75 Informative Facts About Belgium

Last updated on March 31st, 2018

Belgium, officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a sovereign state in Western Europe. It is one of the six founding countries of the European Union. Today, the European Union has a total of 28 countries. Belgium is a developed country and has an advanced high-income economy. With these 75 facts about Belgium, let us learn more about its people, culture, economy, history, geography and more.

1. The national flag of Belgium was adopted in 1931. It is a tricolor with black, yellow and red vertical strips.

2. The Belgian Franc was replaced by the Euro in 2002. The Euro is used by 19 out of the 28 European Union countries. BulgariaCroatiaCzech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Sweden, and the United Kingdom are the EU members that do not use the euro.

3. The metric system is the legal standard of weights and measures in Belgium.

4. Belgium is a densely populated country. It has an area of 30,528 square kilometers and a population in excess of 11 million. Belgium occupies the same area as the state of Maryland.

5. France, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherland border Belgium. Belgium is divided into three main geographical regions with the coastal plain in the north-west, the central plateau and the Ardennes uplands in the south-east. 

6. Belgium consists of three federal regions – Flanders, Brussels, and Wallonia. See the map below.

Belgium - three federal regions - Flanders, Brussels, and Wallonia. The Fact File
The map of Belgium showing the three federal regions – Flanders, Brussels, and Wallonia. Image credit – Wikitravel.org

7. The Dutch and French-speaking linguistic groups are the two main groups in Belgium. The country also has a small percentage of German speakers who live in the eastern part of the country.

8. The French-speaking population of the country is called Walloons who are residing in the five southern provinces.

9. The Dutch-speaking population is concentrated in the five northern and northeastern provinces. The northern part of Belgium is less hilly than the southern part.

10. Brussels – the capital of Belgium – has a majority of French-speaking (85%) population. However, both French and Dutch are its official languages.

Flag of Belgium

flag of Belgium
The national flag of Belgium. Image credit – CIA

11. About one-tenth of the population of Belgium is completely bilingual (speaking two languages fluently.)

12. Belgium is also one of the most heavily industrialized and urbanized country in Europe.

13. Belgium is a low-lying country which is mostly flat. Belgium has an average elevation of 181 m above sea level. Bhutan has the highest average elevation of all the countries in the world – 3,280 m. See list of countries by average elevation.

14. Belgium is also known as the “Battlefield of Europe” because the country served as a battlefield between many European powers and during the two World Wars as well.

15. The Big Bang theory is considered to have originated in Belgium. Georges Lemaitre came up with the Big Bang theory two years before Edwin Hubble.

16. After the Dutchmen, men from Belgium are the second tallest in the world. The average Dutchman is now 183cm tall and Belgians have an average height of 182cm.

17. Belgium’s highest point (the Signal de Botrange on the High Fens plateau in far-east Belgium at 694m) is lower than the tallest building (the Burj Khalifa at 828m) in the world.

18. Same-sex marriages are legal in the country. In fact, it became the second country in the world to legalize same-sex marriages in 2003, after the Netherlands.

19. The practice of intentionally ending a life (Euthanasia) to relieve pain and suffering is also legal in the country. It was made legal in 2002 and the next year in 2003, the country also legalized gay marriage.

20. de also has the world’s largest court of Justice – the Law Courts of Brussels. It was constructed from 1866 to 1883 on a surface area of 26,000m². It is reputed to be the largest building constructed in the 19th century.

Map of Belgium

21. Belgium is also known worldwide for their inventions which include – plastic, the saxophone – invented by Adolphe Sax in 1840, the Body Mass Index (BMI) – invented by mathematician Lambert Adolphe Quetelet, and also have made significant contributions towards the World Wide Web, contraceptive pills, Imodium and inline skates.

22. Justine Henin, a former world number one tennis player, is a Belgian.

23. Tax rates are high in Belgium. People who make more than €38 830 are taxed at 50%. For more information on taxes in Belgium and other European Union countries, please visit this link.

24. The Borengebouw — the first skyscraper – in Europe was also built in Belgium in 1932 (construction completed). It has 26 floors, and is 95.8 m high.

25. Belgium has the highest divorce rate in Western Europe. Other Western European countries include France, Ireland, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands and United Kingdom.

26. The Belgian Coast Tram – the Kusttram— is the longest tram line in the world. It is 68 km long and connects the cities and towns along the entire Belgian (West Flanders) coast, between De Panne near the French border and Knokke-Heist.

27. The largest urbanized population in the world is in Belgium. Almost 98% of the country’s population lives in cities and urban areas. Brussels, Antwerp, Bruges, Charleroi, Ghent, and Liege are among the most important urban areas in Belgium.

28. The Schelde and the Meuse are the two main rivers of Belgium. Both of these rivers originate in France, cross Belgium and flow towards the Netherlands. Belgium’s water reserves are concentrated in the southern region while the majority of the country’s population lives in the north. Thus, with the help of canals, storage basins, and pipelines, water is transferred to meet the demand in the north.

