The beautiful is less what ones sees than what one dreamsBelgium Proverb
Top Five Destinations In Belgium
- Bruges Is a magnificent medieval town that carries a charm and warm atmosphere that will sweep you away. Of course, the picturesque canals are what will have you fascinated and wandering for hours, snapping what feels like a million photos. The Old Town is a must. Bruges is the center of Flemish art. There are many wonderful museums and beautiful old architecture.
- Ghent We went to visit a castle and were left in awe of the city. The medieval Gravensteen Castle built in the 1100s is impressively preserved and makes for a fascinating visit. Give the city some time; it dates back to the middle ages with dramatic architecture as it was once was one of the richest and most powerful cities in all of Europe.
- Antwerp Is a modern bustling city that offers rich history and wonders such as the Gothic Cathedral and St Paul’s church. It is also known for its diamond district, where 70% of the world’s diamonds are traded. There is quite the haute cuisine scene, nightlife, and top-notch shopping.
- Brussels Is the capital of Belgium. This vibrant, dynamic city boasts a wide diversity of cultures as it is the headquarters for the European Union, it is diplomat central. Known for its excellent restaurants, nightlife, shopping, it also has stunning architecture and historical sites to see.
- Dinant Sits on the brilliant Meuse River with its colorful picture-perfect buildings reflectings off the river. There is something magical and special here. It teems with natural beauty. The Cave of Han and the Grotto of Dinant are spectacular natural attractions. The landmark of the city is the dramatic Collegiate Church of Notre Dame.
Did you know?
- Population: 11.7 million
- Capital City: Brussels
- Currency: Euro (EUR)
- Government type: Federal Parliamentary Democracy under a Constitutional Monarchy
- Monarch: Phillipe
- Prime Minister: Alexander De Coro
- Ethnic groups: Belgian 75.2%, Italian 4.1%, Moroccan 3.7%, French 2.4%, Turkish 2%, Dutch 2%, other 10.6%
- Languages: Dutch (official) 60%, French (official) 40%, German (official) less than 1%
- Religions: Roman Catholic 50%, Protestant and other Christian 2.5%, Muslim 5%, atheist 9.2%, none 32.6%
- US State Department Risk Level: 3 due to Covid and Terrorism threat.
- Terrorist groups: Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps/Qods Force; Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham
- Its official name is the “Kingdom of Belgium.”
- The official symbol of Belgium is a coat of arms with an aggressive lion.
- Belgium’s motto is “Unity Makes Strength.”
- GDP is $575,808 Billion, which ranks 36th in the world.
- Signal de Botrange at 2,277 feet is the highest point in Belgium.
- Belgium produces over 220,000 tonners of chocolate a year.
- Belgium has 13 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
- The capital of Brussels is home to NATO and the European Union.
- Belgium is one of the most urbanized and heavily industrialized countries in all of Europe.
- Major industries include engineering and metal products, transportation equipment, scientific instrument, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, base metals, textiles, glass, and processed food and beverages.
- Inventions attributed to Belgium: birth control pill, BMI, JPEG conversion, Pralines, Cricket, Inline skates, asphalt, internal combustion engine, Imodium, World Wide Web, and plastic.
- Belgium is one of the six founding members of the European Union.
- Belgium is the 5th smallest country in Europe. It is about the size of Maryland.
- Life expectancy is 81.4 years old.
- The literacy rate is 99%.
- Belgium has the highest number of castles per square kilometer of any other country in the world. There are reportedly over 3,000 castles.
- Antwerp is the world’s diamond capital.
- Belgium has the lowest salary gap between men and women in the European Union.
- Brussels International Airport is the world’s largest chocolate purchasing point.
- Belgium has the densest rail network in the world, with over 2500 miles of track.
- Napoleon was defeated in Waterloo, which is a city south of Brussels.
- The word spa comes from the Belgian city Spa.
- French fries originated in Belgium.
- Belgium is the sixth-largest importer of coffee in the world.
