Belgium is an absolutely stunning destination for any traveler seeking to explore some of Europe's grandest attractions. From the picturesque countryside of Flanders and Wallonia, to the bustling streets of Brussels, it is impossible not to find something to explore or admire. Take a leisurely stroll through the cities of Antwerp and Bruges, where medieval skyscrapers, gabled mansions and winding canals have earned them splendor and fame as two of the most romantic cities in the world. The Ardennes Region of southern Belgium also has plenty of offer, with its sleepy villages nestled in deep woodland valleys and its wide open hills, perfect for those seeking a quiet escape into the wild. There is plenty of culture and history to explore here in the cathedrals and breweries of towns like Mechelen and Spa, and even some modern, cutting edge attractions given Belgium a reputation as one of Europe's most forward thinking countries. Travelers can also treat themselves to the endless array of restaurants featuring some of the world's finest cuisine and the rich variety of chocolates and beers that are simultaneously a source of national pride and hype. Belgium is a wonderful starter to a great and exciting European voyage, so don't hesitate to embark on one of the most fulfilling experiences in the continent!
The History of Belgium
Belgium, located in Western Europe, is a small, yet historically significant, nation that has served as a European hub for centuries. Formally established in 1831, the country evolved from a larger conglomerate of various ethnic groups, including the Dutch, Germans, French, and Belgians. This long and complex history has left Belgium with an array of fascinating cultural, linguistic, and architectural offerings that visitors can enjoy while exploring the modern country.
Belgium's earliest recorded inhabitants, the Celts and Belgae, first occupied the region in the 1st century BCE. With the collapse of the Roman Empire in the 5th century CE, the region saw an influx of Germanic tribes, notably the Franks, who eventually established the Duchy of Lower Lotharingia in 870. The region was then divided between two countships, Flanders and Brabant, which were ruled in succession by France, the Duchy of Burgundy, and the Habsburgs over the next few centuries.
Throughout the Medieval Period, cities across Belgium such as Ghent, Bruges, and Antwerp established themselves as major commercial, religious, and cultural centers throughout Europe. Beer, cloth, and diamonds became some of the main export commodities, significantly boosting the economy of the region. Perhaps even more importantly, the printing press was introduced to Belgium during this time, and books, pamphlets, and periodicals became increasingly common.
In the early 19th century, the French Revolution brought about further turmoil in Belgium, resulting in the separation of the region from the Netherlands and its eventual proclamation as the independent Kingdom of Belgium in 1831. The 19th century saw the emergence of Belgium's unique architectural and cultural identity, with numerous styles of medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, and Gothic buildings popping up in cities and towns across the country.
Today, Belgium's rich and vibrant history lives on in its well-preserved historic cities, which have been named UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Visitors to Belgium can take in its magnificent cathedrals, castles, and museums, and discover the country's fascinating stories through its rich historical artifacts. Furthermore, Belgium's remarkable network of canals, built over centuries to facilitate trade, are also a sight to behold, while its distinctive cuisine, which shares influences from its various neighbors, adds another layer of flavor to the journey.
From its fascinating past to its stimulating present, Belgium has always been a unique and captivating destination in Europe. Its strong historical legacy combined with its rich cultural diversity make it a must-visit for anyone looking to explore a fascinating and diverse corner of Europe.
The Culture of Belgium
Belgium is a relatively small and vibrant country located in the heart of Europe, mostly appreciated for its attractive culture, food, and people. With influences from the neighbouring countries of Netherlands, Luxembourg, Germany, and France, Belgium has managed to develop a unique style that makes it truly special.
If there is one thing Belgium is known for, it's its delicious gastronomy. From the tasty waffle treats found in the city of Brussels to the heavenly French fries in nearly every restaurant, Belgian food is something to savor. The national dish, stoofvlees, beef and vegetables cooked in beer and spices, is practically a national treasure. But that's not all. There's also the many treats you can find in chocolate shops, ironically located everywhere. Belgium even holds the title for being the world's biggest exporter of chocolate.
The culture as a whole is greatly rooted in tradition and history. Each of the four cultures (Dutch, French, German and Walloon) has something unique to bring to the table. Focused mostly around art, Belgium has produced many great minds that have shaped the way we look at the world today, from surrealist artist Rene Magritte to harmonica master Toots Thielemans.
When it comes to the Belgian people, what can be said is that they are genuinely open and welcoming. Belgian hospitality is great, and many Belgians will go out of their way to make sure you are fully satisfied and enjoy your stay. Besides the occasional language barrier, Belgians are polite and open to different cultures and backgrounds.
All in all, Belgium is an amazing destination that is sure to leave lasting memories and impressions. With its rich history, delicious gastronomy, beautiful art, and friendly people, Belgium is indeed a place that deserves to be explored and experienced.
The Food of Belgium
Travelers to Belgium can expect to find a world-class culinary experience that they won't soon forget. Famed worldwide for its traditional delicacy of chocolate and waffles, travelers will be pleasantly surprised to find out that the Belgian culinary experience goes far beyond these iconic treats.
