What Is Belgium Famous For? (Some Surprising Things)

what belgium famous for

If you’re planning a trip to Europe, don’t overlook the tiny country of Belgium. Tucked between France, Germany, the Netherlands, and the North Sea, the country offers everything from the regal to the provincial to the serious and the frivolous. Belgium is home to Brussels, its cosmopolitan capital city, and Bruges, an open-air museum for medieval architecture. Humorous statues, somber WWI memorials, and some of the world’s best chocolate and beer are just a few things on a lengthy list that Belgium is famous for.

Belgian Chocolate

Lots of different Belgian Beers
Belgian Chocolate – Godiva Pralines

With its high cocoa levels, pure cocoa butter, and longer blending process, Belgian chocolate is the fiercest rival of Swiss chocolate in the world. The use of African heavy roast cocoa used by Belgian chocolatiers gives Belgian chocolate a strong fudgy flavor, medium sweet bitterness, and a straightforward taste. For example, Belgian milk chocolate has a classic milky flavor without the fruity undertones found in some varieties, and Belgian dark chocolate has an earthy flavor without any sourness or floral flavors.

Adding to the uniqueness of Belgian chocolate, Jean Neuhaus invented the praline in 1912, and Belgian chocolatiers came up with the world’s first filled chocolate bar with praline and the first chocolate spread.

Belgian chocolates became defined by truffles and molded pralines filled with buttercream or ganache that is whipped to be airy and light. They often include hazelnut as an ingredient base. The chocolates are molded into fancy shapes and sold in gift boxes.

Belgian Waffles

Belgian Waffles
Belgian Waffles

Extra deep pockets perfect for filling with jam or maple syrup are what sets Belgian waffles apart from their American counterparts. They’re also thicker and made with a yeasted batter and pearl or nib sugar, a type of sugar popular in Europe for its large, pearl-like crystals. This gives them a unique texture and crunch.

Food historians have traced the waffle to ancient Greece where flat cakes were roasted between two metal plates attached to a long handle made of wood. The recipe for waffles evolved from generation to generation with cooks adding yeast to make them thicker and honey and spices brought back by explorers and crusaders.

During the 15th century, Dutch waffle makers were the first to use the grid pattern waffles are famous for.

According to legend, the Liège waffle was invented when the sweet-toothed Prince-Bishop of Liège in the region of Wallonia requested that his cook create a new sugary pastry. The cook made waffles using pearl sugar which caramelizes when cooked giving them a chewy texture.

The fluffy, golden Brussels waffles also became a famous favorite. A cook from Brussels by the name of Maurice Vermersch sold them from his stand at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York City and called them Belgian waffles. He didn’t think Americans would know where Brussels was so he called them Belgian waffles.

French Fries

Belgian fries sign
Belgian fries sign

Did you know that French fries are not French? According to historians, they originated in Belgium where potatoes were fried in the 1600s.

Belgian folklore claims that French fries were first made by poor villagers in Meuse Valley when the river froze in winter and they couldn’t fry the small fish they usually caught in the river. They turned to slicing and frying potatoes in the same manner they prepared fish.

Today, French fries are one of the most popular side dishes around the world and are served with condiments like ketchup, mayonnaise, and even vinegar. So why are they called French fries? According to the Belgian tourism board, American servicemen who came to the country after WWI incorrectly called them French fries because of the French language spoken in Wallonia.

Today, around 5,000 “fritkots” (shacks or trailers) across the country sell Belgian fries in paper cones. Belgium is also home to the world’s first and only French Fry Museum.

Belgian Beer

Lots of different Belgian Beers

Anyone anywhere knows that Belgium is world-famous for its beer. It’s been said that it would take more than six years spent drinking beer in Belgium to have the same beer twice. Sources say more than 2,200 varieties of Belgian beer are available. The Delirium Cafe, a bar in Brussels holds a Guinness World Record for its menu of 2,004 beers.

The most popular Belgian beers are Trappest and Abbey beers. Trappest beers are brewed in monasteries and specific rules say the monks must play a role in production with profits from sales going to monasteries. Abbey beers are brewed monastery-style but can be brewed commercially under arrangement with a monastery.