29. The word “spa” originated from the town of spa in Belgium.

30. Belgium has the second most cycling Tour de France winners. Do you know which country has the most? It is France.

A beautiful cycle
Cycling is good for health (cycling uses all of the major muscle groups as you pedal; cycling increases stamina, strength, and aerobic fitness; reduces anxiety and depression; increases cardiovascular fitness.) Learn more

31. Belgium has the highest number of castles per square kilometer than any other country in the world. It is estimated that they have 3,000 castles.

32. Chocolate production in the country dates back to 1635. Today, the country has more than 2,000 chocolate shops, and it produces over 173,000 tons of chocolate every year.

33. With the diamond trade happening in Antwerp since 1447, the city is also known as the world’s diamond capital.

34. The country is also the world’s leading exporter of billiard balls. Learn more about billiard balls.

35. Belgium is also the place where Napoleon Bonaparte was defeated. He was handed defeat in Waterloo, a city south of Brussels. The Battle of Waterloo was fought on Sunday, 18 June 1815.

36. A Belgium king was dethroned in 1990 for 36 hours. This move was made to pass a law favoring abortion (the ending of a pregnancy by removing a fetus or embryo before it can survive outside the uterus.) The king was against it and he was dethroned and reinstated after the law was passed.

37. Education in the country is compulsory until the age of 18. Flemish, French, and German-speaking communities have their own school system with small differences among them.

38. The world’s first printed newspaper was produced in Belgium in 1605 in Antwerp. The newspaper was called Relation. Johann Carolus (1575-1634) was the publisher of the newspaper.

39. Belgium is also among the topmost citizenship granting country per capita in the world. Do you know which country provides the most? It is Canada. Belgium has a high population of noncitizens which is the reason why the country is culturally diverse. According to some estimate, the percentage of non-nationals in Brussels is 28% while that in the country is 15%.

40. Anheuser-Busch InBev from Belgium is the largest beer brewery in the world. The country produced more than 1100 varieties of Beer.

41. Belgium is the world’s second most chocolate exporting ($2.9bn in 2016) country after Germany ($4.5bn in 2016). Other top chocolate producing countries include: the Netherlands, Italy, U.S., Poland, Canada, France, United Kingdom, and Switzerland.

42. There are 13 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Belgium. Twelve are cultural and one is Natural.

43. The origin of French fries can be traced back to Belgium, not France. Also, French fries are called Belgian fries in the country, why not, they have invented them.

44. The Belgians are also accredited with the suggestion of the € symbol.

Euro sign
Official graphic construction of the euro logo. Image credit – Wikipedia.org

45. Belgium is also home to the world’s biggest chocolate selling point – Brussels National Airport.

46. The flag of Belgium and Germany have the same color combination – black, yellow and red. However, the orientation of the colors is different.

47. Belgium is also among the top diamond exporters in the world. Antwerp World Diamond Centre is situated in Antwerp and is also among the world’s largest diamond districts. A diamond district is an area where the cutting, polishing, and trade of diamonds and other gems takes place.

48. Belgium is the 5th smallest country in the European Union. Slovenia, Cyprus, Luxembourg, and Malta are smaller than Belgium. France is the largest of all European Union countries. Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom are the remaining countries that constitute the European Union.

49. Belgians love cycling and they make use of cycles for most short-distance trips.

50. Belgium is also famous for its peeing boy statue – the Manneken Pis (meaning “Little man Pee” in Dutch.) It is situated in Brussels.

Manneken Pis in Belgium
Manneken Pis in Brussels, Belgium. The original bronze statue was created by Jerome Duquesnoy, 1619. Image credit – Wikipedia.org

51. The country, in 1921, also became the world’s first to have a female parliamentarian.

52. Voting is compulsory in Belgium.

53. Apart from Belgium, voting is compulsory and enforced in the following regions: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Ecuador, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, North Korea, Nauru, Peru, Singapore, Uruguay, Schaffhausen canton in Switzerland. In these regions voting is compulsory but it is not enforced: Bolivia – Introduced in 1952, Bulgaria – Introduced in 2016, Costa Rica, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dominican Republic – Compulsory from the age of 18, Egypt, Gabon, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Lebanon – Men only, Libya, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay – Compulsory for citizens between 18 and 75 years old, non-compulsory for those older than 75, Thailand and Turkey.

54. Belgium is also among the top processors of cobalt, radium, copper, zinc, and lead in the world.

55. Nemo 33 (maximum depth is 34.5 metres; opened on May 1, 2004), an indoor non-chlorinated freshwater facility in Brussels, Belgium is the world’s second deepest swimming pool after the Y-40 Deep Joy (maximum depth is 40 metres; opened on 5 June 2014) swimming pool in Italy.

56. The country’s households also boast the highest percentage of cable TV in the world at 97%.

57. The headquarters of NATO, located in Brussels, Belgium hosts over 5,000 meetings every year. Initially, the headquarters was located in London, and then it was moved to Paris in 1952, before finally being transferred to Brussels, Belgium in 1967.

