Belgium – the most detailed information about the country with photos. Attractions, cities of Belgium, climate, geography, population and culture.
Belgium (Nederlandse België, Fr. Belgique, germany Belgien)
Belgium is a small state in northwestern Europe. The official name is the Kingdom of Belgium. The country borders with the Netherlands in the north, with Germany in the east, with Luxembourg in the southeast, with France in the south and west. Belgium is a constitutional monarchy, a member of the European Union, UN and NATO. It is one of the most wealthy and stable countries in the world, and is also the political center of Europe.
Belgium harmoniously combines the charm of the past with modern culture and innovation. It has a rich cultural and historical heritage, from charming medieval cities, castles and sacred architecture to modern buildings, magnificent museums and shopping galleries. Belgium is a jewel in Europe with hundreds of spectacular sites that have retained the charm of the Middle Ages and the charm of nature.
Flag of Belgium
Useful information about Belgium
- Population – 11.4 million people.
- Area – 30,528 km².
- Currency is the euro (€).
- Three official languages are recognized in Belgium: Dutch, German and French.
- Time is Central European (UTC +1, +2 in summer).
- Visas are Schengen.
- Traffic – right-hand traffic.
- Voltage of the electricity grid – 230 V / 50 Hz.
- The predominant religion is Catholicism (75% of all believers). Although most modern Belgians are not religious.
- Belgium is a very safe country, except perhaps in some parts of Brussels and the port city of Antwerp.
Geography and Nature
Belgium does not have much geographical diversity, which is not surprising given its small size. The country has an almost homogeneous topography, climate, flora and fauna. Much of Belgium is flat and lowland. Although geographically there are three areas:
- Coastal plain or low Belgium – sandy lowlands or plains with elevations up to 100 m above sea level.
- Central Plateau or Middle Belgium – the plains between the valleys of the rivers Sambra and Maas with an altitude of 100 – 200 m above sea level. This region is almost completely changed by human economic activity. Much of it is occupied by arable land and meadows.
- The Ardennes Highlands or High Belgium is a hilly area south of the Maas and Sambra valleys with an elevation of 200 – 500 meters above sea level. It is a region of low mountains covered by forests and small villages.
Belgium has a fauna and flora typical of Western Europe. In the forests, which are most extensive in the Ardennes, you can find wild boars, fallow deer, roe deer, hares and squirrels. In the marshlands there are many birds: pheasants, ducks, partridges.
Belgium has a temperate maritime climate, typical of much of Western Europe. It is characterized by mild and rainy winters with rare subzero temperatures. Summers are quite cool and often rainy.
The best time to visit
The best time to visit Belgium is from April to September. It is also very atmospheric during the Christmas season. In winter, despite the positive temperatures, it is quite wet and windy.
In ancient times the territory of modern Belgium was inhabited by a Celtic tribe of Belgae, from which, in fact, the name of the state came. In the 1st century BC, the country was conquered by the Romans and included in the province of Gaul. In the 5th century AD (after the fall of the Roman Empire) Belgian lands were conquered by the Franks. For most of the Middle Ages Belgium was part of the Duchy of Burgundy.
In the 15th century Burgundy became part of the Holy Roman Empire. From 1556 to 1713 Belgium was ruled by Spain. In the 18th century the country again became part of the Holy Roman Empire. From 1792 to 1815 Belgium was part of France. Then for a time belonged to the Netherlands. In 1830, the Belgian Revolution occurred, after which the independent Belgian kingdom was formed.
In the 19th century Belgium was neutral. During this period, industry developed here and the economy grew. World War I left the worst scars on Belgium in the 20th century. Much of the country was the scene of hostilities. The history of Ypres, where sending gas was used for the first time and the city itself was completely destroyed, is very tragic. During World War II Belgium was occupied by German troops.
Belgium has a very interesting administrative and territorial division. Firstly, the country is divided into three regions: Flanders in the north, which is Dutch-speaking, the bilingual capital (Brussels) and the French-speaking Wallonia in the south, which includes a small German-speaking region.
Flanders consists of five provinces: Antwerp, Limburg, East Flanders,West Flanders, and Flemish Brabant.