- Belgian has compulsory voting.
- Education is mandated until the age of 18.
- Anheuser-Busch, the largest beer brewer globally, is located in Leuven.
- Belgium is a country famous for its beer. It is said that it has over 1000 varieties of beer.
- Belgian households have the highest percentage of cable TV in the world at 97%.
- The Big Bang Theory, no, not the show, is believed to have originated in Belgium.
- Belgium was the second country in the world to legalize same-sex marriages.
- The highest divorce rate in Western Europe is in Belgium.
- Belgium is the world’s leading exporter of billiard balls.
- They have the least number of fast-food restaurants compared to the rest of Europe.
- Business tourism is huge, and it also is home to more diplomats than any other country.
- Comics are huge in Belgium and a big part of the Belgian culture.
- The two most picturesque cities in Belgium are Bruges and Ghent.
- Chocolate bars and pralines are Belgian specialties.
- The national dish is Moules Frites, mussels and fries.
- Belgium is an animal-loving country. The majority of households have pets.
Good to know before you go
- Tipping is not standard practice in Belgium as a service fee is typically in the final bill. This applies to restaurants, taxis, spas, and hotels. If you do want to do so for exceptional service, you can leave a few euros. It is not an obligation.
- Belgium has excellent roads, and it is an easy country to drive in. We did not find drivers aggressive. Of course, there will be traffic near all the big cities. Though an International driver’s license is not required, it never hurts to have one!
- There are traffic cameras everywhere. Pay attention to speed limits and sudden drops in speeds.
- Public transportation is excellent in Belgium. It can be pricey, though. The metro and train stations alone are worth visiting, so make sure to look around during your travels through these stations.
- Overall, clothing is stylish and fashionable. It has strong influences from France and Germany. Since it has a vast diplomat and foreign population, it is worldly as well. In the end, unless heading to a higher-end restaurant, smart casual clothes will get you by easily.
- Since there are three official languages, it can be challenging to be prepared and know when to use each. Know the basics as the Belgians appreciate efforts to speak their language, but most speak excellent English. Greet them in their local dialect if nothing than out of respect and kindness. You will find they will be happy to speak English after your efforts.
- Belgium is a highly developed, urban country with internet everywhere.
- The Belgians are an egalitarian society; women don’t often change their names when they marry.
- Belgians value appearance. Cleanliness is something they take pride in. Homes are very well kept, and many residents and businesses will wash and sweep the sidewalk in front of the building regularly.
- Family is a core value in Belgians life; it is their first priority. Many remain in the same town they grew up in.
- Greetings are of a more formal nature. A quick handshake is common if you don’t know the person, but once more familiar cheek to cheek kisses are common except among men.
- If you are lucky enough to be invited to someone’s home, always come bearing a gift; flowers and chocolates are a perfect choice. Avoid white chrysanthemums as they are usually meant for funerals.
- Belgians are careful and prudent; it takes time for trust to build.
- Belgians pride themselves on punctuality. Please arrive on time; it demonstrates respect.
- Beer is core to the Belgian culture and history. The beer menu in bars and pubs is some of the most impressive you will ever see.
- For the most part, much of the country shuts down on Sundays. If you need anything, get it early on Sunday.
- Belgium is an expensive country to visit and live in.
- Being is a small country, you can cross it in a matter of hours. It is quite diverse. If you can give it at a few days of your time, it will reward you well.
- Gastronomy is core to Belgium culture, and they quite proud of that.
- When in Belgium, you can’t say you have been if you haven’t partaken in waffles, beer, fries, mussels, and of course, chocolate.
- Table etiquette is continental, with the fork is held in the left hand and the knife in the right while eating and hands kept visible at all times.
- Christmas markets are spectacular in Belgium, with at least 16 excellent ones to chose from.
- There are lots of smokers in this country. Nevertheless, we rarely found it an issue as most restaurants, and most tourist sites do not allow smoking.
