Belgium Belgie Belgique
The quick travel guide to Belgium and Brussels
Belgium is situated on the north west coast of continental Europe with The Netherlands to the north, Germany and Luxembourg to the east and France to the south. Belgium has a short coastline on the North Sea with one major port, Ostend, from which ferries connect to the United Kingdom. Behind the coast the land is mostly low lying polders which is land that has been drained and is protected from the sea by dykes. The ground gradually rises towards the Ardennes area in the south east of the country which is an area of thick woodland with steep gorges and rocky outcrops. The highest point in the country, at 694 m is in this region. Around fifty percent of the land in Belgium is farmland and numerous waterways both drain and irrigate this area. The climate is cool temperate which provides mild winters and warm summers; rainfall is fairly heavy as a result of westerly winds from the Atlantic.
Belgium is small in area, covering 30,500 square kilometres, and is densely populated with a population of 10.7 million people. The capital is Brussels with a population of just under 1 million. The country is divided into two main cultural groups, these are the Dutch speaking Flemings and the French speaking Walloons. There is also a small enclave of German speakers near the German border. The history of the region is complex and the influence of neighbouring countries has lead to political and social conflict in the past. The present political systems still reflects these influences and Belgium has had a succession of short lived coalition governments recently. There are three official languages; Dutch, French and German.
As a country at the centre of the European stage Belgium has been greatly affected by the rise and fall of major empires and dynasties. In the Middle Ages Belgium consisted of a number of independent duchies. These were united in the 15th century by the Duke of Burgundy. During the period 1482 to 1794 much of the area of present day Belgium was ruled by the Netherlands, Spain and Austria. In 1797 as a consequence of the French revolution it came under French rule. In 1815 Belgium fell under Dutch rule but this arrangement finished in bloodshed during the Belgium revolution of 1830. The country was at peace and developed industrially under the rules of King Leopold I and II. Germany invaded in 1914 at the start of World War 1 and again in 1940, in both wars major battles took place on Belgium territory. In 1958 Belgium joined a customs union with The Netherlands and Luxembourg and was a founding member of the European Union in 1957. Brussels is the headquarters of the European Union and also for NATO.
Location Map of Belgium
Interactive Map of Belgium