People want contentment in life rather than happiness. Most individuals don’t understand the difference between contentment and happiness. Travelers, on the other hand, are aware of this fundamental life quality or skill, and if there is one place on earth that can fill your heart with contentment and fulfillment.
It is the beautiful landmass blessed with magical castles from the Middle Ages; a land rich in history and a land where monuments speak to their visitors and travelers through their architecture, intricate designs, and compelling methods of construction.
These monuments, as timeless as they are, provide a window into the past, transporting visitors to a time when there were fewer distractions and more opportunities for interaction. Art, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, weird caves, music, beaches, and comfort food are all part of the landmass we’re talking about.
The landmass in question is the one in Western Europe that attracts millions of tourists from all around the world. The location is known for fusing heritage and contemporary art and architecture, and it is one of the few places on the planet that draws visitors in and makes them feel like they belong.
This place is full of beautiful experiences that will make travelers feel at home, from some of the friendliest locals in the coffee shop to the pros in the breweries. You know where to find frothy beers, chocolates, and waffles, don’t you?
The Dutch-speaking Flemish Community, which makes up roughly 60% of the population, and the French-speaking Community, which makes up about 40% of the population, are the two primary linguistic communities in Belgium. In the East Cantons, there is a small German-speaking community of about 1% of the population.
Although French is the majority language, the Brussels-Capital Region is officially multilingual in French and Dutch. Belgium’s complicated governance system, which is made up of six independent governments, reflects the country’s linguistic variety and concomitant political disputes.
Following the 1830 Belgian Revolution, when it seceded from the Netherlands, which had only existed since 1815, the country as it exists today was born. The name selected for the new state is taken from the Latin word Belgium, which was used to denote a neighboring region in Julius Caesar’s “Gallic Wars” around 55 BCE.
Belgium is part of the Low Countries, which was historically a wider region than the Benelux group of countries because it covered sections of northern France. Since the Middle Ages, the area has been rather rich, connected commercially and politically to its larger neighbors due to its central location near several major rivers.
Belgium has also served as a battleground for European nations, gaining the moniker “Battlefield of Europe,” which was bolstered by both world wars in the twentieth century.
Belgium took part in the Industrial Revolution and controlled several African colonies during the twentieth century. Leopold II, King of Belgium, committed one of the biggest murders in human history in Congo Free State, which was his estate and not yet a Belgian colony, between 1888 and 1908.
Estimates of the death toll differ, however millions of people died for the sake of rubber and ivory exports, making up a large portion of the population.
Growing conflicts between Dutch- and French-speaking inhabitants arose in the second half of the twentieth century, fueled by disparities in language and culture, as well as the unequal economic development of Flanders and Wallonia. This ongoing rivalry has resulted in a series of far-reaching reforms, culminating in the transformation from a unitary to a federal system between 1970 and 1993.
Despite the reforms, tensions between the groups have remained, if not grown; there is significant separatism, particularly among the Flemish; there are controversial language laws, such as municipalities with language facilities; and the formation of a coalition government took 18 months, a world record, following the June 2010 federal election. Wallonia’s unemployment rate is moreover double that of Flanders, which grew rapidly following WWII.
The Frankish Merovingian kings, who were possibly originally founded in what is now northern France, ruled the territory in the 5th century. The Carolingian Dynasty dominated the Frankish kingdom in the eighth century, with its center of power in what is now eastern Belgium. The Carolingian Empire was partitioned into three kingdoms by the Treaty of Verdun in 843, whose borders had a lasting impact on medieval political boundaries.
The Middle Kingdom, afterward known as Lotharingia, encompassed most of modern-day Belgium, but the coastal county of Flanders, west of the Scheldt, became part of West Francia, the forerunner of France. In the Treaty of Meerssen in 870, all of modern Belgium became part of the western kingdom for a time, but in the Treaty of Ribemont in 880, Lotharingia was returned to the Holy Roman Emperor’s permanent sovereignty.
The lordships and bishoprics that ran along with the “March” (border) between the two great kingdoms retained vital ties. The county of Flanders grew into the empire over the Scheldt and was administered by the same lords as the county of Hainaut at times.
