Did you know that there are over 3000 castles in Belgium? That makes more castles per capita than France which is famous for its chateaux. Many of these structures were built long before Belgium even became a country, while some are more recent. What they all have in common is a varied and fascinating history.
When you hear the word “castle” you might think of a typical medieval military affair, with castellated towers and defensive portcullises. However, there is a wide and far-ranging spectrum of castles in Belgium. Some are rugged fortifications with arrow slits and drawbridges, while other castles are refined stately homes.
Many of these castles are still occupied by the old aristocracy, nobility, and members of former royal families with decadent paintings of ancestors flanking their halls. You can still visit parts of many of these Belgium castles.
Whether it’s ruins or luxury you’re interested in, you’ll find it on this list of the best castles in Belgium.
10 Amazing Castles in Belgium
Castle of Gaasbeek
The grand Gaasbeek Castle (also known as the Kasteel van Gaasbeek) is located in the Flemish Brabant, which is the province that surrounds the Brussels-Capital Region in Belgium. This means it’s close enough to make a great day trip from Brussels.
A medieval castle was built on this spot back in 1240 as a defense against the historic County of Flanders. This was then destroyed in a siege, but the ruins were then used as a footprint for the castle that stands there today, constructed by the noble Horne family in the 16th century. Like most castles, it was then occupied by a long and varied line of nobility. One resident was even beheaded for treason!
The most recent restoration was in the 19th century, returning it to its original medieval look. Today, the castle is the property of the government of Belgium, and has opened as a national museum that displays wonderful art collections. This includes work by the famous painter Peter Paul Rubens.
The gardens are a great spot for exploring. Sometimes open-air concerts are hosted in the grounds of the Kasteel van Gaasbeek. There are numerous other buildings such as the Chapel of St. Gertrude dotted around the park, and the walkways are pleasant and varied. There are also some picturesque lakes that make a nice picnic destination. You can take a tour of the garden but you need to book this ahead of the date.
The Gravensteen literally translates as “Castle of the Counts” and this is because it was the official residence of the Counts of Flanders. This spectacular medieval castle is impossible to miss if you head to the city of Ghent in Belgium’s East Flanders.
The Gravensteen is on most lists of best castles in Belgium, and it’s not hard to see why. When it comes to features, it’s got them all – turrets, towers, a moat, even a torture museum! It takes striking photographs. The castle and museum are open to the public from 10 am to 6 pm each day.
Although the current castle dates back to 1180, the site was originally fortified perhaps as far back as the 11th century, first in wood, then in stone, then as a motte-and-bailey castle. This ended up burning down, and the current structure was built. It was designed to be grand and intimidating to ward off an attack.
After serving the Counts of Flanders for a couple of centuries, the castle fell into disrepair and was used for all sorts of things. It was a prison, a court, even a cotton mill at one point. Big Gothic-style restorations happened around the turn of the 20th century which restored the Gravensteen to its former glory.
Alden Biesen Castle
Next, we’ll head to the East of Belgium where Alden Biesen Castle can be found in a small village called Rijkhoven. This romantic castle in Bilzen, Limburg is all red brick and pointy gray turrets, with beautiful sprawling rose gardens.
Its life began in the 11th century with the Knights of the Teutonic Order, who built it for their headquarters. This then expanded into its current Renaissance form between the 16th and 18th centuries. After catastrophically burning down in 1971, Belgium’s government purchased and restored it.
Today, it’s used as a cultural center, where conferences, classes, and even festivals take place. The castle is open to the public. If you want to visit, you can wander through the beautiful highly manicured gardens, or check out one of the exhibitions that are often held here.
In the heart of Belgium is the stunning Kasteel van Groot-Bijgarden. Originally built for the first lord of Bigard in the 12th century, the castle was then mostly demolished and rebuilt several centuries later. The current edifice is a bit of a patchwork of features from different eras.
The main structure is an example of beautiful Flemish Renaissance-style architecture from the 17th century, the fortified entry-way is from the 15th, and the Donjon is from the 14th. This “dungeon” is 30 meters / 100 feet tall and from the top gives a view of the Atomium in Brussels!
The most striking feature of the Groot-Bijgaarden Castle is the lengthy five-arch bridge that spans the moat and leads you to the castle’s entrance and drawbridge. The gardens are truly spectacular especially in the spring when the flowers are in bloom.
This 14 hectares / 35-acre park was designed in the early 20th century by garden designer Louis Fuchs. It is a thing of beauty, with over a million bulbs hand-planted each year, including nearly 400 varieties of tulip.
You can visit the castle grounds in the months of April and May from 10 am to 6 pm for the world flower show, Floralia Brussels. The best thing – you can travel there by tram from the city of Brussels itself.
Château de Beloeil
This castle was built for royalty and it shows. It’s situated in the province of Hainaut in Wallonia. The Château de Beloeil was the 14th-century palace of the Princes of Lignes, one of Belgium’s oldest and most important noble families. Unbelievably, it's been in the hands of this same noble family since 1394. Iconic cylindrical turrets and rounded roofs make this castle particularly picturesque.