- It is a very safe and peaceful country. We will always advise, though, to watch for pickpockets and not leave valuables in your vehicle.
When to Travel to Belgium
Belgium is a trendy destination for bordering EU countries as well as international tourists. It also has the most diplomats than any other country in the world. Peak tourist season, June-August, can be crowded.
Summers are stay mild, which draws many people there during those months. It does rain in the summer months, so plan rain gear accordingly. The Winter months are the low season, but the Christmas markets and festivals draw many visitors. The best time to visit is the shoulder season from April to June and September/October. You will find fewer crowds, lovely weather, and easy access to most sights. Belgium is known for its spectacular fall colors and its vibrant spring colors. Though their neighbor, the Netherlands is most know for the tulips, Belgium has some spectacular tulip regions.
Belgium has moderate temperatures year-round, which makes it an ideal destination during any season. Spring and Fall can still be cool, but a simple jacket takes care of that. Belgium is an expensive country to visit, especially in peak travel months. Traveling during the non-peak months when the weather is still mild, you will find much better pricing overall.
- Summer 54-74 °F (12-23 °C)
- Spring 42-70 °F (17-23 °C)
- Fall 41-67 °F (5-19 °C)
- Winter 35-45 °F (1-7 °C)
Our Favorite Belgium Resources
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Belgium Travel Books/Guides
Our trip to Belgium was during a two-week trip to seven different countries. What we could bring with us was limited, and it had to be stingy for the space required.
Full disclosure, we are huge Rick Steve’s fans, it will be rare we do not recommend one of his wonderful guides, and for Belgium, his guidance was spot-on. We love his travel style and perspective. His off-the-beaten-path approach, together with his independent travel philosophy, matches well with how we travel. The guides never disappoint. This book made the cut and was a fantastic resource. Find this valuable guide here
DK guides are a reliable guide for trip planning though they can be heavy to travel with. The photography is lovely and captures the vibrancy of Belgium. It provides cutaway 3-D drawings of top sights and lots of fabulous suggested itineraries. If you are into museums, you will find all the details to plan your visits. Due to the book’s weight, we ended up taking sections of it with us vs. the entire book. Find this guide here
Our Favorite Websites
2. US Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs Belgium Country Info
We cannot encourage you enough to visit this website as you plan and prepare for your trip. This is the US Federal Government addressing the safety, security, travel risk, entry, exit, visa documents mandates, emergency US and Embassy contacts, health, local laws, special circumstances, threats, traveler vulnerabilities, government warnings, and transportation in Belgium. This is your best and most reliable resource for all this important info. Check back often before you go, as things can change quickly. Being prepared is essential in all travel, but especially internationally.
3. The Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Travelers Health Resource
This CDC travel resource provides essential health info for your specific destination. Using their tool, you can determine which vaccines, medications, and health advice recommendations are needed for Belgium.
Our favorite maps
Easy to read the map with practical road and travel information. Castles were marked on the map as well as all major destinations. Though we default to Google maps, this came in handy when service was poor or during construction detours. Find this essential map here
Our favorite apps
Rome2rio: Trip Planner Trip and Holiday Organizer Enter any address, landmark, or city in the app will instantly display all your travel options, booking info, along with accommodation providers and things to do. Find on your local app store.
Rick Steves Audio Europe This app includes a vast library of Rick Steve’s audio content. Get cultural and travel info. Includes self-guided tours of top attractions and historic walks. A must-have. Find on your local app store.
iTranslate One of the most popular Translation apps, iTranslate can translate words, phrases, and text into French. You can listen to translations both in male and female voices. Find in your app store.
Google Translate We used this often to practice proper pronunciations for the three official languages of Belgium. As we always encourage, it is essential to learn the basics to greet and thank people in the local language. Google translate was an easy app to use. If needed, you can enter text in English, and it will speak back in the language desired to aid in communicating with locals. Furthermore, it came in very handy to translate text into images instantly.
Do you have a favorite Belgium travel resource? Share your favorites in the comments section at the bottom of this page or