The fabric industry and commerce boomed in the 13th and 14th centuries, especially in the County of Flanders, which became one of Europe’s wealthiest locations. This wealth influenced disputes between Flanders and France’s ruler. Flemish militias famously defeated a heavy troop of mounted knights at the Battle of the Golden Spurs in 1302, but France quickly recovered control of the rebellious province.
Belgium is bordered by France (620 kilometers), Germany (167 kilometers), Luxembourg (148 kilometers), and the Netherlands (450 km). It has a total area of 30,689 km2 that includes water (11,849 sq mi). Its overall size was estimated to be 30,528 km2 before 2018. (11,787 sq mi).
In 2018, however, a new computation method was applied to calculate the country’s statistics. Unlike prior estimates, this one took into account the region from the shore to the low-water line, suggesting that the country’s surface area is 160 km2 (62 sq mi) bigger than previously assumed. Its total land area is 30,278 km2. It is located between 49°30′ and 51°30′ north latitude and 2°33′ and 6°24′ east longitude.
The coastal plain in the northwest and the central plateau are both parts of the Anglo-Belgian Basin, whereas the Ardennes uplands in the southeast are part of the Hercynian orogenic belt. At Belgium’s southernmost extremity, Belgian Lorraine, the Paris Basin reaches a small fourth area.
Dunes and polders make up the majority of the coastal plain. Further inland, a smooth, gradually rising landscape with fertile valleys and the northern sandy plain of the Campine is watered by numerous canals (Kempen). The Ardennes, with their densely forested hills and plateaus, is more rough and rocky, with caves and small canyons.
The High Fens plateau, which stretches westward into France and eastward into Germany, connects this region to the Eifel, where the Signal de Botrange, at 694 meters, is the country’s highest point (2,277 ft).
Like most of northwest Europe, the climate is marine temperate, with heavy precipitation throughout the year. The lowest average temperature is 3 °C (37.4 °F) in January and the maximum is 18 °C (64.4 °F) in July. The average monthly precipitation ranges from 54 millimeters (2.1 in) in February and April to 78 millimeters (3.1 in) in July.
Average daily temperature minimums of 7 °C (44.6 °F) and maximums of 14 °C (57.2 °F) and monthly rainfall of 74 mm (2.9 in) for the years 2000 to 2006, respectively, are roughly 1 °C and nearly 10 millimeters above last century’s typical levels.
Within the Boreal Kingdom, Belgium is divided between the Atlantic European and Central European provinces of the Circumboreal Region.
Belgium is part of the terrestrial ecoregions of Atlantic mixed forests and Western European broadleaf forests, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature. Belgium was ranked 163rd out of 172 countries in the 2018 Forest Landscape Integrity Index, with a mean score of 1.36/10.
Belgium is a federal parliamentary democracy with a constitutional monarchy and popular monarchy. A Senate and a Chamber of Representatives make up the bicameral federal parliament. The former consists of 50 senators selected by the parliaments of the communities and regions, as well as 10 senators who were co-opted.
Before 2014, the majority of Senate members were elected directly. The 150 members of the Chamber are chosen by a proportional vote method from 11 electoral districts. Belgium has mandatory voting, resulting in one of the highest voter turnout rates in the world.
The King (now Philippe) is the head of state, however, he only has a few powers. To create the federal government, he picks ministers, including a Prime Minister, who have the support of the House of Representatives.
There are no more than fifteen members on the Council of Ministers. The Council of Ministers is made up of an equal number of Dutch and French-speaking members, with the possible exception of the Prime Minister. The Napoleonic code founded the judicial system, which is based on civil law.
Belgium’s economy is highly globalized, and its transportation infrastructure is well-connected to the rest of Europe. In 2007, it was the world’s 15th largest trade nation, because of its location amid a highly industrialized region. A highly productive workforce, a high GNP, and high exports per capita characterize the economy.
Raw materials, machinery and equipment, chemicals, raw diamonds, pharmaceuticals, groceries, transportation equipment, and oil products are Belgium’s significant imports. Machinery and equipment, chemicals, finished diamonds, metals, metal products, and foodstuffs are the principal exports.
The Belgian economy is mainly service-oriented and is divided into two parts: a thriving Flemish sector and a lagging Walloon economy. Belgium, being one of the European Union’s founding members, is a staunch supporter of an open economy and the expansion of EU institutions’ powers to integrate member economies.
