Flemish België, Fr. La Belgique, officially Kingdom of Belgium,
constitutional kingdom (1995 est. pop. 10,082,000), 11,781 sq mi
(30,513 sq km), NW Europe. Belgium is bordered on the N by the Netherlands
and the North Sea, on the E by Germany and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg,
and on the W and SW by France. Brussels is the capital and Antwerp
is the chief commercial center and one of the world's major ports.
Other important cities include Ghent and Liège.
The terrain is low lying except in the Ardennes Mts. in the south.
It is crossed by the Meuse and Scheldt rivers and by a network of
canals. Belgium is one of the most densely populated nations in
Europe. Historically, the country comprises two ethnic and cultural
regions, generally called Flanders and Wallonia-Flanders embracing
the northern provinces of East Flanders, West Flanders, Antwerp,
Limburg, and part of Brabant, and Wallonia comprising the remainder
of Brabant, Hainaut, Liège, Luxembourg, and Namur. The dividing
line runs roughly east-west just S of Brussels.
Flemish (a Dutch dialect) is the official language in Flanders,
while French is official in the south. The French-speaking people
are commonly called Walloons, although the term once referred chiefly
to those people in the area of the city of Liège who spoke
Walloon, a French dialect. Brussels is bilingual, and German is
spoken in a small section of Liège province. About three
quarters of the population is Roman Catholic; the balance is largely
Protestant, although there are Islamic and Jewish minorities in
There are universities in Brussels, Ghent, Liège, Louvain,
Mons, and Antwerp. The country also has numerous colleges, and schools
of music, architecture, and art. Many cities (most notably Brugge
and Ghent) have preserved their medieval architecture and art, which
attract thousands of tourists annually. The North Sea coast is popular
in the summer.