With its wool and textile industries booming throughout the Middle Ages, the north Belgian region of Flanders boasts an impressive spread of surviving architecture from the era. The greatest hangovers from Flanders’ medieval heyday are the former trading towns of Ghent and Bruges, but additional gems, like Tournai’s UNESCO listed Notre-Dame Cathedral, are dotted around the region.
The UNESCO-listed historic center of Bruges is an obvious highlight, with its medieval Market Square, maze of cobblestone streets lined with striking Gothic architecture and its uniquely Flemish Beguinage, one of 13 honored by UNESCO. The nearby town of Ghent is equally picturesque, with its skyline framed by the three medieval towers of St. Nicholas Church, the Belfry and St. Bavo’s Cathedral.
One of the most surprising assets of Flanders’ medieval heritage is the striking architecture of Ypres, actually the result of post-WWI reconstruction efforts, but landmarks like the Gothic-style Saint Martin’s cathedral and the UNESCO-listed Lakenhalle (Cloth Hall) have been so faithfully resurrected that they remain as celebrated as their medieval predecessors.