Belgium and Luxembourg have been a single trade market with customs and currency unions since 1922, according to the Belgium-Luxembourg Economic Union.
In the early nineteenth century, Belgium was the first continental European country to experience the Industrial Revolution. From 1830 to 1910, areas in Liège Province and around Charleroi developed significantly in mining and steelmaking, which prospered in the Sambre and Meuse valleys until the mid-twentieth century, making Belgium one of the world’s three most industrialized nations.
However, during the 1840s, Flanders’ textile sector was in serious trouble, and the province was afflicted by famine from 1846 to 1850.
Following World War II, the chemical and petroleum industries in Ghent and Antwerp grew rapidly. The 1973 and 1979 oil crises threw the economy into a tailspin, which lasted especially long in Wallonia, where the steel sector had become less competitive and had suffered a significant decrease.
The country’s economic center continued to shift northwards in the 1980s and 1990s and is now located in the populous Flemish Diamond area.
Belgian macroeconomic policies had resulted in cumulative government debt of nearly 120 percent of GDP by the end of the 1980s. The budget was balanced in 2006, and the state debt was 90.30 percent of GDP. Real GDP growth rates of 1.5 percent and 3.0 percent in 2005 and 2006 were slightly higher than the Euro area average.
Unemployment rates of 8.4% in 2005 and 8.2% in 2006 were similar to the regional average. By October 2010, it had risen to 8.5 percent, compared to the European Union’s average rate of 9.6 percent (EU 27).
Belgium’s currency was the Belgian franc from 1832 to 2002. Belgium adopted the euro in 2002, after which the first sets of euro coins were issued in 1999. The regular Belgian euro coins in circulation include the monarch’s picture (first King Albert II, since 2013 King Philippe).
Despite an 18% decline in rail network density between 1970 and 1999, Belgium still had the highest rail network density in the European Union in 1999, with 113.8 km/1 000 km2.
The motorway network, on the other hand, grew rapidly (+56 percent) throughout the same time (1970–1999). In 1999, the density of km highways per 1000 km2 and 1000 people was 55.1 and 16.5 correspondingly, much higher than the EU averages of 13.7 and 15.9.
Belgium has a low endowment in terms of biological resources: In 2016, Belgium’s biocapacity amounted to only 0.8 global hectares, less than half of the global biocapacity available per person of 1.6 hectares. Belgians, on the other hand, utilized an average of 6.3 worldwide hectares of biocapacity in 2016, indicating their ecological footprint of consumption.
This meant they needed almost eight times the amount of biocapacity that Belgium has. As a result, Belgium has a 5.5 global hectares per person biocapacity deficit in 2016.
Belgium’s traffic is among the most congested in Europe. In 2010, commuters in Brussels and Antwerp spent 65 and 64 hours a year stuck in traffic, respectively. More than 80% of aviation traffic is handled by a single airport, the Brussels Airport, as it is in other small European countries.
Antwerp and Zeebrugge (Bruges) handle more than 80% of Belgian marine trade, with Antwerp ranking second in Europe in 2000 with a gross weight of products handled of 115 988 000 t, up 10.9 percent over the previous five years. Antwerp’s port handled 214 million tons in 2016, up 2.7 percent from the previous year.
Flanders and Wallonia have a significant economic disparity. Wallonia was historically prosperous in comparison to Flanders, owing to its heavy industries, but the loss of the steel sector following WWII resulted in the region’s precipitous decline, whereas Flanders rose quickly.
Since then, Flanders has prospered, ranking among Europe’s wealthiest areas, whereas Wallonia has sunk. Wallonia’s unemployment rate is more than double that of Flanders as of 2007. In addition to the already-existing language barrier, the gap has played a crucial role in the tensions between the Flemish and the Walloons.
As a result, pro-independence movements have gained a lot of traction in Flanders. The separatist New Flemish Alliance (N-VA), for example, is Belgium’s largest political party.
The official languages of Belgium are Dutch, French, and German. There are also several non-official minority languages spoken. There are no official statistics on the distribution or usage of Belgium’s three official languages or dialects because there is no census.
However, a variety of factors, such as the language spoken by the parents, the level of schooling received, or the status of a foreign-born person’s second language, may yield estimates.
