Take a quick tour of Brussels with us, learn some of its history, find out about its famous food and drink, and print out a set of flag printables to enjoy in the classroom and home.
European Commission in Brussels, capital city of Belgium
Learn about Belgium
Geography of Belgium
Belgium is a small country in north-west Europe, bordering France and the Netherlands.
With a population of 10,800,000 million, Belgium is a nation divided into three regions: Dutch speaking Flanders, with 55% of the population, in the north; 35% in the the mainly French speaking Wallonia in the south, and the cosmopolitan capital Brussels.
History of Belgium
- Due to its strategically important location, the region has been subject to repeated invasion and influence by neighbouring powers. The land has been called the 'Battlefield of Europe due to the number of wars that have been fought in the area.
- In 57 BCE Julius Caesar named the region Gallica Belgica after the local tribe, the Belgae.
- In medieval Flanders and Holland, independent towns such as Bruges and Ghent resisted aristocratic control, and thrived by importing wool from England and weaving it into fine cloth for export.
- A war lasting eighty years war against the rule of the Spanish Catholic Hapsburgs resulted in the independence of the United Provinces in the north, whilst Belgium was controlled by Spain, then by the Netherlands and then by Napoleonic France.
- Belgium became independent in 1830 and the Kingdom of Belgium was established. Each year the crowning of the first King Leopold is celebrated on July 21st, Belgian National Day.
- Under Leopold II a huge African empire in the Congo was established although the profits from the brutal exploitation of the region remained the King's personal possessions until 1908.
- In the Great War millions died in the muddy trenches of the Western Front as Allied and German armies became stuck in Flanders. Visitors today can remember those who gave their lives fallen dead at monuments around Ypres and the Somme.
- In 1940 German troops invaded Belgium once again.
- Post-war Belgium was an active founder of the EU.
- In 2013 Albert II abdicated and his son was crowned King Philippe II, the seventh king in the country's history.
Brussels, the capital city, contains around a million residents, including many overseas-born immigrants and international workers associated with the headquarters of Nato, and the EU.
Amongst the many attractions in the capital is the magnificent stone City Hall dating to the 15th century which overlooks a vast public square. There are grand museums including the Comic Strip Museum which is full of Tintin memorabilia.
Clovis, the first King of France came from Tournai and later emperor Charlemagne was born in Liege. Other well known Belgians include artists Rubens and Magritte, the action actor Jean-Claude van Damme, and cyclist Eddy Merckx, who won the Tour de France five times. Belgian actress Audrey Hepburn was born in Brussels and later became a UNICEF ambassador to help children. As mentioned already, Tintin's creator, Herge, was Belgian.
Belgian Food and Drink - Yum!
- Belgium is famous for its food and drink. Belgian chocolates such as truffles are eaten around the world.
- Trappist monks have been brewing strong beer since the Middle Ages and there are over 800 types of beer produced in the country.
- Chips (French fries or potato chips) are a Belgian invention , served as a snack with mayonnaise or 'moules frites' which is mussels and chips.
- Belgian waffles are a favourite dessert.
- Locals in the north like stews such as 'waterzlooi', a creamy dish made with chicken or fish and vegetables.