Diamond 3D

Belgium has had a relationship with the world’s most precious gemstone for nearly 5 centuries. Since the first rough stones were brought to the country from India, Antwerp has been the diamond capital of the world. The local diamond traders were known for their exquisite selection and detail, so much so that François I, the King of France insisted that his diamonds came from Antwerp’s master cutters rather than his own country.

Today, the Antwerp World Diamond Center (AWDC) is a private company that officially represents the Antwerp diamond sector. Established in 1973, the AWDC directs diamond import and export in and out of the city. Diamonds are sourced from thousands of diamond dealers around the world. Diamonds are shipped directly to Antwerp from Russian, South African, Canadian, and Australian mines.


Tomorrowland Festival
Tomorrowland Festival – Image courtesy of aula2pl

Belgium is home to Tomorrowland, the biggest electronic music festival in the world and one of Europe’s most popular musical events. The one-of-a-kind festival takes place in Boom every year in the province of Antwerp where a population of fewer than 20,000 swells with music lovers from around the world.

Since its inception in 2005, Tomorrowland has been considered to be the god of all music festivals. With attendees from more than 200 countries, the festival features thousands of DJs and artists such as Vini Vici, Hardwell, Lost Stories, San Holo, Alan Walker, Oliver Heldens, and other well-known techno artists.

The Tomorrowland Festival has more than magical music. It also features 15 astoundingly designed stages that amaze the audience and a spectacular fireworks display at the end of each evening. But perhaps the most impressive thing of all about the festival is how in brings so many people from around the world together under one premise.


Battle of Waterloo (1815)
Battle of Waterloo (1815) © Wikipedia

On June 18, 1885, the famous Battle of Waterloo took place in Belgium. The battle marked the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte, an aggressive dictator who conquered a large part of Europe in the early 19th century. After taking control of the French government in 1799, he became emperor in 1804.

Napoleon continued to expand his empire with the Napoleonic Wars across Central and Western Europe. His domination in Europe ended with the Battle of Waterloo led by the Prussians and the British led by the Duke of Wellington. It was a defeat of 72,000 troops of Napoleon’s army against 68,000 British forces which included Dutch, German, and Belgian troops.

Several blunders by Napoleon helped the outnumbered troops defeat his army. The region around Waterloo had experienced heavy rainfall the night before. He waited until the afternoon to attack, giving the ground a chance to dry out. The delay allowed 30,000 more Prussian troops to march into Waterloo. He also left Louis-Nicolas Davout, his best general back in Paris.

Fast fact: According to Belgian historian and former Waterloo resident Bernard Coppens, the Battle of Waterloo actually took place in the villages of Braine-l’Alleud and Plancenoit 3 miles south and Napoleon never set foot in Waterloo. But, you can still visit this famous landmark in Belgium, if you like :>


Brussels, capital of Belgium
Brussels, capital of Belgium

Brussels is one of the most exciting cities to visit in Europe. Strolling through the city, you’ll feel as if you’ve traveled back in time to the Middle Ages and the 19th century. Lovers of architecture, as well as culture, will find the city amazing.

The city has numerous world-famous sites to visit such as the Royal Palace, St. Nicholas Church, Basilica of the Sacred Heart, and many more. Brussels isn’t lacking in contemporary architecture either with buildings like Le Toison d’Or, the Black Pearl, and Rogier Tower.

As for culture, Brussels is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. And you’ll find more cultural events here per capita than even New York City. Over 100 museums are scattered across Belgium, as well as dozens of theaters, art galleries, concert halls, and cultural centers.

Manneken Pis

Manneken Pis
Manneken Pis

One of the most endearing attractions in Brussels is a statue called Manneken Pis. It means little pee man in Flemish, and that’s exactly what it is. A piece of art from the 17th century., the bronze statue is a little boy just 61 centimeters tall and continually pees into a fountain.

Several legends tell the story of how the Manneken Pis came to be. One is the story of a traveling father who lost his little boy in the city. To show his gratitude to the villagers that helped find him, he gifted the statue to the city. Another says the boy was a spy that urinated on explosives during a siege of the city.

The city of Brussels includes Manneken Pis on holidays and special occasions. Brass bands play while the statue is hooked up to plenty of Belgian beer and poured for the public from his, uh “fountain tip.” He’s often dressed in national costumes from around the world and wears a Santa suit at Christmastime.



