By Rick Steves and Gene Openshaw
To learn more about Belgium past and present, check out some of these books and films. (And see our similar lists for elsewhere in Europe.)
- The Guns of August (Barbara Tuchman, 2004). Pulitzer-Prize-winning chronicle of the outbreak of World War I and events along the Western Front, including Belgium.
- In Flanders Fields: The 1917 Campaign (Leon Wolff, 1958). Classic account of the Flanders battle at Passchendaele, in which Allied forces captured a few thousand yards at the cost of tens of thousands of lives.
- King Leopold's Ghost (Adam Hochschild, 1999). Clear-eyed examination of Belgium's exploitation of its Congo colony.
- A Tall Man in a Low Land: Some Time Among the Belgians (Harry Pearson, 1999). Wry look at contemporary Belgium through the eyes of an outsider.
- The Wisdom of the Beguines: The Forgotten Story of a Medieval Women's Movement (Laura Swan, 2016). Exploration of beguinages, communities of like-minded women who aided their towns' poor and vulnerable.
- The Abyss (Marguerite Yourcenar, 1968). Story of an atheist in Renaissance Bruges, written by one of Belgium's greatest novelists.
- The Adventures of Tintin series (Hergé, 1929–1976). Classic comics featuring the irrepressible boy reporter and his dog.
- The House of Niccoló series (Dorothy Dunnett, 1999). Three-volume series tracing an audacious apprentice who rises to lead a mercantile empire in 15th-century Flanders.
- The Lady and the Unicorn (Tracy Chevalier, 2003). Story behind the creation of the famous Lady and the Unicorn tapestries, which were woven by a master craftsman in Brussels.
- Pallieter (Felix Timmermans, 1916). Flemish classic about a young man whose life-threatening disease changes his life completely.
- Resistance (Anita Shreve, 1995). Novel set in a village in Nazi-occupied Belgium, where the wife of a resistance fighter shelters a downed American bomber pilot.
- The Square of Revenge (Pieter Aspe, 2013). Bruges' medieval architecture conceals a bizarre mystery for Inspector Van In to solve.
- The Adventures of Tintin (2011). Steven Spielberg adaptation following the beloved Belgian comic book hero on a treasure hunt for a sunken ship.
- The Battle of the Bulge (1965). Historical drama starring Henry Fonda, recounting the surprise Nazi attack on the Western Front in 1944.
- Get Out Your Handkerchiefs (1978). Shot in the Ardennes, a wacky romantic comedy starring Gérard Depardieu, which won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
- If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium (1969). Comedy featuring a group of travelers from the US racing through seven countries in 18 days on a bus tour.
- In Bruges (2008). Dark and violent comedy filmed just where you'd think.
- The Monuments Men (2014). Action-drama recounting a WWII platoon's mission to rescue Nazi-stolen art treasures — including Bruges' Michelangelo piece Madonna and Child and the Ghent Altarpiece.
Gene Openshaw is the co-author of the Rick Steves Belgium: Bruges, Brussels, Antwerp & Ghent guidebook.