Discovering Belgium: A Hidden Gem in the Heart of Europe
Introduction to Belgium
Belgium, a country in Western Europe, is known for its medieval towns, Renaissance architecture, and as the headquarters of the European Union and NATO. The country has distinctive regions including Dutch-speaking Flanders in the north, French-speaking Wallonia in the south and a German-speaking community in the east.
Belgian cuisine is famous worldwide for its mouth-watering dishes. The country is known for its waffles, fries and beer. The Belgian chocolate is well-renowned and sought after globally. Belgium also boasts of over 2000 chocolatiers.
Belgium is home to several historically rich cities including Brussels, Bruges, Antwerp, and Ghent. Each city has its own unique architectural style, museums, and historical sites.
UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Belgium is home to a number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the Belfries of Belgium and France, the Historic Centre of Brugge, and the Major Mining Sites of Wallonia.
The Capital - Brussels
Brussels, the capital of Belgium, is known for its café culture, Art Nouveau architecture, and significant EU institutions. The iconic Atomium and the Grand Place are among the must-visit places in Brussels.
The Flanders region, located in the northern part of Belgium, is Dutch-speaking. It's known for its medieval architecture, the WWI battlefields of Ypres, and the bustling port city of Antwerp.
Wallonia, the predominantly French-speaking southern region of Belgium, is rich in different landscapes from the Ardennes forests to the rolling hills of the Condroz and the Fagne-Famenne.
The Flemish Art Cities
Belgium's Flemish Art Cities - Antwerp, Bruges, Ghent, Mechelen, and Leuven - are known for their art history from the Middle Ages to the present.
Belgium is renowned for its beer, with approximately 1,600 different original beers. Many of them come with their own, specially designed beer glasses.
Belgium hosts a variety of festivals throughout the year, including the Carnival of Binche, the Flower Carpet in Brussels, and the Ghent Festivities.
The Ardennes is a region of extensive forests, rough terrain, rolling hills and ridges. It's a perfect location for outdoor activities such as hiking and cycling.
Belgium is home to a large number of castles. From medieval fortresses to residential chateaus, these historic sites add charm and grandeur to the Belgian landscape.
Belgian Comic Strip Art
Belgium has a strong tradition in comic strip art. It is the birthplace of The Smurfs and Tintin, among others, and even has a museum dedicated to comic strip art.
Belgium has three official languages - French, Dutch, and German. This multilingualism gives Belgium a cosmopolitan flair.
Belgian Music Festivals
Belgium is known for its lively music scene, hosting world-famous music festivals like Tomorrowland and Rock Werchter.
Belgian lace, a handmade lace, is an age-old craft that has been passed down through generations. The cities of Brussels and Bruges are particularly known for this delicate textile.
Antwerp, a city in the Flemish region, is known as the diamond capital of the world. The city has been a major diamond center since the 15th century.
Belgian Modern Art
Belgium has a thriving contemporary art scene, with many modern art museums and galleries, especially in cities like Brussels and Antwerp.
Belgium has a rich folklore tradition. The Walloon region, in particular, is known for its folklore festivals, processions, and rituals.
Sustainable Tourism in Belgium
Belgium is making efforts to promote sustainable tourism, with a focus on preserving its cultural heritage, promoting local produce and reducing carbon emissions in travel.
1. A Delight for Chocolate Lovers: Belgium is often considered the chocolate capital of the world. With more than 2,000 chocolatiers, both big and small, scattered across the country, it's a paradise for chocolate enthusiasts. The country produces over 220,000 tons of chocolate annually and has a museum dedicated entirely to chocolate.
2. Beer Galore: Belgium has a beer heritage dating back to the 12th century and is known for a wide variety of beers with more than 1,600 original beer brands. Some monasteries, following age-old recipes, even produce and sell their own ales. The country also hosts an annual beer festival in Brussels.
