As the BBC celebrates its 25th Anniversary, we will be regularly placing interesting facts about Belgium. Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Linked In or visit our webiste for a dose of new facts and information. 25 years - 25 facts. Get to know them all!

PART I

1. The name 'Belgium' came from the Romans who called their province Gallia Belgica in honor of the former inhabitants of the area -Belgae.
2. Belgium shares borders with four countries: France, Luxembourg, Germany and the Netherlands.
3. The country is almost the same size as the Mazovia Voivodship (area: 30,528 km²).
4. Belgium consists of 3 autonomous regions, 3 communities, 10 provinces and 589 municipalities.
5. There are 3 official languages in Belgium: Dutch, French and German. The majority of the population speaks Dutch.

 

6. The countries motto is ‘Unity makes strength’.
7. Belgium is a constitutional monarchy.
8. His Majesty King Philippe of Belgium is also called ‘The King of Belgians’. The head of  the government is the Prime Minister Charles            Michel, who has the right of legislative initiative.
9. On the 21st of July Belgians celebrate the National Day, while on the 15th of November they celebrate Koningsdag, known as King's Day.
10. In Belgium there is a civil electoral duty, lack of participation in the general election or referendum is fined.

 

11. Belgians invented and designed the euro symbol. Initials of Luca Luycx are placed on euro coins.
12. Belgium is a founding member of the Council of Europe.
13. In Belgium there is a compulsory education up to 18 years of age.
14. Belgium is the world’s leader in diamond production (Antwerp).
15. Belgium was elected 9 times at the UN Security Council.

 

16. Belgium's most famous discoveries and inventions include: the saxophone, oil painting, body mass index BMI, electric tram and plastic.
17. Manneken Pis - a statue of a boy urinating and the symbol of Brussels has its female counterpart - a urinating girl called Jeanneke Pis.
18. Brabançonne is the national anthem of Belgium, which was written in 1830.
19. Belgium has the largest number of castles per square meter in the world.
20. About 70 000 Poles live in Belgium.

 

21. Belgium's motorway system is one of the best floodlighted sites in the world - the structure is visible from outer space.
22. The highest point in Belgium is Signal de Botrange in the Ardennes mountains,  east of the country. It is 694 meters high.
23. The first skyscraper in Europe, the Torengebouw, was built in Antwerp in 1928. It is 97.5 meters high.
24. The oldest and most prestigious award in the country is the Leopold Order (in honour of Belgium's first king, Leopold I).
25. In Belgium there are 12 objects inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

PART II

1. 'La Redoute’ is the first casino in Europe opened in 1763, in Belgium.
2. Durbuy is called the smallest town in the world, it was granted the rank of town in medieval times. Nowadays there are around 500 inhabitants living there.
3. Belgium was the scene of Napoleon’s final defeat, during the Battle of Waterloo, on the south of Brussels.
4. The first recorded lottery in history was organized in 1466 in Bruges, as a means to raise income for the poor.
5. Since the 17th century, a Belgian town named Spa is known for its splendid healing waters. It’s from where we get the word 'spa'.

 

6. Belgium is the producer of the highest assortment of bricks in the world.
7. Belgium is the world's third country with the most vehicles per square km after the Netherlands and Japan. 
8. The Foire de Libramont is the largest agricultural, forestry and agri-food fair in Europe.
9. The main religion in Belgium is Christianity, in particular Roman Catholicism. More than a half of the population adheres to the Roman Catholic Church.
10. In 1066, Huy in Belgium became the first European city to receive a charter of rights, making it the oldest free city on the continent.

 

11. Half of Belgian households have at least one pet. Domestic cats and dogs alone are over 2 million in the country, for 10 million people.
12. 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. 
13. Belgian physicist and mathematician Ingrid Daubechies developed the mathematical model used by the FBI to stock finger prints.
14. Belgium was the world's first country, along with Italy, to introduce electronic ID cards in 2003.
15. The city of Antwerp is also recognized as the diamond capital of the world. Diamonds began trading in Antwerp as early as 1447.

 

16. The Big Bang Theory was originally conceived by a Belgian physicist, astronomer and professor of physics at the Catholic University of Leuven - Georges Lemaître.
17. Bruges - also known as the ‘Venice of the North’, got its name from the multiple canals that surround the city centre with more than 80 bridges.
18. The world's largest ship lift is the counterweighted lift of Strepy-Thieu (with 73,15 m high) in the Belgian province of Hainaut.
19. Fran Pepper became the first robot-citizen and gained Belgian nationality. The robot looks like a humanoid, speaks over 20 languages and lives and works in Haaselt. 
20. The longest tramway line in the world at 68 kilometers is the Belgian Coast Tram - the Kusttram, which travels the Belgian coast between the French and Dutch borders.

 

21. The Mercator projection is a cylindrical map projection created by the Flemish geographer and cartographer Gerardus Mercator in 1569.
22. Brussels is not only one of the greenest capitals of Europe with almost 25% of Urban space constituted of  parks and Forest, it also counts the largest single Forest area within city  borders of all Capitals of EU Member States (the Sonian Forest with 1600 hectares).
23. The largest city in the country is Brussels, with over one million inhabitants. Antwerp, Ghent, Charleroi, Liège followed with populations over 100 000.
24. Belgian men are one of the tallest in the world – with a height of 181,7 cm.
25. Neanderthal skulls were first discovered in the Belgian village of Engis (suburb of Liège), in 1829. 

PART III

1. Belgian cuisine usually refers to of Belgian origin. Typical ingredients in Belgian dishes include potatoes, leeks, cauliflowers, Belgian endives, white asparagus and local beer.
2. Brussels sprouts really do come from Belgium and have grown in the Brussels area for over 400 years.
3. In Belgian grocery stores endive is almost as common as carrots. One of the most popular ways to serve it is with ham gratin - cooked endives wrapped in sliced ham and baked with béchamel sauce and grated white cheese on top.
4. The country imports annually nearly five million bags of coffee, making Belgium one of the biggest java exporters anywhere in the world.
5. The Duvel cheese from Van Tricht is a type of cheese with beer added during the production so it tastes like Duvel (one of the most popular Belgian beer) with every bite of the cheese.

 

6. Belgium is a beer paradise. There are more than 1000 different kinds of beer originated from here.
7. Some of the breweries in Belgium are operated by monks, who create a unique style known as Trappist beer.
8. The world's first beer academy opened in Herk-de-Stad, in the Belgian province of Limburg, in 1999.
9. Most beers have their own, different shaped glass in which only that beer may be served. 
10. UNESCO has added the Belgian beer culture to the list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

 

11. The first evidence of chocolate production in Belgium dates back to 1635 - almost 400 years ago!
12. The world's largest chocolate selling point is the Brussels National Airport.
13. Belgium produces annually 220,000 tons of chocolate. That’s about 22kg of chocolate per person in Belgium. 
14. The largest chocolate factory in the world is the famous Barry Callebaut  located in Wieze, Belgium.
15. Jean Neuhaus invented chocolate pralines in Brussels in 1912.

 

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