Belgium, officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a small and densely populated country located in Western Europe. Brussels is its capital and largest city. Dutch, French, and German are all accepted as Belgium’s official languages. It shares the border with France, Germany, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands.It is one of the six founding countries of the European Union, and is also the headquarters of Europe Union and Nato.
What comes to your mind when you hear Belgium? Chocolates, beer, waffles! There is so much more to this beautiful nation. Let’s check it out!
18 Interesting facts about Belgium
1. Belgium holds the world record for the longest period without a government. It took 541 days to form an official government after the federal elections of June 13, 2010. Few regions in the country were not agreeing on policy issues, hence the delay. Funny thing is that people were pretty chilled out during this period. Actually they were happier as no government resulted in ‘no increment in taxes.’
2. This one’s for the people with a sweet tooth. Belgium chocolates are famous all over. Do you know that Belgium produces more than 220,000 tons of chocolate per annum? There are around 2000 chocolate shops in the country. But it’s the Zaventem airport selling the most chocolates in the world. That’s correct. On average, the airport sells 1.6 kg of chocolate per minute!
3. What did you people usually bring in your school tiffinbox? Paratha, sandwiches, noodles? The students in Belgium were served beer once upon a time. Belgians love their beer and until 1970s, it was normal to serve a light ‘table beer’ to the children as well. It was later replaced by soft drinks. Few organizations still think that a beer with low-alcohol content is a healthier option than fizzy drinks which causes diabetes. You would have loved to go to that school right?
4. New York City was founded by a Belgian. Pierre Minuit went to America for trading, and he bought the island of Manhattan in 1626 from its original inhabitants. He purchased the island for the price of 60 guilders – roughly $1,500 in today’s standards. That’s some nice trading Pierre!
5. We all know about Neil Armstrong – the first man to walk on moon. But do you know about “The Fallen Astronaut”, a small statue which is the only art on the moon. It was created by a Belgian artist named Paul Van Hoeydonck. The statute depicts an astronaut in a spacesuit and was installed on August 1st 1971. The statute is meant to serve as a commemoration of astronauts and cosmonauts who have died in the advancement of space exploration.
6. Cricket was invented in Belgium. Oh yes, this gentleman’s game was imported by the immigrants from North Belgium in the 16th Century. There is a poem by English poet John Skeleton describing the game played by the Flemish weavers who settled in southern and eastern England. The poem mentions words like “kings of crekettes” and “wickettes”. Interestingly, Belgium does not have a cricket team. Well, I think they should ask for “Teen Guna Lagaan” from England for stealing their game!
7. A Belgian king was dethroned for 36 hours. In 1990, the government wanted to pass an abortion law giving the right of choice to the women in the country. The king was against it and didn’t want to sign the bill, so he was dethroned and then reinstated after the law was passed.
8. Big Bang theory (the actually theory, not the TV series) was originated in Belgium. Georges Lemaitre, a Belgian priest and physicist applied Albert Einstein‘s groundbreaking theory of general relativity to cosmology and came up with what is now called the Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe in 1927.
9. Everyone loves a relaxing day in a spa. But do you know about the Belgian city Spa from where the word was originated. The city was famous for the springs which were used for healing purposes since Roman times.
10. Tintin and the Smurfs, the famous comic characters are from Belgium. Not only that, Belgium has more comic bookmakers per square kilometer than any other country in the world. Tourists flock to the Brussels’ comic strip trail every year.
11. From comic books to fairytales, you get everything in Belgium. There are more castles per kilometer here than any other country in the world. Some of the most famous castles in Belgium are Gravensteen, Castle of Freÿr, Alden Biesen Castle, Groot-Bijgaarden Castle, and Gaasbeek Castle.
12. Belgium had the first openly gay Prime Minister in Europe. His name is Elio Di Rupo. Belgium was also the second country in the world to decriminalise homosexuality. Same-sex marriage was introduced in 2003.
13. Who hates French fries? Apparently everyone in Belgium does. That’s because they invented it and France took the credit. First cricket, then fries, I feel for you guys! When in Belgium, don’t ask for French fries. Instead go for the Belgian fries (the real name).
14. A fountain statue of a pissing little boy, also known as Manneken Pis (meaning “Little man Pee” in Dutch) is situated in Brussels and is one of the major tourist attractions. There are many stories about the statue. One of them tells that the boy was a spy and saved the city by urinating on the explosives. Well if that’s the case we will applaud and definitely click a selfie with him.
15. The city of Ghent in Belgium has an interesting way to celebrate the birth of a child. When a baby is born, the streetlights on the city square flicker on and off to mark the occasion.
16. Antwerp in Belgium is the world’s diamond capital. The city handles more than 80 percent of the world’s rough diamonds and 50 percent of all cut diamonds. Their estimated turnover is around 3 times more than US (which comes second on the list). Chocolates and diamonds, Belgium you are a girl’s best friend.
17. As mentioned before, Belgians love their beer. So much that they have more than 1100 varieties of beer. You could drink a different Belgian beer every day for more than 3 years. And each beer has a unique accompanying glass. Next vacation Belgium?
18. Tomorrowland, the largest electronic dance music festival in the world is held in Belgium ever year. This country also has the maximum number of street and music festivals in Europe. Belgian fries, Belgian beer and a music festival. Man, these guys sure know how to party!
Trip leader Sakshi’s Recommendations if you are visiting Belgium:
Bruges: In all of Western Europe you might not see a more fairytale-like town than Bruges. The moment you reach Bruges, you feel you have stepped back in time and are in a different era. One of Europe’s best preserved towns, Bruges is full of picturesque cobbled lanes, dreamy canals and photogenic market squares. You can take a canal excursion boat tour and it will take you through some of the prettiest spots. You can also visit the Minnewater park – a very tranquil and serene location. At the centre of this lies the ‘Lake of Love’ and ‘The Lover’s bridge’. It is believed that if you walk over the bridge and kiss your loved one, your love will be eternal.
Grand Palace in Brussels: Grand-Place, the central square of Brussels is a UNESCO Heritage site. It is one of the most beautiful squares in all of Europe and is surrounded by guild houses, the city hall and vintage buildings. It’s an extremely colourful affair to be there. You will see families with kids running around, lovers hand in hand or exchanging kisses, buskers showing off their skills, photographers clicking their models, friends laughing and chatting away. There are few places which are enriched with so much history and yet have such a social scene at the same time. It looks even more beautiful at night when it’s illuminated with fancy lights. You must also click photographs next to the city’s mascot – Mannekin’s Pis.
Ghent: Ghent could be one of Belgium’s best kept secrets. Despite being one of the oldest cities, Ghent remains small enough to feel cozy but also big enough to be a vibrant, modern town. The Gravensteen castle, also known as the ‘castle of the counts’ has a moat, rampath, stables and a unique collection of torture equipments. The audio guide tour here has one of the funniest narrations and will make you laugh multiple times. The voice over is by Ghent comedian Wouter Deprez and he will take you on a journey through the castle’s history, packed with funny anecdotes and exciting battles between knights.