3. The Smurfs and TinTin's Homeland: Belgium is the birthplace of The Smurfs and TinTin, two iconic comic strips known worldwide. The country has a strong comic strip culture with a unique Comic Strip Route in Brussels, where walls are adorned with large murals of comic strip characters.
4. Land of Castles: Belgium is said to have more castles per square mile than any other country in the world. From medieval fortresses to opulent chateaus, these historical structures are a must-visit for history enthusiasts.
5. Belgium's Manneken Pis: This iconic statue of a little boy peeing in Brussels is a symbol of the city's rebellious spirit. The statue is often dressed in different costumes and is a beloved figure in Belgian folklore.
6. The Grand Place: The central square of Brussels, The Grand Place, is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is considered one of the most beautiful squares in Europe. It's known for its decorative and aesthetic wealth, where every two years, a massive 'flower carpet' is set up.
7. Belgium's Venice of the North: The city of Bruges, with its beautiful canals and historic architecture, is often compared to Venice and is another UNESCO World Heritage site. The medieval city is one of Belgium's crown jewels.
8. Diamond District: Antwerp, Belgium's second-largest city, is known as the world's diamond capital. Almost 85% of the world's rough diamonds pass through the district annually.
9. Home of French Fries: Despite the name, French fries are claimed to have originated in Belgium. Belgians treat fries as a standalone dish rather than a side, and they're often served with a variety of sauces in a 'fritkot' or fries shop.
10. Belgium's Multilingualism: Belgium has three official languages: Dutch, French, and German. While this multilingualism can be confusing for visitors, it's a testament to the country's cultural diversity.
Brussel – Brussels, the capital of Belgium.
Antwerpen – Antwerp, a major city in Belgium known for its historic sites.
Gent – Ghent, a city in Belgium known for its preserved medieval architecture.
Brugge – Bruges, a city in Belgium known for its canals and cobblestone streets.
Wafel – Waffle, a popular dessert in Belgium.
Frieten – Fries, a popular food in Belgium.
Bier – Beer, a popular beverage in Belgium.
Chocolade – Chocolate, Belgium is famous for its chocolate.
Manneken Pis – A famous statue in Brussels.
Atomium – A landmark building in Brussels.
Gravensteen – A medieval castle in Ghent.
Grote Markt – The main square in many Belgian cities.
Koning – King, the head of state in Belgium.
Koningin – Queen, the wife of the king.
Belgische frank – Belgian franc, the currency of Belgium before the Euro.
Euro – Euro, the current currency of Belgium.
Trein – Train, a common mode of transport in Belgium.
Tram – Tram, a type of public transport in Belgian cities.
Bus – Bus, another type of public transport in Belgium.
Taxi – Taxi, a private mode of transport in Belgium.
Fiets – Bicycle, a popular mode of transport in Belgium.
Voetganger – Pedestrian.
Museum – Museum.
Kunst – Art, Belgium has many art museums.
Muziek – Music, Belgium has a rich music scene.
Festivals – Festivals, Belgium hosts many music and cultural festivals.
Markt – Market, local markets are a big part of Belgian culture.
Winkel – Shop, there are many shops in Belgian cities.
Restaurant – Restaurant.
Café – Cafe.
Hotel – Hotel.
Hostel – Hostel, a budget accommodation option.
Luchthaven – Airport.
Station – Station, could refer to a train or bus station.
Ziekenhuis – Hospital.
Apotheek – Pharmacy.
Politie – Police.
Ambassade – Embassy.
Visa – Visa, a document required for entry into some countries.
Paspoort – Passport.
Kaart – Map.
Gids – Guide, could refer to a tour guide or a guide book.
Tour – Tour, often refers to a guided tour.
Bezienswaardigheid – Sightseeing, refers to tourist attractions.
Wandelen – Walking.
Fietsen – Cycling.
Wandeling – Walk, as in a guided walk.
Excursie – Excursion.
Reservering – Reservation.
Entree – Entrance, often refers to the entrance fee to a tourist site.