The Kingdom of Belgium is a country in northwest Europe. It’s a founding member of the European Union and hosts its headquarters, as well as those of other major international organizations, including NATO. Belgium is a small, highly developed, and densely populated country. It is a federal state, with three relatively autonomous regions: Flanders in the north, where the language is Dutch (“Flemish”), Wallonia in the south, where the language is French, and the centrally located Brussels, which is officially bilingual. Belgium is bordered by France, Luxembourg, Germany, and the Netherlands. Brussels is the capital city, in the center of Belgium, and also the largest municipality of the Brussels-Capital Region. Antwerp is Belgium’s second-largest city and Europe’s largest harbor.
In Brussels, major attractions include the Grand Place with its unique city hall and guild houses. The city is also home to St. Michael’s Cathedral, the Congress Column, the Heizeldistrict with the Atomium, the Chinese Pavilion, the Japanese Tower and the Palace of Laken as well as the Court of Justice, Louise Square, the Royal Palace, and the old Palace of the Nations, which is now the home of Parliament. In the center of Antwerp are Market Square and Our Lady’s Cathedral, which contains, along with other treasures, two of Rubens’ masterworks, “The Elevation of the Cross” and “The Descent from the Cross.” Antwerp is also the world’s diamond center.
Brussels alone has no fewer than 1,500 restaurants. But the best way to navigate the Belgian dining scene is with the help of the tourism office’s annual directory, entitled “Gourmet,” which rates each restaurant in irises, the flower of Brussels. The city also has two sections that are full of eateries: rue des Bouchers and Petite rue des Bouchers, both of which are near Grand Place.
All overseas flights arrive at Brussels National Airport. There is no domestic air transportation between Belgian cities. Eight airlines provide service between North America and Brussels. The Eurostar train links Brussels with London and Paris. The Thalys train links Brussels with Paris. The climate is maritime temperate with significant precipitation in all seasons.
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