Fun facts about Belgium
Everybody knows Belgium for its beer, chocolate, and waffles, but this little country has so much more to offer.
I have rounded up 20 fun and interesting facts about Belgium; perfect for getting to know Belgium and its culture.
- The name ‘Belgium’ comes from “Gallia Belgica”, a Roman province in the Northern part of Western Europe. Before the Roman invasion, it was populated by the Belgae, a mix of Celtic and German people. You can learn more about the early history of Belgium in Tongeren at the Gallo-Roman Museum
- The highest point in Belgium isn’t that high. With its 694m, Signal de Botrange is shorter than the tallest building in the World, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai (828m). They don’t call Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg the Low Countries for nothing.
- Belgium has the oldest shopping arcade in Europe. The Galeries St Hubert in Brussels opened in 1847.
- And Belgium was also the first country with a skyscraper in Europe. The Boerentoren or KBC Tower (96m) in Antwerp was built in 1928 and still is the tallest building in Antwerp today.
- Speaking of Antwerp: it is the world’s diamond capital. Since 1447, diamonds have been traded here, where today more than 80% of the world’s rough diamonds are being handled.
- In 1835, the first railroad on the European mainland opened. It ran between Brussels and Mechelen.
- Belgium is also the home of the longest tram line in the world: the Belgian Coast Tram. It runs along the whole Belgian coast between the French and Dutch borders. Along with this 68km, it stops 68 times.
- We also love to build roads: the highway can even be seen from the moon. The country is in the top 10 of countries with the highest density of roads and railroads.
- Belgium holds the world record for the longest period without a government. It took 541 days, or more than a year, to swear in the new government.
- The most used product used by travelers is invented by a Belgian scientist. Loperamide (brand name Imodium) was developed by Paul Janssen.
- On the UNESCO World Heritage List, there are 11 sites in Belgium listed. Among them are the Flemish Béguinages of Mechelen and the Grand Place in Brussels.
- There are also several carnivals celebrated in Belgium, some of them even listed as Intangible cultural heritage. These carnivals include the ones in Binche and Aalst.
- Belgium is the birthplace of famous comic book series such as The Smurfs and The Adventures of TinTin. There are more comic strip artists per km² than anywhere in the world. In Brussels, you can walk the comic strip trail.
- Belgians love food, but they don’t like McDonald’s. Belgium has one of the lowest proportion of restaurants per person in the developed world. With only 0.062 per 10,000 people, there are 7x less than in the USA.
- But we do love our fries. We (claim to) invented fries and we love to eat them. Every town and village have at least one frituur (fries’ seller). Skip the mayo if you buy fries in Belgium: try Andalouse or Samourai. And don’t forget to also try a frikandel or boulet special (with mayo, ketchup, and raw onions). Or try a bicky burger.
- There are 3 types of Belgian waffles: Brussel waffles are big, light and rectangular that are traditionally eaten with powder sugar and whipped cream. If you have them in a restaurant, the most delicious way to have them is with vanilla ice cream and hot chocolate sauce. Liege waffles are denser and have pearl sugar in them. Gallets are thinner and softer.
- We have 2 national Waffle Days: March 25th and August 24th.
- One of the most famous Belgian products, chocolate, has been produced here for almost 400 years. Today, over 220,000 tonnes of chocolate is produced each year. The largest selling point is Brussels airport. My favorite? Normal Côte d’Or or Leonidas.
- There are over 1500 different Belgian beers. This means that you can drink a Belgian beer every day for 4 years and never have the same beer twice. Most of these beers even have their own special glass: so no excuses for not drinking a beer out of its proper glass.
- And it comes to no surprise that world’s largest “bar” is also in Belgium. The Oude Markt in Leuven has 40 pubs on 1 square
Did you learn some new facts about Belgium?