Brief History of Belgium

The history of Belgium is a fascinating tale of a nation that emerged from a diverse array of influences. Situated in Western Europe, Belgium’s roots can be traced back to ancient times when it was inhabited by Celtic and Germanic tribes. In the medieval period, the region witnessed the rise of several powerful feudal states, such as Flanders and Brabant, which played significant roles in trade and commerce.

Throughout its history, Belgium’s location made it a coveted territory, leading to a series of invasions and occupations. The area came under the control of the Roman Empire, followed by the Franks and the Holy Roman Empire. By the late Middle Ages, it became part of the Burgundian Netherlands under the rule of the powerful House of Burgundy and later passed to the Habsburgs of Spain.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, Belgium was engulfed in the turmoil of the Eighty Years’ War, leading to its division into the Spanish Netherlands (southern part) and the United Provinces (northern part) which later became the Netherlands. Over the next centuries, the region saw significant socio-political and economic developments, but it also experienced conflicts and foreign domination, including French revolutionary and Napoleonic rule.

The 19th century proved to be a turning point for Belgium. In 1830, inspired by the wave of nationalism in Europe, Belgium revolted against Dutch rule and declared independence. After a brief struggle and international recognition, the Kingdom of Belgium was established with Leopold I as its first monarch.

Belgium went on to become a center of industrialization and commerce in Europe, particularly due to its strategic location and thriving port city of Antwerp. It remained neutral during both World Wars but was not spared from devastation during these conflicts. After World War II, Belgium embraced further economic growth, becoming a founding member of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), the precursor to the European Union.

Throughout its history, Belgium’s linguistic and cultural diversity, with Dutch-speaking Flemish people in the north and French-speaking Walloons in the south, has been a notable feature. The nation’s journey has been characterized by efforts to bridge these linguistic and regional differences and promote unity.

In contemporary times, Belgium remains a constitutional monarchy and a vital member of the European Union and NATO. Its capital, Brussels, serves as a major political and administrative hub for both Belgium and the EU, solidifying its position as an influential player in the global arena. The history of Belgium is one of resilience, adaptation, and cooperation, showcasing how a nation can evolve and prosper despite facing various challenges and transitions over the centuries.

About Belgium

Country Code: +32.

Crime: Belgium is generally considered a safe country, but like any nation, it does face various criminal challenges. Crime rates in Belgium, including violent crime and property crime, tend to be lower compared to some other European countries, but they are not negligible.

One of the significant concerns in Belgium has been petty theft and pickpocketing, particularly in tourist areas and crowded places like public transport. Travelers and tourists are often advised to be vigilant about their belongings to avoid falling victim to such crimes.

In major urban centers like Brussels and Antwerp, there have been occasional reports of street crime, such as muggings and robberies. However, the authorities have made efforts to address these issues through increased police presence and targeted initiatives.

Another significant challenge faced by Belgium, as with many other European countries, is drug-related crime. The country’s central location and well-developed transportation networks make it a transit point for drug trafficking in Europe.

In the past, Belgium has also experienced instances of terrorism, particularly in relation to jihadist activities. Terrorist attacks in recent years have prompted heightened security measures and increased vigilance in the country.

Currency: EU Euro.

Electricity:  Type C (2-pin round), Type E (2-pin round, earth pin). 

Language: The official languages are Dutch (Flemish), French, and German.

Latitude and Longitude: 50.5039° N, 4.4699° E.

Population: 11.59 million (2021).

President: Alexander De Croo.

Belgium's Negative Influence in Africa

The relationship between Belgium and its former African colonies, Congo (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) and Rwanda, has a complex and controversial history. The colonial era and subsequent involvement have left lasting negative effects on both countries.

Anyone who knows me or who has read this blog knows my love for Africa. While I do enjoy Belgium as a travel destination, I won’t ignore the appalling damage done by Belgium to those two countries. 

I would say if you get a chance, read my other posts on Congo and Rwanda, then keep that information in your mind, when you explore Belgium.

Congo (Democratic Republic of the Congo): During the period of Belgian colonial rule (1908-1960), the Congo Free State (privately owned by King Leopold II) and later the Belgian Congo experienced brutal exploitation. The Belgian administration forced Congolese people into forced labor, extracted natural resources (such as rubber and minerals) for the benefit of Belgium, and subjected the Congolese population to violence and abuse. Millions of Congolese are estimated to have died during this period due to harsh conditions and atrocities.

The colonial era disrupted traditional social structures and cultural practices in the Congo. Local customs and institutions were undermined, and Western influences were imposed, leading to a loss of cultural identity for many Congolese.

Belgium’s colonial legacy had a lasting impact on Congo’s political development. After independence in 1960, the country faced numerous challenges, including political instability, corruption, and violence, partially rooted in the colonial system.

Rwanda: During the colonial period, Belgium implemented a “divide and rule” policy in Rwanda by favoring the Tutsi minority over the Hutu majority, which exacerbated ethnic tensions and sowed the seeds for future conflicts.

Belgium’s colonial policies laid the groundwork for the Rwandan Genocide in 1994. The racial classification and unequal treatment of the Hutu and Tutsi by the Belgians contributed to a long-standing animosity between the two groups, eventually leading to the genocide in which an estimated 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu were killed.

Belgium’s role in Rwanda’s history is still a sensitive topic, and some argue that the colonial legacy continues to have implications on the country’s political, social, and economic dynamics.

