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15 More Things You Didn’t Know About Belgium

By alison - March 12, 2012

Castles in Belgium

Castles? Belgium has more per square km than anywhere else inn the world!

Belgium has a reputation for being a boring little country, but we know the truth. This little place has done some pretty big things. We’d like to share 15 interesting facts you probably didn’t know about Belgium.

Back in January one of CheeseWeb’s old posts went viral, in a big way. Andrew and I sat back and watched in awe as thousands of hits were recorded in one day, on our 25 Things You Didn’t Know About Belgium post. Even now, months later, the article is receiving over 100 hits most days.

While traffic came to the post from around the world, it particularly seemed to resonate with the Belgian community both at home and abroad. The resounding consensus was “Hey! Belgium really is a cool country!” (We’ve been telling you that all along, haven’t we?)

But you know what? There are more than 25 interesting facts about Belgium. Since we wrote that post back in 2009, we’ve discovered even more. So without further ado, here are 15 More Things You Didn’t Know About Belgium.

  1. France and Germany may be known for castles, but there are more castles in Belgium per square mile than any other country.
  2. Belgium has the densest rail network in the world with 4078 kms of track.
  3. Belgian households have the highest percentage of cable TV in the world, at 97%
  4. You may think of Holland when you think of tulips, but the bulbs arrived in Antwerp first, in 1562.

    Groot Bijgaarden, Belgium

    Belgium had flower bulbs before Holland

  5. The world’s first recorded lottery took place in Belgium, to raise money for the poor.
  6. Brussels has 138 restaurants per square mile.
  7. The only Belgian race car, the Vertigo, holds the Guinness World Record for fastest acceleration from 0-100km/h in 3.266 seconds.
  8. In 2006, the Association of European Airports reported Brussels International Airport was the most punctual of the 27 largest airports on the continent.
  9. A drive through the suburbs will substantiate, Belgium produces the widest variety of bricks in the world.

    Bricks of all colours

    Belgium is made of bricks of all colours

  10. Besix, a Belgian construction company, was one of four contracted to construct the world’s tallest building, the Burj Dubai.
  11. The world’s biggest baby, weighing 5.4kg and measuring 57cm long, was born in Knokke in December of 2006.
  12. Belgium was the first country to issue electronic passports, meeting ICAO standards, and along with Italy, was the first to issue electronic ID cards in March 2003.
  13. The smallest town in the world is Durbuy, Belgium, with less than 500 inhabitants.
  14. Both the name of the euro currency and the design of the € symbol were proposed by Belgians.
  15. Although it is now based in Paris, Club Med was started in 1950 by Belgian Gérard Blitz.

Do you know any interesting facts about Belgium we haven’t covered in either of our posts? Share them in the comments below.

 

Alison

Alison

Big Cheese at CheeseWeb
Alison Cornford-Matheson is a freelance writer and travel photographer and the founder of Cheeseweb.eu She landed in Belgium in 2005 and, over the years, has become passionate about this quirky little country. She loves to discover Belgium's hidden gems - be they museums, shops, restaurants, castles, gardens or landscapes, and share them through her words and photos. She loves to travel the world with her husband, Andrew, and spend quiet nights reading with her cats and a glass of red wine. You can also follow her work on Google+
Alison
Today our guest contributor Bridget shares 40 great resources for newcomer in Brussels (but even us 'old-timers'... http://t.co/F3sGuaY07B - 2 weeks ago
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18 comments

  1. Comment by May

    May March 12, 2012 at 12:39

    Very interesting Alison!

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison March 12, 2012 at 13:38

      Thanks May!

  2. Comment by Wandering Educators

    Wandering Educators March 12, 2012 at 17:10

    oh. i so want to go. well, and eat, of course, but there’s so much more to see and do. :)

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison March 12, 2012 at 17:21

      You guys are welcome any time Jessie! We promise to show you a great time!

  3. Comment by Anno

    Anno March 12, 2012 at 20:22

    Thanks, a nice article about hidden gems of Belgium. Just a small correction – the electronic ID card was first launched in Estonia in January 2002 and first electronic signatures with legal force were given in October 2002: http://www.id.ee/11244. Since then, 76 million electronic signatures have been given and 128 million authentitacions proceeded.

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison March 13, 2012 at 10:59

      Thanks for the clarification Anno!

  4. Comment by David

    David March 13, 2012 at 13:22

    I have a few issues with some of the points here.

    For point 3, where did you find the figure of 4078km of track? Most sources I’ve found suggest somewhere in the region of 3000-3500km.