If you appreciate Jazz music, you love the sultry sound of the saxophone, but not many people know that the woodwind instrument is the invention of a Belgian musician and instrument maker. Adolf Sax was born in 1814 in Dinant, Belgium, and was the eldest of 11 siblings. His father, Charles Joseph Sax, owned an instrument factory and designed instruments. Adolf learned to make musical instruments from his father.

In 1841 when Adolf was 27 years, he presented his precious invention at the Industrial Exposition in Brussels. It was a woodwind instrument comprised of a single reed, a cone-shaped tube, and finger keys. His invention would later be known as a saxophone. His creation was patented in 1846.

Adolf Sax died in 1894 without knowing how successful his instrument became around the world and how much of a part of jazz music it became in the 20th century. Visitors in Belgium often visit the little town of Dinant to see where Adolf Sax, inventor of the saxophone lived and marvel at the saxophone sculptures around town.



Located in northwestern Belgium, Bruges, the capital of West Flanders is like stepping into a fairytale with its colorful buildings and cobbled streets. One of Europe’s best-preserved medieval cities, Burges is picturesque both day and at night when nocturnal lights flood the streets.

Bruges’ romantic canals have earned it the title “Venice of the North,” and its market squares are lined with ancient churches, towers, and whitewashed almshouses. In Burg Square, you can visit the 14th-century City Hall to admire its ornately carved ceiling, and in Markt Square, you’ll find a 13th-century belfry featuring a 47-bell carillon and a tower you can climb for panoramic views of the city.

One of the old city’s most striking examples of architecture, The Church of Our Lady Bruges is a 6-minute walk from the main Market Square and features flying buttresses and a 115-meter-high bell tower. Inside you’ll find Michelangelo’s marble sculpture of the Madonna and child and paintings by Sir Anthony van Dyck.


Football in Belgium
Football in Belgium

International football began with a match in 1904 making it one of mainland Europe’s first countries to participate in association football. The team is now globally under the jurisdiction of FIFA and Europe’s UEFA both co-founded by the Royal Belgian Football Association. Home games are played at the King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels

The national football team has participated in 14 FIFA world cups, six UEFA European Championships, and three Olympics football tournaments winning at the 1920 Summer Olympics. Between 1954 and 2002, the team won world championships over Brazil, West Germany, France, and Argentina.

Comic Books

Comic Books - The Smurf
Comic Books – The Smurf – Image courtesy of Linda De Volder

While Belgium is noteworthy for its historical sites, Belgian beer, and Belgian chocolate, it can’t be overlooked for its contribution to the world of comics. Over the years, creative and witty comic writers have made Belgium the country with the most comic creators and illustrators in the world.

Some of the most recognizable comic strips that were born in Belgium and date back to the 1940s and include The Smurfs, Lucky Luke, Tintin, Gaston, and Spirou et Fantasio. It’s clear that along with France, Belgium has played a major role in the creation of European comics.

Brussels is the best place to experience Begium’s comics. A stroll down Comic Route is a must-do while visiting the city where you will see facades featuring over 40 comic book characters. The loveable characters can also be seen on buildings around the city’s center and the neighborhoods of Auderghem and Laeken. And of course, you’ll find the characters in a smattering of comic book stores.

Flanders Fields

Flanders Fields
Flanders Fields

Straddling the provinces of East Flanders, West Flanders, and the French department of Nord-Pas-de-Calais, Belgium’s Flanders Fields was a major battlefield area during WWI. More than a million soldiers representing 50 countries lost their lives or were wounded there.

Flanders Fields actively embraces the phrase “Lest We Forget” and memorializes those brave souls in many ways including the Last Post bugle call in honor of the British who died in battle performed every evening at sunset at the Menin Gate in Ypres. The In Flanders Fields Museum in Ypres is dedicated to the study of the First World War.

Also, people around the world are familiar with the poem “In Flanders Fields” written by John McCrae. The poem inspired the use of the red poppy flower as a symbol of remembrance of the lives lost here. The poem refers to the poppies growing from the chared and scared earth. The poem was published anonymously on December 8, 1915, and became the world’s most popular poem about war.

