Beloved for its historic charm, high fashion, and heavenly cuisine, Belgium is one of Europe’s best open secrets for savvy travelers. Perched conveniently between the Netherlands and France, it’s also just a quick two-hour Eurostar journey from London. With an area of just under 12,000 square miles, Belgium is less than half the size of the Republic of Ireland—but has more than twice as many inhabitants, about 11.5 million.
For its relative smallness, Belgium has remarkable diversity, including three official languages—Dutch, French and German. Dutch speakers live in Belgium’s top half (called Flanders), while French speakers inhabit the lower portion (known as Wallonia), and German speakers dwell in a petite region in the country’s far east (the East Cantons, or East Belgium). At the center of it all is the vibrant capital of Brussels, which also serves as the headquarters for the European Union. Consistently ranked as one of the world’s most welcoming countries for LGBTQ+ travelers, Belgium was also the second country to adopt marriage equality, in 2003. The former Prime Minister of Belgium, Elio Di Rupo, was the first openly gay man to serve as a national head of state in modern times.
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