Discover Belgium

Belgium in a nutshell

Inhabitants

official languages

km² of Area

Organisations of the EU in Brussels

Belgium as a country exists since 1830 and has adopted a constitutional monarchy political system. It is one of the founding members of the European Union and was one of the first countries to adopt the euro as the national currency. The 5th smallest country of the EU, bordered by the North Sea, is divided into three regions: Wallonia, Flanders and the Brussels Capital Region.

Brussels, the capital, is an incredibly cosmopolitan environment. The city hosts both NATO and the EU headquarters. It is an important European base for thousands of international companies with a population of more than 300,000 expats. Other main cities include Antwerp, Liège, Ghent and Namur.

Activities during the Solvay Summer School

Visit of Brussels

Brussels is the capital of Belgium and the city hosting the Solvay Brussels School of Economics and Management. You will have the opportunity to discover all it has to offer through the program. Visits include some of the most famous sights such as the Atomium (this building was built for the 1958 Brussels’ World Fair and has the shape of a unit cell), the Royal Palace (King Philippe’s administrative residence and main workplace, open to visits during the summer) and the Grand Place. If you pay attention, you might also discover comic strip characters on the walls of some buildings in the city center!

Visit of Bruges

Bruges has earned the nickname of “Venice of the North” thanks to its historic canals and is often considered as the most beautiful city in Belgium. The medieval city center was designated a World Heritage site by UNESCO and the city’s architecture and art exhibitions attract millions of tourists every year. You will have the opportunity to spend a day in this extraordinary place during the Solvay Summer School to stroll along the canals, narrow cobbled streets and secret gardens.

Visit of Bruges

Bruges has earned the nickname of “Venice of the North” thanks to its historic canals and is often considered the most beautiful city in Belgium. The medieval city centre was designated a World Heritage site by UNESCO and the city’s architecture and art exhibitions attract millions of tourists every year. You will have the opportunity to spend a day in this extraordinary place during the Solvay Summer School to stroll along the canals, narrow cobbled streets and secret gardens.

European Institutions

As the Solvay Summer School focuses on the European business challenges, you will of course visit the European Parliament located in the European quarter in Brussels. The 705 Members of the European Parliament are directly elected by voters in all Member States and they decide European Legislation with the Council of the European Union. During this exceptional visit, you will have the opportunity to know more about how the European Union works, and you will be invited to learn about European construction at the House of European History.

Belgian Specialities

Beer

There are currently more than 1500 different Belgian beers, from Trappist beers (brewed in a monastery) to lambic beers (fruit beer).

Chocolate

Belgium is famous for its chocolate, and most especially pralines. Brussels Airport is the world’s biggest chocolate selling point, with 800 tons sold per year.

Fries

The Belgians are the biggest fries eaters in the world, with 75kg consumed per year and per person. You will find a frietkot (chip shop) in every neighbourhood.

Mussels

Mussels are highly popular in Belgium due to the proximity to the North Sea, and always go with fries. They are served in a large black pot and you are expected to use your hand to open the shells, then place the empty ones in the pot lid.

Waffles

The heading “Belgian Waffles” actually hides two distinctive types of waffles: the Brussels waffle (rectangular, crispy outside and airy inside) and the Liège waffle (rounder, made with thicker dough and sugar chunks).

Belgian Specialities

Beer

There are currently more than 1500 different Belgian beers, from trappist beers (brewn in a monastery) to lambic beers (fruit beer).

Chocolate

Belgium is famous for its chocolate, and most especially pralines. Brussels Airport is the world’s biggest chocolate selling point, with 800 tons sold per year.

Fries

The Belgians are the biggest fries eaters in the world, with 75kg consumed per year and per person. You will find a frietkot (chip shop) in every neighbourhood.

Mussels

Mussels are highly popular in Belgium due to the proximity to the North Sea, and always go with fries. They are served in a large black pot and you are expected to use your hand to open the shells, then place the empty ones in the pot lid.

Waffles

The heading “Belgian Waffles” actually hides two distinctive types of waffles: the Brussels waffle (rectangular, crispy outside and airy inside) and the Liège waffle (rounder, made with thicker dough and sugar chunks).

Made in Belgium

Carnivals

Carnivals are a long-lasting tradition in Belgium. The carnival of Binche (recognised Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO) is the occasion to try to catch an orange thrown by a Gille wearing a recognisable ostrich-feather hat; it is a good luck charm! Other famous celebrations happen in Malmedy, Aalst or Stavelot.

Festivals

For such a small country, the number of music festivals in Belgium is astonishing! All year long, but mostly during the summer, feel the beat in big open spaces: there is something for everyone! Among the most famous are Tomorrowland, Rock Werchter, Dour or the Brussels Summer Festival, often happening close to the dates of the Solvay Summer School!

Comic Strips

Comic strips, nicknamed “the ninth art”, is one of Belgium’s biggest pride. Since the 20th century, many imaginary characters created in Belgium gained international fame: Tintin, the Smurfs, Lucky Luke, Spirou… The country still has the largest concentration of comic strips authors per km², and many of its museums are dedicated to this art.

Sports

Belgian are sports lovers! Aside from football and the national team “the Red Devils”, Belgium has a solid reputation in cycling, with famous races such as the Tour of Flanders and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and famous cyclists like Eddy Merckx or Philippe Gilbert. Tennis is also popular with international stars like Justine Henin, Kim Clijsters or David Goffin.

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