Travel Guide: Belgium
Belgium Travel Guide: General Travel Guide Information about Belgium.
As a special service to our valued clients and readers, we at World Interpreting offer you something different aside from our language translation and interpretation services. We continue to strive for excellence in our services but we also want to provide you with country travel guides that can come in handy for you or your business. Our Belgium travel guide contains information and other interesting travel tidbits related to Belgium. This travel guide for Belgium has been written so that you, as a traveler and tourist, will have a better understanding about the country as well as the different places you can visit. Traveling to Belgium can be a wonderful experience, no doubt about it. However, not knowing what to do or spend for can leave you feeling pressured and worried constantly.
Travel Guide Belgium will take you to different fantastic places in Belgium as well as some of the famous landmarks and notable places, so you will already have a general idea about Belgium if and when you decide to actually travel and explore this fascinating country. And other than the places of interest, Travel Guide Belgium will also give you valuable information such as the geography, demographics and the languages spoken in different parts of this country. Don’t forget to check out the travel safety tips in Belgium as well as the other sections in our Travel Guide Belgium! We do hope you will come back often to travel with us to other destinations around the world.
:: Introducing Belgium ::
Good things come in small packages. Perhaps this is one of the best ways to describe the delightful and charming country of Belgium.
The small low-lying country of Belgium is nestled between some of the most powerful and influential countries in Europe, along with the North Sea. Belgium is one of the loveliest countries to travel to in Europe, given its beautiful and quaint scenery, rich history, amazing architecture and gastronomic delights to offer travelers. Travelers will be impressed with the castle-dotted landscape, as well as the fine art and architecture that the country has to offer. The country is diverse in its offerings to travelers, from the caves and forests of the Ardennes region, to souvenirs such as the delicate lacework found in Bruges, to the many delights in the cosmopolitan city of Brussels.
Travelers going to Belgium can expect many great things. Our Belgium pocket travel guide provides some fresh insight and a fascinating overview on what the country is all about and what it’s like to be there. You’ll learn great tips on the best places to go and what things to see. This way, travelers can plan on the activities they want to do, whether it’s a day of sight seeing in Brussels, or going on a food trip to catch the various flavors of Belgian cuisine. There are also many useful travel safety tips to help you stay safe during your stay in Belgium. Finally, you can also pick up a few useful Flemish words and phrases to help you navigate your way around this European country. Our Belgium travel guide is conveniently divided into easy to read sections to make it user friendly for the busy traveler. This allows you to find a specific section you need or easily look up some information that you may find useful as you travel around Belgium.
The first stop of many important travel itineraries in Belgium is the capital city of Brussels. This city is unoffficially thought of as the capital of Europe. No wonder it is the home of the headquarters of the NATO and the European Union Headquarters. This makes it home to the largest number of ambassadors in the world. This is also the most densely populated city in the country, with about 1.1 million residents, and is thought to be one of the most densely populated cities in Europe given the size. This is preceeded only by Netherlands. It is here that travelers can enjoy the sights offered in 70 museums, take a sample of both guild work and art nouveau architecture and enjoy fine Belgian cuisine.
Bruges is another top destination that should be included in many travel itineraries. It is considered as one of the most romantic cities in Europe and is the favorite travel destination of many tourists going to Belgium. Going here is like traveling back in time, where medieval architecture still stands today. Travelers looking to purchase some authentic Belgian lace will find a number of options here, especially in the many lace museums and tours. It is also the birthplace of the artist Jan van Eyck.
In Ghent, travelers can be held in awe at the castles that line the landscape. The Gentse Feesten, the “10 Days Off” celebration is a top tourist drawer featuring a number of performers, live music, carnival rides, endless beer and delicious food. This happens annually on the Saturday before the national day of Belgium on July and ends on a Monday. Over at Flanders, the Flemish speaking region of Belgium, the nightlife in Antwerp beckons to the partygoers.
Those looking to enjoy the pleasant outdoors will find refuge in Wallonie. The towns in Ardennes provide the perfect location for hiking, going on train rides and taking pictures of the scenery. Those going on a train ride to Luxembourg, Paris or heading back to Brussels will find the scenery here breathtaking and refreshing.
