Belgium is famous for its waffles, chocolate and beer, but did you know Belgium is also known as the country with the most castles per square kilometer?
You see, there's much more to Belgium than people tend to know and if you want to learn some more interesting things about Belgium, this post is just the thing for you. I've gathered a bunch of Belgium facts that'll surprise and enlighten you. There are some fun facts about Belgium (they involve chocolate), some interesting facts about Belgium and its place in world history and some facts that are ideal to impress people with at a party.
Note: this list only contains facts. I created a separate list with famous Belgians. So no worries, I didn't forget about Adolphe Sax.
86 Belgium facts
1. Belgium became an independent country in 1830.
2. Its official name is the “Kingdom of Belgium” and King Philippe of the Belgians is the current monarch.
3. Belgium has three official languages: Dutch, French and German. Learn more about the language structure of Belgium here.
4. The word “spa”, that's being used to talk about places to relax and get wellness treatments, comes from the Belgian city Spa.
5. Napoleon was defeated in Waterloo, a city south of Brussels.
6. Looking for some fun facts about Brussels? Well, together with Washington D.C., Brussels has the highest number of diplomats and foreign press correspondents in the world.
7. The largest agricultural, forestry and agri-food fair in Europe, the Foire de Libramont, is held in Belgium.
8. Belgium is the country with most castles per square kilometer in the world. I've already visited some of them, such as the Gravensteen in Ghent, Gaasbeek Castle near Brussels, the flower show at the castle of Groot-Bijgaarden, the castle at rose garden Coloma, the castle of Freyr, the Chateau de la Hulpe, and the Hof ter Saksen near Antwerp.
9. Belgium has some of the highest income and social contribution tax rates in the world. For single people without children, it has the highest income tax rates.
11. The Snorks are also Belgian.
13. In 1990, the Belgian king Baudouin was dethroned for 36 hours. He was against the abortion law that the government wanted to pass, so they dethroned him, signed the law and made him king again.
14. Little weird Belgium has the “honor” of having had the longest government formation in history. It took the parties 541 days to form a government and 200 extra days to divide the highest 65 administrative jobs.
15. The most translated books in the world, after the Bible, are those about Inspector Maigret by Georges Simenon from Liège.
16. Television was introduced in Belgium in 1953 with two channels, one in Dutch and one in French.
17. Another interesting fact about Belgium is that it's one of the rare countries where education is compulsory until you're 18 years old.
18. Aside from Spain, Belgium is the only country in the world to have two living kings. Current King Philippe's father Albert continues carrying the title “king” after his abdication.
19. Antwerp is the world's diamond capital.
20. Brussels International Airport is the world's largest chocolate selling point.
21. The world's two first printed newspapers were both published in 1605. One was printed in Strasbourg, the other (the Nieuwe Tijdingen) was printed by Abraham Verhoeven in Antwerp.
22. The first Belgian car was built in 1894, it was called the Vincke. The brand Vincke stopped existing in 1904.
23. Signal de Botrange (694 m) is the highest point in Belgium.
24. The North Sea is the lowest point in Belgium.
25. The Belgian coastal tram is the longest tram line in the world, being 68 km long. It opened in 1885 and operates between De Panne and Knokke-Heist, which is from the French border to the Dutch border.
27. Belgium had the first openly gay Prime Minister in Europe. His name is Elio Di Rupo.
28. Ghent hosts the biggest cultural festival in Europe, the Gentse Feesten.
29. Belgium has the lowest salary gap between man and women in the EU.
31. 80% of billiard players use the Aramith pool balls made in Belgium.
32. Belgians invented fries (and a ton of other delicious things).
33. Leuven has the oldest university city in the Low Lands.
34. The highest building in Belgium is the Zuidertoren (“South Tower”) in Brussels.
35. The first stock exchange building was built in Bruges.
36. Haspengouw is the largest fruit region in Western Europe and after South-Tirol the largest one in entire Europe.
37. The music tape was invented by the Belgian department of Philips in Hasselt in 1963.
38. George Llewelyn Davies, the adopted son of the Scottish “Peter Pan” author James Barrie and the direct inspiration for the character of Peter Pan, was buried in Belgium.
39. Belgium hosts the world's largest sand sculpture festival.
40. Tomorrowland is the world's largest Electronic Dance Music festival and Belgium is a real festival country.
41. New York City was founded by the Belgian Pierre Minuit (1589-1638). He bought the island of Manhattan in 1626 from its original inhabitants.
42. Belgium supplied the Americans with the uranium that was used for the atom bomb they threw on Hiroshima. It came from Congo, at that time a colony of Belgium.
43. The name “Belgium” dates back to the Romans. They called their province in the north of Gaul Gallia Belgica after its previous inhabitants, the Celtic and German Belgae.