Belgians speak Dutch (also known as Flemish) natively 60 percent of the time, and French natively 40 percent of the time. Walloons are a term used to describe French-speaking Belgians, however, French speakers in Brussels are not Walloons.
Native Dutch speakers account for roughly 6.23 million people in northern Flanders, while native French speakers account for 3.32 million in Wallonia and an estimated 870,000 (or 85 percent) in the officially bilingual Brussels-Capital Region.
Around 10,000 German and 60,000 Belgian nationals speak German in the German-speaking Community, which is located in the east of the Walloon Region. In municipalities neighboring the official Community, an additional 23,000 German speakers live.
Belgian Dutch and Belgian French differ slightly from the variants spoken in the Netherlands and France in terms of vocabulary and semantic nuances. Many Flemish people still speak Dutch accents in their daily lives.
Walloon is now only understood and spoken by the elderly and is classified as either a dialect of French or a distinct Romance language. Walloon is divided into four dialects, which, like Picard’s, are rarely spoken in public and have been mostly superseded by French.
Despite its political and linguistic differences, the area that is now Belgium has seen the emergence of important artistic movements that have had a significant impact on European art and culture.
Nowadays, cultural life is focused to some extent inside each language Community, and a shared cultural sphere has become less evident due to several barriers. Except for the Royal Military Academy and the Antwerp Maritime Academy, there have been no multilingual universities or colleges in the country since the 1970s.
Belgium’s cultural life is dominated by folklore: the country has a disproportionately high number of processions, cavalcades, parades, ‘Ommegang’ and ‘Ducasse’s,’ ‘kermesse,’ and other local festivals, practically all of which have a religious or mythical origin. UNESCO has designated the Carnival of Binche, with its famed Gilles, and the ‘Processional Giants and Dragons’ of Ath, Brussels, Dendermonde, Mechelen, and Mons as Masterpieces of Humanity’s Oral and Intangible Heritage.
Other examples are the Carnival of Aalst, the Holy Blood processions in Bruges, Hasselt’s Virga Jesse Basilica, and Mechelen’s Basilica of Our Lady of Hanswijk; Liège’s 15 August celebration; and Namur’s Walloon carnival. The Gentse Feesten, which began in 1832 and was resurrected in the 1960s, has become a modern institution. Saint Nicholas Day, a festival for children and, in Liège, for students, is a popular non-official holiday.
In the most influential restaurant guides, such as the Michelin Guide, many highly listed Belgian restaurants may be found. Belgium is known for its beer, chocolate, waffles, and mayonnaise-dipped french fries. French fries, contrary to their name, are said to have originated in Belgium, however, the specific location is unknown.
“Steak and fries with salad” and “mussels with fries” are the national dishes. Côte d’Or, Neuhaus, Leonidas, and Godiva are well-known Belgian chocolate and praline brands, as are independent producers such as Burie and Del Rey in Antwerp and Mary’s in Brussels.
Belgium has around 1100 different types of beer. The Trappist beer of the Abbey of Westvleteren has been voted the best beer in the world on numerous occasions. Anheuser-Busch InBev, founded in Leuven, is the world’s largest brewer by volume.
How to Reach Belgium
1. By Air
Belgium For Indian travelers wishing to spend their vacation in Belgium, flights from any major Indian city are the ideal alternative. Cities such as New Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Cochin, and others provide easy access to Belgium. With its international airport, Brussels, Belgium’s capital, serves as the country’s tourism gateway.
Daily, there are multiple flights from India to Brussels, with nonstop and stopover options available. The cost and duration of your flight are determined by the location and time of your booking, and can drastically increase during high seasons. Apart from Brussels, airports can be found in other Belgian cities such as Antwerp, Flanders, Liege, and others, however, they are mostly for domestic rather than international travel.
Here is a list of approximate flight durations and pricing from major Indian cities for your convenience. Emirates, Jet Airways, Etihad Airways, Aeroflot, Air India, Air France, Lufthansa, Gulf Air, and KLM are some of the most popular airlines. Brussels International Airport is the largest airport in the Netherlands.
2. Internal commuting in Belgium
Belgium’s commuting is quick and well-organized because it is a European country. From the time they step out of one of Europe’s biggest airports – Brussels – tourists can choose from a variety of forms of transportation. Taxis and shuttle services operate frequently from the airport to the city and return.
