For a country of its size, Belgium is packed full of things to do. Its historical cities such as Brussels, Bruges, and Antwerp are fascinating, there are stunning areas of countryside, and noone produces better beer or chocolate than the Belgians.
Belgium is situated at the crossroads of Western Europe. Germany lies to the East, France to the southwest, Luxembourg to the southeast, and Holland to the north. The population is 11.5 million and Brussels is the capital.
There are three official languages in Belgium: Dutch, French, and, German. French is mainly spoken in the south, and Dutch is predominant in the north. Brussels is a bilingual capital and is unofficially the capital of the European Union.
Because of its location, Belgium has an intriguing history and it has changed hands many times over the centuries. It was part of the Carolingian Empire, the Habsburg Empire, the Napoleonic Empire, and it was occupied by Germany during World Wars I and II.
Belgium as part of the European Union
Belgium was one of the original six countries who signed the Treaty of Paris in 1951 and formed the EU. Luxembourg, Holland, France, Italy, and West Germany were the other five.
The EU has no official capital but Brussels is the institution’s heart. The European Commission, the Council of the European Union, the European Council, and the European Parliament, are all based there.
Belgium forms part of the single market, the single currency (the euro), and the Schengen Area. The Schengen Agreement allows people to move freely between the participating countries. There are no hard borders between the Schengen countries, only a singular, shared external border.
At the moment many travelers can enter Belgium without a Europe travel visa for Belgium, some nationalities do need to obtain a visa. However, from 2021 it will be necessary for many visitors to enroll with ETIAS before traveling to any countries in the Schengen Area. Travelers will be able to use the ETIAS travel authorization for Belgium.
Technically, ETIAS is not a visa, it is a visa waiver. By registering, travelers will be able to visit countries in the Schengen without needing a conventional visa.
Belgium has a surprising amount to offer visitors. Its historic cities are renowned for their medieval and Art Nouveau architecture as well as their museums, fashion, and cuisine. Outside of the cities the landscapes vary. There are sandy beaches to relax on as well as forested hills which are ideal for hiking and exploring.
What to see and do in Belgium?
Brussels is vibrant city which combines post-modern architecture with historical monuments. There are a number of UNESCO world heritage sites in and around Brussels including the Grand place which is surrounded by guildhouses and the Gothic town hall. St Gudula Cathedral and the Royal Palace are also particularly impressive.
Bruges is arguably Belgium’s most popular destination for tourists. It is known as the ‘Venice of the north’ because of its iconic canals and romantic ambiance. Bruges was one of Europe’s richest cities in the 14th century and the historic old town was mainly built during this period. Antwerp is Belgium’s second largest city and it is known for its historically-rich diamond district and the enormous Gothic Cathedral of Our Lady.
Belgium has produced its fair share of world-famous artists including René Magritte, Paul Delvaux, and James Ensor. Their love of art is visible throughout the numerous fine art museums in Belgium. There are 80 museums is Brussels alone including the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, and the recently renovated Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten in Antwerp is a must-see.
For those seeking adventure there is the Ardennes with its stunning range of forests, caves, and cliffs. The region is home to lynx, deer, and wild boar and is perfect for hiking and cycling. There are also a host of idyllic villages as well as the castle of Bouillon and the Labyrinth of Barvaux to visit.
Belgians love to eat and the country is famous for its food. The country is famous for its selection of world-class beers, as well as chocolate, mussels, and waffles. However, Belgian cuisine is far more rich and diverse. It is similar to French food in style and German food in quantity.
ETIAS requirements for Belgium
From 2021, ETIAS will be a legal requirement for citizens from eligible countries who enter any of the Schengen countries including Belgium. The Belgium Visa Waiver will allow tourists to enter the country for periods of up to 90 days, or if multiple trips are made, no more than 90 days in any 180 day period.
Belgium ETIAS: How to apply for the ETIAS visa waiver
To successfully obtain an ETIAS visa waiver, eligible citizens will need to complete an online application and meet the basic ETIAS requirements for Belgium. It will be necessary to enter a range of information including contact information, passport details, and travel plans.
The application form also requires applicant to answer some security-related questions. The information provided is screened using security databases. Once approved the ETIAS authorization is sent to the applicant by email.