Belgium is mostly known for its delicious chocolates, its fries and a wide array of beers. However, Belgium is more than just a few Trappist beers and some crispy fries. Here are 20 fascinating facts that you probably did not know about ‘La Belgique.’
Belgium can be divided into two geographical regions: French-speaking Wallonia in the south and a dialect of Dutch known as Flemish in the Flanders region in the North. Brussels sits right in between these two regions and therefore is bilingual: people there speak both French and Dutch. Interestingly, Belgium is a trilingual country, because there is a small part in the south of Wallonia that is dedicated to German speakers.
The Zaventem airport sells the most chocolate in the world — about 1.6 kg of chocolate is sold per minute!
Most people know that the Belgian flag and the German flag have the same three colours; black, yellow and red. However, Belgium’s flag has three vertical stripes, while Germany’s flag only manages to do things horizontally. Vertical stripes are slimming and sophisticated, obviously.
Belgium holds the modern world record for the longest period of time without an official government. After 541 days, Belgium swore in a new government headed by Elio Di Rupo. Of course, Belgians made a whole celebration out of this, offering free beer and fries.
The Belgian professor Edward J. de Smedt invented modern road asphalt in 1870 at Columbia University in New York City and named it ‘sheet asphalt pavement.’ Belgians are also great scientists, as astronomer and professor of physics Georges Lemaître proposed what became known as the ‘Big Bang theory’ of the origin of the universe.
Tomorrowland is the biggest and most sought-after electronic festival in the world. It takes place in the town of Boom, near Antwerp. However, Tomorrowland is only one of the many festivals held in Belgium; some other popular festivals include Rock Werchter, Pukkelpop, and Couleur Café.
Robert Cailliau, Belgian engineer and scientist, is well-known today for the proposal, later developed with Tim Berners-Lee, of a hypertext system which eventually led to what we now call the ‘World Wide Web.’
Antwerp, Belgium’s second largest city, is the diamond capital of the world. More than half of the diamonds sold around the world pass through this sparkling city. Antwerp is the most populous city in Flanders, and its port is the second biggest in Europe.
The Law Courts of Brussels is the largest court of justice in the world, even bigger than Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome!
Spa, a small town in Wallonia, is world-famous for its modern health resort, opened in the 18th century. If you want to relax and let all your stress out, Spa is the place to be.
When you go out for a beer or a drink, you don’t have to worry about all the bars closing down at a particular time. Belgium doesn’t have a legally mandated bar closing time, so you can enjoy drinks well into the morning hours!
Following the infamous ‘Brussels lockdown,’ the city of Brussels launched #CallBrussels, a campaign which seeks to restore the city’s image by setting up yellow telephone boxes in three emblematic spots in Brussels. Passers-by were able to answer questions from tourists who can call via a website, and their conversations were broadcasted live on the Visit Brussels website.
It is called ‘The Belgian Coast Tram’ and stretches 68 km between Knokke-Heist and De Panne, from the Dutch border to the French border. This tram makes 69 stops and usually runs every ten minutes during peak hours.
Belgians are very open-minded and tend to be liberal thinkers. They legalized euthanasia in 2002 and gay marriage in 2003, well before other European countries did so.
Belgium was also the scene of Napoleon’s final defeat in 1815, which took place in Waterloo, just south of Brussels. In 2015, the bicentenary of the battle of Waterloo was celebrated.
The saxophone was invented in Belgium in 1840 by a Belgian instrument maker, Adolphe Sax.
Belgium has the world’s greatest number of castles per square meter. Some regions even have two castles per village! Gravensteen Castle, situated in Ghent, is one of the most beautiful and historic castles in Belgium. From the rooftop, there’s a breathtaking view of the city of Ghent.
The highway system in Belgium has so many lights that it is the only country with a man-made structure visible from the moon.
If you happen to be downtown in Brussels, the Galeries St Hubert is definitely worth a visit. It was one of the first shopping arcade ever built in Europe and still is a nice and lively place. You can find sublime chocolate shops, restaurants, and some really nice cafés.
Belgium has more comic book makers per square kilometer than any other country. The Tintin In America comic book cover was sold for more than $ 1.5 million, making it the most valuable comic book ever.