Land and People
The terrain, low lying except in the Ardennes Mts. in the south, It is crossed by the Meuse and Scheldt rivers and by a network of canals. Belgium is one of the most densely populated nations in Europe. Historically, the country comprises two ethnic and cultural regions, generally called Flanders and Wallonia—Flanders embracing the northern provinces of East Flanders, West Flanders, Antwerp, Limburg, and part of Brabant, and Wallonia comprising the remainder of Brabant, Hainaut, Liège, Luxembourg, and Namur. The dividing line runs roughly east-west just S of Brussels.
Dutch is the official language in Flanders, while French is official in the south. The French-speaking people are commonly called Walloons, although the term once referred chiefly to those people in the area of the city of Liège who spoke Walloon, a French dialect. Brussels is bilingual, and German is spoken in a small section of Liège province. About three quarters of the population is Roman Catholic; the balance is largely Protestant, although there are Islamic and Jewish minorities in the cities. Many cities (most notably Bruges, Ghent, and Louvain) have preserved their medieval architecture and art, which attract thousands of tourists annually. The North Sea coast is popular in the summer.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.