44. The small Belgium is the sixth largest importer of coffee with 4.3 million bags/year.
46. The world's first beer academy opened in Herk-de-Stad, in the province of Limburg, in 1999.
47. Chocolate is one of the most famous things made in Belgium. Well, that's partly due to the fact that pralines were invented by Jean Neuhaus in Brussels in 1912. It's still one of the best chocolate brands around. Get some Neuhaus chocolates here.
48. Belgium produces over 220,000 tonnes of chocolate each year.
49. Belgium was the first country in the world to ban cluster bombs.
50. Belgium was the first country in the world to issue electronic passports complying with the recommendations of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and, along with Italy, was the first to issue electronic ID cards in March 2003.
51. Belgium is one of the few countries in the world with compulsory voting.
52. The world's largest ship lift is the counterweighted lift of Strepy-Thieu (73.15 m high) in the Belgian province of Hainaut.
53. Europe's first skyscraper was built in Antwerp in 1928. It's called “De Boerentoren” (“Farmer's Tower”) and is still the second tallest structure in the city, after the Cathedral of Our Lady.
54. Brussels sprouts have been grown in Belgium for over 400 years.
55. Belgium grants the most new citizenships per capita in the world.
56. The Galeries St Hubert in Brussels opened in 1847, which makes them Europe's oldest shopping arcades.
57. The Law Courts of Brussels is the largest court of justice in the world. It has a built land area of 26,000 m² at ground level, which makes it bigger than the Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome (21,000 m²).
59. The largest Freemason temple on the European continent is the Great Temple in Brussels (at 79, Rue de Laeken).
60. Anheuser-Busch, the largest beer brewer in the world, is located in Belgium. In Leuven, to be precise, where I live!
61. Belgium has produced some of the worlds most influential scientists in the 16th century, including Gerardus Mercator, the famous cartographer, and the anatomist Andreas Vesalius.
62. Belgium has more comic book makers per square kilometer than any other country in the world (even Japan).
63. Durbuy dubs itself the smallest city in the world. Although it now has less than 500 inhabitants, it was granted the rank of city in medieval times, which it hasn't lost since then.
64. Belgium has the highest density of art collectors of any country.
65. Neanderthal skulls were first discovered in the Belgian village of Engis ( a suburb of Liege), in 1829, although the name comes from the Neander Valley in Germany (the site of a later find in 1856).
66. In 1066, Huy became the first European city to receive a charter of city rights, making it the oldest free city on the continent.
67. Belgian painters are credited to have invented oil painting in the 15th century. It's unsure who exactly the inventor was, but scientists presume it was Jan van Eyck.
68. The city of Brussels was founded in the 13th century.
69. Charles V of Habsburg, Holy Roman Emperor, King of Spain (and colonies), Naples and Sicily, and ruler of the Burgundian territories, was born and raised in Ghent, with French as his first language. The greatest Renaissance ruler, who famously declared “in my realm the sun never sets”, was an international sovereign, but Belgian of birth and education.
71. There is no other country in Europe with as many street and music festivals all year round as Belgium.
72. The Belgian city of Spa had the first casino in Europe.
73. Belgium has the densest rail network in the world with 4,078 kilometers of track.
74. Belgian households have the highest percentage of cable TV in the world, at 97%.
75. The world’s first recorded lottery took place in Belgium. It was held to raise money for the poor.
76. The only Belgian race car, the Vertigo, once held the Guinness World Record for fastest acceleration from 0-100km/h in 3.266 seconds.
77. Besix, a Belgian construction company, was one of four contracted to construct the world’s tallest building, the Burj Dubai.
78. The Belgian Circuit of Spa-Francorchamps is the longest and the second oldest F1 Grand Prix Circuit still in use.
79. The tallest living horse is a Belgian Gelding Horse. His name is Big Jake and he's 210.19 cm tall (6 feet and 2,75 inches).
80. The first natural-color picture in National Geographic Magazine was of a flower garden in Ghent. This was in July 1914. The photo was printed on page 49.
82. “Fallen Astronaut” by the Belgian artist Paul Van Hoeydonck is the only piece of art on the Moon.
83. The longest “bar” in the world is Leuven's Oude Markt. It has around 40 cafés on one square.
84. Luik/Liège was the first city in the world to get bombed from the sky by a German zeppelin.
85. Belgium has 11 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
86. The name for the Euro currency was proposed by Belgium, as was the design for the € symbol.
So you might not know everything about Belgium after reading this list, but don't you know a lot more now than you did before? I've did some thorough research compiling these fun facts about Belgium, but it's always possible that I missed something. Is there a fact that you think I should've mentioned? Let me know!
Learn more about Belgium with these books