Aalst is a sweet little city in Belgium located between Brussels and Ghent and tucked away in the banks of River Dendre. The not so famous city is worth a visit with many amusing attractions, museums, art galleries and the famous annual carnival.
Many tourists have overlooked the city while passing by from Brussels to Ghent or vice versa but that makes it a wonderful and relaxing city where you can come to enjoy the less expensive non-tourist environment. Aalst has amazing gothic architecture to admire and has all the charms and atmosphere of other Belgian cities. You can easily spend two to three days in Aalst if you want to dive deep into the city’s culture and watch every amazing attraction.
15 Amazing Things to do in Aalst Belgium
The Aalst Station
Let us start with the historic station of Aalst which was built in 1853 but it has been non-operative since 1957. The main attraction is the architecture that looks like a fortress instead of a train station. You might feel like you are in Amsterdam for some time while visiting the area near this station. The station was built by the architect, JP Cluysenaer.
The Castle Terlinden which is also known as the “The Damned Castle” is located with the city’s gallows. Despite being called the Damned Castle, it is very beautiful. It was built in the 16th century and is now mostly used for offices. The Castle’s surroundings are open for public where you can go near it and admire the exterior.
The Netwerk Contemporary Art Centre
The Netwerk Contemporary Art Centre is known as one of the finest and most active art institutions in Belgium, especially in the area of East Flanders. It used to be a tobacco building and as tobacco is injurious to health, nothing more would be more appropriate to take its place than the beautiful art with its healing properties.
You can visit to admire a wide range of exhibitions and learn about various objects and subjects. The art center also provides lectures on various subjects. The Netwerk Contemporary Art Centre hosts many artistic events throughout the year.
Belforten Van De Arbeid
Belforten Van De Arbeid is the old city hall of Aalst and is a unique building. This building has been declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its importance and uniqueness. The tower of the structure bears the motto of King Phillip II of Spain which is “nec spe, nec metu” which translates to “Not with hope, Not with fear”.
Borse van Amsterdam
The impressive building with a bit of Amsterdam’s touch in its architecture was built in the 17th century. The grand architecture is very picturesque and is loved by the tourists. It has been turned into a restaurant which is very famous in the city.
St. Martin’s Church of Aalst Belgium
The St. Martin’s Church is worth a visit with its beautiful architecture, especially the magnificent interiors. The woodwork, stained glass windows and the paintings by Rubens are extremely wonderful. The construction of the church started in 1480 and has been renovated and restored many times.
Jesuit Church of Aalst Belgium
Jesuit Church is located on the Pont street and has a very beautiful baroque façade. The crypt of the church has 23 Jesuit graves.
Aalst Carnival in Belgium
Aalst Carnival is held every year in the city and lasts for three days. The Aalst Carnival started in the early 20th century but has its origins dating back to the middle ages. The vibrant and colorful carnival is fun for all age groups. The carnival parade is very attractive with different themes, and shapes of various sizes.
Historic Museum of Aalst Belgium
The Aalst Museum provides its visitors with deep information about the history of the city and the changes throughout the years. The building of the museum is plain but charming and is located near the St. Martin’s Church. The museum exhibits various famous paintings, archaeological finds, and pictures of notable residents of the city.
The Statue of Priest Daens
Priest Daens is considered as the hero of Aalst who was always on the side of the working men even when he had to go against the will of the higher authorities. Daens (1839-1907) introduced socialism to Aalst. He has been honored by a statue which is placed in the Werfplein. A biopic movie has also been made on him called “Daens”, which was even nominated for an Oscar.
Dirk Martens Statue
Dirk Martens was a former resident of the Aalst city and was best known for being a famous editor and publisher in the 16th century. His work is considered as very important and thought provoking for the residents of Aalst. His statue has been created entirely from bronze and is situated right in front of the Belfry tower.
The Old Courtyard in Aalst Belgium
The Old courtyard is known as Oud-Schepenhuis and is one of the oldest surviving courtyards in Belgium in competition with the courtyard of Mechelen. The courtyard still has many parts intact which are from the 13th century. Oud-Schepenhuis is declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Stadspark in Aalst Belgium
Stadspark is a wonderful park in Aalst located around 800 meters away from the city center. The park is a beautiful green oasis with several trees and plants. Musical concerts are held in the park during the summers in the months of July and August. There is a large playground for children and a chalet for drinks and snacks in the middle of the park. Adults love the park for amazing jogging around two lovely water ponds.
Shopping in Aalst Belgium
Aalst is also a great city for a great shopping experience. Due to the fact, that the city is lesser known and less touristic, the food and shopping is cheaper here. You will find many original shops and boutiques selling clothes and all sort of objects of interest. You will also find many famous European brands in the streets of Aalst. There is a famous shopping gallery called as Pieter Van Aalst which has many good shops.
Saturday Market of Aalst Belgium
Saturday market in Aalst is one of the best places in the city to learn about the local culture and to stock up on anything you need. There are numerous stalls of clothes, accessories, fresh fruits, and vegetables. The interesting thing to notice in the Saturday market is the different dialect of Dutch language that is spoken by the market traders which is uncommon in Belgium and Netherlands.