The Belgian diet is comprised of foundational base dishes like hearty stews that have been enjoyed for centuries, along with offerings from the abundance of local produce and seafood. These dishes are often served alongside sauces that feature the soulful flavors of Belgian beers and many of the country's signature spices. Furthermore, Belgium is known for having some of the most excellently prepared seafood on the continent, and its mussels, trout, cod, and oysters are local favorites.
Travelers will also find a vast array of interesting regional specialties. For instance, Brussels is well-known for its stellar selection of traditional Belgian cuisine, as well as dishes that encompass the influence of surrounding European nations like France and Germany. Must-try items include a variety of meat preparations, cooked on a plate to make the famously-flavorful Brussels sprouts. Those looking for a truly unique experience must venture further into the Belgian countryside and enjoy a meal of hochepot, a hearty pot-cooked combination of beef and vegetables.
In addition to its varied and tasty traditional fare, Belgium is sure to satisfy those with more adventurous culinary inclinations. Some of the world's best molecular gastronomy restaurants are to be found here, with top chefs seeking to redefine traditional flavors and textures to create dishes that are both delightful and inspirational. For those with a sweet tooth, Belgium's Chocolatier culture is second to none, offering travelers a dazzling selection of tasty treats and inspiring chocolate masterpieces.
No matter what you appetite desires, a trip to Belgium is sure to provide a mouthwatering and memorable culinary experience. From traditional stew dishes to unique and innovative food creations, Belgium has a place at its table for everyone, making it an unparalleled culinary destination. So book your trip now and experience Belgium's culinary delights for yourself!
What to See and Do in Belgium
- Visit the Grand Place in Brussels, Belgium: This stunning UNESCO World Heritage Site is hard to miss in the centre of Brussels. Crowned by the Breadhouse and the City Hall, the area is full of cafes, shops and souvenir stands. Enjoy a cup of Belgian beer or a waffle and take in the lively buzz around you.
- Explore the historical old port of Ghent, Belgium: Spend some time strolling around the old harbour of Ghent and discovering its many shops, cafes and restaurants. Stop off at the imposing Gravensteen Castle and reminisce historical tales from the walls of this Gothic fortress.
- Indulge in chocolates in Bruges, Belgium: Belgium is renowned for its chocolates, and Bruges is the perfect place to indulge in this delicious treat. Wander around the city's famous chocolate shops, such as Chocolate Room and The Chocolate Line and get your hands on some of the finest chocolates in the country.
- Climb the Belfry of Bruges, Belgium: The Belfry of Bruges is the iconic symbol of the city and stands proudly in the centre of the old town. Climb all 366 steps to reach the top of the old tower and be rewarded with stunning panoramic views of the city and the flat Flemish countryside.
- Visit the top museums in Antwerp, Belgium: Antwerp is home to some of Belgium's best museums, including the famous Rubens House, the MAS and the Red Star Line Museum. Take a day out to explore some of this diverse city's cultural offerings.
- Enjoy the pretty canals of Bruges, Belgium: Bruges is known for its pretty canal system. Join a boat tour or rent a kayak and experience the beauty of the city from a different angle. Stop to admire some of the charming traditional homes along the banks and explore the silent canals away from the hustle and bustle of the streets.
- Attend the Scheldemond Jazz Festival in Antwerp, Belgium: Every summer, the Scheldemond Jazz Festival provides jazz and soul music in the city of Antwerp. Enjoy some of the best jazz music from all over the world in one of the city's most beautiful squares.
- Experience the Christmas markets in Brussels, Belgium: During the festive season, Brussels is filled with the smell of Christmas and the sound of traditional carols. Walk around the Christmas markets of the Grand Place and admire the snow-covered streets.
- Discover the charming city of Ypres, Belgium: Ypres is considered one of the quaintest cities in Belgium. Spend a relaxing day wandering around the small cobblestone streets of the old town and exploring historic landmarks, such as the magnificent Cloth Hall and the Menin Gate Memorial.
- Shop until you drop in Knokke-Heist, Belgium: Explore the high-end boutiques and designer stores in Knokke-Heist, Belgium's most fashionable resort town. Spend a day marvelling at how stylish this city has become over the years.
Why You Should Travel to Belgium
Belgium is a stunning country filled to the brim with fascinating experiences for travelers. This small, yet highly unique and characteristic country has much to offer that can easily draw in tourists from around the world.
Belgium is home to some of Europe's most remarkable cities and sights, many of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Among these sights are the picturesque old town of Bruges, the awe-inspiring Grand Place in Brussels, and the ancient Castle of Laarne. If visitors love history, Belgium will not disappoint, boasting mesmerizing castles and Gothic cathedrals that are more than a thousand years old.
The country is also known for its wonderful cuisine, including Belgian chocolate and French fries, which many visitors find irresistible. Belgium is renowned for its selection of amazing beers that can be sampled at many of its local beer houses and cafés. Furthermore, the country's excellent transport links have made it easy to explore its many attractions, giving tourists the chance to experience the bustling nightlife and other cultural captures.
