Your comprehensive travel guide to Belgium - All in one place!
Belgium may be a small country in Western Europe, but it packs a lot of history within its borders: knights who went on crusades, the place where Napoleon met his Waterloo and which felt the effects of World War I and II. Because it’s so small, visitors can get to almost any of the tourist attractions in Belgium with three or four hours of train travel. Belgium is also the place that gave the world Belgian waffles.
History and Government
Belgium has a long and colorful history of political and cultural upheavals. Surrounded by France, Germany and England, this little country has seen many wars and attempts at accession, the last being in 1940 when Germany took over the entire country in three weeks.
After Leopold I became king in 1831, Belgium started functioning as a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy. After WWII, Belgium made tremendous economic prowess and the country started flourishing in many ways.
Belgium joined NATO and along with the Netherlands and Luxembourg, formed the Benelux group of nations. It also became one of the founding members of several European trade regulatory organizations.
During the twentieth century, the schism between the two main communities in Belgium widened and each started demanding autonomy leading to communal tension. This was addressed through constitutional reforms in the 1970s and 1980s, which led to a three-tiered system of federalism, linguistic-community and regional governments.
Geography and Environment
Belgium is situated between France and the plains of northern Europe, and it borders the North Sea. Because of its geographic position as a crossroads of Europe, Belgium has been a major commercial center since the Middle Ages. The North Sea has been the country’s outlet for trade with the rest of the world. Belgium’s geographic location has also given it strategic importance, and many battles have been fought for control of the area. Belgium became an independent country in 1830. Belgium is divided into three regions—Flanders, Wallonia, and Brussels. In Flanders, which consists of the provinces to the north and west of Brussels, most of the people speak Dutch (Flemish) and are known as Flemings.
In Wallonia, the provinces south and east of Brussels, most of the people speak French and are known as Walloons. The population of the Brussels region comes from both language groups. Each region has a great deal of autonomy, but friction between Flemings and Walloons continues to the present day.
The Western European country of Belgium hosts a population of around 11,570,762 individuals. 75% of the population is represented by ethnic Belgians. The country has three official languages: Dutch, French, and German. Although Dutch (60%) and French (40%) are spoken by large sections of the population, German is spoken by only 1% of the population. Christianity is the religion of the majority in Belgium. About 50% of the population adheres to Roman Catholicism. A large section of the country’s residents (32.6%) do not believe in any religion.
Any attempt at a general overview of Belgian culture will fall short of the reality, due to the division of the little country into three linguistic groups and the cultural influxes seeping across its borders from the Netherlands, France, Germany, and Luxembourg. Within the three regions of Wallonia, Flanders, and Brussels-Capital, individual cultures flourish, each with their own traditions, folklore, gastronomy, and priorities.
Belgium’s incredibly rich artistic tradition extends from its artworks to its architecture, music, literature, and traditionally authentic folkloric festivals, with all forming a strong part of the people’s cultural awareness in the present day. Museum and art gallery visits are very popular, and the many medieval old towns are a great source of pride.
Food and Drink
Belgium is the country mostly known for its wonderful waffles, beer, and chocolates. While the latter two are available in both vegan and non-vegan variations, waffles are a common item to be found in ice-cream parlors. Beer and wine are also famous delicacies of Belgium, so you may try that at local restaurants and bars.
Belgium holidays range from traditional events based on folklore or religious celebrations to music and film extravaganzas, national days, sports events, and special occasions for tourists. Most celebrations take place during the warmer months of spring and early summer, with the exception of the Christmas and New Year season, which is celebrated all over the country with love and enthusiasm.
Best Time to Visit
Just as the tourism tagline suggests, Belgium is a “place to be,” a place to be happy and totally astounded. Moreover, the best time to visit Belgium can be termed throughout the year since it hosts maritime climate. The land of wars enjoys a lovely maritime temperate climate for most of the year, which means one can visit it any time without much of a hassle. However, the winters are cold and summers are too crowded, which leaves the spring and autumn up for grabs. March to May and September to October are the best times of the year to visit Belgium.