The Ancient Celts
Beginning in 57 BC, Julius Caesar extended the power of Rome into the region of Europe that is now Belgium. The people he encountered there were the Belgae, one of the various Celtic tribes of early Gaul, and the Romans dubbed their new province Gallia Belgica. In the fourth century AD, with Rome in decline, control of Gaul was ceded to the Franks, a Germanic tribe that the weakened empire employed as mercenaries. As the Franks flourished, they decided to dispense with their Roman employers. By 431, they had established an independent dynasty, the Merovingian, with its capital at Tournai. Soon after, under Clovis I (c.466-511), the Merovingians succeeded in pummeling the last of the Romans in Gaul. They held large parts of present day France and Belgium as well as southwestern Germany. Clovis also adopted Christianity, thus gaining the support of the Church.
After Clovis' death the Merovingian kingdom began to fragment, and the Frankish lands did not come together under single rule again until the reign of Pepin III (the Short) in 751. Pepin deposed the last of the Merovingians and founded the Carolingian dynasty, which is named after his son Charlemagne. Charlemagne succeeded his father in 768 and ruled for almost a half century, creating during that time an empire that covered nearly all of continental Europe, with the exception of Spain and Scandinavia. In 800, Pope Leo III crowned him Emperor of the West. Although Charlemagne spent much of his reign conquering and subduing various parts of Europe, he also did much to foster commerce and the arts. The beginnings of organized trade along Belgium's rivers was one result of his reign, as was the preservation of classical learning and the arts.
On Charlemagne's death, his empire was divided, and familial feuding led finally to the Treaty of Verdun in 843. Under the terms of the treaty, three of Charlemagne's grandsons split the empire between them. West Francia, under Charles the Bold, formed the basis of France. The Middle Kingdom was given to Lothair, though it would soon fragment. East Francia, under Louis the German, became the basis of Germany. West Francia included the narrow strip of land north and west of the Scheldt river in today's Belgium. The remainder of present-day Belgium was included first in the Middle Kingdom, under Lothair, but it gradually came under the sway of the German kings.
This division was soon to have great consequences for the development of Belgium's nascent cities. In the northwestern part of Belgium, which nominally belonged to the young kingdom of France, there arose the powerful Counts of Flanders. The first of these was Baldwin Iron Arm, who amply demonstrated his independence from the French by carrying off and marrying one of the daughters of Charles the Bold. Baldwin also began the process of creating fortified towns in Flanders in order to curtail the depredations of the Norsemen. The first of these was Ghent (c.867), and the process was continued by Baldwin's heir (Baldwin II) with the fortification of Bruges and Ypres. The southeastern part of today's Belgium eventually became part of the Duchy of Lower Lotharingia or Lorraine, under the German kings.
In 977, Charles, Duke of Lorraine, built the fortress on the Senne River that was the foundation of Brussels. For the most part, however, the southeastern portion of today's Belgium became split into a number of minor spheres of power, one of which was the prince-bishoprie of Liege. At the outset of the new millennium, Belgium consisted of the cities of Flanders, unified under their strong Counts, and the less unified cities to the south and east of the Scheldt. As the Norse raids fell off and Europe's major kingdoms gradually stabilized, trade began to grow by leaps and bounds. For Flanders in particular, this was the beginning of a golden age. By importing wool from England and weaving it into fine cloth for sale on the continent, the Flemish cities became exceedingly wealthy, populous, and powerful. By 1300, Ghent, Bruges, and Ypres, in particular, had gained virtual autonomy from aristocratic rule, developing the proud civic culture that still distinguishes them today.
Needless to say, this situation did not please the aristocracy, who itched to regain control over such attractive sources of wealth and power. The Counts of Flanders wanted to regain their local authority, and France very much wanted to reassert its claims to Flanders. In 1302, the cities successfully rejected such claims, utterly defeating the French nobility at the Battle of the Golden Spurs. But the aristocracy persisted, and its unity eventually proved stronger than that of the cities, where local rivalries complicated unified resistance. By 1329, the independence of the cities had been broken, and Flanders once again came under the control of France.
