History of Belgium

For more information about the history of Belgium, click on the links at the bottom of this page.

For more information about the history of Belgium, click on the links at the bottom of this page.


Revolution and independence (before 1830)

Belgium became independent in 1830, after being separated from the Netherlands

At the Congress of Vienna, in 1815, Belgium (The Southern Netherlands) and the Northern Netherlands (Holland) were united to form one State, ruled by King William I.



After a series of incidents, the revolution erupted in Brussels in 1830. William I sent in his troops, but they were expelled on September 27th, 1830.
The rebels received support from volunteers outside the city of Brussels. Following this rising Belgium separated from the Northern Netherlands.

A provisional government declared independence on October 4th, 1830. On February 7th, 1831 the national congress adopted a constitution, which for its time, was very progressive.



Belgium is a monarchy. That means that the country is ruled by a king. Underneath, there is a summary of photos from the seven kings of belgium. The dates under the photo’s refer to the period of reign of the king. For more information, click on the photo.

Leopold I (1831-1865)

Leopold II (1685-1909)

Albert I (1909-1934)

Leopold III (1934- 1951)

Boudewijn (1951-1993)

Albert II (1993- 2013)

Filip (2013-…)

1830 to 1908

In short: The first king  of Belgium was King Leopold I. 

A diplomatic conference on the future of Belgium opened in London on the November 4th 1831. The great powers of the time recognised the secession of Belgium from the (Northern) Netherlands. Leopold I of Saxe-Coburg became the first king of the Belgians (1831 – 1865).

In 1865 he was succeeded by his son Leopold II (1865 – 1909). Under their reign, Belgium became the second most important industrial power. In 1885 the Belgian parliament agreed that Leopold II should become the head of state of the Congo. In 1908 control of Congo was transferred to the Belgian state.


World War I

Under command of King Albert I the Belgian army halt the enemy at the river Yser near by the North Sea during the first World War (1914-1918). 

Although the great powers forced Belgium to remain neutral when it became independent, it couldn’t escape World War I (1914-1918). The Belgian army under the command of King Albert I (1909 – 1934) was too small a match for the Germans, it nevertheless could manage to halt the enemy at the river Yser. Belgium suffered greatly during the war. The Yser region was laid waste.


World War II

The years after the war were very difficult. The international economic crisis affected the country. When Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany, the dangers posed by that country rose again. From 1936 onwards Belgium took a neutral stance, just as it had done before the 1914 – 1918 war, but Germany invaded again on May 10th, 1940. After 18 days King Leopold III (1934 – 1951) decided to capitulate. This decision provoked a rupture with the government.




After the World Wars

After the war, the royal question dominated politics. In 1951 Leopold III abdicated in favour of his son Baudouin I.
On August 9th, 1993 his brother Albert II became the sixth king of the Belgians.

The actual king of the Belgians is King Philippe. He was born 15 April 1960. He is the seventh king, having ascended the throne on 21 July 2013. He is married to Countess Mathilde d’Udekem d’Acoz,  now Queen Mathilde, with whom he has four children, Elisabeth, Emmanuël, Gabriel and Eléonore. Princess Elisabeth is first in the line of succession.


A federal state

Belgium has a Dutch, a French and a German speaking part. The communities togheter form a federal state.

The question of relations between the communities has played a highly important part in recent Belgian history. Following four state reforms Belgium was transformed into a federal state. Belgium is now a federal state comprising three communities, three regions, and four language areas. For each of these subdivision types, the subdivisions together make up the entire country; in other words, the types overlap.

The language areas were established by the Second Gilson Act (1963). The division into language areas was included in the Belgian Constitution in 1970. Through constitutional reforms in the 1970s and 1980s, regionalisation of the unitary state led to a three-tiered federationfederal, regional, and community governments were created, a compromise designed to minimize linguistic, cultural, social, and economic tensions.


It’s not easy to understand the political situation in Belgium. If you want more information in English, click here.




Image: Language areas and provinces https://www.wikipedia.org

Image: Communities

The political scene is also dominated by economic problems and increased internationalisation. Belgium played an important role in the creation of the Belgian-Luxembourg Economic Union, the Benelux and the European Union. As a member of the United Nations, and in the service of world peace, Belgium often sends its troops on peace missions or sends its observers to areas over the world.

Bank holidays in Belgium 

Belgium has 10 official bank holidays. Some holidays have fixed dates, some have not.




Holidays with a fixed date:

  • New Year’s Day: first of January
  • Labour Day: first of May
  • National Holiday: July 21
  • Assumption Day: August 15
  • All Saints Day: first of November
  • Armistice Day: November 11
  • Christmas Day: December 25


Holidays with a variably date:

  • Easter Monday: Monday after Easter (see information below)
  • Ascension Day: 40 days after Easter en 10 days before Pentecost
  • Pentecost Monday: Monday after Pentecost (see information below)


Regional Belgian public holidays 2017

There is one regional public holiday in Belgium for each of the different language-speaking areas.

