15 things to see in the province of Flemish Brabant, Belgium

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Brabant lace is well-known all over the world – fine work of lacemakers, who inherited the secrets of weaving of exquisite “brabant-ts”. Slightly less known is the Brabant chocolate, which everyone calls “Belgian”, from which it does not lose its taste and sophistication. And even fewer people know the difficult history of Brabant, many times divided and reshaped. Only in our time its borders have settled, having undergone the last change in 1995.

On January 1, 1995, the province of Brabant was divided linguistically into Flemish Brabant and Walloon Brabant.

Brabant is a historical and geographical province in Belgium, once united but now divided into two parts: Flemish Brabant and Walloon Brabant. Within Flemish Brabant is the Brussels-Capital Region, which is an enclave that is a federal entity in Belgium on a par with Flanders and Wallonia.

The name of the region comes from the ancient Upper German bracha (new land) and bant (region), or – “new territory”.

In pre-Roman times, it was inhabited by Germanic, Celtic, and Menapian (of the Belge tribe) tribes. The Germanic and Celtic tribes submitted to the legions of Julius Caesar without much resistance. The Menapians resisted the Romans stubbornly, but their forces were too small, and their lands became part of the Roman province of Belgian Gaul (Gallia Belgica).

Thereafter the lands of Brabant were repeatedly divided in the feudal wars. In the 5th century the territory of what is now Brabant was ruled by the Franks, and at the collapse of the Frankish Kingdom in the 6th-7th centuries it became part of the possessions of the Australasian Franks. Under the Treaty of Verdun in 843, in the division of the empire of Frankish king Charles I the Great (742/747/748-814) Brabant became part of that which by right of succession passed to King Lothair I of Italy (795-855). Brabant thus became part of Lorraine. The first written mention of the territories of Brabant to a subject of the name is from this time.

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In 870, when Lorraine was partitioned, Brabant became part of France, and in 959 it became part of Lower Lorraine (in Germany). KXI century around the cities of Leuven and Brussels, which prospered due to trade, was formed a county, which at the end of XII century began to be called the Duchy of Brabant.

It was at this time that the perennial rivalry of factions and parties within Brabant began, which eventually led to its disintegration. The strong side at that time was already the Counts of Flanders, who wanted independence, while the dukes of Brabant sought to centralize their holdings, relying on the growing economic power of the Brabant cities, which reached their heyday in the 13th and 14th centuries.

In 1430. Brabant became the domain of the Dukes of Burgundy and, between 1477 and 1482, of the Habsburg dynasty. – Brabant became the possession of the Dukes of Burgundy in 1430 and of the Habsburgs in 1477-1482. During the Dutch Revolution (“Eighty Years’ War”) of 1568-1648 Brabant was the center of the independence movement. Brabant was the center of the movement for independence from the Spanish Empire.

Only by the seventeenth century did the present borders of Brabant begin to take shape. Under the Spanish-Dutch treaties of 1609 and 1648, the southern part of Brabant remained part of the Spanish Netherlands, passing to Austria in 1714, while the northern part passed to the Dutch Republic.

The Brabant Revolution of 1789-1790 overthrew Austrian rule, but Brabant was invaded by France in 1797. In 1810 the French also annexed the Dutch part of Brabant. Under the terms of the Peace of Paris, signed in 1814 between France and the countries of the anti-Napoleonic coalition, all of Brabant became part of the Dutch kingdom. After the Belgian Revolution in 1830, northern Brabant became part of the Netherlands, where the Dutch province of North Brabant was formed, and southern Brabant became part of the Kingdom of Belgium and was given provincial status.

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In 1995, the province of Brabant was divided linguistically into Flemish Brabant, Walloon Brabant and the Brussels-Capital Region, a result of strained relations between Belgium’s two largest communities.

Currently, the historic Brabant region is divided linguistically into Flemish Brabant and Walloon Brabant. Flemish Brabant is one of the five provinces of the Flemish region of Belgium, Walloon Brabant is part of the region of the same name, also consisting of five provinces. Belgium’s final, third region, the Brussels-Capital Region, is within, but not part of, Flemish Brabant.


Nowadays, Brabant lace is as much a symbol of Brabant as the local chocolate.

Geographically, both Belgian parts of Brabant are a plain, gently descending to the north and northwest. The entire northern part of the territory (Flemish Brabant) is a treeless landscape filled with heathland and marshy lowlands. The southern part of Brabant, Walloon Brabant, is an area of hilly foothills of the Ardennes Forest (a mountain system in France, Belgium and Luxembourg). There is also the Swan Forest, a significant woodland south of Brussels – the most extensive in the vicinity.

