The 36-year-old, who played for Belgium at the World Cup in Brazil, was released by Bayern Munich at the end of last season but, despite attracting interest from Brussels club Anderlecht, he has decided to call time on his career.
In an open letter published in Belgian newspaper La Derniere Heure, he wrote: "Important decisions are often difficult to make. I have realised that over recent days. And reason often trumps emotion.
"My final goal was to play at the World Cup and to give something back to my country.
"Since January I worked hard and prepared for the big event with the utmost professionalism. My body has certainly suffered for it.
"I was honoured when various proposals arrived while I was in Brazil. In particular, Anderlecht's efforts touched me deeply.
"But those who know me well know that when I engage in a project, I do so at 100 per cent. I have tried over the past few weeks but my body tells me it's impossible. I don't want to disappoint a club like Anderlecht and its supporters.
"That is why I have reluctantly decided to decline Anderlecht's offer. A new life begins for me and I want to spend more time with my wife, my children, and the people I love."
Van Buyten's senior career began at Charleroi in 1998 and, after spending two years with Standard Liege, he signed for Marseille in 2001.
He moved to Premier League club City on loan in January 2004, making five league appearances before returning to Marseille briefly ahead of his switch to the Bundesliga with Hamburg.
In 2006 he joined Bayern and, across his eight years in Munich, won the German championship four times and the Champions League in 2013.
Van Buyten made his Belgium debut in 2001 and earned a total of 84 caps before retiring. He made five appearances in World Cup qualifying to help Belgium reach the Brazil finals, their first tournament appearance in 12 years.