The inside of Chateau de Beloeil is open to the public, but only 7 rooms are actually available to look round. There are however some nice furniture pieces, artwork, and books – over 20,000 in total in the library.
The castle’s pride and joy is the extensive parkland and Baroque garden that surrounds it, with a design dating back to the 17th century. Geometric landscaping, vast ponds, and little ‘bosquets’ (separate garden chambers built with hedges) are what make this place unique.
Each member of this noble family line has added part of their character to this place, from the small folly with its Greek columns, to the bowling green used for theater and games. There’s even a train that takes you through them.
Château de Modave
The Château de Modave (also known as the Château des Comtes de Marchin) is an example of Belgium’s finesse when it comes to interior design. It’s famous for its exquisite interior, perfectly preserved since the 17th and 18th centuries. The castle comes alive at Christmas when local designers and florists are commissioned to deck out different rooms.
The building itself (more stately home in appearance than fairytale castle) was originally built in the 13th century. It sits atop a rock 60 meters / 200 feet above the Hoyaux river in Liège, Belgium. It originally belonged to the lords of Modave but has since passed through the hands of a multitude of barons, cardinals, counts, dukes, and princes, evolving each step of the way.
Although Christmas is the best time to visit the Chateau de Modave, you can visit in other parts of the year too, and wandering through these opulent rooms filled with summer light is a magical experience for both adults and children.
If you’re into water features, Annevoie is the best of the Belgian castles. This 18th-century castle is found in the little village of Annevoie-Rouillon not far from Dinant in the province of Namur, Belgium. It’s famous for its fantastic water gardens which are considered one of the great cultural treasures of Belgium’s Wallonia region.
The water that flows through the Gardens of Annevoie is not powered by anything other than gravity itself. A clever 18th-century bit of garden engineering allows the water – from the river Rouillon – to flow through canals, ponds, waterfalls, fountains, even water jets. The waterways are interlaced symmetrically with tree-lined avenues. The result is transfixing.
The gardens are open to the public from spring through to autumn – but sadly not the castle itself. However, each spring there is the Venetian Carnival festival which is a wonderful Italian cultural event when traditional carnival costumes from Venice are theatrically displayed at the Belgium chateau.
Here’s a castle that really tells a story. Unlike many of the other castles on this list, Montaigle has remained a ruin since its destruction in 1554 by King Henry II of France. The remnants of this 14th-century fortress are jagged and imposing – an evocative place to visit.
Positioned up atop a rocky outcrop above the Molignée and Flavion valleys, you can find Montaigle Castle in Namur, Belgium. It’s possible to look round these crumbling ruins for a small entry fee, from April through to October.
In stark contrast to other pristine castles in Belgium, Montaigle Castle gives you the chance to climb over and through a relic of history and use your imagination to summon images of bygone times. During your visit, you can also climb to the top of the structure for fantastic views across the two rivers below.
La Roche-en-Ardenne Castle
Another castle ruin is the former château in the city of La Roche-en-Ardenne in the Belgian province of Luxembourg. It perches on a rocky spur overlooking the Ourthe River. The site of this castle goes back as far as Neolithic times and has seen very early camps and villas there.
The first fortified castle structure was built in the 9th century by Adelard, Count of La Roche, and throughout the Middle Ages, it was increasingly fortified because of its strategic position.
The last few hundred years haven’t been kind on the castle, which has gone through invasion, fire due to lightning, partial demolition, and more recently, bomb raids.
Today it might lie in ruins but there’s still plenty to see, especially for those interested in military history through the ages. The castle holds events like falconry demonstrations and festive celebrations.
Château De Waroux
For art-lovers, Waroux castle is a must-see. Today it holds a wonderful gallery of art by Chagall, as well as organizing large cultural events.
The building was constructed around 1300 in Ans, Liège. What makes the Chateau de Waroux unique is the formation of the castle – unusually, it was built in a circle. The walls are of sandstone and flint, with only narrow slit-like windows, a testament to its former use as a feudal medieval fortress. It is also distinguished by its recognizable castle spire.
Originally belonging to the de Waroux Family, it drifted from hand to hand until the castle eventually fell to the commune of Ans itself in as late as 2005.
Boetfort Castle is a bit different from the rest because it has been repurposed as the Thermae Boetfort spa center, hotel, and restaurant. The grounds of this 400-year old castle are now dedicated to health, luxury, and wellness, and give you the chance to imagine you’re the lord or lady of the castle for a day! Whether you stay in one of the historically decorated rooms or just visit it for its spa treatments, this grand house is in a wonderful location and has a lot to offer.
There really are castles in Belgium for everyone, from art-lovers to military history fanatics, naturalists to luxury-seekers. This list is just the beginning. Exploring the castles in Belgium is a fantastic way to experience the history of not just this country but Europe as a whole.
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