England, as the supplier of raw wool to the cloth trade, was more than a little displeased by this outcome. It stopped sending wool, and began a long attempt to break French power, both in Flanders and in France itself. For almost a century, the French and English clashed repeatedly in the Hundred Years' War (1337-1453), and in Flanders the struggle coincided with repeated attempts by the cities to regain their autonomy. The struggles finally ended when Philip the Bold of Burgundy, who had benefited from Burgundy's long alliance with the English against the French, became the ruler of Flanders in 1384.
The Burgundian Period
Under Philip the Good (ruled 1419-1467), the Burgundian empire in Belgium expanded and began to flourish. Philip gained control of the southeastern areas, including Brussels, Namur, and Liege. He suppressed the independence of the cities, brought them under central rule from Brussels, and consolidated the region's economy. Philip's reign brought new prosperity and, with it, a great era of cultural development.
Painting especially reached new highs in the work of Robert Campin, the brothers van Eyck, and Rogier van der Weyden. After Philip's death, his rule over present-day Belgium passed first to Charles V.
In the 1490s, as Bruges' waterways to the sea gradually silted up, trade shifted further north and Antwerp emerged as the pre-eminent commercial city in the region
The ascension of Philip II to the Spanish throne in 1555 brought on the next crisis in Belgium's history, as King Philip's strident Spanish Catholicism coincided tragically with the rise of Protestantism in northern Europe. In the Flemish cities especially, Protestantism was a deeply political movement, linked to the long tradition of resistance to aristocratic domination. Social unrest in the cities was met by Philip with harsh and rigid repression, including the introduction of a massive Spanish military presence in the north as well as the execution of thousands of Protestants. By 1565, a powerful League of Nobility, under the leadership of William of Orange and Count Egmont (governor of Flanders), had joined in the opposition to Spain. Philip responded by sending in the notorious Duke of Alva at the head of an army of 10,000 troops.
Alva outlawed William, executed Egmont and other leading nobles in Brussels' Grand'Place, and began terrorizing the country. Popular opposition exploded, particularly in the north, and within a few years Alva found himself powerless to exercise control over any but the southern cities, which had remained much closer to the Catholic church.
By 1576, William's power in the north was virtually unchallenged, and he came to terms with the Spanish. The United Provinces, as the northern regions came to be known, struggled for the next seventy-five years to maintain their independence. The Catholic regions to the south remained faithful to Spain, becoming known as the Spanish Netherlands. In 1648, with the Treaty of Munster, the much-weakened Spanish not only recognized the independence of the United Provinces, but also agreed to close the Scheldt to navigation. As a result, Antwerp and Ghent, like Bruges before them, lost their predominance as the region's centers of trade. For the next several centuries, the Dutch port of Amsterdam would play that role.
Over the next century, France emerged as the most powerful state in Europe. Under the rule of Louis XIV (1659-1715), the French made sustained efforts to extend their control over the Spanish Netherlands. Louis' ambitions were feared not only by the Spanish, but also by the Dutch, who had no desire to see powerful France extend its borders to their own. England also opposed French expansion, especially after William III, ruler of the Dutch, accepted the English throne.
As a result, present-day Belgium was for much of the century a battleground between Louis XIV and the shifting alliances of his opponents.
These struggles reached their climax during the War of the Spanish Succession (1702-1713), prompted by the death of the childless King Charles II of Spain. Before his death, Charles had named as his successor Philip of Anjou, who also happened to be Louis' grandson. As one might expect, Louis informed his young relative that it would be best for all concerned if Philip would immediately cede the Spanish Netherlands to France. It was an offer that Philip could not refuse, but also one that no one else in Europe could accept. For the next decade France attempted repeatedly to establish its rule, while Dutch, English, and Austrian armies consistently rejected each attempt. By 1713, Louis had had enough, and with the Treaty of Utrecht France ceded its claims over the Spanish Netherlands to the Habsburg rulers of Austria.
In fact, the region continued to enjoy virtual independence, paying as little attention to the Habsburg claims as it had paid to the claims of the weakened Spanish during the previous century. By the end of the 18th century Belgium was ready to assert its own identity. With the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789, the country rose up in revolt against the Austrians, and in 1790 independence was declared in the form of the United States of Belgium. However, the leaders of the new country were deeply divided amongst themselves, and the Austrians rapidly re-established control. Austria, however, soon found itself at war with the French Republic, and by 1795 the successful French had "liberated" Belgium. Although the French instituted far-reaching reforms that later served as the foundations for the modern Belgian government, they were in fact far more inclined to see Belgium as a source of revenue and troops. Churches were seized and despoiled, massive conscription was introduced, and popular protest was crushed with a ruthlessness reminiscent of the Spanish occupation.