Overall, Belgium is a must-visit destination filled with wonderful sights, sounds, tastes and textures that cater to every imaginable desire. From its classical Grand Place in Brussels to its legendary beer houses and chocolate shops, Belgium is an ultimate playground for any traveler. The country's culture is vibrant and alive, from its ancient ruins and monuments to its friendly people and excellent transport. Therefore, if you're looking for an adventure, Belgium is the place to visit!
Tips & Tricks for Traveling in Belgium
- Get a Rail Pass: If you're looking to explore different cities in Belgium, getting a rail pass is the best way to save money and reduce your stress. Depending on the type of pass, you can get unlimited rides on the Train and buses, discounts on various types of transportation, and access to exclusive discounts in certain areas. So make sure to do some research before your next trip and consider getting a rail pass to save money and get around budget-consciously.
- Try out Belgian Restaurants: Belgian food is considered one of the country's greatest treasures, so make sure to visit some of the fantastic local restaurants. From the traditional Flemish cuisine to the more modern fusion dishes, there's plenty to choose from and you're sure to find something to suit your tastes. Don't forget to take some time to sip on some Belgian beer while you're at it - it's one of the country's specialties.
- Book in Advance for Sightseeing: If you plan to tour the city, book your sightseeing activities in advance. This will save you time and money, and you can find the best packages and deals available. Be sure to check websites like Booking.com or Expedia for good discounts and offers.
- Get a SIM Card: If you're traveling to Belgium and staying for a while, getting a local SIM card is a great way to stay connected. Sim cards can be purchased at kiosks or mobile shops in the city and they're also very easy to top up.
- Rent a Bicycle: Renting a bicycle is a great way to explore the Belgian cities and towns. Most major cities in Belgium have bike rental companies, like the popular Villo, where you can rent a bike for a day or even a week.
- Take a Tram or Bus: Taking the tram or bus is an efficient, convenient and affordable way to get around the cities. Make sure to look up fares and routes online so you can plan your journey in advance.
- Consider Staying in a Hostel: If you're looking to save some money on accommodations, consider staying in a hostel or guesthouse. This can be a great way to socialize and meet new people while saving some money.
- Visit Local Markets: Local markets like Flahaut in Brussels or Marche du Palud in Ghent are great places to find local produce and handicrafts. You'll often find fresh local produce and handmade items that make for great souvenirs.
- Take a Day Trip: Belgium is a small country and it's full of fantastic cities, towns and villages that can be explored in a day. Consider taking a day trip to some of the smaller towns and explore the local sights and attractions.
- Visit the Great Outdoors: Belgium is home to many great outdoor activities and attractions. Whether it's visiting the green forests in The Ardennes, camping in the hills of West Flanders or simply taking a stroll in the vast parks in Brussels, you'll find something to fit your outdoor needs.
Other Places You Might Like
- Bruges, Belgium: Considered the "Venice of the North", Bruges is a charming medieval canal town boasting historic Gothic architecture, verdant parks and gardens, and a plethora of museums, art galleries, and other attractions for those who love Belgian culture. Visitors can explore the cobblestone streets with whitewashed buildings, the Belfry of Bruges (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), or visit the historic Groeninge Museum, home to an impressive collection of paintings from the Flemish Primitives, or the Chocolate Museum, to sample local specialty chocolates.
- Ghent, Belgium: For those looking for a bit of urban exploration, Ghent is a great destination. Known for its university and vibrant arts scene, Ghent is bustling with life. Visitors can explore the city's eclectic mix of Gothic, Baroque, and Renaissance architecture, its wealth of cultural attractions, or the still-thriving medieval port. Enjoy a leisurely stroll down the pedestrianized Graslei and Korenlei to admire the Gothic architecture, pop into one of the many museums showcasing Flemish art, or try some of the local seafood restaurants.
- Brussels, Belgium: With its bustling Grand Place, cobblestone streets, and a vast array of old and new attractions, Brussels has something for everyone. You can explore the Gothic architecture of the Diamond District, or the futuristic Musee Magritte or Horta-Lambeaux, or sample some of the famous Belgain delicacies like Belgian waffles, chocolate and beer. Lace up your walking shoes for a tour of the Mannekin Pis and explore the European Union headquarters or the Comic Strip Museum.
- Cologne, Germany: This German city is another great option for those who love Belgium. With its vibrant historic center, impressive Gothic architecture, and numerous attractions, Cologne is sure to delight. Stroll past the awe-inspiring Cologne Cathedral, explore the Romanesque churches, or step into the Ethnology Museum to explore the local history. Shop for souvenirs in the Christmas markets or check out the wealth of cafes and restaurants along the Rhine.
- Paris, France: Paris is often thought of as the romantic capital of Europe, but it's also a great destination for those who love Belgian culture. Whether it's catching a view of the Eiffel Tower or chowing down on Belgian waffles, Paris is full of activities to suit any budget and taste. Admire the impressive Notre-Dame cathedral and the Louvre, or take a stroll down the Champs Elysees and the Latin Quarter to sample some of the finer things in life.