referred to as the Torre do Tombo. Between 1448 and 1451, the master builder was paid several stipends for his work on the palace. These public works continued until 1452, with additional payments being made for labor and materials to convert the building from a fortified castle to a royal residence.

Around the early 16th century, following the construction of the Ribeira Palace beside the Tagus river, the Palace of Alcáçova began to lose its importance. An earthquake occurring in 1531 further damaged the old castle, contributing further to its decay and neglect. In 1569, King Sebastian ordered the rebuilding of the royal apartments in the castle, intending to use it as his official residence. As part of the rebuilding, in 1577 Filippo Terzi demolished one of the towers near the principal facade of the Church of Loreto. However, many of the works were never completed after the young king's apparent death during the Battle of Alcácer Quibir. The following Portuguese dynastic crisis opened the way for sixty years of Spanish rule and the castle was converted into military barracks and a prison. On 30 December 1642, Teodósio de Frias the Younger was appointed master builder to continue the works begun by his father, Luís de Frias, and his grandfather, Teodósio de Frias. This was part of a greater plan by the Spanish forces to recommission the fortification.

However, after Portugal regained its independence following the Portuguese Restoration War, the works were taken over by the Portuguese government. On 6 November 1648, Nicolau de Langres was called upon to take over the design, execution and construction of a new fortification that would surround the Castle of São Jorge and the city walls of Lisbon. In 1650 the military architect Mateus do Couto was named master builder of the project and reconstruction took on a new formality: although the military engineer João Gillot built new walls in 1652, construction again followed Couto's plans between 1657 and 1733. In 1673, the Soldiers' Hospital, dedicated to São João de Deus, was installed on the grounds beside the Rua do Recolhimento. At the end of the 17th century the Recolhimento do Castelo was constructed along the southeast angle of the courtyard, and in 1733, new projects were initiated by master Custódio Vieira.

The 1755 Lisbon earthquake severely damaged the castle and contributed to its continuing decay: apart from the walls of the old castle, the soldier's hospital and the Recolhimento were left in ruins. The necessity of maintaining a supporting military force within the capital city required expansion of the site's role of garrison and presidio. From 1780 to 1807, the charitable institution Casa Pia, dedicated to the education of poor children, was established in the citadel, while soldiers continued to be garrisoned on site. Inspired by the events of the earthquake and the following tsunami, the first geodetic observatory in Portugal was constructed in 1788 at the top of one of the towers of the castle, later referred to as the Torre do Observatório.

Republic

As part of the commemorative celebrations marking the foundation of nationhood and restoration of independence, the government of António de Oliveira Salazar initiated extensive renovations at the site. Most of the incongruous structures added to the castle compound in previous centuries were demolished and there was a partial restoration of the Recolhimento. In addition, on 25 October 1947, a monument dedicated to Afonso Henriques, presented by the city of Porto, of a replica created by Soares dos Reis (in 1887) was installed on the grounds.