Belgium - The Romantic Kingdom in Western Europe
Shiny diamonds, aromatic chocolate and a rich cultural landscape between rivers, canals and the North Sea - Belgium is one of Europe's most beautiful kingdoms and a welcome insider tip for many holidaymakers.
Geography - Western Europe at the North Sea
Belgium lies at the North Sea and borders on the Netherlands, Germany, Luxembourg and France. It can be divided into three greater regions and ten provinces. The five provinces of Antwerp, Limburg, East Flanders, Flemish Brabant and West Flanders belong to the Flemish Region, while the Walloon Region comprises the provinces of Hainaut, Liège, Luxembourg, Namur and Walloon Brabant. The capital Brussels is a separate as well as the third region. The climate is typically western European, maritime and rainy at the coast and temperate to cold in the heartland. Besides Brussels, the most beautiful and best-known cities are Hasselt, Ghent, Antwerp and, of course, Bruges.
Nature - The beauty of the Ardennes
Like the Netherlands, Belgium is characterised by plains and lies about 100 metres above sea level on average. In the Ardennes alone travellers find a very appealing mountainous landscape between heights of 200 and 500 metres. The highest peak is also located in the Ardennes, the Signal de Botrange with 694 metres of height. About 21 percent of the country are forested. Beeches, stone pines, oaks and elms are the most common types of trees. Between them you see over 700 species of wild flowers. The Belgian forests are home to smaller forest animals such as badgers, martens and foxes. The marshy and polder landscape of Flanders is about 20 kilometres wide. The coastal plain is mostly vegetated by heather and swamp plants. About 73 kilometres of the North Sea coast belong to Belgium. Its beaches are regularly given top grades by the EU. The whole of Belgium is crossed by an extensive river and canal system. Therefore, it is not surprising that about 25 percent of the country are used for agriculture.
Natural sights - Exploring Belgium on the water
Lovers of beautiful natural landscapes should definitely visit the Ardennes on a trip to Belgium. Magical river valleys, wonderful vast forests and homely villages in the middle of juicy green hills - that is the country's natural side. The North Sea coast with its appealing dunes is also worth a visit. Lake resorts string together here and invite travellers to spend a relaxing weekend at the Belgian waters. With a bit of luck, you can watch migrating birds like great cormorants and grey herons. The beach sections impress with their cleanliness and clear water. An excellent destination for a day trip are the limestone caves in Han-sur-Lesse and Dinant, but those who truly want to experience Belgium's natural beauty should do this on the water. Visitors reach almost every province by ship, steamer or boat along the many rivers and canals. The rivers Meuse and Scheldt offer magically beautiful landscapes and provide a very authentic impression of the country.
Culture - City magic
The name "Belgium" is said to date back to the time of Caesar, who called this province of the Roman Empire "Belgica". In the High Middle Ages, the region was most of all known for its high quality fabrics. Scarves from Flanders were famous and popular in many countries. About 59 percent of the population are still Flemish, the Flemish language is particularly common in the north. In Walloon, on the other hand, the people mainly speak French and in Eastern Belgium, German is the most common language. The country is united by the current head of the monarchy. In addition, Belgium accommodates many cultural assets which are part of the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage. They complement the rich cultural landscape of museums, theatres, operas and concert halls. A few examples are the Grand Place in Brussels - probably the most beautiful square in the whole of Europe - the Walloon mining sites, the Bruges' old town, the cathedral of Notre Dame in Tournai and the Flemish Béguinages. The Belgians have a reputation of being honest, hard-working, tolerant and polite. When you meet the inhabitants of the beautiful country, you will notice a touch of charming self-irony.
Cultural sights - Belgium's wealth
The many canals and small rivers have earned the scenic city of Bruges the name "Venice of the north". In addition, Bruges is the best-preserved European medieval city. The two urban cores, the Markt ("market square"), the castle, the Groeningemuseum with the Old Flemish masters and the Church of Our Lady - Bruges is without doubt one of the country's most beautiful cultural attractions. The diamond city Antwerp with the historical city centre, the world's largest harbour, the Rubenshuis ("Rubens House") and the legendary Diamond Museum are a must on everyone's trip to Belgium. A historically significant sight is the site of the Battle of Waterloo from 1815. It can be discovered by riding along a marked route on a histobike. The EU Parliament, the historical market place Grand Place, the Atomium and the bizarre Manneken Pis are located in Belgium's capital Brussels. Lovers of culture do not have to look long to find a number or treasures here.
Experience - Chocolate, diamonds and Spa
Belgium is a paradise for connoisseurs and gourmets. Lobster, mussels and national specialities are prepared and served on the world-famous Rue de Bouchers in Brussels. Delicacies are the Ardenne ham, the Chimay cheese and the Mitraillette ("Belgian submachine gun"), a baguette coated with chips. Travellers who prefer sweet food will probably never want to leave Belgium again. Belgian waffles and Belgian chocolate are known for their extraordinary quality worldwide and taste heavenly. If you come to Belgium to go shopping, you should visit the reasonably priced outlet centres. They are especially suited for buying clothes. The arcades in Brussels are also great fun and offer the most beautiful Belgian specialities such as chocolates, Bruges lace, Liège waffles and diamonds from Antwerp all in one place. Travellers find relaxation in the thermal springs of the town Spa - the "Pearl of the Ardennes". Visitors gain energy for Belgium's exciting nightlife here. You find hotspots, techno clubs as well as underground events in stations and factories, especially in the bigger cities. The street lights on the Grand Place in Brussels never go out and cloak the night in a magical light.
Activities - Bathing cycling and Nemo 33
Travellers who want to spend holidays at the seaside in Belgium best visit the beaches in De Haan, De Panne, Knokke and Ostend (Dutch: Oostende). Many visitors, especially families, enjoy the fine sandy beaches and the dunes. You can rent canoes, pedaloes and rowing boats at many lakes. These activities are particularly enjoyable in summer. Holidaymakers who want to go diving in winter should visit the Nemo 33 Dive Centre. In the deepest pool on earth (35 m), diving becomes an extraordinary experience. As its neighbour the Netherlands, Belgium is a nation of cyclists. In addition, there are many hiking trails with interesting locations and destinations all over the country. The leisure centre of the Belgians are the Ardennes, which offer excellent conditions for hikes, cycling and boat tours.
The best time for travelling Belgium is between May and September. It is pleasantly warm and does not rain very often at that time. The water of the North Sea is warm enough for going swimming and bathing. However, an umbrella or a raincoat are part of the Belgians' basic equipment at all times of the year.
Families pitch their tents in front of the dunes at the sea and children play at the beach - Belgium is the ideal destination for summer holidays at the seaside. Lovers of culture should not miss out on the historical cities and towns and the nightlife is full of surprises as well.