Wallonia also includes five provinces: Hainaut, Liège, Luxembourg, Namur, Walloon Brabant.
Secondly, Belgium is divided into three linguistic communities: Flemish, French and German.
Belgium is a densely populated and highly urbanized country. 97% of the population lives in cities. The most common religion is Christianity (most Belgians are Catholics). The official languages are Dutch, French and German. Language is a complex and sensitive subject in Belgium, which is subject to the “principle of territoriality. The root of this is that Belgians are a nation made up of different ethno-cultures. Historically, Dutch is spoken in Flanders, French in Wallonia, and German in Eupen-Malmedy. So to insist on speaking French in Flanders or Dutch in Wallonia would be insulting.
Wind turbines in Belgium are a typical element of landscapes
Some national traits of the Belgians:
- Belgians are very tolerant and liberal.
- Belgians are not very religious.
- Modesty is considered a positive quality in this country. Bragging is a negative quality.
- The Belgians are very strict about privacy.
- Sarcasm, irony, and some cynicism are common to this nation.
The main airport of Belgium is the port of Brussels. It is located not in the capital itself, but outside the city. To get to the center of Brussels from the airport you can take a train (service interval 15 minutes) and buses STIB № 12 or 21. Other airports are located in Charleroi, Antwerp and Liege.
Belgium has regular rail connections to all Western European countries. It is easy to get here by train from Rotterdam, The Hague, Cologne, Paris, Amsterdam, Lyon, London, Lille, and Frankfurt am Main. Also the main European highways pass through Belgium.
Belgium is a relatively small country, which can be crossed in just a couple of hours. Public transport here is fast and convenient. There are comfortable buses and trains between cities.
Belgium has a very high level of urbanization and just a huge number of cities in such a small territory.
Brussels is the bilingual capital of Belgium and the unofficial capital of the EU. Today it is one of the most multicultural cities in Europe with a magnificent historical center, a huge number of museums and other interesting places.
– The second largest city in Belgium and one of the largest European ports. Known for its enormous Gothic cathedral and the fact that Rubens worked here.
- Beringen is a historic coal mining center. – One of the richest medieval cities in northwestern Europe, nicknamed the “Venice of the North” because of the canals and romantic atmosphere. – in the past one of the largest cities in Europe, which is a mixture of Antwerp and Bruges. It has a cozy medieval center with canals, magnificent sacred monuments and an imposing castle. – a small historical city that is home to one of the oldest universities in Europe. – a charming Flemish town with a Gothic cathedral and narrow medieval streets. – an important medieval city with an imposing medieval cathedral, famous for its carillon school. – The oldest city in Belgium.
A great tourist destination is the valley of the river Maas. It’s a great opportunity to enjoy the quiet Belgian countryside, visit pretty old towns and admire the beautiful nature.
– the largest city of Wallonia, an important industrial and economic center of Belgium. – A small beautiful city on the river Maas with an ancient cathedral and citadel on a rocky cliff. – The cultural center of Wallonia. It is a magnificent multi-faceted city that has an eclectic mix of architecture from the Middle Ages to modern times, many museums and an exciting nightlife.
- Tourne is one of the oldest cities in Belgium. – The capital of Wallonia with an impressive historical center. – A stunning historic city known as the Walloon Bruges.
Attractions in Belgium
The Grand Place in Brussels
The Grand Place or Grote Markt is a magnificent historic square in Brussels, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, surrounded by beautiful historic buildings from the 14th to 17th centuries. Its architectural ensemble is dominated by a striking medieval town hall, a masterpiece of Gothic architecture.
In August, the Grand Place is adorned with a flower carpet measuring 75 by 24 meters and consisting of more than 700,000 begonias.
The Belfort Bell Tower in Bruges
The Belfort Bell Tower and the canals in Bruges are the main symbols of this old commercial city. The bell tower was built in the 13th century and is 83 meters high. It’s a magnificent Gothic-style structure that is the architectural dominant feature of the historic center. The canals of Bruges are a symbol of this charming city’s trading past and prosperity. These waterways permeate virtually the entire historic center, and the bridges and old houses by the water itself make a stay here so atmospheric.
