Belgium Geography and Population

By | January 8, 2023

Belgium – geography

Belgium contains both Germanic and Romanesque populations, Flemings to the north and Walloons to the south. The antagonisms between these two groups have led to great tensions, and during the 1960’s, 1970’s and 1980’s, Belgium was gradually transformed into a federal state with three regions, Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels. The regions live their own lives, economically and culturally isolated from each other, and fewer and fewer move from one region to another.

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The two population groups differ both linguistically and culturally, and the boundary between them is astonishingly sharp. With the exception of Brussels, it has not changed significantly since the early Middle Ages.

97% of Belgium’s population lives in urban areas, making the country Europe’s most urbanized. Flanders to a slightly greater extent than Wallonia. For culture and traditions of Belgium, please check aparentingblog.


Belgium has three regions, Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels.

The region of Flanders was originally an agricultural area; 13,522 km2, i.e. just over 44% of Belgium’s area, with 6 million residents (2006). The official language is Dutch (Flemish) and the government and administration are common to the Flemings of the Brussels region.

Flanders has been heavily influenced by the Catholic Church and has had high birth rates. It was not until the 1960’s that birth rates fell and came down to the same low level as in Wallonia. Economic development, especially since World War II, has been characterized by dynamism and openness to foreign investment, and incomes are higher than in Wallonia. The triangle between Brussels, Antwerp and Ghent is very densely populated and contains several medium-sized cities, which have attracted foreign companies. Here is Mechelen, which is the archbishopric of Belgium and the center of the horticultural profession. The area east and northeast of Brussels is also dynamic and characterized by many electronics companies; there are industrial centers around the airport in Zaventem and the city of Leuven.

In the easternmost and westernmost part of Flanders, especially in the provinces of Limburg and West Flanders, there has been a rapid development since World War II. After the medieval sanding of the port of BrugesWest Flanders remained for a long time an outlying area, where only the fashionable seaside resort and ferry port of Ostend were active. Now, in several cities around Kortrijk, industries have been created in many industries – including the old textile production is continued in the form of a flourishing carpet industry. Limburg was a poor agricultural area with lean sandy soils, high birth rates and large emigration. Not until well into the 1900’s. the province was industrialized with the support of foreign investment, which was partly linked to coal deposits at Genk. The population rose sharply; but not all new factories have been able to be maintained after the coal mine closures, and the area had high unemployment in the 1990’s.

The Walloon Region is the southernmost part of Belgium; 16,844 km2, i.e. approximately 55% of Belgium’s area, with 3.4 million. residents (2004). Namur is the capital and the official language is French, except for nine municipalities on the German border where German is used.

Wallonia was industrialized as early as the 1800’s. Both a socialist and a liberal movement emerged, the church lost its influence, and birth rates declined. The population grew only slowly despite immigration from Flanders and in the interwar period also from abroad, and the Walloons became a minority in Belgium. Since the 1960’s, when coal mining and the old industries were hit by the crisis, incomes have lagged behind those of the Flemish. The province of Liège is an independent economic and cultural entity, and the city of Liègewas the center of the area’s large-scale coal mining and industrialization. However, as a service and transport center for the eastern part of Wallonia with universities and other institutions, the city is not as badly affected as the pure mining and industrial cities nearby. In the western coal areas of the province of Hainaut, for example around La Louvière and in the Borinage area, there are numerous scattered, disused coal mines with slag mountains, disused industrial plants and scattered clusters of workers’ housing. Pollution, rusty facilities and high unemployment make these areas unattractive and the population is declining rapidly.

The Walloon part of the province of Brabant, on the other hand, is prospering economically, and more affluent people with jobs in Brussels live here. Cities such as Louvain-la-Neuve and Namur, the latter without industry, are undergoing strong economic development. The Ardennes, who in the 1800’s. and well into the 1900’s. was an agricultural area characterized by emigration, has since 1970 by virtue of its nature attracted population again. Tourism plays a major role, but new businesses have also emerged in several other professions. The province (Belgian) of Luxembourg thus has the lowest unemployment rate in Wallonia.

The Brussels region is the capital of Belgium; 161 km2, with approximately 0.5% of Belgium’s area, with 1.02 million residents (2006). The official languages ​​are Dutch (Flemish) and French.

The political tensions between the population groups in the region are strong. Originally, the city was Flemish, but the majority of the population changed in the 1800’s. and the beginning of the 1900-t. to French language. In 1963, it was decided that the city with the then suburbs should be a bilingual area. Brussels is an international city with an active cultural and restaurant life. The population consists of French-speakers (approximately 85% of resident Belgians), Flemish-speaking commuters, a very large number of immigrants from the Mediterranean countries and a growing number of “Eurocrats” and other highly educated Western European and North American functionaries. The city has commercial, financial and cultural service functions, but no major industry. The location in 1958 of the EC administration in Brussels provided the impetus for growth in the 1960’s, and old neighborhoods fell unplanned to make room for highways and office silos. Since the mid-1970’s, growth has been modest despite an increasing number of international functions, which is linked to the declining importance of Belgian national functions during the formation of the federal state.