If you want to take a private cab, it will be more expensive than taking public transit. Even though taxis are based on meter charges, they may become more expensive during periods of heavy traffic or long travel. If money is not an issue, you can travel around Belgium in comfort with cabs that are available 24 hours a day.
However, railways are one of the greatest ways to navigate across Belgium. The national rail network runs smoothly and is well-managed. It is also one of the most cost-effective ways of transportation, with a trip along with one of the country’s longest routes – Arlon to Bruges – costing under €100.
It will cost you around 1500 INR per person per ride. However, the fee is for a second-class ride. You can also purchase first-class tickets for around 50% more than the standard costs. All train stations have timetables accessible for you to use as a reference. You can get off at any stop and continue your journey to any other destination with a ticket, but you cannot travel backward without a valid ticket.
Belgian buses serve as a supplement to the country’s train network, allowing people to travel lesser distances more quickly. The pricing is reasonable, and the connection to the rest of the country is flawless. Buses may carry you to places where there are no train lines and are best used in the Ardennes’ steep regions.
Aside from these options, you can also travel across Belgium in your own leased automobile, with modest cars starting at around 23,000 INR per week. You can also rent bicycles to explore Belgium’s more distant places, or simply hire a taxi for convenience.
Best Time To Visit Belgium
Few places on the planet can compare to the calm you’ll find in Belgium. The country’s historic cities, magnificent architecture, delectable chocolate, and mind-blowing beer make it one of the world’s top travel destinations.
It’s a fascinating country with a rich cultural and historical legacy. Visit Belgium if you want to experience Europe in its most romantic form.
If you are planning a trip to Belgium, you should consider the weather. Depending on your budget and what you want to accomplish, this guide will help you determine the best time to visit Belgium. Continue reading to learn everything you need to know about visiting this lovely country.
1. Spring / Good Season (April to June)
This is an excellent time to visit Belgium if you want to enjoy good weather throughout the country. Throughout the season, the entire country is bathed in warm sunshine, with beautiful afternoons from Wallonia to Flanders.
This is a shoulder season, so expect crowds to be light– except on weekends when many Britons and Europeans visit Ghent and Bruges for the weekend. Accommodation and transport would be less expensive during these months than during the summer.
Spring is an excellent time to visit Belgium because most of the countryside, particularly around Bruges and Ghent, will be ablaze with blooms. This is unquestionably the greatest time to visit Brussels, with lodging costs at their lowest point of the year.
This is also an excellent time to visit Wallonia, particularly the Ardennes, which will have just reopened after the winter, allowing you to see the region when it is still new. The Brussels Film Festival (in June) and the Jazz Marathon are two of the many festivals that take place in the spring (in May).
2. Summer / Low Season (July to August)
During this season, the weather in Belgium will be warm, but not unbearably so. There may be some rainy spells around the country. Due to holidays in the rest of Europe, America, and the United Kingdom, this is the peak season, so expect large crowds around the country, particularly in the larger cities and coastal locations. If you want to get a good deal on tickets or stay in a nice hotel, plan ahead of time.
This is the busiest time in Bruges and Brussels. The weather in Flanders will be significantly cooler than in north Belgium, so you may wish to visit if the heat becomes unbearable.
During this time, there will be a slew of outdoor festivals, including the Ghent Festival (in July), the Brussels Summer Festival (in August), and a slew of other music and art festivals in Bridges, Hasselt, Ath, and Antwerp. In July, the world-renowned Tomorrowland music event takes place.
3. Fall / Good Season (September to October)
The months of September and October are ideal for traveling in Belgium. Summer’s heat begins to fade, and a nip of winter’s chill begins to settle in. In the countryside, as well as to the north, the autumn weather appears to be wonderful.
This season is likely to be damp, especially as the coastal breezes begin to pour rain in. Following the busy summer, there will be a drop in the number of tourists in the country, so expect some hotel and ticket bargains!
This is the perfect time to visit Belgium if you want to see the Ardennes’ steep districts. The slopes will be veiled in fall foliage, and the weather is fairly lovely, so this would be a fantastic time for you to go on a lengthy trip (rewarding yourself with a drink at the end of it, of course). There won’t be a lot of outdoor events, but you should visit the Ghent Film Festival if you have a chance!
