The Alternative Guide to… Belgium

06 Jun 2016

Belgium at a Glance

Capital city: Brussels
Population: 11.2 million 
Local currency: euro (the € symbol for the euro was reportedly created by Belgian graphic designer Alain Billiet)
Famous face: Hollywood icon Audrey Hepburn was born in Ixelles, a district of Brussels, in 1929. Another film favourite who hails from Brussels is action hero Jean-Claude Van Damme

5 things you never knew about Belgium

The Big Bang theory was first proposed by Belgian priest, astronomer and physicist Georges Lemaître in 1927. He called it his hypothesis of the "Cosmic Egg".

Belgium has been making chocolate for almost 400 years, since cocoa was first brought to Europe from Central and South America — but it wasn't until 1912 that Jean Neuhaus II invented the Belgian praline. The country produces 172,000 tonnes of chocolate a year, has over 2000 chocolatiers and is one of the world's biggest chocolate exporters. Brussels Airport is reportedly the biggest chocolate-selling point in the world.

Belgium claims to have more castles per square mile than any other country in the world (but then, they're not the only ones to make such a claim). Gravensteen in Ghent (below) is just one such example.

It also reportedly has more comic book artists per square mile than any other country, and is famous for titles like The Adventures of Tintin, The Smurfs, and Lucky Luke. There are more than 50 comic murals are painted around the Brussels, and you can even join an organised tour to make sure you see them all.

Belgium is the world's biggest billiard ball exporter, accounting for 80% of the entire world's balls.

National dish

Moules-frites (mussels and fries) is a classic Belgian combo. The mussels are usually cooked in white wine with shallots and butter or cream, and served in the pan — with crispy fries on the side so they don’t lose their bite. Make your own with this Nigel Slater recipe. We recommend washing it down with a Belgian beer and finishing with a classic Belgian waffle.

If you see one thing in Belgium, make sure it's…

... Bruges. The Medieval capital of West Flanders is a network of cobbled lanes and canals, and its historic centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


A photo posted by Marco (@marcorussell) on

 Find trips to Belgium in our city breaks collection.

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