There’s no doubt you’ve seen many blog posts and news articles about Belgium these past few months, pointing out the reasons you should (or should not – but that’s another story) visit Belgium. But hey, we wouldn’t have a blog about Belgium if we couldn’t find another set of unique reasons that has nothing to do with our famous waffles, our fries and our marvelous beer. Here’s our own slightly unconventional list of 9,5 reasons why you should visit Belgium.
1. You’re traveling from Amsterdam to Paris anyway
From our capital, it’s a 3 hour drive to Amsterdam (2,5 if the traffic is good), a 3 hour drive to Paris, a 3 hour trip to London and a 2,5 hour drive to Cologne (Germany). You might as well stop in Belgium while you’re traveling from one country to the next! The maximum distance between two points in Belgium is about 280 kilometers, so you can actually cross the entire country in less than a day, or spend the night in one of our main cities on your way to France, The Netherlands, Germany or England. One warning though: traveling through Belgium by car can be a challenge…
2. The weather is very stable: it will rain
It rains about 199 days a year in Belgium, so there’s a big chance you will need an umbrella and raincoat within reach while you’re here. But don’t let the weather put you off: there’s nothing more romantic than strolling in a medieval city like Bruges or Durbuy, and it’s even more romantic if you’re doing it while under an umbrella. Besides, as Alfred Wainwright once stated: ‘There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing’. And another perk: if you want or need to start a conversation with locals, talk about the lousy weather and you’ll immediately win over their hearts.
3. One beer, double (or octuple) the fun
Yes, we lied in the introduction. But we can’t NOT talk about beer when summing up the reasons to visit Belgium. It might be a small country, but it’s undoubtably big in beers. Did you know that under the streets of Bruges, a full two-mile pipeline is currently being built exclusively for beer?
We have well over 1.000 types of beer, and they all vary in strength (and in taste of course, as Nick explains in this post). Some of the beers are so strong that you’ll have trouble standing up straight after just half a glass. The strongest one is the Struise Black Damnation VI – Messy, an Imperial Stout beer with notes of coffee and chocolate and an alcohol percentage of 39 degrees.
4. It’s the closest you’ll get to time traveling
From prehistoric caves over roman structures, medieval castles and historic remains of the battle of Napoleon and the First and Second World War, Belgium has it all! You can travel through time in a heartbeat here and end your visit in the house of the future, a great way to discover what’s still to come.
5. It’s the perfect excuse to cheat on your diet
Okay so we lied again. Waffles, chocolate and fries just happen to be local specialities, so Belgium is thé country to forget about your diet without feeling guilty. After all, when in Rome… The best thing about it, is that it’s not just a sales pitch: Belgians eat 13 portions of fries on average a month and just under 10 kilo’s of chocolate a year (a fifth of all Belgians eat chocolate every day).
And yes, we stay true to our own Belgian chocolate, mainly because of the special cacao quotes. Our country has the highest cacao content in the world, even higher than the Swiss chocolate. There are no statistics on how many waffles Belgians eat on average, probably because it’s too embarrassing to tell. The point is: you can’t just leave without having tasted these local high-caloric treats.
6. There’s always a party somewhere
Now that you know where we get the energy from, here’s another fact: Belgium (mainly Flanders and Brussels combined) throws the most festivals per person in the world. That’s 280 festivals on 13,500 km² of festival meadow in a great variety of themes. Surely you’ve heard of Tomorrowland, one of the (if not thé) biggest electronic music festivals held in the world, that takes place in Boom (south of Antwerp). But there are so many more. There’s Dour, Les Ardentes, Werchter, Lokerse Feesten, Couleur café, Suikerrock, Pukkelpop, Cactusfestival, Laundry day … Check the calendars while in Belgium, good chance there are people dancing near you!
7. It’s a great opportunity to practice your French (and then find out half of the country speaks Dutch)
“Parlez-vous français?” It seems like a simple question, but when you’re asking it in Belgium, it becomes complicated. Yes, we speak French, but not all of us. Some of us speak French poorly because our main language is actually Dutch, not French. And some of us speak Dutch and French poorly because our main language is neither French or Dutch, but German. Can you keep up?
Which one of the three official languages we speak best, depends on the region you’re in. In the simplified version, we speak Dutch in Flanders (in the north), French in Wallonia (in the south) and German in the east. If you’re still confused, just read Eldrid’s post on languages in Belgium. If you don’t speak any of the 3 languages, don’t worry. Belgians are known for adjusting to the language of whoever stands before them. In other words: asking “Do you speak English” might be the quickest way to get the information you need.
8. Belgium is a lot of things, but it’s certainly not boring
Belgium is subject to a huge amount of jokes and clichés. Everyone in the country smells of chocolate (and if it’s not chocolate, then it’s beer), we only read comic books, it always rains and our infrastructure and political system are a mess. But are we offended? No, because a lot of the ‘Belgium jokes’ are funny – and sometimes even true.
There’s one prejudice we’d like to set straight though: Belgium is a lot of things, but it’s certainly not boring. We dealt with a terrorist lockdown by spreading memes of cats. We made a poo-machine and covered pillars with 8.000 slices of smoked ham and called it art. We broke the record for going the longest time without a government… and then threw a party to celebrate.
Strange? Yes. Surreal? Yes. Boring? Definitely not. We are the country that gave Obama a life-sized gingerbread cookie for heaven’s sake! And what other country has a naked little boy urinating for a national monument? We may not be able to guarantee good weather, but we can assure you’ll be entertained.
9. It’s the fastest you’ll ever get to the top of a mountain
If you’ve never climbed a mountain in your life, Belgium is the place to cross that off your bucket list. Our country has a lot of mountains, but mind you, what we call mountains is different from what you call mountains. The lowest ‘mountain’ in Belgium is called the Wolvenberg (Wolves mountain) and it’s a whopping 52 meters high… But it really is a mountain, at least by name.
Now you’re probably wandering what our highest peak is? The highest point in Belgium isn’t even a mountain, it’s a plateau called the ‘Signal of Botrange’ and you can find it in Wallonia, at 694 meters above sea level. No wonder so many Belgians take on cycling: there’s really no mountain you can’t climb in ‘le plat pays‘.
9.5 Because we Belgians still like Belgium, too
Our country has been called a lot of things: a hellhole, a non-country, a warzone and even western Europe’s most divided nation. But no matter how modest or flustered we might seem sometimes, for the better part of our lives we do like living in Belgium. You may or may not know, but the country (and Brussels in particular) has had a lot to endure since the attacks in Paris and the 22/3 bombing at Zaventem airport and the Brussels metro. In just one month, the amount of bankruptcies in the hospitality industry increased with 1.400 percent.
You must admit though, that it takes a strong community to stand united in times like these – and that’s exactly what we’re doing. There’s #diningforbrussels, a campaign launched by two Belgian newspapers that calls upon everyone to eat out in Brussels and fill the empty chairs. There’s #sprouttobebrussels, a campaign that lets you share your love for Brussels via a big screen in the Brussels city centre. #proudbelgians is an initiative launched by three digital agencies to encourage Belgian citizens to become ambassadors of their country by sharing positive stories of Belgium on social media.
The project #SeeYouInBrussels allows you to send free postcards across the world to praise Brussels and the #shareoursmile campaign, launched by Tourism Flanders, was launched to attract tourists back to the region. No better time than a crisis (or a football match) to put aside our differences and unite to help the country get back on its feet. We’re fighting back, with hashtags, food and postcards. And so can you. SeeYouInBelgium!