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All About Benelux


Belgium lies at the center of modern Europe—and not just because it is home to much of the bureaucratic machinery of the European Union, or because Brussels Midi/Zuid is the turnstile rail station for the superfast Eurostar trains connecting Europe’s major cities. Wedged between Germany, France, and The Netherlands, Belgium has long been the crossroads—and battlefield—of Europe, where great armies have clashed from Waterloo to Flanders’ Fields to the Battle of the Bulge—though today the forested mountains of the Ardennes are better known for their countryside hikes.

The Netherlands is a pancake-flat nation wedged between Germany and the North Sea—in fact, over centuries the Dutch have employed dikes, canals, and windmill-driven pumps to reclaim nearly a fifth of the nation’s landmass from that sea (the Zaanse Schans district in North Holland and Kinderdijk in South Holland are best for windmill-spotting). The Dutch golden age was the 17th century, when its mercantile fleet extended the Netherlands’ reach to colonies in the New World and in Asia—which is why you’ll find great Indonesian food in Amsterdam.

Luxembourg, the world’s only remaining Grand Duchy, is so much more than just a European tax haven wedged between France, Germany, and Belgium. It is just 998 square miles (Rhode Island is 55% bigger than Luxembourg), with a population of barely more than half a million—yet they manage to speak three languages (French, German, and Luxembourgish), and have long been leaders in European economic and social integration (the treaty that allows Europeans free movement among member states was signed in the village of Schengen).