What is Belgium Famous For? 2 of the Reasons May Surprise You
What is Belgium Known For?
Despite being a fairly small country on the map, Belgium is a big hitter when it comes to chocolate production, waffles, festivals (like Tomorrowland), castles, and Belgian beer, just to name a few. Tourists often skip Belgium, the United Nations capital, but really should consider visiting.
These are just some of the features that lure in travellers hoping to experience beautiful cities with a gastronomic scene to be envied! Read on to find out a whole host of other things that Belgium is known for so you can impress your friends and family with new knowledge of this cute country or start planning your next adventure.
Food and Belgian Beer
Beer, fries, waffles and chocolate are quintessential parts of life in Belgium, and they are loved by locals just as much as they are by tourists who flock here to dine on delicious food and drink. Belgian beer is thought to be some of the best in the world, with thousands of varieties stocking the shelves of craft beer stores and bars around the country. Thankfully, in terms of beer, Belgium is a country that never sleeps – pubs in Belgium never close! – so you’ll have plenty of time to try a whole host of new flavours.
When the time comes to soak up some of the golden nectar, head to one of the speciality ‘frites’ outlets which serve up hearty portions of Belgian fries (NB: not French fries!) smothered with toppings like mustard, ketchup, gravy and mayo. Fries are serious business here in Belgium, and they even have a museum dedicated to the humble French Belgian fry.
If you prefer a sweet treat, then fear not as Belgium is great at these too! Whether you opt for chocolate or waffles (or both at the same time), you won’t be disappointed. The light, fluffy waffles are a staple on the streets of Belgium, so you’ll never be far from the smell of golden batter crisping up nicely in the waffle maker! Top your waffle with fresh fruit, compote, chocolate, jam or the Belgian biscuit spread Speculoos for a sumptuous sweet snack.
I honestly thought about giving each of these items their own heading as they are such essential parts of Belgian culture, but I didn’t want to take up the whole article waffling on about delicious Belgian treats (excuse the pun!).
Another thing that Belgium is known for is being the de facto capital of the European Parliament. Located in Brussels, the EU buildings are situated within what is commonly known as the European Quarter (the area between Brussels Park, Cinquantenaire Park and Leopold Park) with the main building being located above Brussels-Luxembourg station, next to Luxembourg Square. Even if you don’t manage to book a tour of the parliament building, this is a beautiful area to walk around.
Tourists interested in the EU can visit the nearby Parlamentarium, an interactive museum that offers information about how the EU works along with digital displays, interactive maps and even a scavenger hunt! The museum is free to enter and is open year-round, so there’s no excuse not to go.
One thing that not many people know about Belgium is that the country’s second city, Antwerp, is the world capital of diamonds! While diamonds aren’t actually mined here, the city is thought to have around 90% of the world’s diamonds pass through it, with more than half of the planet’s diamonds being kept here in vaults. This may be because Antwerp’s port is the second largest in Europe, making it a real trade hub over the past few centuries.
If you’re thinking of buying diamonds for that special someone (or just for yourself!), you might want to consider going to Antwerp to find the best of the bunch!
Belgians like to party. Fact. So, if you’re looking for a wild night out or a buzzing festival, then this is the place to come! Tomorrowland is one of Belgium’s world-famous festivals and is probably the biggest electronic festival on the planet. Now held twice each summer in the aptly-named town of Boom, Tomorrowland is a vibrant festival packed full of music, dancing, DJs, colour and creativity that will have you partying until the early hours.
Tomorrowland isn’t Belgium’s only festival though. The country boasts thousands of celebrations all year including beer festivals, carnivals, firework displays, film festivals, pride parades and much more.
Belgian architecture is one of the things that draws in travellers year-after-year who come here to marvel at the pristine city buildings and quaint village dwellings that make the country picture perfect.
From Art Nouveau designs in the city of Brussels to modern structures such as the Liège-Guillemins Train Station, there are plenty of different styles to admire. Bruges, in particular, is known for its picturesque market squares with guild-houses and belfries.
There are many churches, museums, galleries and train stations dotted throughout the country that will take your breath away, so make sure you have your camera on hand to capture Belgium’s beauty.
Speaking Multiple Languages
It can be quite confusing to figure out what language people are speaking when you’re in Belgium as many people speak multiple languages, in addition to speaking English for the tourists! Belgium is mainly split into two sections with the north of the country speaking Flemish (a dialect of Dutch) and the south of the country (known as Wallonia) speaking French. In addition to this, there are other Belgian citizens who speak German, and most people who speak Flemish also fully understand regular Dutch.
Even if you only speak English, don’t worry as most Belgian people are happy to converse in English as they’re all pretty much fluent anyway!
Theories and Inventions
You might be interested to learn that Belgian theorists and inventors were the ones who came up with fascinating ideas and inventions such as the Big Bang Theory (discovered by astronomer and physics professor Georges Lemaître), the internet (or what we know as the World Wide Web) created by Belgian engineer and scientist, Robert Cailliau, Body Mass Index (BMI) calculations (created by Belgian mathematician Lambert Adolphe Quetelet) and even the saxophone created by Adolphe Sax.
These are just a handful of inventions that have come out of this small country. When you add this to the fact that the country was the first to put in place legal gay marriage and euthanasia, it becomes apparent that Belgium is a pretty forward-thinking society.
If you want to see traditional European castles, then Belgium is probably the place to be as it is thought to have the world’s greatest number of castles per square metre. These castles range in size and style, but it must be said that most of them are truly magical!
Gravensteen Castle, Groot-Bijgaarden Caslte, Gaasbeek Caslte, Château de Beloeil and Kasteel De Commanderie are just some of the stunning castles that are well worth a visit. As Belgium is a fairly compact country, you could easily spend a whole trip simply visiting the castles of Belgium – some towns even have more than one which will make your life even easier!
World's Oldest Shopping Arcade
Classic European shopping arcades are a thing of beauty, and if you’re in Brussels, you should definitely check out Galeries St Hubert, the world’s oldest, and arguably one of the most spectacular shopping arcades.
The high roof features a domed glass ceiling letting light flood the gallery and the quaint shops that line the sides of the arcade are filled with traditional Belgian treats and goods that will make for great souvenirs. Galeries St Hubert is also a wonderful place to sit and people watch (especially during the winter), so you can huddle up with a few mugs of warming hot chocolate as you watch the world go by.
Tintin and Comic Books
Another world ranking in which Belgium tops the list is the number of comic makers per square kilometre. Random fact, I know, but one that is useful to keep in mind when you spot Tintin murals and comic book shops all over the country. Tintin is a comic book icon, with over 200 million copies having been sold worldwide in over 70 languages! If you’ve never read a Tintin comic book, now might be the time to pick one up and keep as a family heirloom, passing down the classic comic from generation to generation.
Hopefully, by now you know more about Belgium than you did before and you’re inspired to plan a trip to this chocolate and culture-filled country! Let us know what famous facts interested you most in the comments below.
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