Opposite to its moniker as the then cockpit of Europe, Belgium peacefully utilizes its 30,689 square kilometer territory in the western part of Europe. It is situated between Netherlands, France, and Germany, relatively small but home to 11 million people habitants from its three regions: Flanders, Wallonia, and Belgium’s capital, Brussels.
It is essential to know that the regions are classified not mainly considering the ethnicity of the inhabitants but also the languages therein. The Flanders region speaks Dutch, Wallonia speaks French, while bilinguals inhabit the area of Brussels.
Many conquerors dominated Belgium until its independence in the 1830s were the Netherlands finally ceded Belgium its most anticipated freedom. Now, Belgium is standing tall as a multi-cultural country and boasting the richness of its food, arts, tradition, and history.
Belgium as an Artist’s Paradise
Belgium’s arts are synonymous with everything finesse. The list goes on and on as 3000 castles can be found in Belgium, from farm-castles, citadels to fairytale-like palaces. It is reported that Belgium has a wide array of courts for security purposes back in the days of conquest. Indeed, a dream destination for art connoisseurs.
Here are among the must-visit castles when you’re in Belgium:
Alden Biesen Castle – built with a Renaissance touch, it is open for tourists to visit. It was built in the 16th century as a headquarters for military members. It was burned down in 1971 but was patiently restored by the government and eventually became a cultural center.
Bornem Castle – built in the 10th century, it is now transformed as a country house. There are renovations done to improve the sophisticated structure since the 16th century.
Bouchout Castle – also built in a Renaissance style, this castle was built in the 12th century with beautiful gardens and lush scenery. King Leopold’s sister, Charlotte, inhabited this castle for five decades.
Tastebud Gratifying Cuisines
Many will agree that Belgium is more than beers, Belgian chocolates, and Belgian waffles. Although strolling through its cities holding a beer, a bar of chocolate or waffle will make a one-of-a-kind Belgian experience.
Belgium is famous for its 150-year-old tradition of crafting the tastiest and softest Belgian chocolates. It is reported that there are 1.6 kilograms of Belgian chocolate sold every minute in Zaventem airport alone. Chocolate is an emblem of luxury and class back in the days, and since it is now exclusive to people from all walks of life, there’s no doubt that the legacy will continue to flourish.
Beer, on the other hand, is also incorporated with Belgium. No wonder why they have 1500 beer brands with various alcohol levels, tastes, and colors. Breweries started in the 12th century, even before Belgium became an independent country. Among the famous brands are the Trappist and Abbey beers.
Back then, beers are produced only by monks, or if a church administers, it and the sales are for the funding of the monastery and religious programs. Now, hundreds of breweries in the country are gratifying everyone’s quest to quench their beer thirst.
Mussels served with fries and mayo is Belgium’s national dish. Yes, fries did not originate in France but Belgium. Belgium’s multi-culture shows in the richness and complexity of its dishes.
Among other cuisines are:
Stoemp – a creamier version of mashed potato mixed with veggies and often a side dish for sausages
Shrimp Croquettes – cooked crispy on the outside with soft meat on the inside makes for a flavorful Belgian snack.
Speculaas – need a break from waffles? These thin cookies may be your cup of tea. It is best eaten over a hot cup of coffee.
Waterzooi – you can’t go wrong with a creamy soup, and a Belgian touch makes it more flavorful by combining a creamy soup w/ veggies, cream, and egg.
Getting Around Belgium
Getting around Belgium to visit your prospective restaurant or photograph its beautiful spots is made more accessible by their transport system.
Belgium has developed roads, and its national railway company offers excellent transportation perks to travelers. One is the Belgian Rail Pass for 77 euros, where you can accumulate ten train rides to any location in the country. Children under 12 years old are also free to use rail transport.
Other convenient ways of traveling in Belgium are those modes of transportation covering routes that are not reachable by trains: buses, rental bikes, rental scooters, and rental cars.
Lastly, if your goal is to cherish the Belgian experience, you can walk around and seize the opportunity of meeting locals who can show you around and have you lived through the Belgian life.
Belgium has a long list of unending wonders that are foreign to outsiders. Here are a few facts to know about whether you plan or don’t plan to set foot in Belgium in the future:
- Belgium holds 6th place of the World’s Richest Countries in 2016. The cost of living is high but more affordable than its neighboring European countries.
- Climate is mild throughout the year, and it has four distinct seasons. The ideal time to set off in Belgium is from April to June and September to October.
- Belgium’s scores are high in terms of the global peace index.
- Manekken pis is Belgium’s national symbol. It is a peeing child statue that can be found in Rue de l’Étuve and Rue du Chêne.
- Almost everything does not operate on Sundays and in the afternoon.
- Brussel sprouts originated from Belgium and are flourishing in the country for over 400 years.
- Belgium has restaurants offering foreign cuisines if Belgian food is not your cup of tea. It has, however, fewer McDonald’s outlets compared to other countries.
- Euthanasia and same-sex marriage are now legal in Belgium. Euthanasia was passed in 2002, followed by gay marriage in 2003.
- Belgium is welcoming to outsiders. 15% of its population are immigrants.
- There are numerous comic strip artists in Belgium than anywhere on the globe. It is the powerhouse of the comics series, The Smurfs and The Adventures of Tintin.