The Kingdom of Belgium or Belgique or Belgie is found in Western Europe. It is surrounded by the Netherlands, Germany, Luxembourg and France. Over on the northwest, the North Sea stretches out, providing the country a temperate climate all year round.
Belgium enjoys a very temperate climate. It is pretty consistent all throughout the land as it is mostly a flat land, except for the elevated Ardennes region, which tends to have cooler temperatures. On the average, the temperature in Belgium is a cool 50 degrees F, although in the summer season, the temperatures go up a mild 72 degrees F. Many travelers to Belgium visit the country between the spring and summer season, which fall between May to September. This is because of the mild climate, perfect for sight seeing, going around the museums, taking pictures of the Manneken- Pis or enjoying any of the cafes and gourmet restaurants.
In the summer, there is as much as seven hours of daylight, which contrasts greatly during the winter, when the country receives no more than an hour of sunshine a day. During the winter months of December to January, the temperature drops to a cold 32 degrees F, resulting in some snow.
Travelers to Belgium are advised to dress in layers. Sweaters are a good option to protect against the cool weather. Also, because it rains all throughout the year, a waterproof rain jacket or rain coat is a must have. Pack a small umbrella in your luggage as well to protect against a sudden downpour. If you plan to go to the higher areas, pack for colder climates.
The country has a land area that measures only 30,528 square kilometers or 11,787 square miles. That’s about the size of the State of Maryland. Today, Belgium is home to almost eleven million residents of various European descent, and ranks 76th in the world in terms of population. Most of the people reside in the capital of Brussels, making the city very densely populated and ranking 33rd in the world in terms of population density. There are about 354 people per square kilometer in the city. That’s a lot of people to bump into.
This population is very diverse. Belgians come from two distinct ethnic regions: the Dutch speaking people located up north in Flanders, and the French speaking people down on south in the Wallonia. There are three official languages in Belgium, although Dutch is spoken by the majority of the population, followed by French and German. Travelers going to Brussels can go with either Dutch or French. In the Flanders region, expect to hear Flemish, which is a variation of Dutch. English is also widely spoken here. If you go down to Wallonie, then French is the means of communication. If you go to the western region, then German is what you need to use.
It is one of the founding members of the European Union. The country has both a parliamentary form of government as well as a constitutional monarchy. The reigning monarch is King Albert II. Although it is a democracy, voting is compulsary for all citizens. This results in one of the highest turnouts in the polls during elections in the world.
The name Belgium is derived from Belgae. This is a Celtic tribe during the time of the Romans. Because of the strategic location of the country being in the middle of Western Europe, Belgium has always held an important place in the history of its neighboring countries. The country was once a province of Rome. Many other nations such as the French, Germans and the Hapsburg Empire of Austria have tried to claim the country as their own. Belgium, along with the Netherlands and Luxembourg are considered the Low Countries. These three were called by the Latin name Belgica as it was encompassed by the Roman Gallia Belgica province. The country staged a revolution in 1830 to gain sovereignity. It was only in 1839 when its independence was recognized by other nations. During both World War I and World War II, the Europeans staged many battles on their land, earning this country the monicker battleground of Europe.
Historically, Belgium has been quite prosperous. It has been an active center of business, with many merchants and guilds responsible for much of the commerce, art and prosperity of the country. It had a very strong textile industry between the 15th to the 17th century. By the 19th century, it was one of the leaders of the Industrial Revolution. Belgium is the first European country to join the industrial wave, with the steel industries of Liege and Charleroi paving the way. During the time of Leopold II, Belgium also actively colonized other nations, most notoriously, Congo. It is its colonization of Congo that brought about great strides in the Belgian chocolate industry, since the country was able to secure raw materials to make this sweet confection.
Belgians enjoy one of the highest per capita GDP in the world, at about 32,500 euro or about $43,200 per person. The population growth is very small at less than one percent. This has resulted in an ageing population. Modern-day Belgium is one of the largest trading nations in the world. It is largely based on the service sector. However, the unemployment rate is quite high at over 7 percent as of 2011 and the national debt is a looming issue. However, the country remains strong, highly industrialized and continues to be an attractive destination for many tourists.
Because of the high industrialization of the country, as well as the dense population in Brussels, Belgium does face some environmental challenges that are not prevalent with its European neighbors. It is said that the quality of the water in the rivers of Belgium are ranked the lowest in Europe. In the city of Brussels, there are no large recreational parks to speak of. However, tourists looking for more natural scenery can simply head to the Ardennes region in the southeast.
