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What Is Belgium Known for & Famous For
Sandwiched between Germany, France, and the Netherlands, Belgium may appear unassuming at first. However, due to its unique culture, history, and geographical position, this small country is famous for more things than you might expect. Now you may be wondering, what exactly is Belgium known for?
Belgium is known and famous for its delicious waffles, chocolate, beer, and French fries. But aside from its fantastic food scene, Belgium is also known for having more castles per square meter than any other country. It also hosts some of the best music festivals worldwide.
Of course, the list doesn’t stop there; there are even more things that Belgium is known for. In this article, let’s take a closer look at 35 things that make Belgium stand out!
Belgium is known to produce some of the best beers in the world. For a very good reason!
First, Belgian beers generally have higher alcohol content, starting at 6% alcohol by volume. Moreover, they’re also yeastier and have more complex taste profiles.
Furthermore, even though Belgians only rank 15th in per capita beer consumption in Europe, this country has a rich beer culture that goes back to as early as the pre-Roman era. As a result, Belgium boasts many traditional and modern beers with varying ingredients, fermentation methods, and brewing processes.
And while Belgium only produces less than 1% of the world’s beer, this small European country has the most diversity in beer styles than other beer-producing regions. Today, there are approximately 120 varieties of beer and 580 brands produced in Belgium.
If there’s one product that’s associated with Belgium the most, it would be chocolate. And for a good reason, too! Belgian chocolate is recognized to be one of the world’s finest chocolates.
Due to its unique production process, Belgian chocolate tends to be distinctly more aromatic and flavorful than those from other chocolate-producing regions. Moreover, Belgian chocolate is almost entirely handmade, making it all the more special.
Today, Belgium boasts more than 2,000 chocolatiers, making the country a paradise for chocolate lovers. Together, those chocolatiers produce approximately 600,000 tons each year, 400,000 tons of which they export worldwide.
3. French Fries
Despite their name, French fries are not French; they’re Belgian! The snack we call French fries today originated in the region of Meuse.
The story went like this: the locals loved fried fish. But in 1680, the River Meuse froze, leaving them without any fish. To avoid starving, people started cutting potatoes into the shape of small fish and frying them. Hence, the world-famous fries were born!
So, how did they get associated with the French? During World War I, some American soldiers stationed in a Francophone region in Belgium encountered these delicious potato fries. Since the locals spoke French, the soldiers mistakenly called the dish French fries.
Have you been to Belgium if you’ve never tried their waffles? You can find delicious street food sold on every corner; they’re just that famous. But did you know that there are two types of Belgian waffles?
The first one is the Liège waffle, the more traditional type of the two. It was invented in the region of Wallonia after the Prince-Bishop of Liège requested a sweet pastry from his chef. Chefs make Liège waffles out of a thick batter and pearl sugar, which give the waffles their distinct rich texture and caramel flavor.
The second one is called Brussels waffles. These waffles are what non-Belgians usually recognize as Belgian waffles. Locals make these waffles out of yeast-leavened batter so that the waffles have a crunchy exterior but are light and airy inside.
5. Music Festivals
Aside from delicious food, Belgium also has some of the best music festivals in the world. Regardless of what genre you’re into, the party never stops in Belgium.
With jazz and blues soirees at the start of the year, punk celebrations in spring, electronic dance music (EDM) festivals in the summer, and various concert series during fall and winter, Belgium has a festival for everyone!
Belgium’s most famous music festival is Tomorrowland, the world’s largest annual electronic dance music festival. This festival is so renowned that organizers sell out of tickets within minutes.
Belgium has a long history with diamonds. The city of Antwerp has been hailed as the Diamond Capital of the world for more than five centuries.
Everything began in the 16th century when Indians first brought diamonds to Europe from India. At that time, Jews expelled from Spain and Portugal started settling in Belgium, bringing their knowledge of diamond cutting and trading.
Due to their attention to detail and meticulous cutting techniques, Antwerp’s diamonds became famous all around Europe. Even the King of France, François I, preferred Belgian diamonds to those cut in Paris.
7. Pomme Frites
If you understand basic French, you may realize that ‘Pommes Frites’ means French fries. But wait, didn’t we already list French fries earlier in this list?
There are some small but important differences between French fries and Pommes Frites. First, locals make Pommes Frites of Bintje potatoes, a classic Dutch heirloom variety. Plus, chefs serve Pommes Frites with mayonnaise or aioli instead of ketchup.
You can find this snack sold on every street corner in Belgium. If you happen to visit the country, try it out and see which one you prefer, the traditional Pommes Frites or the US-style French fries!
Due to its geographical location, Belgium has been dramatically influenced by its neighbors in many aspects, including language. There are three official languages recognized in Belgium: Dutch, French, and German.
