When you think of Belgium, chocolate and waffles probably come to mind. But what is Belgium famous for really? The modest country in western Europe has given the world much more than these delicious treats! From cultural traditions to historical places, and its culinary concoctions, there are so many things Belgium is known for that many people simply may not realize.
In this Belgium overview, we explore 15 of the many things that Belgium is famous for – including its global contributions to music, animation, and of course, food and drinks!
15 Things Belgium is Known For
Whether you’re planning a trip to the country in northwestern Europe, or just simply want to learn more about its global contributions, this list will give you a better appreciation and idea of what Belgium is known for.
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Belgium is most famous for its world-renowned chocolate. The country is recognized globally as a chocolate lover’s paradise. Simply walk down the streets of a town like Bruges, Belgium on a day trip, and the aroma of chocolate will lure you into the many shops selling delectable sweets.
The country’s love affair with chocolate dates back to the 19th century when pioneering chocolatiers like Neuhaus and Godiva established themselves in Belgium.
What sets Belgian chocolate apart is the emphasis on quality ingredients, including high-quality cocoa beans and rich, creamy milk. Belgian chocolatiers also pride themselves on their commitment to traditional production methods, which you can learn about and even see firsthand in the Choco-Story Chocolate Museums in both Bruges and Brussels. You can even take a chocolate making class to learn these cherished methods of molding and creating Belgian chocolate.
Belgium is the birthplace of the Smurfs, and because of these famous blue cartoon characters, the country has earned a distinguished reputation in the world of comics.
The small European nation has taken its love for comics to the streets – literally. One of the best things to do on our 2-day Brussels itinerary, is to explore the city’s Comic Strip routes. Brussels has more than 60 murals dedicated to comics that are scattered around the city center. You can even purchase a digital land of comics exploration game and make the route interactive with clues to solve and puzzles on your phone.
Belgium’s love for comics is celebrated at the Belgian Comic Strip Center, a full museum dedicated to the art of comic strips and cartoons.
Belgium has become synonymous with waffles. Like its chocolate, the delicious association with waffles is rooted in the country’s longstanding reputation for creating irresistible treats.
Belgian waffles stand out for their distinctive texture—crispy on the outside and light, fluffy on the inside. You can buy waffles with an assortment of toppings, ranging from the classic powdered sugar and whipped cream to fresh fruits, chocolate, and even savory options like ham and cheese.
Belgians take great pride in their waffle-making. Street vendors, charming cafes, and dedicated waffle houses across Belgium continue to showcase the artistry and talents that make Belgian waffles more than just a beloved breakfast food, but an anytime-of-day delicacy.
Being the Capital of Europe
Brussels, the capital of Belgium, is also frequently called the “Capital of Europe”. That’s because the city is the headquarters for the European Union. The Parliament for the EU, serves as the legislative branch representing the interests of citizens in the European Union.
The Parliament’s activities encompass a wide range of issues, reflecting the diverse concerns of the EU’s member states and citizens. While in Brussels, you can visit the Parlamentarium, a museum that walks you through the history of the EU.
While France has somehow gained name association with these crispy, golden cut potatoes, it was actually the Belgians who invented them. I guess Belgian Fries didn’t have the same alliterative ring as French Fries?
French fries, or “pommes frites” as they are known locally are often served in a paper cone and paired with a variety of sauces such as mayonnaise, ketchup, or the beloved specialty, “Andalouse.” You can also order them topped with savory meats like Belgian stew, or served alongside mussels – which is the national dish of Belgium – Moules-Frites.
The history of frites is somewhat unknown, but legend has it that Belgian villagers cooked small fish to accompany their meals, but when the rivers froze over in winter, they turned to frying potatoes instead.
If you’re wondering “what is Belgium famous for historically”, there are a few key battles during both World War I and World War II that occurred on Belgian soil.
Belgium became a crucial battleground in WWII as German forces launched their invasion of Western Europe in 1940. The Ardennes region, known for its dense forests and challenging terrain, witnessed intense fighting during the Battle of the Ardennes in May 1940, leading to the eventual occupation of Belgium by German forces.
However, the most significant and well-known WWII battles in Belgium occurred during the later stages of the conflict. In December 1944, the Battle of the Bulge unfolded in the Ardennes, marked by a massive German offensive aimed at splitting the Allied forces. Towns such as Bastogne became pivotal points of resistance, with American forces ultimately prevailing and halting the German advance.
The Battle of the Bulge remains one of the largest and bloodiest battles fought on Belgian soil, playing a crucial role in the overall Allied victory in Western Europe. The historical remnants of these battles can still be explored in the form of war memorials, museums, and preserved sites scattered throughout Belgium.
While Ireland may be known for Guinness and the Netherlands has Heineken, Belgian beer culture is also celebrated worldwide.
Monks originally played a significant role in refining brewing techniques in Belgium, resulting in extensive and varied selection of beers, ranging from Trappist ales crafted by monks to lambics and saisons with unique regional characteristics.
What sets Belgian beer apart is the emphasis on creativity, using unique ingredients like fruits, spices, and even wild yeast strains. One of the best things to do in the town of Bruges is to visit De Halve Maan Brewery, where you’ll learn about how they send their beer through a pipeline under the city to the bottling plant!
The country’s beer culture is further celebrated through its beer festivals, such as the renowned Belgian Beer Weekend.