In both Congo and Rwanda, the impact of colonization and Belgium’s historical involvement has been significant and continues to shape their societies. Recognizing and addressing these historical injustices and negative consequences is essential for reconciliation and sustainable development in the region.

National Parks

Belgium does not have any official national parks in the traditional sense, like those found in many other countries. However, it does boast several nature reserves and protected areas that serve similar conservation purposes.

These nature reserves aim to safeguard unique habitats, flora, and fauna, providing opportunities for both conservation and recreational activities.

Hoge Kempen National Park: Located in the northeastern province of Limburg, this is one of the largest and most well-known nature reserves in Belgium. It encompasses heathlands, forests, and sand dunes, providing a diverse and beautiful natural landscape for visitors to explore.

De Zoom-Kalmthoutse Heide: Straddling the Belgian-Dutch border in the provinces of Antwerp and North Brabant, this nature reserve is famous for its extensive heathlands and unique flora. It is a popular destination for hikers and nature enthusiasts.

Zwin Nature Park: Situated on the Belgian coast near the town of Knokke-Heist, this nature reserve is renowned for its salt marshes and mudflats, which are vital habitats for migratory birds.

Domain of the Caves of Han: Located in the province of Namur, this area is not only known for its stunning caves but also its surrounding natural beauty, including forested areas and scenic landscapes.

Sonian Forest (Forêt de Soignes): Spanning across the Brussels-Capital Region and the provinces of Flemish Brabant and Walloon Brabant, this expansive forest is one of the last remnants of the ancient Charcoal Forest. It provides an important green lung for the region.

Top Tourist Attractions

Belgium is a charming and culturally rich country with a variety of tourist attractions to offer.

Grand Place (Grote Markt) – Brussels: The Grand Place is the central square in Brussels and is renowned for its stunning architecture, including the Town Hall and the opulent guildhalls. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a hub of activity with numerous cafes, restaurants, and shops.

Atomium – Brussels: One of the most iconic landmarks in Belgium, the Atomium is a futuristic building originally constructed for the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair (Expo 58). It offers panoramic views of the city and houses various exhibitions.

Bruges Historic Center – Bruges: Known as the “Venice of the North,” Bruges is a medieval city with well-preserved historic buildings, canals, and cobbled streets. Visitors can explore the Belfry, Market Square, and take boat tours along the canals.

Ghent’s Gravensteen Castle – Ghent: Gravensteen Castle is an imposing medieval fortress in the heart of Ghent. Visitors can tour the castle, which offers insight into the city’s medieval history and offers great views from its towers.

Antwerp’s Cathedral of Our Lady – Antwerp: This Gothic cathedral is a masterpiece of architecture and houses several works by renowned artist Peter Paul Rubens. The cathedral’s stunning interior and soaring spire make it a must-visit site.

Belgian Chocolate Shops – Throughout Belgium: Belgium is famous for its delectable chocolates, and visitors can indulge in a variety of artisanal chocolates from renowned chocolatiers throughout the country.

Dinant – Namur: Nestled along the picturesque River Meuse, Dinant is a charming town with impressive cliffs and the striking Collegiate Church of Notre-Dame. The town’s Citadel offers breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape.

Waterloo Battlefield – Waterloo: History enthusiasts can visit the site of the Battle of Waterloo, where Napoleon Bonaparte was defeated in 1815. The battlefield now houses a museum and monument.

The Royal Palace of Brussels – Brussels: While still serving as the official residence of the Belgian King, parts of the Royal Palace are open to the public during summer, showcasing opulent interiors and beautiful gardens.

Meuse Valley – Namur: The scenic Meuse Valley offers stunning landscapes and opportunities for outdoor activities, such as hiking and cycling. The region is dotted with charming towns and historical sites.


Belgium has a temperate maritime climate, which is characterized by mild summers, cool winters, and relatively high humidity throughout the year. The country’s location in Western Europe, near the North Sea, plays a significant role in shaping its weather patterns.

Spring (March to May): Spring in Belgium is a pleasant season with temperatures gradually warming up. Average daytime temperatures range from 10°C to 15°C (50°F to 59°F) in March, 13°C to 18°C (55°F to 64°F) in April, and 15°C to 20°C (59°F to 68°F) in May.

Spring is a popular time for tourists, as the landscapes come to life with blooming flowers and greenery.

Summer (June to August): Summers in Belgium are relatively mild compared to many other European countries. Average daytime temperatures typically range from 20°C to 25°C (68°F to 77°F) in June, July, and August.

However, occasional heatwaves can push temperatures above 30°C (86°F). Summer is the peak tourist season, and it’s an excellent time to explore the country’s cities, coast, and outdoor attractions.

Autumn (September to November): Autumn in Belgium brings milder temperatures, and the foliage starts to change into vibrant hues of red, orange, and yellow. Average daytime temperatures range from 16°C to 20°C (61°F to 68°F) in September, 12°C to 16°C (54°F to 61°F) in October, and 8°C to 12°C (46°F to 54°F) in November.

Winter (December to February): Winters in Belgium are relatively cool, with occasional cold spells. Average daytime temperatures hover around 3°C to 6°C (37°F to 43°F) in December, January, and February.

However, temperatures can drop below freezing at times, especially during January. Snowfall is common, particularly in the Ardennes region, making it an attractive destination for winter sports enthusiasts.