Belgium is considered a great country for excursions, because its centuries-old history is reflected in the architecture of Brussels, Antwerp, Ghent and Liege, and historical artifacts are carefully stored in numerous local museums. However, Belgium also has prestigious beach resorts (De Panne, Knokke-Heist) located on the North Sea coast (let the word “north” not mislead you), as well as a variety of folk festivals, ranging from the Feast of the Witches in Elsel and ending with Carnival in Binche.
Take a closer look at the option of traveling to Belgium if you are still deciding where to go for the New Year in Europe.
Geography of Belgium
Belgium is located in the northwest of Europe. In the south-west, Belgium borders on France, in the north – on the Netherlands, in the east – on Luxembourg and Germany, and in the north-west it is washed by the waters of the North Sea. The total area of this country is 30,528 sq. km. Belgium is divided into three main geographical regions – the northwestern coastal plain, the central plateau (Anglo Belgian Basin) and the Ardennes highlands in the south.
Capital of Belgium
According to itypejob.com, Brussels has been the capital of Belgium since the 1830s. This city was founded in the 9th century AD, although some historians suggest that the first settlement on the site of modern Brussels appeared in the 6th century. Now the population of Brussels is more than 1.1 million people. It is in this city that the headquarters of NATO is located.
Belgium has three official languages - Dutch, French and German. Dutch is spoken by the inhabitants of Flanders and Brussels, French is spoken by the inhabitants of the Walloon region and Brussels, and German is spoken in the province of Liege (about 100 thousand people).
Religion in Belgium
More than 75% of Belgians belong to the Roman Catholic Church. Protestants also live in this country (25% of the population), and in recent years there has been an increasing number of Sunni Muslims (3.5%). Also in Belgium there are about 100 thousand people belonging to the Greek Catholic Church, about 40 thousand Jews, and more than 20 thousand Anglicans.
State structure of Belgium
According to computerminus.com, Belgium is a hereditary constitutional monarchy. According to the Constitution of 1831, executive power is vested in the King, who appoints and removes ministers, civil servants, judges and officers. Thanks to a constitutional amendment in 1991, the Belgian throne can also be inherited by a woman.
The King of Belgium is the supreme commander. With the approval of Parliament, he has the right to declare war.
Legislative power in Belgium is exercised by the king and the bicameral Parliament, which consists of the House of Representatives (150 people) and the Senate (71 people). Belgians aged 18 and over are required to participate in parliamentary elections. Belgians are fined for failing to vote.
In accordance with the constitutional reform of 1980, there are three communities in Belgium – French-speaking, Dutch-speaking and German-speaking.
Climate and weather
In the coastal regions of Belgium, the climate is mild and humid. In the southeastern regions, hot summers alternate with cold winters. In Brussels, the average air temperature is +10 C. In July, the average air temperature is +18 C, and in January it drops to -3 C. Monthly precipitation in Belgium averages 74 mm.
Rivers and lakes
Two large rivers flow through the territory of Belgium – the Scheldt and the Meuse, into which small Belgian rivers flow. The country has created a special system of dams and locks to avoid floods. There are very few lakes in Belgium.
History of Belgium
Belgium got its name from the Celtic tribe Belgov (“belgae”). In the 1st century BC. The Belgians were conquered by Roman legionnaires, and Belgium became a province of Rome. During the 300 years of Roman rule, Belgium has become a prosperous country. However, gradually the power of Rome decreased, and around the 3rd century AD. Hunnic tribes led by Atilla invaded the territory of modern Germany. Because of this, part of the Germanic tribes was forced to move to the north of Belgium. In the IV century AD. The Franks invaded Belgium and took possession of the country.
A few centuries later, Belgium fell under the rule of the Duke of Burgundy, and from the end of the 14th century, this country became part of the Habsburg possessions (that is, it was part of the Holy Roman Empire).
In 1519-1713 Belgium was occupied by the Spaniards, and in 1713-1794 by the Austrians. In 1795 Belgium became part of Napoleonic France. In 1830, a revolution took place in Belgium, and the country became independent. In 1831, a constitutional monarchy was established in Belgium.
During World War I, Belgium was occupied by German troops. The same thing happened in 1940, after the outbreak of World War II. In 1944, American, British and Canadian troops liberated Belgium.
In 1970, Flanders, Wallonia, and Brussels received fairly significant political autonomy.
Since 1994, after a constitutional reform, Belgium is not a unitary, but a federal state.
Culture of Belgium
Since Belgium was part of Ancient Rome for more than 300 years, the Roman influence on the culture of Belgium became decisive. Until now, a large number of monuments of the Roman era have been preserved in this country.
However, the real flowering of Belgian culture began in the Middle Ages. This is evidenced by the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Tournai, which has survived to this day, and was built in the 12th century.
Medieval Belgian painting was greatly influenced by Flemish artists, in particular, Pieter Brueghel the Elder and A. Van Dyck. Since the 17th century, Belgian artists have been influenced by their French counterparts. Thus, the Belgian school of painting took shape only in the mid-1800s, after Belgium became independent. The most famous Belgian artist of this period is Gustav Wappers, who painted the paintings Van Dyck and his Model, The Defense of Rhodes and The Savior in the Tomb.
The most famous Belgian poet and playwright is Maurice Maeterlinck, who received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1911.
Folk holidays play an important role in the cultural life of Belgium. The most popular and famous among them are: Carnival Week (February, celebrated throughout Belgium), Carnival in Aalst and Binche (February 25-26), Festival in Liège (August), Feast of Witches in Elsel (June), as well as the Walloon Festival in Namur.
