Why travel to Brussels?
rich and elegant city of cobbled streets and grand old structures,
Brussels is an underrated tourist city, especially in the summer
where street culture takes off.
As homebase for the European Union the city is cosmopolitan and
stylish, the cuisine is superb and the nightlife busy.
Brussels is easy to get around, freshly fashionable, as safe as
anywhere and the origin of some of our worst habits, mouth-explosion
chocolate and mule-kick beer.
With so much flash euro cash around, don't expect Brussels to
The weather is frequently dire.
There are some grim, not-so-delightful areas.
It's not a great place to be on a diet.
though the climate is notoriously erratic.
Worst: November-March. Short daylight hours, cold and grey, but floodlighting
and hyper-beers will enlighten midnight minds.
Current Brussels temperature and time.
Things to Do
Brussels centre is divided into the Lower Town and the Upper Town
(known collectively as the 'petit ring') and the obvious starting
point for any tourist is between the two at the Grand-Place. This
spectacular square (pictured above) is the hub of the city, enclosed
by superb 18th century guildhouses, the gothic Hotel de Ville,
and is always buzzing with life.
A few yards south sprays the little pisser, aka Manneken Pis,
eternally surrounded by admirers. Further south leads to Quartier
Marolles, the place for good value eats and shopping at the daily
Steeply upwards and eastwards from Grand-Place the roads drift
into stately Upper Town, the posh sector, where boulevards and
buildings are on a royal scale and mere mortals feel small.
The Royal Palace, open free to the public in summer months, and
the House of Parliament are two of the more significant structures.
Near that grand pair is Place du Grand Sablon, a zone of pricey
restaurants and shops, and a clutch of the city's best museums
East of the petit ring is the European Union complex of modern
concrete and glass, including the EU Parliament that offers free
tours, with guide, at limited times.
Brussels centre demands no transport other than two functioning
legs. Otherwise a modest flat fee gets you onto efficient buses,
trams and the metro. Simple...but beware place name confusion due
to the obligatory use of both main languages. e.g. South Brussels
is posted as both Bruxelles-Midi (French) and Brussel-Zuid (Flemish).
Belgium has a fine clutch of well-preserved, lively medieval
cities - known as the Flemish Art Cities - within easy reach of
Brussels. Under one hour away by efficient, good value train
are: Antwerp, Bruges, Ghent. See Belgium
Travel Guide for more information.
Feb 6,7,8, the Carnival of Binche. An ancient and famously kaleidoscopic
event with costumes and masks. Binche is 54kms (34 miles) from Brussels.
May 22, the Battle of Lumecon & The Procession of the Golden
Chariot, Mons. A George and the Dragon battle and religious procession
in this pretty city (40 mins by train).
May-November, Festival of Flanders. Superb classical music in magnificent
locations, such as cathedrals, all over Flanders (just north a bit).
Last Thurs of June, the Ommegang Pageant, Brussels. A wildly colourful
'folkloric' procession and games since 1549.
July 21, National Day and start of Brussels Fair (1 month).
Dec 6-Jan 2, European Christmas Market, Brussels, Bruges and more.
Icy, festive fun, all lit up, and that's before the head banging
beer kicks in.
some precise dates or more information see: European
Festivals or Arts
Museums: Out of the centre the stunning Art Nouveau Musée
Victor Horta is high value target for lovers of style while the
Musées Royaux des Beaux Arts offers a huge selection of both
modern and ancient fine art.
Classical Music: The Palais des Beaux Arts provides excellent
symphony and chamber music all year.
Dance/Opera: The Theatre de la Monnaie is Brussels' home to Opera
and Ballet productions.
Live Music & Clubs: The city has endless night action of all
sorts in varied styles, constantly morphing into something new,
so just take a walk, ask your concierge or
check the 'Brussels Times' for event info/listings.
Much of the city centre is busy with
the usual chain stores but more interesting boutiques can be found
off Grand Place in Galeries St Hubert or rue Antoine Dansaert, and
some quirky little shops lurk off rue du Midi.
Eating out in Brussels is a joy, especially if you have a fat
wallet. Local cuisine fusing north and south Belgian styles is
excellent and international food offerings are of equally high
Fortunately for those on a lesser budget, cafés and even
bars serve food of a very high standard for a modest price; alternatively
plenty of fast food joints provide cheap calories.
A must-eat is mussels in Brussels, the national dish.
Brussels makes a great romantic weekend destination as the bureaucrats are all off home in their various countries; hotel rates and restaurant prices take a dive Saturday/Sunday.
As usual the peak summer season sees rooms in short supply, so
book ahead for that period. The Grand-Place vicinity is the prime
tourist accommodation target but there are reasonably priced
places available for early birds.
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