People in different parts of the country speak different languages. Those living in the north typically speak Dutch, while they speak German in the east and French in the south. Lastly, most people in the Brussels capital area are multilingual.
Language is a big part of life in Belgium. The constitution protects language freedom, allowing everyone to decide the language they wish to use in their household and social circles.
If there’s one thing tourists and ex-pats need to know before going to Belgium, it’s how expensive living there could be.
While the cost of living in Belgium may not be as high as in other Western European countries, it’s up there. Belgium was named the 18th most expensive country to live in back in 2020.
The high cost of living also came with the perks of high living standards. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Belgium is among the top 15 countries with the best living standards.
Unbeknownst to many, the roots of this elegant instrument lie in Belgium. The saxophone was created in the early 1840s by the Belgian inventor and musician Adolphe Sax.
While the saxophone was his most famous invention, Adolphe Sax also created and improved the design of other musical instruments, including the organ, flutes, and clarinet.
Bruges is one of the most well-preserved medieval towns in Europe. The city has many centuries-old Gothic buildings and fascinating museums. As a result, the historic center of Bruges is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Bruges is also known for its winding canals, earning the city the moniker of “The Venice of the North.” Thanks to its fairytale-like sceneries, Bruges is considered one of the most romantic destinations in Belgium.
Just like Bruges, Ghent is also known for its medieval architecture. However, what sets the two apart is the eclectic modern touch in Ghent. On one side, you can see cobbled roads and ancient castles, but on the other stands impressive glass towers and skyscrapers. That’s why people often describe Ghent as a “Medieval Manhattan.”
Ghent is also home to several universities, including one of the oldest universities in Belgium, Ghent University. For that reason, Ghent is as much a tourist destination as it is a university town.
Not all that glitters is gold; sometimes, it’s diamonds! Antwerp is one of the most popular cities in Belgium for several reasons.
First, it has been considered the world’s diamond capital since the 16th century. Antwerp diamonds are known to be particularly well-cut and brilliant.
Second, Antwerp is home to various cultural and historical sites, including the Antwerp Zoo, the Museum Plantin-Moretus, Rubenshuis, and the Red Star Line Museum.
It hosts Tomorrowland, the world’s biggest electronic dance music festival. Aside from the music festival, Antwerp also has a lively nightlife scene that’s a hit among young adults.
And of course, who can forget Brussels? As the capital of Belgium and the heart of Europe, Brussels is easily the most famous icon of the nation.
This unique city boasts a rich blend of cultures, delicious foods, and fantastic nightlife scenes. It also boasts a fascinating mix of architectural styles that amazes its visitors. From gorgeous Art Nouveau townhouses to grand Gothic halls, there’s much to love about this city.
As mentioned before, Belgium has rich drinking and beer cultures. So, it is no surprise that the country is famous for its pubs and fantastic nightlife.
As of 2022, there are more than 14,000 pubs, bars, and nightclubs across the country. Some of them stand out above the rest. For example, A La Bécasse in Brussels is a traditional beer house that has been standing since the late 19th century. Or In de Verzekering tegen de Grote Dorst, a traditional Payot café that has been nominated as one of the best beer destinations in the world.
16. The Most Beers at a Bar in the World
Aside from the two pubs mentioned above, you shouldn’t miss this entry if you’re a beer enthusiast.
Have you ever wanted to try various beers from different countries? Well, you’re in luck! Because Delirium Café, a bar in Brussels, currently holds the Guinness World Record for having the most beers at a bar in the world.
The bar offers 2,004 beers, including Belgian beers and other brands from around the globe. If you’re unsure which one you’d choose, Delirium Café’s staff is ready to offer some fantastic choices based on your preferences.
The bar also sells thousands of beer-related trinkets and souvenirs beer lovers will adore. And if you’d like to have even more fun, Delirium Café also holds exciting jam sessions every Thursday evening.
As a very liberal nation, it is probably no surprise that prostitution is legal in Belgium. In June 2022, Belgium became the first European country to decriminalize and regulate sex work.
Of course, the Red Light District has long been a part of the nation. However, before this, the government merely tolerated sex work, but those who facilitated it were liable to prosecution. Thanks to the new law, sex workers in Belgium now have the same rights as other workers.
18. Manneken Pis
This one may come as a shock to some, but yes, Belgium is famous for a statue of a boy urinating. Designed in 1388, the Manneken Pis is one of Brussels’s oldest and most iconic symbols. The small figure is part of a fountain next to the Grand Place, in the old part of the city.
There are many legends surrounding the Manneken Pis. The most popular one depicts the young boy, also known as Petit Julien, as a hero who extinguished a cannon fuse, thus saving Brussels from destruction.
