Belgium is small country that has retained much of its old world charm by preserving many of its historic buildings and traditions. Located at the cross-roads of Europe, the country has had a long and varied history developing a multifaceted culture, and a countryside rich in picturesque historic towns each with quaint cobblestones streets and medieval squares, tree lined canals and appealing architectural facades. Today, the cities of Brugge, Ghent, Liege, Antwerp and Brussels offer impressive architecture, lively nightlife and plenty of interesting attractions for the visitor. For the tourist the diverse countryside ranges from the wide golden sands of the North Sea coast in Flanders, to the woodlands, moors and grasslands of Wallonia, culminating in the beauty of the mountainous, forest covered Ardennes, which borders Luxembourg and Germany.
Belgium is a constitutional monarchy, so to be more correct it is really known as the Kingdom of Belgium, with King Albert II being the current Head of State. It is a small nation that lies on the North Sea coastline of Western Europe and is home to an estimated 10.5 million residents, of which nearly 95% live in urban areas!! The country straddles the linguistic divide of the German based and Latin based languages, with the northern Region of Flanders speaking Dutch, and the southern Region of Wallonia speaking French. The largest and capital city is Brussels, which is located roughly in the geographic centre of the country.
Generally a low-lying country with coastal plains in the north-west, rolling hills in the central region, and the forested hills and valleys of the Ardennes in the south-east, Belgium covers only 30,000 square kilometres, making it the 33rd largest country in Europe!! The country lies in a highly industrialised part of Europe and is bordered by France to the south-west, Luxembourg to the south-east, Germany to the east and the Netherlands to the north. This centrally located and often fought over position in Europe has caused the country to be dubbed the ‘Battlefield of Europe’, but this location also has many benefits for Belgium, especially trade and commerce. History shows early evidence of co-operations from the days of the 14th century when Flanders formed an alliance with the Hanseatic League, an alliance of trading guilds that controlled and monopolised trade in the Baltic Sea. Then in the 15th century, when the region was prosperous, the Seventeen States formed the Low Countries, creating a stronger economic unit. Later the creation of the Benelux economic union of 1948 between Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg, saw another stage in the expansion of economic trade boundaries. Today this far sighted and progressive attitude has helped Belgium by becoming a founding member of the E.U. This has culminated in Brussels becoming the unofficial capital of the E.U. by housing the European Parliament, Council and the Commission.