Introduction to Belgium
Welcome to the land of beer and chocolate. In Belgium, these things are more than just drool-worthy indulgences; they’re embedded in the national culture. Belgium has more than 650 local beers and each one of them is taken very seriously. Even how the beer is served is important with each brew having its own personalised glass to enhance the flavour (apparently). And the chocolate? Well, that goes hand in hand with beer. Many cafés will serve you a Belgian beer with a side of Belgian chocolate. The country’s chocolate reputation started in 1912 with the creation of the praline, which is still made by hand today.
Deliciousness aside, Belgium is overflowing with interesting attractions for all tastes. There’s an incredible collection of galleries, over 60 UNESCO World Heritage sites, architecture that’s the talk of Europe (like the Grand Curtius building), imaginative museums and downright bizarre festivals and carnivals, which is no surprise really given the Belgian personality. There’s a certain self-deprecating sense of humour and quirk that’s part of the national identity. And it’s something you’ll grow fond of very quickly.
Sharing its border with Germany, Luxembourg, France and Netherlands, Belgium can be split into 2 quite distinct halves – there’s the French-speaking Wallonia in the south and the Dutch-speaking Flanders in the north with German the other official tongue. Wallonia is home to mostly rural attractions like caves, castles, valleys and is the place to head for outdoor adventure activities. The Flanders landscape is not as spectacular, but it’s home to more historic sites and the capital, Brussels.
Positioned close to the border, Brussels is a bilingual city, so you’ll see signs in both French and Dutch. Keep this in mind when you’re looking for the city’s 90-odd museums, shopping districts and historic attractions, like the Main Square, which is also known as de Grote Markt or Grand Place.