In 1698, the locals dressed Manneken Pis in a tunic after a governor’s order. Since then, the boy has received around 1,000 different outfits, and they regularly dress the mannikin to attract tourists.
19. Liberal and Progressive
Belgium is known for being very liberal. It’s even considered one of the most progressive countries in the world, even when compared to other developed nations.
This liberal stance translates to Belgium’s progressive laws and a highly tolerant and open-minded populace. For instance, it’s the second country to legalize same-sex marriage and one of the few nations that legalize physician-assisted suicide, even for minors.
20. The Royal Saint-Hubert Galleries
Have you ever wondered how it was to shop in the 19th century? Get a glimpse of the past by visiting The Royal Saint-Hubert Galleries, one of the oldest shopping arcades in Europe!
This 19th-century glazed shopping gallery was designed and built by Jean-Pierre Cluysenaer between 1846 and 1847. With its opulent design and rows of luxury retailers, the Royal Saint-Hubert Galleries is truly the center of grandeur in Belgium.
This futuristic landmark is one of the most spectacular symbols of Brussels. The Belgian people constructed the Atomium for the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair, the first post-World War universal world exhibition.
They designed the landmark after an iron crystal. It represents faith in the power of science and nuclear power, an awe-inspiring message, especially considering the context of the time.
They were supposed to demolish the landmark after the Expo, but they ended up preserving the structure due to its unique design. Since then, it has served as an art center, a museum, and a cultural attraction.
22. The Grand Place
You will find this cobbled square in the heart of Brussels, surrounded by the City Hall, the guild houses, and the Maison du Roi. It is a political and commercial hub and a fascinating tourist site. Influenced by Flamboyant, Baroque, and Neo-Gothic architectural styles, the Grand Place is among the best architectural jewels of the country.
From grand imperial residences to majestic fortresses, Belgium is also famous for its castles. With more than 3,000 castles scattered across the land, Belgium has the world record for having the most castles per square kilometer.
The architectural styles of Belgian castles are very diverse as well. For instance, the Royal Palace of Brussels is built in the neoclassical style, while the Chateau of Modave is a beautiful example of High Baroque architecture.
24. The Gravensteen Castle
Gravensteen Castle in Ghent is one of the most famous castles in Belgium. This medieval castle dates back to 1180. It was the residence of the Counts of Flanders until 1353, giving it the nickname “Castle of the Counts.”
This castle has been repurposed numerous times as a prison, court, and even a cotton factory. It was finally restored in 1893 and opened to the public as a museum in 1903.
Aside from its majestic architecture and gorgeous view, this castle is also famous for a rather dark reason; its history as a torture ground. The compound boasts an extensive collection of torture equipment, symbols of Ghent’s turbulent past. Horrific as it may be, Gravensteen’s torture chamber has become one of the biggest tourist attractions in Ghent.
25. The Belfry of Bruges
The Belfry of Bruges is a medieval bell tower located in the center of Bruges. This striking tower is now a world heritage site that dates back to the 13th century. The Belgian people built the belfry as an observation post for fires and other dangers after a devastating fire in 1280. They also used it as a treasury and archives of the city.
Today, the belfry is an interesting tourist attraction, filled with various historical items from the Middle Ages. After climbing its 366 steps, visitors will find a stunning panoramic view of Bruges.
26. The Church of Our Lady Bruges
While visiting Bruges, don’t forget to visit the beautiful Church of Our Lady. Standing at 115.5 meters (378.9 feet) tall, It’s the second tallest church in the world. It took Bruges builders two centuries (13th to 15th century) to build this masterpiece.
Inside the church, visitors can find a myriad of art treasures, including exquisite wood carvings, paintings, sculptures, and painted crypts. Visitors can also see Michelangelo’s beautiful Madonna and Child sculpture in the choir area.
27. St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral, Brussels
Aside from the Church of Our Lady in Bruges, Belgium has many other beautiful churches. One of them is the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula in Brussels. As the name suggests, this medieval Roman Catholic church is dedicated to the city’s patron saints.
The construction of this church began in the 11th century and finished in the 16th century. However, there had been a smaller chapel at the site since the 9th century. Thanks to some restorative works, the cathedral exhibits a unique blend of Gothic, Neo-Gothic, and Baroque architectural styles.
Rubenshuis is the home of the 16th-century painter Peter Paul Rubens. He built this house himself as a residence and a working studio, but Unfortunately, the house fell into bad condition after Rubens passed away.
After some careful restorative work, the house has returned to its former glory. It’s now used as a museum and gallery to showcase Rubens’ artwork. However, the garden is the highlight of Rubenshuis. Gorgeously tranquil, it’s a haven for visitors to escape the busy city.
