Belgium is a federal state divided into three regions: Dutch-speaking Flanders in the north, Wallonia in the south where the language is French, and Brussels, the bilingual capital, where French and Dutch share official status. There is also a small German-speaking minority of some 70 000 in the eastern part of the country.
Belgiumís landscape varies widely: 67 kilometres of seacoast and flat coastal plains along the North Sea, hills in the centre and the uplands forests of the Ardennes region in the southeast.
Brussels hosts several international organisations: most of the European institutions are located there as well as the NATO headquarters.
Independent since 1830, Belgium is a constitutional monarchy.The two houses of Parliament are the Chamber of Representatives, whose members are elected for a maximum period of four years, and the Senate or upper house, whose members are elected or co-opted. Given its political make-up, Belgium is generally run by coalition governments.
Among the best known Belgians are Georges Rťmi (Hergť), creator of Tintin, writers Georges Simenon and Hugo Claus, composer and singer Jacques Brel and cyclist Eddy Merckx. Painters like James Ensor, Paul Delvaux and Renť Magritte are the modern-day successors of Rubens and the other Flemish masters of yesteryear.
Belgium is famous for its chocolates, which are appreciated the world over. Its favourite dish is mussels and chips (French fries) which, according to legend, are a Belgian invention.
Thereís just something about Belgium. Maybe itís the friendly & welcoming people who with three official languages still find it easy to converse in English, the 4th unofficial language. Maybe itís the stunning architecture decorating the quaint cobblestone squares. Or perhaps itís the incredible cuisine found in the vast array of restaurants where each meal seems better than the last. Energetic and carefree, the overall mood in Belgium is infectious, summoning in all of us to live as Belgians and enjoy life to the fullest.
Well situated between France and Holland, the kingdom of Belgium encompasses all the best that Europe has to offer in an area no bigger than Maryland. Within the span of one day you can take a romantic cruise down a canal in Bruges, hunt for diamonds in Antwerp, enjoy waffles on the beach in Oostende, frolic in a festival in Binche, get lost in a castle in Namur, discover antiques at an outdoor market in Liege, and explore a fine art museum in Brussels. A dense train network connects all of Belgium and makes navigation simple and comfortable for travelers.
Often called the Essence of Europe, Belgium is both multicultural and multilingual. Flanders in the north, a flatland criss-crossed by canals, is proud of its medieval art cities, Antwerp, Bruges and Ghent. To the south in Wallonia, you will find the rolling hills of the Ardennes, countless castles, and the cities of Liege, Namur, and Tournai. The city of Brussels is one of the world's great cosmopolitan capitals, home to both the European Union and NATO, as well as a wealth of international trade and finance companies.
Belgium's history has always been linked to both commercial and cultural exchange, and much of its character is due to its role as the great meeting place of Western Europe. It would be difficult to name a European country who didnít want to stake their claim in Belgium at one time or another. Traces of the Austrians, Spanish, French and Dutch can still be seen in its architecture and in the lifestyle of its people. You will see superb examples of art and architecture past and present - Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque, and Art Nouveau.
Somehow, Belgium has maintained a low-key approach to all of this international sophistication. It is a country for connoisseurs, but connoisseurs who do not take themselves too seriously. Because the Belgians themselves certainly do not. And after all this we didnít even mention the beer & chocolate.
Is Belgium flat? The area in the North, called Low Belgium, is very flat with sandy beaches, polders and small hills rising to about 197 feet. The area in the centre known as middle Belgium has some rolling hills and rover valleys, while the area in the French Speaking South referred to as High Belgium rises to 2277 feet above sea level at the Signal de Botrange in the wild Hautes Fagnes region.