Church of St. Peter in Leuven
The Church of St. Peter in Leuven is a magnificent religious building built in the 15th century in the style of the Brabant Gothic. It is located on the Market Square (Grote Markt) and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The building has a low bell tower, which was never completed.
Leuven Town Hall
The town hall in Leuven is definitely one of the most beautiful historical buildings in Belgium. It dates from the 15th century and is a masterpiece of late Gothic architecture in Brabant.
Gravensten in Ghent
Gravensten in Ghent is an impressive fortress, which is the only medieval castle in all of Flanders. This residence of the Counts of Flanders was built in the 12th century and has been preserved in near-perfect condition, and is one of the best structures of its kind in Europe. Gravensten is located in the center of the old city of Ghent, towering beautifully over the roofs of old houses and the maze of medieval streets.
St. Bavon’s Cathedral in Ghent
St. Bavon’s Cathedral in Ghent is one of the best examples of sacred architecture in Belgium. It is an imposing Gothic church with a Romanesque crypt and features magnificent works of religious art, ancient tombs and beautiful murals.
Bruges Basilica of the Holy Blood
The Basilica of the Holy Blood in Bruges impresses with its combination of Romanesque and late Gothic architecture. This church preserves a precious Christian relic – a drop of Christ’s blood.
The Grand Place in Antwerp
The Grand Place in Antwerp is a beautiful historic square with a beautiful architectural ensemble of old merchants’ houses, behind which stands the enormous imposing Gothic cathedral. It is one of the most beautiful old market squares in Western Europe.
Old Town in Mons
The old town in Mons is a delightful historic center. Its heart is the charming Grand Place, adorned with 15th – 18th century buildings, dominated by the imposing bell tower, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Waterloo is a place famous for being the site of the last major battle of Napoleon Bonaparte’s army. An artificial hill with a memorial sculpture of a lion on top marks the end of the Napoleonic Wars.
Belgium has plenty of good hotels to suit all tastes and pockets. Hotel or guesthouse can be found even in a small town. If you start searching in advance, you can book excellent options. In general, the room rate in Belgian hotels is slightly higher than the average in Europe. Also the season and tourist popularity of a particular place affects the price of accommodation.
The best option on the price-quality scale are apartment hotels.
Belgium is a country that understands food and can be a great gastronomic adventure.
Popular traditional dishes:
- Mussels – mussels in white wine.
- Balletjes – meatballs with fries served with tomato sauce or Liege sauce. By the way, the Belgians claim that French fries (friten in Dutch) are their invention.
- Frikadellen met krieken – meatballs with cherry sauce.
- Stoemp – mashed potatoes with carrots, sausages and bacon.
- Stoofvlees – beef stew with fries.
- Witloof met kaassaus – ham with béchamel sauce and mashed potatoes.
- Konijn met pruimen – rabbit in beer.
- The famous waffles are Gaufres de Bruxelles or Gaufres de Liège.
Frikadellen met krieken
Belgium has a rich tradition of brewing and offers an incredible variety of beers. Belgian beer is of excellent quality and is considered one of the best in the world. The country is home to several major beer producers – Stella Artois, Duvel, Leffe, Jupiler and Hoegaarden.
Famous for its medieval towns, cozy streets and global historical centers where the architecture is striking to the eye, Belgium is a small European country bordering Germany and France.
This is a true country of contrasts, where elegant buildings of Renaissance times mixed with Gothic churches, and neat Baroque complexes with unusual modern architecture. Belgium will be of interest to absolutely everyone, on its territory there are a hundred of historical sites, museums, art galleries, natural and beach areas.
Grand Place (Brussels).
Once a simple market square, the Grand Place in the heart of Brussels is now one of the most important tourist attractions. Several notable historical landmarks can be seen here, which include the town hall and the King’s House, sometimes also called the House of Bread.
Peeing Boy (Brussels)
The original bronze statue, which is still of interest to tourists, is located near the main square. Created in the seventeenth century, the statue is a creation of Jerome Duquesnoy and has now become part of the unusual image of the tourist side of Brussels.
Atomium (Brussels) Belgium
Designed by André Waterkein, the monument was created at the end of the twentieth century. Timed to coincide with the opening of the World’s Fair, it was intended to symbolize the technological breakthrough of the twentieth century in the field of atomic energy and its safe use.