29. Domain of the Caves of Han
Even though we’ve only mentioned Belgium’s historical and cultural attractions, the nation is not short on natural beauty either! The Domain of the Caves of Han in Wallonia is a beautiful example.
This site is among the world’s most magnificent natural caves with its massive dripstones. Its surroundings also serve as a Wildlife Park where you can encounter wild animals in their natural habitat. It’s truly a piece of heaven on earth.
30. Bastogne War Museum
Look at the darker side of Belgium’s history at the Bastogne War Museum. This museum offers a fresh perception of Belgium during the Second World War. It focuses on various key events of the war and how civilians coped with the situation.
The museum has state-of-the-art interactive exhibitions and multisensory 3D scenes to bring visitors closer to the past. It’s a fascinating destination that will give you a deeper understanding of humanity.
31. The Vêves Castle
Château de Vêves, also known as Vêves Castle, is one of the oldest castles in Belgium. Standing on a rocky peak in Wallonia, this beautiful castle looks straight out of a fairytale.
The current building dates back to the Renaissance under Louis XV of France. However, the foundations of this castle date back to the 7th century. This castle may have fallen multiple times, but today it has a stunning yet serene appearance that delights its visitors.
32. Brussels Park
Brussels Park, also known as the Parc Royal, is the most famous public park in Brussels. Dating back to 1775, it’s the city’s first public park. Visitors will find the park on the site of the gardens of the former Palace of Coudenberg.
After the old royal complex burned down in 1731, the scorched garden remained neglected for years. But in 1775, the old park was renovated and enlarged to please the public and embellish the city. Since then, the park has undergone several changes, but it looks as beautiful and tranquil as ever.
33. The Capital of Europe
As the seat of the EU, Brussels is known to be the “Capital of Europe.” Even though it’s not an official title, EU Parliament’s sessions often take place in Brussels.
Moreover, there are various EU institutions and agency buildings in Brussels; you will find most of them in Brussels’s “European Quarter” area. The list includes the Council buildings, Parliament buildings, Commission buildings, The European External Action Service (EEAS), the European Defence Agency, and many more.
Aside from its connection to the EU, Brussels also deserves this title due to its cultural and economic significance. As a central European hub and cultural attraction, the metropolis is truly the heart of Europe.
One of the most commonly asked questions from tourists and ex-pats is, “Why does it rain so much in Belgium?”
While it doesn’t rain every day, Belgium is known for having high precipitation rates. The country has an annual average rainfall of 32 inches (820 mm), evenly distributed throughout the year. Moreover, Belgium typically gets around 200 rainy days yearly, even more than the rainy London and Paris.
That said, the heavy rainfall does nothing to diminish the country’s charms. The constant rain of Belgium has attracted and inspired countless artists, including Leonid Afremov and Keiko Tanabe.
35. The World Wars
This last entry may be bleak, but Belgium is also known for its significance during the World Wars.
Belgium tried to remain neutral at the start of both wars and stay out of the fighting. However, due to its strategic location, Germany quickly invaded Belgium, both in WWI and WWII. What happened after could only be described as a catastrophe, with countless people being killed and tortured.
Despite that, the small country persisted and contributed to the international war efforts. And for that reason, Belgium became one of the many symbols of persistence and resistance during both World Wars.
Belgium is well-known for many different things. It has so much to offer, from a vibrant food scene, numerous charming castles, the countless music festivals it hosts, and many more.
Some of these things may seem strange at first, especially to non-Belgians. But they are what makes Belgium stand out from other countries in the world. And if anything, they only add to the charms of this small yet eccentric country.
- Rick Steves’ Europe: Belgian Beer Basics
- Brewers of Europe: Beer Statistics 2016 edition
- MGM Wine & Spirits: Belgian Beer
- Brussels Express: 7 facts about Belgian Chocolate
- Expatica: Belgian fries: they’re not French, you know
- VBT: The Sweet Story of the Belgian Waffle
- Culture Trip: The Ultimate Guide to Belgium’s Music Festivals
- Beldiamond: Why is Antwerp the diamond capital of the world?
- Living in Translation: Which Language Is Spoken in Belgium?
- Nomads Unveiled: 30 Popular Things in Belgium: a Look at What Belgium Is Famous For
- The Brussels Times: Belgium in the top 20 most expensive countries to live in in 2020
- Delirium Village: Delirium Café Brussels
- IBISWorld: Pubs, Bars & Nightclubs in Belgium – Industry Statistics 2008–2026
- World Nomads: Weather in Belgium: Tips for Safe Travel
- Civitatis Brussels: Manneken Pis
- Visit Brussels: The Park of Brussels
- Travel2Next: 20 Fairytale Castles in Belgium
- Charlies Wanderings: The 26 Most Beautiful & Unique Castles in Belgium
- Reason: Belgium Decriminalizes Prostitution