The Kingdom of Belgium is home to high-quality Belgian chocolates and delicious Belgian waffles. This European nation is one of the most populous countries in the continent and is rich with art, culture, and history. From delicious cuisine to vibrant festivals, there is so much to discover about this developed nation. Read on to discover 10 fascinating facts about Belgium.
1. French fries were invented in Belgium
Most people don’t know that the popular fried snack, French fries, were not actually invented in France. In the old English language, to “french cut” an ingredient meant slicing it lengthwise. This is a popular explanation for the origin of the term. Another belief is that Americans that came to the country after World War I mistakenly labeled them French fries because they were sourced from a French-speaking region of Belgium. Traditional fries in Belgium are often fried twice to ensure a crispy outside and soft inside then served with mayonnaise or alongside cooked mussels, an interesting Belgium fact.
2. The country is famous for its comic strips
Belgium has a rich history of comic book creation dating all the way back to the 1920s. Popular comics such as The Adventures of Tintin and the Smurfs came from the minds and hard work of Belgian artists. Because of the large role Belgian comics play in the country’s arts and culture, the country has the highest concentrations of comic book artists per square kilometer in the world. There is even an art museum dedicated to Belgian comic strips located in the capital city, Brussels.
3. The cities might have different names depending on the language of the speaker
There are three main languages spoken in Belgium: Dutch, French, and German. Some regions also tend to favor one language over the others. Travelers in Belgium might be surprised to find that the names of cities might change depending on the person you are speaking to or where you are. For example, the city of Antwerp is known as Antwerpen in the Flemish region and Anvers in the French-speaking region.
4. The only piece of art on the moon was made by a Belgian
Thousands of miles away, on the surface of the moon, there is a small statue of an astronaut made by Belgian artist Paul Van Hoeydonck, a fun Belgium fact. “The Fallen Astronaut” is a memorial to the space travelers who gave up their lives for the advancement of science through space exploration. The statue is made of aluminum and comes with a placard bearing the names of the honored astronauts.
5. It holds the second-highest number of Tour de France wins in the world
The country of Belgium has earned 18 Tour de France victories, second only to France itself with 36 victories. Eddy Merckx is a Belgian cyclist famous for winning the Tour de France five times in addition to his many other cycling awards. Cycling remains a very popular sport in Belgium today. The countryside is filled with cycling tour routes used every day by locals and visitors alike.
6. Belgium’s national animal is a mythical creature
The Belgic Lion or Leo Belgicus is not a real animal. It was the lion-like shape used when drawing maps of Belgium and the surrounding countries. Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, and a part of France, when combined, made a shape that looked similar to a ferocious lion. An interesting Belgium fact is that this mythical lion is also used in the country’s coat of arms as a symbol of pride and bravery.
7. It’s home to one of the world’s deepest indoor swimming pools
In the Belgian capital city of Brussels, there is an incredibly deep pool used for safely training deep-sea divers. Filled with 2,500,000 liters of filtered spring water, Nemo 33 has a maximum depth of 34.5 meters. A solar heater keeps the water warm and comfortable for divers so they can swim longer. The pool also contains a number of artificial underwater caves that help visitors practice their underwater navigation skills. It was the world record holder for the deepest indoor pool for 10 years, only being beat in 2014 by the completed Y-40 pool in Italy.
8. Belgium went 541 days without a government
In 2010, the Flemish people and the French-speaking people of the Belgian government were having difficulty cooperating because of different points of view on government policies. Because the members of the parties could not come to a decision, the federal government could not be formed. During the period of time without a central government, the country had a caretaker government that performed governmental duties. The politicians were finally able to reach a deal after 18 months. By that time, Belgium had broken the world record for most days without a government, a fun Belgium fact.
9. It has a sewer museum
Belgium has many strange and wonderful museums for any interest. Some examples are the museum of Cocoa and Chocolate, the Toy Museum, and the Musical Instrument Museum. But one unexpected attraction is the Sewer Museum, where you can take a guided tour of the capital city’s underground sewer system.
10. Oranges are thrown at the audience during the famous Carnival of Binche
Every year after Ash Wednesday, Belgium celebrates a very lively festival in the town of Binche. The Carnival of Binche is a three-day event featuring vibrant costumes, dancing, and oranges. The festival is traditionally performed by local men. They dance in the center of town and wear large Ostrich feather hats. During the procession, oranges are thrown towards onlookers for good luck. Being one of the performers in the Carnival of Binche is considered an honor for Belgians. It’s one of the most popular events in Belgium; the country and its citizens often prepare for it weeks in advance.
Belgium is a fascinating country that is full of surprises. Although most people know this European country for its delicious sweets, it’s also filled with interesting locals, exciting customs, and unique attractions. Every year, this dynamic country attracts millions of visitors – and it’s easy to see why.
I hope that this article on Belgium facts was helpful! If you are interested, visit the Country Facts Page!