Having lived in Belgium for exactly ten months now, I've spent a lot of my weekends exploring the many cities and towns around Brussels on day trips. It's been fun to explore this country and experience a new culture.
A defining feature of most of these cities and towns is the cathedral (or the churches, of which there are a few on this list!) symbolizing the heart of the area and a place of historical central importance.
While I myself am not religious, I do always enjoy seeing the beautiful architecture, art work and grandiose ceilings of these religious structures, so always make a point to stop in and visit on my travels. Here are 8 cathedrals and churches I've enjoyed during my time in Belgium:
SAINT RUMBOLD'S CATHEDRAL, MECHELEN
The pinnacle of the town of Mechelen is this iconic cathedral, home to some of the most well-known artwork in the entire city. Built in the 13th century with a massive tower (which you can climb for 8 euros), the cathedral is simply astonishing. After years of plundering and fires through various religious wars and bombing in the Second World War, it is now host to soaring ceilings, paintings by renowned painter Anthony van Dyck and an absolutely mind-boggling high altar by Lucas Faydherbe, built in 1665.
SAINT PETER'S CHURCH, LEUVEN
Opposite the Town Hall sits the majestic Saint Peter's Church with one of the most intricate church exteriors we've seen yet. While it was shut due to COVID-19, we enjoyed wandering the perimeter oggling at the massive spires and beautiful carvings.
SAINT AUBAIN'S CATHEDRAL, NAMUR
By far my favourite cathedral I've visited in all of Belgium, the sweeping white walls and ceilings are intricately decorated. The spire and dome are best seen from the Citadel of Namur where the cathedral dominates the skyline (pictured at the top of this post). It is the only cathedral in Belgium in Late Baroque style, built in 1559 to establish the dioceses of the Low Countries after the reorganization Netherlands' dioceses.
SAINT PAUL'S CATHEDRAL, LIÈGE
Far and away one of the breathtaking cathedrals I've seen in Europe, the opulent colours and stunning stained glass windows make this one a must-see. It was founded in the 10th century, rebuilt from the 13th-15th centuries and restored in the 19th century.
SAINT BAVO'S CATHEDRAL, GHENT
The Gothic cathedral in Ghent houses exquisite art work and stained glass windows, including a well-known altar by Van Eycks that was saved during the destruction of the church in 14566 by the Calvinists. A version of the cathedral has been on the site since 942, and the current cathedral was completed in 1569.
NOTRE DAME CATHEDRAL, TOURNAI
The most famous building in Tournai is the impressive Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Tournai with a whopping five towers. The sheer volume of this place, and the architectural changes of the cathedral dating back to the Roman times as discovered through excavation work, means this place is listed as a UNESCO site. It's currently undergoing major restoration works, but you still can't help but be impressed by the size and history.
SAINT WALTRUDE COLLEGIATE CHURCH, MONS
On one end of Square Franklin Delano-Roosevelt, the most symbolic place in Mons and the most photographed, Saint Waltrude Collegiate Church is an exquisite and prominent church of gothic architecture.