    In any case, eurostat claims Belgium is only second (length of railway per land area):
    http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/cache/ITY_OFFPUB/KS-SF-08-028/EN/KS-SF-08-028-EN.PDF
    Only a few EU countries had over 100 km of rail
    network per 1000 km² of national territory in 2005: this
    is the case for the Czech Republic (122 km), Belgium
    (116 km), …

    And it’s nowhere near the top in terms of km of rail per head of population.
    http://geocommons.com/overlays/5421
    http://geocommons.com/datasets/5421/data

    Point 13 is an oft-repeated claim, but as far as I can tell, it’s largely spurious and put about to increase tourism.

    The definition of ‘town’ is so variable around the world that it’s probably meaningless to search for a smallest town anyway. Just as one example, here’s an article about a book which describes 100 towns with less than 100 people in Minnesota alone: http://www.albertleatribune.com/2012/02/19/minnesota%E2%80%99s-smallest-towns-wrapped-up-in-a-book/

    In any case, nowadays (since the merging of the communes in the 70s) the commune of Durbuy has 10000+ inhabitants.

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison March 13, 2012 at 14:39

      Thanks for your comment David. The sources we used are at the bottom of the post. It’s always possible to slice data in different ways to get different answers, but regardless of how you slice it they are still some fun statistics concerning a country which has a lot to be proud of!

  5. Pingback: eleven twenty twelve ~ wundiscoveries | wundiverse

  6. Comment by Thomas

    Thomas April 15, 2012 at 22:56

    Maybe you forget that the dynamo was invented by a Belgian : Zenobe Gramme

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison April 19, 2012 at 14:33

      Right you are Thomas! Thanks for another great addition to the list.

  7. Comment by Jin

    Jin June 1, 2012 at 22:32

    Hi Alison, great site! I’m moving to Brussels in a month and your site’s been really helpful for getting acclimated. Would you have any advice for me on pet related matters? My two dogs are my pride and joy, and finding a good vet, pet store, etc seems daunting given I don’t speak French!

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison June 4, 2012 at 10:16

      Hi Jin, I’m so glad you’re finding CW helpful for your move. We understand how important a move it is for pets as we came here with four cats and a Saint Bernard! Now, sadly we are down to two cats but they are still very spoiled :) Our vet and pet store are located outside of tBrussels in Sterrebeek, near where we lived when we first arrived here. Both are Flemish but speak great English. I can pass them along if you like but if you are looking for someone in Brussels I’m not too much help. Drop me an email through the contact form and let me know what area you are planning to move to and I’ll see if I can help out. Good luck with your move!

  8. Comment by Thomas

    Thomas August 7, 2012 at 15:32

    Hi Alison,

    If I could add one more little interesting fact which I always tell people when travelling, is that the Saxophone was invented by a belgian, in the name of Adolphe Sax, in the year 1846.

    I am Belgian myself and together with my Irish girlfriend we will be moving to Belgium in September. We look forward to it !

    We are currently in Argentina on a round-the-world trip. You can have a look at our website if you wish. WE’RE always eager to meet new people and we’re both huge cheese & wine lovers so you never know we might bump into each others one day on the streets of the capital.

    Have a lovely day,
    Thomas

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison August 7, 2012 at 16:24

      Hi Thomas,

      Yes, we mentioned Adolphe Sax in our first post of interesting facts about Belgium. If you visit Dinant you can visit a little museum dedicated to him. Drop us a note in September when you arrive and maybe we can meet up. We’d love to hear about your travels!

  9. Comment by Nicolaas Luijten

    Nicolaas Luijten August 21, 2012 at 10:25

    Hi Alison,

    I am glad I found your blog, it is quite interesting. I am Belgian myself from Antwerp, but have been an expatriate since 1979. I am now preparing to move back to Antwerp for my retirement, and my wife (she is dutch) and I are approaching this really as a new posting. Your site is very informative and I will visit more often.

    As far as belgians and their influence are concerned, I have found a very interesting site of an American with flemish roots who has been writing a wonderful blog about the flemish influences in the US, his link is here:

    http://flemishamerican.blogspot.sg/

    Quite a lot to read but since I like history it is fascinating.

    Keep up the good work.

    Nick

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison August 21, 2012 at 11:02

      Hi Nick,

      I’m glad you are enjoying the site and I hope it is useful when you move back to Antwerp (one of our favourite cities!) I will check out the history blog you recommended as we are always looking for more and interesting info about this country :)

  10. Pingback: 25 Things You Didn't Know About Belgium | Expat Life in Belgium, Travel and Photography | CheeseWeb

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