Belgium has contributed much to the culture of the world. The diversity of its contributions only illustrates the passion of the Belgians for the arts, beauty, humor and learning. Today, the country is known for chocolates, especially pralines and fine beers, of which there are over 800 varieties to choose from. It has given food lovers the Belgian waffle as well as the misnamed French fries. Intricate lace is another product that Belgium is famous for. It is also the birthplace of the saxophone.
Children may know of Belgium as the place that created the popular cartoon characters Smurfs, which was the brainchild of cartoonist Pierre “Peyo” Culliford. It is also where the comic strip Tintin was created in the 1920s. In the art world, Belgium gave the world old masters such as Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Jan Van Eyck Peter Paul Rubens, Antoon Van Dyck and Rene Magritte. For music lovers, there is Jacques Brel, composer Cesar Franck and singer Helmut Lotti. Agatha Christie fans will be familiar with the fictional Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. Literary lovers know of Marguerite Yourcenar.
Moviegoers will be familiar with Belgian-born actor “The Muscles from Brussels” Jean Claude Van Damme. Audrey Hepburn was also born in Brussels to an English father and a Dutch baroness for a mother. In the world of fashion, Liz Claiborne is also a native of Brussels. Sportsfans will know of tennis player Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin and racer Stefan Everts. In science, the body mass index or BMI was conceived by Flemish mathematician Lambert Quetelet.
The currency used in Belgium is the euro. If you plan to get some money changed, be sure to get to the bank early as banks are only open from 9am to 4pm. Most stores and retailers are only open from 10am to 6 or 7pm and are closed on Sundays. Those who want to go sight seeing need to do so on days other than Monday, when many tourist spots are closed. Museum visitors need not worry since these are open all year round except for Christmas, New Year and Armistice Day in November.
The people of Belgium are largely diverse. Many Belgians are Roman Catholic, although there are some Jewish, Protestant, Anglican, Greek and Russian Orthodox. They are also very well educated, comparable to their European neighbors. Their people’s love for art can be seen in their interesting architecture and massive collection of artwork. The country has also been historically known as a refuge for free thinkers and artists. No wonder it is here where Victor Hugo sought refuge. It is in Brussels where Karl Marx wrote his famous Manifesto.
The Belgians are known to live the good life. Belgian cuisine is considered one of the best in the world. When it comes to gourmet restaurants, the city of Brussels has more of these than France. Flavors are comparable and highly influenced by French cooking, although the German influence can be seen in the gastronomic size of the portions.
Travelers to Belgium should try a serving of Moules-Frites or mussels cooked in a white wine sauce and served with potato fries. To take a respite from all the touring, you can satisfy your hunger by getting a serving of frites, fries with a dipping sauce, which is sold by many street vendors. Belgium after all, has the claim to being the inventor of the French fries. Treat yourself to delicious gaufres or waffles, another Belgian creation. When in Belgium, quench your thirst with world famous Belgian beers. There are over 800 different brews to choose from, coming from the 125 breweries in Belgium . Finally, to satisfy every sweet tooth, take a bite of delectable Belgian chocolates. Take home a box of Godiva, Leonidas or any of the famous Belgian chocolate brands to choose from.
Travelers going to Belgium should plan their trip properly. There are a number of legal holidays wherein many sights and stores are closed. New Year’s Day, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday, Labor Day (May 1), Ascension Day, Whit Sunday and Monday, Independence Day (July 21), Assumption Day, All Saint’s Day (November 1), Armistice Day (November 11) and Christmas Day are all non-working holidays.
Our Travel Guide Belgium is a pocket guidebook that will prove to be very useful for travelers going to this European nation. It provides valuable information on things to do and places to see, as well as a number of interesting facts and figures about Belgium.
Let the Travel Guide Belgium be your travel companion as you make your way around this European country. Many travelers will be pleasantly surprised to discover that Belgium has a rich and important history, diverse people and culture, delicious food, breathtaking artwork, and sublime scenery. The cities exude both charm and sophistication, willing to embrace a dynamic future while at the same time paying homage to its refined past. Discover our Travel Guide Belgium to learn how old-world elegance combines with the exciting changes of today in the country of Belgium.
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