The New Kingdom
With the rise of Napoleon, French rule over Belgium became more constructive, including the revitalization of industry and (with the opening of the Scheldt) the partial recovery of Antwerp. With Napoleon's fall, the great Allied powers decreed that Belgium would become a part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, ruled by the pro-Dutch William of Orange. By 1830 the Belgians' patience had run out. Revolution erupted in Brussels and quickly spread across the country. William made a brief effort to regain control, but within a few months he withdrew. On 20 January, 1831, after centuries of external rule, Belgium was recognized as an independent nation.
The Belgians chose Leopold of Saxe-Coburg to be their first King, under a constitution that significantly limited the power of the monarchy.
Under Leopold I and then his son Leopold II, Belgium flourished both economically and culturally.
Leopold II was succeeded in 1909 by Albert I, his nephew. Albert's reign was dominated by World War I, during which most of the country fell under extremely harsh German occupation despite determined resistance. The Belgian army survived the invasion, and it played a central role in retaking the country at the end of the war. Albert lived until 1934, when he died in a tragic climbing accident. His wife Elisabeth is remembered as a great patron of the arts. Together with Eugene Ysaye, she founded the world-renowned Queen Elisabeth Contest, Belgium's foremost musical competition.
Albert was succeeded by his son Leopold III, who like his father was soon confronted by war. In 1940, Germany invaded Belgium and Holland. As the blitzkrieg swept across the country, the Belgian government evacuated to London. Leopold, however, surrendered to the German forces when the Belgian lines at Kortrijk were broken. The territories of Eupen, Malmedy and St. Vith were annexed to the German Reich and the rest of Belgium occupied. Leopold was held prisoner in the palace of Laeken before being taken to Germany. When the Allied Forces liberated Belgium at the end of 1944, popular feeling against Leopold was substantial, and his brother Prince Charles assumed regency.
Leopold III returned to Belgium in 1950, but popular opposition to his rule remained substantial. In 1951, he abdicated in favor of his son Baudoin. In the post-war period, Brussels has gradually taken on its role as the 'capital' of Europe. It is the headquarters of the European Community and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, as well as gaining a reputation as the foremost European center of international business. In 1957, Belgium formed, with the Netherlands and Luxembourg, the Benelux Union.
Perhaps the most significant of the postwar developments has been the increasing local autonomy of various regions of the country. In 1977 the country was divided into three administrative regions: Flanders, Wallonia, and Brussels. In 1980, the Belgian constitution was changed to recognize this separation, shifting the structure of the nation to a federation. In 1995, the provinces of Flemish Brabant and Walloon Brabant were created from the old province of Brabant, leaving Belgium with a total of 10 provinces.
When King Baudoin died in 1993, his brother Albert II succeeded to the throne. Albert II is married to Paola Ruffo di Calabria. The Royal couple has three children, Prince Philip (the official heir to the throne), Princess Astrid (who is married to Archduke Lorenz of Austria), and Prince Laurent.
Brussels is the ultimate European city. As the headquarters to the EU (European Union) and NATO it is often referred to as The Capital of Europe. It is an international metropolis – a mosaic of languages, cultures, and traditions. Aside from the splendid and varied architectural styles of the city, Brussels also hosts over 80 museums, numerous tourist attractions, a vibrant nightlife, and more restaurants than you could count.
The starting point for any visit to Brussels is the Grand Place which was built as a merchant’s market in the 13th century. It serves as the center of the city and hosts numerous concerts and festivals including the Ommegang pageant held every July.
We were first there in August of 1999.
Getting to Brussels (Bruxelles), Belgium:
The Brussels Airport (IATA: BRU, ICAO: EBBR) (also called Brussel Nationaal/Bruxelles-National (Brussels National)) is the international airport located in Zaventem, 6 NM (11 km; 6.9 mi) northeast of Brussels, Belgium.
There are numerous flights into Brussels, Belgium and numerous hotels in Brussels and the Brussels area.