Park of the Fiftieth Anniversary (Brussels)
Covering an area of about forty hectares, it is a popular place for recreation, picnics on green lawns, and walks through green alleys in Brussels. The park has cafes, entertainment venues, several picturesque lakes, gazebos, and courts for outdoor activities.
Royal Galleries St. Hubert (Brussels)
Opened as early as the 19th century, the Royal Galleries are a long enfilade under a glass roof. A cultural landmark, it is now a tourist shopping mall. It is home to hundreds of stores and fashion boutiques.
The canals of Bruges Belgium
Called the Venice of the North, Bruges is famous for its picturesque canals that run through the entire city and are linked together in a network. You can go boating on them, and in winter, when the water freezes over, there are extensive ice rinks on the canals where the whole city gathers.
Belfort and Market Square (Bruges)
Set next to the ancient watchtower of Belfort, Market Square, surrounded by historic buildings, is now another central tourist spot where you can not only stroll along the ancient paving stones, but also view ancient sites, structures and monuments.
Burg Square (Bruges)
The main square of Bruges was also once the main center of the city. A major tourist city of Belgium once grew out of a small fortress, the middle of which was the Burg Square. Now it has the remains of a fortress wall and ruins that stand out sharply among the houses.
Basilica of the Holy Blood (Bruges)
Built as early as the twelfth century, the church is a small Roman Catholic basilica. Named after its main artifact, it keeps within its walls a holy relic – the blood of Christ.
Grass and Grain Street (Ghent)
On the banks of the river Lys the two main streets of provincial Ghent stretch out to the east and west: the Street of Grass and the Street of Grain. Preserved since the Middle Ages, when they were the main trade route, the streets are now recreational areas
Grote Markt (Antwerp)
At the heart of the historic old quarter of Antwerp the Grote Markt is a broad square. It is surrounded by the sixteenth-century city hall, a number of historical sites and many tourist attractions, stores and restaurants.
Antwerp Central Belgium
The beautiful train station, amazing with its vintage architecture, is considered central to the city. It is not just a transport hub, but also a beautiful tourist spot that impresses with its luxury and elegance of architectural thought.
Royal Palace (Brussels)
As the official residence of the royal family, the palace is located in the beautiful Brussels Park in the heart of the capital. The royal family now resides elsewhere, so the building, which was erected in the mid-twentieth century and is of exceptional historical value, is open for guided tours.
Leuven Town Hall Belgium
Built in the fifteenth century, this town hall is built in the late Gothic architectural style of the city of the same name. Not far from the old St. Peter’s Church, the town hall draws attention with its elegant forms, beautiful bas-reliefs and pointed towers.
Opened not long ago the Parlamentarium is the heart of the European Union. Within its walls European Parliament and Commission gathers, and now any tourist can look inside in a small interactive gallery and see the center of the European Union at work.
Menin Gate (Ypres) Belgium
Dedicated to the fallen unnamed soldiers of World War I, the large-scale monument, made in the form of an arched gate with a sculptural composition on top, is located in the small town of Ypres. The global structure is breathtaking, being especially beautiful at night when special architectural lighting is turned on.
Mount de Buren staircase (Liège)
Not inferior to Paris Montmartre, the ancient staircase leads upwards, counting about three hundred and seventy-four steps. Each of the spans has recreational areas, and at the top there is an observation deck with a dizzying view of the Meuse and the city of Liège.
Especially popular with tourists, the Flemish béguinages, which date back to the thirteenth century, are communal settlements of béguines – lonely women of faith. Somewhat reminiscent of convents, the beguinages are now one of the historical monuments and everyone can visit one of the communities as part of a tour.
Saint-Michel e Gudule Cathedral (Brussels)
Representing an excellent example of Gothic architecture, the cathedral in Brussels was erected in the fifteenth century, although construction began much earlier in the eleventh. Stunning in its grandeur, the temple reflects all its religious opulence inside.
Notre Dame (Tournai) Belgium
As the official residence of the bishop, Belgium’s Notre Dame is quite equal to its French counterpart. Located in Tournai, it is a mixture of several styles, from Gothic to French Baroque. The temple is of particular interest inside: there are several ecclesiastical artifacts and a colorful altar.
