Belgium is located in northwest Europe – sharing borders with France, Netherlands, Germany, and Luxembourg. Even though the country goes as far back as the Roman era, when that empire annexed that country as “Gallia Belgica” (a northern extension of Gaul – ancient France), Belgium as an independent country didn’t actually come into existence until 1830 (after a period when it was the “Royal Netherlands”, a part of that country’s empire). A member of European royalty, Leopold I, became Belgium’s first king in 1831.
Over the years, Belgium was known for its African colonies (in particular the Congo – a major producer of rubber and ivory, as well as Rwanda and Burundi). Its relatively small geographic size (next to neighbors such as France and Germany) meant that it fell victim to the times during the 20th century – having been invaded by Germany twice (during both World War I & World War II). With the Belgian King abdicating his throne after World War II, that country granted independence to its African colonies by the early 1960s, and staked its future as a member of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) and later in the formation of the European Union (EU). Brussels is the de facto capital of the EU (hosting the official seats of the European Commission, Council of the European Union, and the European Council).
Belgium stands apart because of its bilingualism: it has two official languages (French and Dutch). Belgium’s southern region (Wallonia) is French-speaking, while its northern region (Flanders) is Dutch-speaking. With much of Belgium’s economy being industrialized, tourism is just over 5% of the country’s GDP, with the majority of visitors coming from nearby countries. Apart from Brussels (which is a tourist attraction by virtue of being the nation’s capital), the town of Brugge is a major draw of international visitors, because it’s a pristine medieval city.