In Roman times and during the Middle Ages, the Swan Forest was a dense, rugged thicket over a huge area. This forest stopped the advance of the Frankish tribes southward in the V-VII centuries and helped the Romans of Wallonia (now Walloon Brabant) to maintain their national identity.

To the northwest of the Swan Forest, in the interfluve of the rivers Senne and Dandre, opens up the picturesque hilly area of Pajottenland, which has become a source of inspiration for Brussels writers and poets.

Both provinces have many rivers and river channels, almost all of which are navigable.

The climate of Belgian Brabant and its flat terrain are favourable to dairy farming: local cheese is known throughout Europe.

Industry is well developed in both Belgian Brabantes, especially engineering and chemistry. But the region boasts not only manufacturing capabilities, but also the skills of its inhabitants: the finest lace is still woven here, which is known as Brabant lace. Brabant also produces exquisite chocolates.

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Flemish Brabant is one of the five Flemish provinces. The two largest Belgian industrial areas are here: Halle-Vil-Vorde and Leuven. The official language here is Dutch (as in all of Flanders), but there are bilingual municipalities, where French is mainly spoken.

The French-speaking minority, which makes up about 5% of the region’s population, is concentrated in the province of Flemish Brabant. The problem of the recognition of the rights of the French-speaking minority has long been an obstacle in the Franco-Flemish conflict and threatens the territorial integrity of Belgium.

Walloon Brabant is one of the five Walloon provinces and at the same time the smallest of the Belgian provinces. According to the Belgian National Tax Office, Walloon Brabant is the richest province and the richest municipality is the city of Lassen, located there.

Walloon Brabant is known mainly because it is here, 15 km south of Brussels, the town of Waterloo, the site of the last major battle of French Emperor Napoleon I (1769-1821). At that time, the French army was defeated by troops of the anti-Napoleonic coalition. In memory of this event on the hill at the entrance to the city there is a monument – a statue of a lion, facing the direction of France.

In 1963 the Swan Forest was divided among the three regions of federated Belgium: 56% was administered by Flanders, 38% by the Brussels-Capital Region, and 6% by the Walloon Region. Of this total, 7.9% of the forest area (about 3.5 km2) is allocated to the possession of the Belgian royal family. This part of the Suan Forest was called the Capuchin Forest: since the late 18th century, monks settled here, founding 18 monasteries around the forest.

The Catholic University of Leuven was founded in 1425 and is one of the oldest universities in Europe.

The writer Victor Hugo (1802-1885) was so enchanted by the beauty of Villeur-la-Ville Abbey that he chose it as the setting for several of his works.

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The panorama of Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte’s last battle, 110 meters long and 12 meters high, is on display at Waterloo.

The town of Wavre, the capital of Walloon Brabant, is famous for the battle fought on 18th and 19th June 1815 between the French army of Marshal Grouchy and the Prussian corps of General Thielemann. The French won, but at the same time Napoleon himself was defeated at Waterloo.

The only official language of the province of Flemish Brabant is Dutch. The province’s seven communes provide language facilities for Francophone residents. Francophones are in an absolute majority in some communes, and in other communes of the province their presence is steadily increasing, causing discontent amongst the ethnic Flemish.

The monument commemorating Napoleon’s victory at Waterloo in 1815 (a statue of a lion) was erected by the King of the Netherlands in honor of his son, the Prince of Orange, who was wounded in the battle.

The city of Leuven and Flemish Brabant is world famous for its brewing, specifically for the local beer Stella Artois.

The National Botanical Gardens of Flemish Brabant have more than 18,000 plants.

Flemish Brabant: Pajottenland, National Botanic Gardens, Groot-Beigarden Castle (1110), Bauhouette Castle (1130), Beersel Castle (1300-1310), Haasbeck Castle (16th century), Horst Castle (16th century), Sugar Museum (Tinen), old brewery at Hugarden. Walloon Brabant: Swan Forest, Waterloo (panorama of the battle, Wellington Museum, St. Joseph’s Catholic Church (Waterloo). Joseph (Waterloo), where Wellington prayed before the battle, Wax Museum, Napoleon’s last headquarters, Ugoumont Castle Farm, Cistercian Abbey of Villerla Ville (1190-1250), Rixensart Castle (17th century), Luvenle-Neuve student town, St. Gertrude Church (Nivelle. 11th – 18th centuries). City of Leuven (Flemish Brabant) University (1425), Great and Old Market Square, Town Hall (1439), St Peter’s Church (986, 1425-1497), Beginage Monastery (XIII-XVI centuries), Church and Abbey of St Gertrude, Abbey Park, Vlyrbeck Abbey. City of Wawr (Walloon Brabant): Gothic church of St. John the Baptist (1475), town hall (18th century).

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