4. Winter/Low Season (November to March)
Belgium’s winters can be quite wet and freezing. There are occasions when the canals freeze over as well, making ice skating rinks easier to create. Showers are expected to hit the coastal areas. It will be cold, but it is not the coldest place in Europe during the winter, so you may still enjoy a variety of outdoor sports.
If you are in Belgium during winter, you can explore the main cities, as the smaller ones will become pretty dismal and monotonous during these chilly months.
In some years, the Ardennes have adequate snow for cross–country and downhill skiing, but this is weather-dependent. Belgian Christmas markets and festivities are also worth visiting for a few days. The Brussels Christmas Market is an absolute must-see. There are other festivals to visit, such as the lively and unusual carnivals in Stavelot and Binche.
Belgium Tourist Attractions
Belgium may be small, but it is densely packed with attractions. The UNESCO-listed sites in Brussels’ capital city span from the 14th-century guildhalls around the beautiful Grand Place to Victor Horta’s early 20th-century Art Nouveau townhouses.
Bruges is a popular tourist destination, with its immaculately preserved medieval streets lining calm canals that attract thousands of visitors each year. However, many other cities in the Netherlands, particularly Ghent and Mechelen, have great Middle Ages architectural examples.
Many of Europe’s most important events have taken place in this small country, which has played host to many of the continent’s most important events.
At the Battle of Waterloo, Napoleon met his match in Belgium, and Belgium was driven into the front lines during both the First and Second World Wars. The Ypres battlefields of World War I are today prominent pilgrimage sites and one of Belgium’s most popular tourist destinations.
Belgium offers a significant chunk of European past in a bite-sized piece of territory, whether you’re here for ancient or modern history.
1. Brussels’ Grand Place
The Large Place (also known as De Grote Markt) is surrounded by well-preserved guildhalls and other grand structures that represent the best Belgian vernacular architecture.
The beautiful medieval town hall, a masterwork of Gothic architecture, dominates one side.
For its remarkable example of late-seventeenth-century architecture, Grand Place was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The square is bustling with tourists and locals throughout the year, but especially in August on alternate years, when the 75-by-24-meter Flower Carpet, made up of over 700,000 cut begonias, fills the middle.
2. The Canals of Bruges and the Belfry
Bruges was founded on the banks of the Reie River, and as the city grew, so did a network of waterways linking it to the Zwin Estuary and the North Sea.
The canals are now lovely remnants of Bruges’ past, and sailing or walking along them is one of Belgium’s most popular activities.
To explore the inner canals, you can get a walking tour map from the tourism website, where you’ll find breathtaking views of lovely bridges and glimpses into hidden gardens. Alternatively, you can take a boat tour of the canals, which you can do from any of the five landings.
The majestic belfry and Halle, which dominate Bruges’ main square, are among Belgium’s most iconic attractions.
This majestic medieval edifice, which originally served as the major town market hall and has been well conserved, gives visitors a true sense of the Middle Ages’ architectural strength.
Climbing the 366 steep and narrow steps of the belfry is one of Belgium’s most famous tourist attractions. The vistas of church spires and steeple-roofs from the top give one of the country’s most well-known panoramas.
3. The Flanders Battlefields
Many travelers come to see Belgium because of its position on the front lines of World War I, particularly the Battlefields of Flanders around Ypres.
The battlefields are not only historically significant, but they are also a prominent pilgrimage sites. The preserved trenches stretch for kilometers surrounding Ypres, and the area is also littered with massive graves dedicated to the hundreds of troops who died here.
The British Tyne Cot Cemetery and the German War Cemetery in Langemark are both melancholy memories of the horrible warfare that took place here during WWI.
4. Gravensteen and the Old Town of Ghent
This massive fort was once the great residence of the Counts of Flanders, who modeled their castles after the bulky castles built by the Crusaders in Syria.
Gravensteen is one of the best surviving examples of a moated stronghold in Europe, and it has been very well kept.
Its powerful and impressively thick and high walls rise above the rooftops of the surrounding streets, rising from the waters of the river Lieve right in the heart of Ghent’s old town.
Inside, exhibits of medieval life may be found in the wide arched halls and rooms, but the castle’s architecture is the true star of the show. Before meandering around Ghent’s lovely stone-paved streets, climb the stairwell to the roof for panoramic views of the city.