58. Belgium is world’s 77th most populous country (July 2017 est.)

59. Electronic identity cards were introduced in Belgium for the first time in the world.

60. Belgians love pets, which is why the majority of the families in Belgium have pets.

61. Fast food is not much liked by the Belgians. No doubt, they have the least number of fast food restaurants in Belgium as compared to other European countries.

62. The country is lit up more brightly than any other country, thanks to its highly dense highway network.

63. Belgium has a heavy road and railway density, and the transportation is well developed in the country.

64. Belgium also has one of the highest gasoline prices, too. Norway has the highest gasoline prices and Venezuela has the cheapest gasoline in the world. Learn more about gasoline prices and other related information here.

65. Did you know that Brussels has more than 1000 NGOs and over 120 international governmental organizations?

66. According to the data published by the CIA, in 2016, Belgium ranks at 20th spot among the top exporting countries in the world. China leads the chart, while the United States occupies the third spot.

66. Belgium is famous for – Waffles, fries, chocolate, and beer.

67. Interestingly, when a baby is born in Ghent, Belgium, the streetlights in the Sint-Veerleplein city square flicker on and off to mark the occasion.

68. Sugar beets, chicory, flax, cereal grains, and potatoes are the major crops of Belgium.

69. Coal was once Belgium’s one of the most important natural resource. By the 1960s, Belgium’s easily extractable coal reserves were exhausted. And by 1992, the coal mining industry came to a complete halt. Belgium now imports coal for use in the steel industry and domestic heating.

70. Nuclear reactors play a significant role in generating electricity for Belgium as they meet more than half of the country’s demand for electricity.

71. The Hallerbos – also known as the Blue forest — is a forest in Belgium, which covers an area of 1,360 acres. This mighty forest gets covered with bluebells between late April and May.

72. There is a tiny city of Doel in Belgium, which is scheduled to be destroyed. Wondering why? Because the city is adjacent to Antwerp and the port of Antwerp needs room to expand. Today, there are just 25 residents and plenty of art on the walls from various street artists from across Europe. Art on the walls of the city is an attempt to save it from further demolition.

73. The longest subterranean river known in the world–the Rubicon–is located in Belgium in the Caves of Remouchamps.

74. Belgium is also home to the only museum–Bibliotheca Wittockiana–in the world, which is dedicated to bookbinding and book arts. The museum houses more than 3,000 art bindings from the 16th to 21st centuries. However, an appointment is needed to view the collection.

75. The European Parliament, the EU’s law-making body has 21 members from Belgium. 

Belgium – country at a glance

Independence4 October 1830 (a provisional government declared independence from the Netherlands); 21 July 1831 (King LEOPOLD I ascended to the throne)
Capital CityBrussels
(50°51′N 4°21′E)
Largest CityBrussels
(50°51′N 4°21′E)
Total area30,528 sq km
Land boundariestotal: 1,297 km
border countries (4): France 556 km, Germany 133 km, Luxembourg 130 km, Netherlands 478 km
Population11,491,346 (July 2017 est.)
Official LanguageDutch
French
German
BordersFrance, Germany, Luxembourg, Netherlands
CurrencyEuro (€) (EUR)
Suffrage18 years of age; universal and compulsory
DemonymBelgian
ReligionRoman Catholic
Life expectancy81.1 Years (2016)
Life expectancy at birth indicates the number of years a newborn infant would live if prevailing patterns of mortality at the time of its birth were to stay the same throughout its life.
Climatetemperate; mild winters, cool summers; rainy, humid, cloudy
Terrainflat coastal plains in northwest, central rolling hills, rugged mountains of Ardennes Forest in southeast
National anthem"La Brabanconne" (The Song of Brabant)
Government typefederal parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarchy
MonarchPhilippe
Prime MinisterCharles Michel
National colorsred, black, yellow
National symbolgolden rampant lion
Natural resourcesconstruction materials, silica sand, carbonates, arable land
Agricultural land44.1%
Birth rate11.3 births/1,000 population (2017 est.)
Death rate9.7 deaths/1,000 population (2017 est.)
Sex ratio1.05 male(s)/female
Industriesengineering and metal products, motor vehicle assembly, transportation equipment, scientific instruments, processed food and beverages, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, base metals, textiles, glass, petroleum
Exports$277.7 billion (2016 est.)
chemicals, machinery and equipment, finished diamonds, metals and metal products, foodstuffs
Imports$271.2 billion (2016 est.)
raw materials, machinery and equipment, chemicals, raw diamonds, pharmaceuticals, foodstuffs, transportation equipment, oil products
GDP - per capita (PPP)$45,000 (2016 est.)
Time ZoneCET (UTC+1)
Internet country code.be
Drives on theRight
Calling Code+32
Data sourcesCIA, Wikipedia
Table last updatedDecember 04, 2017