Belgium is a European nation mainly made up of the Flemish people from Flanders and French-speaking people from Brussels and Wallonia. There are also a number of significant ethnic minorities within Belgium, including a large Jewish community in particular in Antwerp and, since the end of the Second World War, large immigrant populations from Italy, Turkey and parts of Africa.
In terms of Belgian culture – defined as the shared experiences of particular groups of people expressed in language, religion, music, arts, cuisine and social habits – Belgium cannot be considered a homogenous one and is instead quite diverse.
Christianity is the biggest religion followed in Belgium, particularly Catholicism, with Islam and Judaism among the other prominent religions.
Belgium is a constitutional monarchy but is also a federal state with significant devolved autonomy for its three distinct regions – Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels – and with four languages spoken across the regions and their provinces. The four languages in common use across Belgium are Flemish, French, Walloon and German. Each area has its own distinct culture while there are shared cultural phenomena that apply across all of Belgium.
Belgian literature was generally written in French until the mid-20th century but is now recognisably divided between Flemish and Belgian Francophone, thanks to the rise of the Flemish movement that has a growing influence on culture in Belgium.
Arts, Crafts & Music
Belgium has made a significant contribution to art, particularly the Flemish Renaissance and Baroque painting, and from artists such as Jan Van Eyck and Peter Paul Rubens. Belgian architects such as Horta and Van de Velde helped initiate the Art Nouveau style in the 19th and 20th centuries. Music from contemporary to classical to folk plays a major role in Belgian culture with the likes of Jacques Brel pioneering a distinctive musical style that gained him global renown.
Food & Sport
Belgium’s cultural exports include beer, chocolate, waffles and the national dish of moules et frites. Belgian chocolate is considered among the finest in the world. Sport is hugely popular, particularly cycling (Belgium has more Tour de France winners than any other nation except France), football, tennis, golf and motor sports.