  • Day of the Flemish community also called the celebration of the Golden Spurs Tuesday July 11
  • French community holiday September 27
  • German community holidag November 15


Important holidays in Belgium

Beside the bank holidays, there are other important holidays. These holidays are also often celebrated in Belgium.

  • Epiphany (Three Kings’ Day) January 6
  • Mother’s Day second Sunday of May
  • Father’s Day second Sunday of June
  • All Souls Day November 2
  • Dynasty Day (King’s Feast) November 15
  • Saint Nicholas Day December 6


  • Easter is always between March 22 and April 25. East is always on a Sunday
  • Pentecost is 50 days after Easter. Pentecost is always on a Sunday.

What we do on holidays

There are a some holidays with specific traditions. But keep in mind that these traditions are not required for everybody. You are free to choose the way of celebrating the holiday.

Name of the holiday What do we celebrate? Traditions Photo
New Year’s Day We celebrate the start of a new Year. We often start celebrating the day before (New Year’s Eve). You can choose with whom you want to spend New Year’s Eve and New Year’s day with, but we often celebrate togheter with family or friends.

There can be firework at midnight between New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

Epiphany Epiphany is the day we celebrate the apparaition of Jesus Christ. The story is about three kings. These kings were following a bright star at the sky. The star was taking the three kings to see the newborn Jesus Christ. The kings are named Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar. Some kids dress up as kings with an overcoat and a crown and sing at doors for money or candy.

Some people make a cake with one bean in it. People eat the cake togheter and the person who has the piece with the bean is the queen/king of the day

Easter Easter is the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus from the tomb on the third day after his cruxifixion Typical for Easter are the chocolate eggs. We tell our kids a story about an easter bunny. The Easter bunny brings chocolate eggs but he likes to play games so he hid the eggs for the kids so they have to look for them. The kids in Belgium also know the Easter clocks. These are big, flying clocks dropping of chocolate eggs.
Mother’s Day It’s a day to show your mother that you love her. You can buy a present but it’s not really necessary. There are different ways to show your mother that she’s valuable for you.  
Father’s Day It’s a day to show your father that you love him. You can buy a present but it’s not really necessary. There are different ways to show your father that he’s valuable for you.  
National Holiday It’s our independence day. Our first king, King Leopold I took the constitutional oath on July 21, 1831 It’s mostly celebrated in our capital, Brussels with big festivities and military shows  
All Saints Day  The first of November is called All Saints Day and the second of November is called All Souls Day. All Saints Day is the day we honour the Christian Saints and All Souls day is the day we remember the people we lost.  One of these days, some people visit the cemetry. You can put some flowers at the thomb. Around this period  of the year, the chrysanthemum is popular flower.
Saint Nicholas  Saint Nicholas is the patron of the kids.  There’s a myth we tell our childeren about Saint Nicholas. The story is about Saint Nicholas who visits childeren at night (the night between December 5 and 6). He visits every well behaved kid together with his companion and every kid gets an present.

Christmas  Christmas is the day we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.  Christmas is a more serene way of celebrating than New Year. You’re free to choose your way of celebrating but we often eat together with friends and of family.



Belgium school holidays

The school holidays are the same for every kid in pre-school, primary school and secondary school. Just the school holidays for the students at university are a little bit different but that depends wich university.

The difference between the school holidays and the bank holidays is that the school holidays takes more than just one day like the bank holidays. It is often one or two weeks depending on the school holiday. The dates of the school holidays changes every year but are still around the same period.  Below is an approximate calendar of Belgium’s school holidays:

  • Carnival holiday: late February to early March (one week)
  • Easter break: changing yearly, typically around March or April (two weeks)
  • Summer break: late July to late August/early September (two months)
  • Fall break: late October to early November (one week)
  • Christmas break: From Christmas Day to Three Kings’ Day (two weeks)


What you need to know about the holidays

The bank holiday won’ be transferred to another day if it is a Sunday

Most stores are closed on bank holidays. But there are exceptions like a supermarket, a bakery, a caterer, restaurants … Check the website to be sure

This doesn’t count for school holidays, stores are not closed for one or two weeks just because it’s a school holiday. Only schools are closed for this period

If a bank holiday is a Thursday, some companies close the Friday or if a bank holiday is a Tuesday, some companies close the Monday

The law prohibits working during a bank holiday but exceptions exist for some sectors like the hotel-and catering sector, the health care sector,… But the terms and arrangements must be achieved in this case so check this with your employer


Festival holidays in Belgium

A festival holiday is not celebrated all over the country. Some cities have their own festival holidays.




Read more about Belgium on https://www.belgium.be/en/about_belgium/country/belgium_in_nutshell/films_and_brochures

Read more on the history of Belgium on https://www.belgium.be/en/about_belgium/country/history

Read more on the official websites of the communities:

Flanders (Flemish or Dutch speaking community): https://www.vlaanderen.be/en – Walloon (French speaking community): http://www.wallonie.be
German-speaking community: http://www.dg.be/en

And on www.belgium.be/en for the country of Belgium

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