In the United States, volunteers for the American Veterans Association pass out red paper poppies for or without a donation every year on Veteran’s Day (November 11.)

Three Official Languages

Belgium has historically been largely influenced by its neighboring countries of France, Germany, and the Netherlands. As a result, the country has three official languages and none of them is Belgian. Dutch is the predominant language spoken in the province of Flanders and French is the language of Wallonia. German is spoken in a small area in the eastern Liège province near the German border.

For the majority of Belgians (roughly 60 percent ) Dutch is their first language. French is spoken by about 40 percent of the population. Dutch is the official language of the Flanders region and is one of the Brussels Capital Region’s official languages. The Flanders region also has sub-dialects. Depending on where you are you can detect East Flemish, West Flemish, Limburgish, and Brabantian dialects.

The Atomium

The Atomium
The Atomium in Brussels

Although Belgium is mostly known for its older styles of architecture and historical sites, the Atomium is a popular modern symbol of the country. Serving as the main pavilion of the 1958 World Fair Expo in Brussels, the structure is a model of an atom enlarged 165 billion times.

Like the Eiffel Tower in Parus, the Atomium was scheduled to be dismantled after the end of the exhibition. But thanks to its great popularity, authorities decided to leave it standing. Today, it represents the country’s forward look and universality. Temporary and permanent collections are housed in the spheres. The topmost one has a restaurant where you can dine with views of the Belgian capital.

The EU

Did you know that Belgium is one of the founding members of the EU? The country founded the European Union, France, Italy, West Germany, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg in 1957. Today, the capital of Brussels is home to several European institutions and is known as the unofficial capital of Europe.

In the European quarter of Brussels, you’ll find the European Parliament, the European Commission, the Council of the EU, and more. Belgium is also a founding member of NATO, WTO, OECD, and the Eurozone.

Jean-Claude Van Damme

Jean-Claude Van Damme
Jean-Claude Van Damme – Image courtesy of Wikimedia

Born and raised in Brussels, Jean-Claude Van Damme is a famous Belgian action star who claims the title of “living legend.” The icon of martial arts and action in the cinema has played many roles. He was born in 1960 in Sint-Agatha Berchem and began training at the age of 10.

Van Damme moved to the United States in 1982 where he became an actor known as the “Muscles from Brussels.” He landed roles as an extra in 1984’s Breakin’ and other films. Eventually, he was offered and accepted a role as the titular alien hunter in Predator. He also starred in the 1988 film Bloodsport. Classic action movies you’ll spot him in include Cyborg, Kickboxer, Lionheart, and Double Impact.

Best Christmas Markets

Christmas market in Brussels
Christmas market in Brussels

If you’re looking for the best European Christmas markets to visit during the holiday season, add Belgium to your itinerary. In Brussels, you can stroll along the Grand Place to shop and admire the Christmas tree which has been ranked among the best in Europe.

The city of Bruges provides a romantic Christmas getaway where you can stroll around the markets, ride the Ghent Ferris Wheel, and go ice skating.

The city of Liège also has a magical Christmas Village that grows bigger and better year after year. Other lively Christmas markets can be found in Louvain-La-Neuve, Leuven, and Ostend.

Record Holder for Longest Period Without A Government

If you had to guess what country went without a government for the longest time, you’d probably pick Iraq or another war-torn country. But the Iraqis went without a government for 289 days while Belgium spent 541 days before selecting an official administration. It happened back in 2010 and 2011 and made Belgium have the longest period without a government of any developed country.

To top that off, Belgium broke its own record in 2020 when the country spent an unbelievable 589 days without a government.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are 5 interesting facts about Belgium?

1. The word “spa” comes from a town in Belgium named Spa where ancient Romans came to bathe in the famous cold springs. 
2. New York City was founded by a Belgian man by the name of Peter Minuit.
3. Belgium once ruled a colony 80 times bigger than the country itself, the Belgian Congo in Central Africa.
4. All of the highways in Belgium are lit at night, and it’s said they’re visible from the moon. 
5. Belgium has the largest number of castles per square mile of any country in the world. 

Which industry is Belgium famous for?

Belgium is world-famous for its diamond industry. 

Why is Belgium famous for its chocolate?

The use of African heavy roast cocoa and filled truffles and pralines make Belgium famous for its chocolate. 

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