The town of Antwerp is known as the “diamond capital of the world.” The city’s diamond district is home to lots of diamond dealers, traders, and expert jewelers.
Belgium’s prominence in the diamond trade began in the late 15th century when Portuguese and later Indian diamonds found their way to Antwerp, establishing it as a crucial center for the diamond market. Over time, Belgian craftsmen practically perfected diamond cutting.
Today, Belgium’s diamond industry is synonymous with quality, craftsmanship, and ethical practices, attracting traders and buyers from around the globe.
Its Recognizable Flag
Belgium’s flag, often referred to as the “Black, Yellow, and Red,” is a distinctive tricolor emblem that makes it one of the most recognizable flags in the world.
The design consists of three vertical bands of equal width, with black on the hoist side, followed by yellow in the center, and red on the fly side.
Overtime, interpretations have associated the black with the country’s dark historical periods, the yellow with the wealth and resources of Belgium, and the red with the bloodshed during the struggle for independence from the Northern Netherlands in the 1800s.
It’s official multilingual status
Belgium is a multilingual country with three official languages: Dutch, French, and German. Dutch is the most widely spoken language and is predominant in the northern region of Flanders. French is the primary language in the southern region of Wallonia and in Brussels. German is spoken by a minority in the eastern part of the country, near the German border.
While English isn’t an official language, you’ll also find many Belgians speak English fluently.
The linguistic diversity is a reflection of Belgium’s historical and cultural influences over the years and gives the country a tolerant and welcoming feel for visitors.
One of the Weirdest Statues in Europe
One of Belgium’s most recognized landmarks is a small statue of a little boy peeing.
The small bronze statue of a little boy urinating into a fountain is known as Manneken Pis. This whimsical statue is depicted on magnets, t-shirts, and other Belgian souvenirs, and has become somewhat of a mascot for the country.
Standing just about two feet tall, this tiny statue dates back to the early 17th century. There are various legends attempting to explain its creation. Some depict the boy as a hero who peed on the enemy’s gunpowder, while other stories depict him as a cursed boy who got caught peeing on a witch’s door.
Whatever the origins, the statue has become a major tourist attraction and is one of the most famous statues in Europe. Manneken Pis is often adorned in various costumes that reflect different themes, events, or holidays, and today, the statue has more than 800 costumes.
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Jenever is a traditional Belgian spirit that holds a special place in the alcohol world.
Originating in the 17th century, this juniper-flavored liquor is crafted from malt wine, which gives it a distinct grainy character. Divided into two main types, oude (old) and jonge (young), jenever’s production is governed by specific regulations. Oude jenever retains a more robust, malty flavor profile, while jonge jenever is lighter and more neutral.
Typically enjoyed straight, chilled, or used as a base in cocktails, jenever represents not only a historical libation but also a cultural symbol of Belgium.
While New Orleans may be the home of jazz, the musical genre’s most notable instrument was invented in Belgium. The saxophone was invented by Adolphe Sax, who was born in Dinant, Belgium, in 1814.
Sax crafted the first saxophone in the early 1840s and patented his invention in 1846. The famous brass instrument known for its distinctive sound, quickly gained popularity across various genres, from classical to jazz and beyond.
Solidifying Adolphe Sax’s legacy in the music world, a statue of the instrument’s inventor holding a saxophone stands proudly along the Meuse River in his hometown of Dinant.
Belgium takes the holiday season seriously. In fact, its enchanting Christmas markets in places like Bruges and Brussels have earned both cities a spot on the list of best places to spend Christmas in Europe.
City squares and historic landmarks are transformed into festive wonderlands draped in twinkling lights and holiday decor during the Christmas season.
Local artisans sell their handmade crafts, gifts and seasonal treats of traditional wooden stalls, as visitors find themselves immersed in the cozy ambiance of the season.
The Grand Place in Brussels, with its stunning architecture, hosts one of the most renowned Christmas markets in the country, with a giant evergreen tree as the centerpiece and dramatic lighting making the square a truly magical place to visit.
Belgium’s flower carpets, known locally as “bloementapijten,” are a beloved tradition in the country.
This tradition involves creating intricate floral tapestries that cover plazas and squares adding a colorful design to the already beautiful urban areas.
Every two years, the Grand Place, a UNESCO World Heritage site in Brussels, transforms into a vibrant array of colors and fragrances as volunteers meticulously arrange begonias, dahlias, and other vibrant blooms into stunning designs.
The flower carpets often depict patterns, historical scenes, or thematic motifs, showcasing the creativity of the country and its communities. These masterpieces draw thousands of visitors from around the world eager to see this unique and fleeting display of floral artistry.
Conclusion: What is Belgium Famous For? A LOT
Whether it’s Belgium’s culinary contributions or their historical inventions and significant landmarks, Belgium is a small country that has given the world a lot! If you’re planning a trip to Belgium or simply wanted to explore what Belgium is famous for, this European nation has left its mark on the world stage, despite its modest size.
Its multiculturalism and gastronomic delights not only make Belgium a fascinating country to learn about, but an even more fascinating country to visit.
We hope we answered your question “What is Belgium famous for?”. Do you have any other questions about this fascinating country and the things Belgium is known for? We’d love to hear from you. Leave your thoughts in the comments below.