Natural conditions

Geologically and terrain-wise, Belgium can be divided from south to north into three main parts. South of the river Maas (fr. Meuse) and its tributary Sambre is the plateau of the Ardennesi approximately 500 m altitude with Belgium’s highest point Botrange (694 m). The area was raised slowly during the Tertiary period, at the same time as the rivers cut their course deep into the subsoil, creating winding valleys with steep, now wooded sides. In several places in the Ardennes there are ores with iron, lead and zinc. The central areas are relatively flat and contain numerous raised bogs. They are used for cattle breeding and forestry. The areas of Condroz and Pays de Herve in the northernmost part are characterized by NE-SW continuous ridges and valleys, which represent hard and less hard geological layers. The landscape is varied with forest on the ridges and agriculture in the valleys. Along the northern edge of the Ardennes, thin, carbon-bearing layers from the Carboniferous reach up to the earth’s surface, especially around Liège, Charleroi, La Louvière and in the Borinage region west of Mons. Here, coal has been mined for several centuries, first from the surface and later in mine tunnels. Extraction ceased in 1984.

In the central part of the country, up to a line from Kortrijk north of Brussels to Hasselt in the east, there are tertiary deposits. The terrain drops evenly to the north from approximately 200 m altitude, and the landscape is characterized by plains and slightly cut river valleys. The ice of the Quaternary did not reach Belgium, but during the ice ages the wind in these areas deposited fine-grained material, lice that are very fertile. The area is intensively cultivated.

The northernmost part of the country is flat. East of Antwerp, in Kempen, are sandy river deposits, which despite their barren nature have gradually been cultivated. In the lands west of Antwerp, clay layers are included in the deposits, and the area has long been intensively cultivated. Belgium’s 65 km long North Sea coast is a leveling coast with a sandy beach and dunes; it lies in front of a narrow belt of marshlands that was formed in the Middle Ages. Even in the 1300’s. Bruges was an important port city.

The central and northern parts of Belgium are drained by the Schelde and its numerous tributaries. Schelde’s estuary in the North Sea is in the Netherlands; but 80 km from the sea, near Antwerp, the river is deep enough to be navigated by ocean-going ships.

Only 2.6% of the area is nature protected, which is very little compared to other countries. Pollution with fertilizer and pesticide residues from intensive agriculture is a major problem, which is currently unresolved due to strong agricultural lobbies.


Shipping from Bruges, later Ghent and even later Antwerp, which has Europe’s second most important port, contributed to the wealth of the Flemish cities in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. A new port has been built at Zeebrugge. These ports are connected by a large network of canals (primarily the Albert Canal between Antwerp and Liège) and by navigable rivers: the Schelde and the Maas with tributaries as well as the entire Rhine system. There are more than 1500 km of commercially used waterways in Belgium. In 1835, the country was the first country outside England to have a railway and has one of Europe’s closest railway and motorway networks. Many of the main transport routes between Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and France cross the country.


Belgium’s climate is a distinctly temperate coastal climate with summer temperatures around 17-18 °C, winter temperatures around 2-3 °C and abundant rainfall in all seasons. In the Ardennes, temperatures are lower and precipitation higher.


Agricultural in whole from the Middle Ages has been technically highly developed and intensively, the recorder 1/4 of the area. The common Central European crops are grown, cereals and industrial plants such as sugar beet. The horticultural profession is also significant; fresh vegetables and specialties are strawberries and Christmas salad. The animal production is great; beef and pork and milk. Agriculture accounts for approximately 1% of employment and few percent of total production.


Belgium became the most industrialized country on the European continent in the 1800’s. with the centers of gravity along the rivers Sambre and Meuse in Wallonia. The basis was some limited ore and coal deposits; these were later replaced by imported raw materials. The industries were concentrated on iron and steel production, machinery (including weapons), glass and chemical products, but in the 1960’s they stagnated and many factories closed. Most of Belgium’s industry is located in Flanders and includes a large number of different industries thanks to both local dynamism and foreign investment since World War II. The traditional textile industry in the Flemish cities still plays a role.

Less than 25% of the workforce is employed in industry (2006). The varied industrial production benefits from the country’s location and highly developed transport networks. Particularly useful because the raw material-poor country has significant raw material imports and large exports of industrial goods, which, however, also gives great dependence on world market prices. The other EU countries account for 3/4 of foreign trade.

The service sector

The service sector accounts for almost 75% of employment. Private services, both aimed at the population and companies, are well developed. In addition, the EU administration and the associated international organizations in Brussels.

The three regions of the country develop very differently; it is reflected in population development, where Flanders in the period 1992-2000 had a growth of 2%, while Wallonia and Brussels stagnated. Similarly, Wallonia has lagged further behind in terms of economic growth.

Belgium – language

In Belgium Dutch, French and German are spoken. Flanders and Wallonia are officially monolingual; the border between French and Dutch, also called Flemish, was established by law in 1962-63. Only Brussels is a separate territory in which the two languages ​​are on an equal footing. Municipalities at the language border can give minority groups certain rights with regard to school and administrative languages. This has given rise to strife especially in the originally Dutch-speaking municipalities around Brussels, where French was close to dominating totally. As the language dispute is linked to the economic decline of Wallonia and the growth of Flanders, it has often had national political consequences.

Belgium Geography