Official name: Kingdom of Belgium
Area: 30,510 square kilometers (11,780 square miles)
Highest point on mainland: Mount Botrange (694 meters/2,277 feet)
Lowest point on land: Sea level
Hemispheres: Northern and Eastern
Time zone: 1 P.M. = noon GMT
Longest distances: 280 kilometers (174 miles) from southeast to northwest; 222 kilometers (137 miles) from northeast to southwest
Land boundaries: 1,451 kilometers (902 miles) total boundary length; France, 620 kilometers (385 miles); Germany, 167 kilometers (104 miles); Luxembourg, 148 kilometers (92 miles); Netherlands, 450 kilometers (280 miles)
Coastline: 66 kilometers (41 miles)
Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)
1 LOCATION AND SIZE
Belgium is one of Europe's smallest and most densely populated countries. It is located in a part of northwestern Europe that was once called the Low Countries and today is known as the Benelux region (primarily due to Belgium's economic partnership with its neighbors Luxembourg and the Netherlands). Centrally located in Western Europe with few natural frontiers, Belgium has been called the crossroads of Europe. For much of its history, it was a battleground for the major European powers of France, Britain, and Germany. Today, its capital, Brussels, is the seat of both NATO and the European Union.
2 TERRITORIES AND DEPENDENCIES
Belgium has no territories or dependencies.
Belgium has a temperate maritime climate with moderate temperatures in both summer and winter.
The mean temperature in Brussels ranges from 2.2°C (36°F) in January to 18°C (64°F) in July.
Rainfall averages between 70 and 100 centimeters (28 and 40 inches) per year and is evenly spread out over the twelve months. The elevated Ardennes region can receive as much as 140 centimeters (55 inches) of rain annually.
|S EASON||M ONTHS||A VERAGE T EMPERATURE : °C ELSIUS (°F AHRENHEIT )|
|Summer||June to August||18°C (64°F)|
|Winter||December to March||3°C (37°F)|
4 TOPOGRAPHIC REGIONS
Belgium can be divided into three major geographic regions: the coastal plains to the northwest, a low central plateau region, and the Ardennes highlands to the southeast. The country also has a distinctive ethnic and linguistic division, influenced by its proximity to its Dutch and French neighbors. The Flemish, who speak a form of Dutch, live in the northern part of the country, while the French-speaking Walloons live in the southern part. A small German-speaking minority also lives in the east, near the German border.
5 OCEANS AND SEAS
Belgium is situated at the southern tip of the North Sea.
Seacoast and Undersea Features
The coast of Flanders, a flat fringe of land reaching 8 to 16 kilometers (5 to 10 miles) inland from the sea, is protected from floods and tides by sand dunes and a network of dikes.
Belgium's coastline is nearly straight, with white-sand beaches. Behind the beaches lie dunes, and behind them are polders (wetlands reclaimed for agricultural use during the Middle Ages).
6 INLAND LAKES
Belgium has relatively few natural lakes. The largest complex of lakes is located in the southeast in the Ardennes region.
7 RIVERS AND WATERFALLS
Belgium has two major rivers, the Schelde (Escaut) and the Meuse (Maas), both of which originate in France and flow east across Belgium. They gather numerous tributaries before continuing through the Netherlands and draining into the North Sea. Among the largest tributaries of the Schelde River are the Leie and Dender. In the south, the Sambre, Semois, Ourthe, and Amblève flow into the Meuse.
Belgium has no desert regions.
9 FLAT AND ROLLING TERRAIN
Belgium's northern lowlands belong to the Great European Plain. The western part of these lowlands is occupied by Flanders. The region northeast of Antwerp, which belongs to the delta of the Meuse and Rhine Rivers, is known as Kempenland, or the Campine.
10 MOUNTAINS AND VOLCANOES
The heavily forested Ardennes highlands extend south of the Meuse River valley, continuing into France. They range in elevation from 400 meters (1,300 feet) to between 580 to 700 meters (1,900 and 2,300 feet). The Hautes Fagnes near the German border, which are part of the Ardennes, include Belgium's highest peak, Mount Botrange (Signal de Botrange), at 694 meters (2,277 feet) above sea level.
11 CANYONS AND CAVES
A number of interesting caves may be found in the southeastern corner of the country, especially in the provinces of Namur, Liege, and Luxembourg, between Luxembourg and France.
12 PLATEAUS AND MONOLITHS
Between the northern lowlands and the Ardennes highlands to the south lies Belgium's central plateau region. It extends across the middle of the country, from the Borinage area in the west to the Brabant region near the southeastern Dutch border. Elevations range from 20 meters (65 feet) to 200 meters (650 feet). The capital city of Brussels is located in this region.
13 MAN-MADE FEATURES
The coastal area of Flanders includes polders (reclaimed land) that were formerly marsh-land. The salt marshes of the region were transformed into rich farmland behind a barrier of dikes.
An extensive network of canals extends throughout the coastal plains and central plateau region, connecting Belgium's major cities and rivers to the sea. The major arteries are the Brugge-Zeebrugge, Charleroi-Brussels, Willebroek, and Albert Canals.
14 FURTHER READING
Blyth, Derek. Belgium. 9th ed. New York: W.W. Norton, 2000.
Fielding's Belgium: The Most In-Depth and Entertaining Guide to the Charms and Pleasures of Belgium. Redondo Beach, CA: Fielding Worldwide, 1994.
Fox, Renie C. In the Belgian Château: The Spirit and Culture of a European Society in an Age of Change. Chicago: I.R. Dee, 1994.