There are several Guided Tour Agencies offering standard city, and historical tours of Brussels and the surrounding area.
After arranging your flight we would suggest getting your hotel and then letting them arrange tours of the area for you. If you call the hotels Concierge Services ahead of your arrival, all of this can be pre-arranged for you.
We do this all the time. It is safe and it works!!! We have never experienced a problem doing it this way!
We have links to Priceline.com on our page so that you can arrange your flight and hotel in Brussels and the Brussels area.
Special Note - To Arrange Tours:
A New Way To Arrange Your Tours Has Become Popular. It makes the process of getting a tour easy, and timesaving for you. It also is almost always less expensive. In most cases when you are at an attraction, you will be escourted to the front of the line, and be given special treatment.
It is viator.com. They can do all of the work for you and get you into some awesome tours of the various attractions.
We have placed links on our page so that you can see what they have to offer in Brussels, Belgium.
|Scenery from Duchy|
|Coach View, Front|
On That Tunnel!
|Ever Changing Views|
Keep Us Interested...And Awake!
It Leads To The City
|We Arrive At the Delta;|
Our Hotel In Brussels
|"It's Better Than Expected!"|
|"Brussels Is Famous For Mussels|
So WE ate Pizza!! Great!
|Audrey Found A Friend...!|
"Just Lookin For Food
Cobblestone Street Off Of
Galeries Royal St Hubert.
|Side Streets Are Great...|
For Browsing and Shopping.
Cobblestone Street Off Of
Galeries Royal St Hubert.
|Brussels Is Quite Old...But Modern.|
It's Called The "Capital Of Europe"
We Went Sightseeing With A Very
Knowledgeable City Guide!
George Says "If You Travel
Straight Behind The Fountain
Just 15 Miles,
You Reach Waterloo!!"
|"What A Beautiful Cathedral!|
This Looks OLD!"
|Named St. Michael and|
St. Gudula Cathedral
Splendid and Substantial!
Look At This Unique Design!
|Royal Palace of Brussels|
Government Buildings House Offices
For The European Union!
|The Interior Of One Cathedral|
|Our Tour Guide Showed Us|
Beautiful Garden Monuments!
|We Toured the Entire City!|
Many Government/Historical Sites.
|Huge "Atomium", Built 1958||It Is Much Bigger Than It Appears!|
Built For Universal Exposition!
|Our City Tour Guide|
Memorials To People And Events
The Legend Is That A Father
Immortalized His Young Son
With This Charming Statue.
Engrossed, George Almost Missed
The City Square, The Grand Place"
|Time To Be On Our Way||We Drive On Through|
The Alsace Region;
Fields and Vineyards!
|Small-Group Day Trip from Brussels: Flanders WWI Battlefields Including Last Post Ceremony in Ypres - $211.81|
Discover poignant World War I sites, memorials and cemeteries in Flanders on this full-day battlefields tour from Brussels. Visit the German Vladslo War Cemetery and Tyne Cot Cemetery, explore the area of Diksmuide and travel along Hill 60, once the front line of battle. Hear stories about the Battle of Passchendaele and Battle of Polygon Wood from your guide and pay your respects to fallen soldiers at the evening Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres. This small-group tour is limited to six for a more personalized experience.
|Small-Group WWII Battle of the Bulge Tour from Brussels - $200.66|
Travel back to 1944 to one of Europe's bloodiest conflicts on this day trip from Brussels to Belgian's forested Ardennes region, site of World War II's Battle of the Bulge. Pay your respects to fallen US soldiers at the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery and Mardasson Memorial, travel along the former battle front and view abandoned German tanks. Hear war stories from your guide and see how one brave American general is immortalized in the city of Bastogne forever. Numbers are limited to six on this small-group tour.
|Private Tour: WWI Canadian Battlefields Including Vimy Ridge and Last Post Ceremony in Ypres from Brussels - $174.65|
Gain insight into Canada's role in World War I on this full-day private tour from Brussels to the Canadian battlefields, memorials and cemeteries straddling the border of Belgium and France. Hear stories about the victories and tragedies of 20th-century warfare as you explore the trenches at Vimy Ridge, travel along the battle front lines, and visit famous monuments such as the St Julian Memorial and Tyne Cot Cemetery, the world's largest Commonwealth military cemetery. In the evening, witness the Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres.
