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Vlaams-Brabant, or Flemish Brabant in English, is one of Belgium's ten provinces. The province is found in Flanders, constituting the northern Dutch-speaking part of Belgium. Surrounding Belgium's capital city, which represents a province of its own, Flemish Brabant also neighbors other Belgian provinces, namely Antwerp, Limburg, Liège, Walloon Brabant, Hainaut, and East Flanders. The capital city of Flemish Brabant is Leuven, found in the eastern part of the territory. Leuven boasts considerable historical and cultural heritage, with some notable sights including the Town Hall, University Library, and Groot Begijnhof, to name a few. For most of its history, Flemish Brabant was part of the Duchy of Brabant, which covered other adjacent areas such as Walloon Brabant, Antwerp, the Brussels-Capital Region, and most of the present-day Dutch province of North Brabant. Due to its long history, a number of castles can presently be found scattered across the province's territory. Regarding local natural conditions, Flemish Brabant features a diverse landscape characterized by undulating terrain gradually rising toward the south. In the southern part of the region just outside the Brussels city borders, is found the Sonian forest, a UNESCO-protected natural area with walking and hiking opportunities for its visitors.
Leuven, the capital city of the Vlaams Brabant province, is located in the eastern part of the region. The city features considerable historical and cultural heritage. Additionally, Leuven University is the largest in Belgium, with a tradition dating back to the 15th century, making it the oldest university city in the Low Countries (consisting of Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxembourg). One of the predominant historical attractions in the city of Leuven is the Town Hall. A renowned example of Gothic architecture, the Town Hall was constructed over a span of thirty years with contributions from three architects. The Town Hall's facade is adorned with 235 statues that were added after 1850. Situated opposite the Town Hall is Saint Peter's Church. Other historical sights around the city include the Oude Market, University Library, and Norbertine Park Abbey, to name a few. Apart from these historical attractions, Leuven is the home and origin of Stella Artois, which is part of the world's largest brewing company. It is possible to visit Stella Artois Brewery in the city of Leuven by taking part in a guided tour.
The Groot Begijnhof of Leuven is a preserved beguinage and a restored historic neighborhood in the southern part of downtown Leuven. Covering an area of approximately 3 hectares (7.5 acres) and consisting of around 100 houses with 300 apartments, it stands as one of the largest remaining beguinages in the Low Countries. The beguinage spans both sides of the Dijle River, which divides into two canals within the beguinage, creating an island-like setting. Three bridges connect the different sections of the beguinage. The University of Leuven owns the entire beguinage and serves as an academic campus, primarily providing housing for academics. However, the complex has been universally recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site since 1998. Nevertheless, the Flemish Brabant province's historical heritage extends beyond its capital city's borders. Numerous castles can be found scattered throughout the region, the Arenberg Castle, the Groot-Bijgaarden Castle, Gaasbeek Castle, and Horst Castle, to name a few.
In terms of natural destinations, visitors seeking outdoor attractions might take an interest in the Geographic Arboretum. The arboretum is nestled in a landscape park featuring avenues, grassy valleys, and an extensive collection of trees and shrubs representing various forest types from regions across the globe. Divided into approximately one hundred sections, the arboretum showcases specimens from North America, Europe, and Asia. With a total area of 120 hectares, it offers visitors the opportunity to explore diverse forest ecosystems. Moreover, a visit to Halle's Wood, found in the southern part of the province, is recommended from late April to early May when a carpet of wild blooming bluebell hyacinths covers the woodland's floor.
Vlaams-Brabant, also known as Flemish Brabant, is a province in Belgium covering an area of 2,106 square kilometers. It has a relatively high population density, with 486 inhabitants per square kilometer. Flemish Brabant features a diverse landscape characterized by undulating terrain that gradually rises towards the south, reaching its highest point in the Zoniënwoud at an altitude of 139 meters above sea level. The province encompasses various geographical subdivisions, including the agricultural districts of Pajottenland and Brabants Haspengouw, the wooded region of Dijleland, and the fruit-growing area of Hageland. The Zoniënwoud and the Hallerbos form a green belt surrounding the Brussels metropolis. The hydrographic basin of the Schelde River, which includes the Rupel, Dender, Zenne, Dijle, and Gete rivers, falls within the boundaries of Flemish Brabant. The central city of Brussels primarily influences the urban areas within the province. Other significant regional centers include Leuven, Vilvoorde, Halle, Asse, Diest, Aarschot, and Tienen.
One of the notable natural areas in the Flemish Brabant territory is Zoniënwoud or Sonian Forest. The Sonian Forest has notable integral forest reserves within its boundaries, such as the Joseph Zwaenepoel reserve and the réserve forestière du Ticton—characterized by authentic landscapes, ancient trees, and biodiversity—is part of the UNESCO World Heritage List. The nature area of Sonian Forest is home to diverse and abundant fauna. The Brussels portion of the forest harbors around 40 endemic mammal species, including 18 bat species, making it a vital habitat for these endangered mammals. Additionally, the forest supports a variety of insects, spiders, birds, fish, and amphibians, many of which include rare species found within the Sonian Forest. Additionally, the Zoniënwoud is the only forest in Belgium where seven different woodpecker species can be observed.
In terms of local climatic conditions, Flemish Brabant has a marine west coast climate with hot summers. Average temperatures in Vlaams Brabant tend to be higher than in the rest of Belgium. Regarding the average temperatures in Flemish Brabant's capital, Leuven, the warmest month is August, with an average daily temperature of 26°C. Reportedly, January is the coldest month, as temperatures rest around 6°C on average. April tends to be the driest month in Leuven because it generally receives an average of 48 mm of rainfall. The most precipitation falls during August, as it receives about 80 mm.
For a considerable part of its history, Flemish Brabant was part of the Duchy of Brabant, covering what is now known as Flemish Brabant, Walloon Brabant, Antwerp, the Brussels-Capital Region, and most of the Dutch province of North Brabant. The area of Brabant was inhabited by the Nervii, a Belgic tribe, during Roman times and later came under the rule of the Germanic Franks. In the 10th century, Count Godfrey of Jülich advanced to the rank of Duke of Lower Lorraine by Otto I of Germany. The duchy became part of the Holy Roman Empire, and the counts of Leuven rose to power, eventually acquiring the County of Brussels. Over time, the territory under their control expanded, and by the 12th century, the Duchy of Brabant was formally established by Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa. The dukes of Brabant continued to expand their domain, acquiring the Duchy of Limburg and the lands of Overmaas. In 1430, the duchies of Lower Lotharingia, Brabant, and Limburg were inherited by Philip the Good of Burgundy and later became part of the Burgundian Netherlands. The Duchy of Brabant then passed to the House of Habsburg in 1477 through the dowry of Mary of Burgundy. During the Eighty Years' War, the northern parts of Brabant came under the control of the Dutch insurgents, while the southern part remained in Spanish Habsburg hands as part of the Southern Netherlands.
After the Belgian Revolution in 1830, the Southern Netherlands gained independence and became Belgium, including the region of Brabant. Brabant was renamed and became a central province of Belgium, with Brussels as its capital city. The province consisted of three arrondissements: Brussels, Leuven, and Nivelles. In 1989, the Brussels-Capital Region was created, but it remained part of the province of Brabant. The province of Flemish Brabant as we know it today came into existence on January 1, 1995, following the division of the bilingual province of Brabant. The split occurred along the borders of the Flemish Region and the Walloon Region. This separation was the outcome of the Sint-Michiels Agreement of 1992, which marked the formal transformation of Belgium into a federal state.
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