Cuisine of Belgium
Belgian cuisine was formed under the influence of French and German chefs. In everyday life, the Belgians eat potatoes, meat (pork, chicken, beef), seafood and bread. The national drink in Belgium is beer. By the way, beer lovers will probably be interested to know that more than 400 varieties of this drink are now produced in Belgium. In addition, wine is imported into Belgium in large quantities.
In the north of Belgium, French fries with mussels and “waterzooi”, a vegetable and meat broth (sometimes fish is used instead of meat), are a popular dish. In general, French fries are very popular throughout Belgium (most often they are eaten with mayonnaise).
Among the traditional Belgian dishes, the following should be mentioned: “pork chops in Liege”, “chicken in Ghent”, “village stew with beer”, “Flandish fish cakes”, as well as “mussels marinated in beer”.
Belgian chocolate has long been legendary, and local waffles are deservedly considered the best in the world. Therefore, feel free to go to its tasting, especially considering that you can go to Belgium without a visa.
A large number of immigrants has led to the fact that Belgium has a lot of “ethnic” restaurants, because of which the Belgians are gradually changing their eating habits.
Landmarks of Belgium
In Belgium, they have always carefully treated their history. Therefore, there are a lot of different attractions here, and it is difficult to single out the best of them. In our opinion, the top five most interesting sights in Belgium include:
- Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Brussels (Museum of Fine Art). For the first time this museum received visitors in 1801. It was formed on the initiative of Napoleon Bonaparte. Now the Royal Museum of Fine Arts houses several thousand paintings and prints by the most famous artists. So, in this museum there are works by Robber Campin, Dirk Bouts, Hans Memling, Pieter Brueghel the Elder, Rubens, Van Dyck, Hieronymus Bosch, Paul Gauguin, and Vincent van Gogh.
- Wellington Museum in Waterloo. The museum is dedicated to the famous battle of 1815 between the troops of Napoleon Bonaparte and the anti-French coalition. A large collection of personal belongings of the English Duke of Wellington. By the way, the house where this museum is located used to be a hotel in which the famous English commander lived for several days just before the Battle of Waterloo.The museum is open every day except January 1st and December 25th.
- Gravensteen Castle. This ancient castle is located near Ghent. It was built in 1180 by Philip of Alsace, Count of Flanders, modeled on the Crusader fortresses he saw during the Second Crusade. Previously, this place was a small wooden fortress, built, as historians believe, in the 9th century.
- Diamond Museum in Antwerp. There are only five diamond museums in the world, and one of the best of them is in Antwerp.The museum is open daily from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. The whole of January and December 25-26, the museum is closed. The entrance ticket costs 6 euros. Children under 12 years old enter free of charge.
Cities and resorts in Belgium
In addition to Brussels, the largest cities in Belgium are Antwerp (population – more than 2.3 million people), Ghent (about 250 thousand people), Liege (more than 200 thousand people), Charleroi (more than 200 thousand people), and Bruges ( about 120 thousand people).
Belgium has only 70 km of coast near the North Sea, and therefore it is not surprising that there is a very high population density – every Belgian wants to be closer to the beautiful local beaches. There are so many high-rise buildings on the Belgian coastline from De Panne to Knokke-Heist that it feels more like Tokyo than the Benelux country. Every wealthy Belgian considers it his duty to have a second home or apartment on the North Sea coast.
We recommend tourists to bring from Belgium as souvenirs candies from local producers (for example, Neuhaus, Leonidas or Godiva), as well as wonderful Belgian waffles and chocolate. Perhaps someone will want to bring real Belgian beer from Belgium.
In Belgium, on weekdays, shops are open from 9.00 to 18.00, on Saturday – from 9.00 to 12.30, and on Sunday – a day off.
Mon-Fri: from 09:00 to 17:00
Sat: from 09:00 to 12:00
Belgium is one of the countries that have signed the Schengen Agreement. Therefore, Ukrainians need to obtain a Schengen visa to visit Belgium.
Belgium became the first member of the European Monetary Union. Since January 1, 2002, the euro has been in circulation in Belgium instead of the Belgian franc.
Banknotes in denominations: 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, and 500 euros.
- 1 and 2 euro
- 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50
Credit cards (MasterCard and Visa) and travelers checks are accepted.
Exchange offices (“wisselkantoren” or “bureaux d’échange”) charge a higher interest rate for foreign exchange than banks.
There are no restrictions on the import and export of local and foreign currency in Belgium. It is forbidden to import firearms, drugs, pornography, and uncooked meat.
Useful phone numbers and addresses
Police – 101
Ambulance – 100
Emergencies – 112
Belgium is in the Central European time zone. The difference with time in Kyiv in summer is -1 hour, and in winter -2 hours. Those. if in Brussels, for example, in the summer it is 9:00 am, then in Kyiv it is 10:00 am.
Tipping in Belgium is not obligatory. 10% is automatically added to your account.
However, waiters and sellers, if they served you well, should still be thanked. Tips for attendants in cinemas and theaters are usually €1. In public toilets, the staff is left from €0.30 to €0.50.
To enter the country, tourists need compulsory international health insurance in the amount of 30,000 euros.
The police in Belgium successfully maintain a very high level of security. Belgium is considered to have one of the lowest crime rates in Europe. However, tourists in Belgium should be wary of theft (criminals can simply snatch the bag and run away). Therefore, carry a minimum amount of money with you and keep an eye on your payment card. It is best to leave valuables and documents in the safe of your hotel (you must have your passport with you). In case of theft, go to the nearest police station and block your card at +32-(0)70/344 344.