|Private Tour: World War II Battle of the Bulge Tour from Brussels - $159.78|
Learn all about the Battle of the Bulge -- the massive surprise German offensive near the end of World War II -- on this moving and enlightening private tour from Brussels. Travel along the former front line of the Battle of the Bulge, seeing memorials, monuments and preserved tanks. Visit the Henri Chapelle American Cemetery and the German military cemetery at Recogne. Witness the site of the Malmedy massacre and the stunning Mardasson Memorial to fallen American soldiers near Bastogne, as well as the cemetery where General Patton was laid to rest. Being on a private tour ensures more personal attention from your knowledgeable guide and a more relaxed, intimate experience.
|Private Tour: Brussels City Sightseeing Tour - $139.34|
Embark on a private tour through Brussels, chauffeured in your own vehicle by your knowledgeable driver guide. This three hour tour can be customized to your liking and includes five local beer samples to really give you a taste for Belgian pleasures.
|Private Tour: Battle of Waterloo from Brussels - $89.18|
Get an inside look at one of the most significant battles in European history on this private half-day tour from Brussels to Waterloo, site of the legendary Battle of Waterloo. Your private guide will show you where the action took place between the French and the British and Prussians ' culminating in the final defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte ' as you tour the battlegrounds, discover strategic planning sites and visit memorials commemorating fallen soldiers. There's no better time to take this Battle of Waterloo tour, as 2015 marks the battle's bicentennial anniversary.
|Mons Tour from Brussels Including Van Gogh Exhibition - $43.47|
Gain insight into the life and times of Vincent van Gogh and discover several UNESCO World Heritage'listed treasures on this Mons tour from Brussels. See where the master Post-Impressionist artist once lived and marvel at his masterpieces at the Mus'e des Beaux-Arts. Follow with a walking tour of Mons' famous monuments and landmarks, such as the Mons Belfry and the Mundaneum, and see for yourself why this ancient yet vibrant city was voted the European Capital of Culture for 2015."
|Battle of Waterloo Tour from Brussels - $43.47|
Step back in time to one of the most pivotal battles in European history, the Battle of Waterloo, on this half-day tour from Brussels. Gain insight into the final defeat of France's Napoleon Bonaparte against the British and the Prussian armies from your guide as you tour the battlefield, see where the commanders strategized, and visit monuments and memorials commemorating fallen soldiers, including Lion Hill. The year 2015 marks the bicentennial anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, so there's no better time to visit this historic Belgian site.
|World War I Battlefields Tour of Flanders from Brussels - $99.21|
Follow the trail of World War I soldiers on this poignant full-day tour of the Flanders battlefields from Brussels. Focusing on the tributes that pepper the Belgian countryside around Ypres, the tour gives a well-considered introduction to both the tragedy and heroism associated with the world's first major conflict. Visit evocative graves at the German Military Cemetery of Vladslo and Tyne Cot Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery, and then relax over lunch in Passchendaele's Old Cheese Factory. Explore the In Flanders' Field Museum, and finish by attending the Last Post Ceremony in Ypres.
|Brussels Chocolate Walking Tour and Workshop - $78.03|
You'll pound the pavement in Brussels on a four hour guided walking tour with a twist as you following the trail of Brussels' top chocolate shops. A chocoholics dream! Your knowledgeable local guide will point out the major sights and explain the history of Brussels and why its famous for mouth watering chocolate. You will enjoy free samples and tastings of delectable Belgian chocolates and learn to make sweet Belgian treats in a workshop with a Master Chocolatier"."
|Brussels Super Saver: Brussels Sightseeing Tour and Antwerp Half-Day Trip - $66.33|
Pay less and get more with this Brussels Super Saver, which combines two popular tours into one full day of sightseeing. Make the most of your time in Belgium by discovering Brussels, Belgium's capital, and Antwerp, known as the City of Rubens. In the morning, see the major sights of Brussels, including the Grand Place and the Houses of Parliament, with your expert guide. Then, take a guided trip to Antwerp later in the day to learn about diamonds on a visit to a diamond factory and see four of Ruben's master artworks in the Cathedral of Our Lady.