St. Bavon’s Cathedral (Ghent)
Dedicated to the saint of the same name, the cathedral is located almost in the cultural center of Ghent. Built in the fourteenth century, it is an example of medieval architecture. The main feature is the ancient altar, which is a real work of art and a masterpiece of painting.
Cathedral of Our Lady of Antwerp Belgium
Erecting a majestic cathedral in Antwerp began back in the early twelfth century, and only finished by the sixteenth. It is noteworthy that it is still considered unfinished. The central part of the building is a high tower, towering upward of 120 meters. Inside the cathedral is decorated with gilding, stucco, frescoes and mosaics.
Museum Plantin – Moretus (Antwerp).
The richest museum in Antwerp, famous for its collection of ancient library folios, the oldest of which are over two hundred years old, is an old red brick building. Opened only recently, it also includes an ancient printing press, through which one can learn the history of book printing.
Royal Museums of Fine Arts (Brussels)
A global museum complex encompassing both Brussels itself and its suburbs, it’s a treasured cultural heritage. Within its walls are hundreds of sculptures and canvases by renowned artists. The complex includes the old and new art museums.
Museum of Musical Instruments (Brussels) Belgium
One of the largest musical instrument museums in the world, the Musical Instrument Museum of Brussels holds more than eight thousand pieces. Its entire collection consists of folk, classical and traditional instruments from all over the world.
Museum “In the Fields of Flanders” (Ypres)
Dedicated to the events of the First World War, the museum is housed in gray buildings that were once textile workshops. Its exhibits include photographs, documents, weapons, uniforms, paintings and newspaper clippings from that era. There is also an observation deck on the top floor.
MAS Museum (Antwerp)
As an unusual museum located directly on the river Scheldt, it is a vast complex with an original architecture and location. The museum building houses about a hundred exhibits, with no particular focus, and has interactive whiteboards. On some floors exhibitions, lectures, press conferences and theme festivals are held.
Castle of the Counts of Flanders (Ghent) Belgium
Almost entirely preserved, this ancient castle, which dates back to the twelfth century, has survived to the present day. An unusual medieval building in Ghent, surrounded by a strong defensive wall is a real open-air museum, where you can not only wander around the inner perimeter, but also visit the inside.
Sten Castle (Antwerp) Belgium
Now a national maritime museum, the ancient castle, built around the thirteenth century, sits on the banks of the river Scheldt. A formidable defensive structure, it was rebuilt and reinvented several times, regaining its present form only in the sixteenth century, absorbing all the architectural styles of the day.
An-sur-Les Cave in Belgium
A cave of natural origin, An-sur-Les, located near the village of the same name, is famous for its grottoes. Decorated with stalactites and unusual relief of the rock, they look like a fairy tale labyrinth.
A small Belgian municipality might have remained unknown had it not been for the famous Battle of Waterloo, when Napoleon’s French army clashed with the armies of the Seventh Coalition and was defeated. As a memorial to this event, a monument was erected outside the city itself, and there is a museum in Waterloo itself.
Lake of Love (Bruges) Belgium
Artificially created in the thirteenth century, the lake is the main attraction of the city’s Minnouter Park. Built originally as a place to enhance merchandise trade, the Lake of Love has become enriched with legends of its own. According to one, the lake originated at the site. where a girl, Minne, once died of grief: her lover was at war, and the girl was about to be married off to another man.
Pairi Daisa Zoo Belgium.
One of the largest zoos, which also includes a botanical garden, opened at the end of the twentieth century. Located near Brussels it has about six hundred species of animals and birds, some of which are rare.
De Panne beach
The most famous coastal resort of Belgium is a wide strip of coast with white sand and clear water, cultural attractions nearby, area hotels and developed tourist infrastructure. The main feature – the absence of prohibitive temperatures and a pleasant warm climate.
One of the most fantastic and incredible festivals on the territory of Belgium is the electronic music festival Tomorrowland in the town of Bohm. First opened in the year two thousand five, it is now one of the most famous events on the planet, not inferior to the famous Full Moon Party. Spanning three whole days, the festival promises the tourist unforgettable music sets, rousing dancing, refreshing drinks and plenty of other entertainment.