Brussels Belgium is consider European Union, having a long history of hosting the institutions of the European Union within its European Quarter. However, the EU has no official capital with no plans to declare one. The city hosts the official seats of the European Commision, Council of the European Union, European Council and a second seat of the European Parliament.
Brussels has 2 airports: Brussels Airport (BRU), about 12 km northeast of the city center, and Brussels South Charleroi Airport (CRL) about 50 km south of the city. The simplest way to travel into the city center from either is by taxi or ride service, though this can be expensive depending on the distance involved. The train or bus are cheaper options from both airports, though they generally also take longer. However, the train is considerably cheaper and can also be faster during peak traffic hours. Buses are the least expensive option, but they’re also the slowest. Brussels City Shuttle buses leave from stop 6 outside exit 4 of the arrivals hall, travelling non-stop to Brussels Midi train station in around 45 minutes to an hour, depending on traffic. You can buy ticket at the ticket desk or the vending machines by exit 4 for € 17. Tickets can be also bought online, costing between €5 and €14 depending how far in advance you book.
The architecture in Brusssels is diverse, and spans from the medieval constructions on the Grand-Place to postmodern buildings of the EU institutions. Main attrctions include the Grand-Place, with the Gothic town hall in the old centre, the St. Michel and Gudula Cathedral and the Laken Castle with its large greenhouses. Another famous landmark is the Royal Palace.
The Atomium is a symbolic 103-metre (338 ft) tall structure that was built for the 1958 World’s Fair. It consists of nine steel spheres connected by tube’s, and forms a model of an iron crystal specifically a unit cell. The architect A. Waterkeyn devoted the building to science.
Next to the Atomium is the Mini-Europe park with 1:25 scale maquettes of famous buildings from across Europe.
The Manneken Pis, a bronze fountain of a small peeing boy is a famous tourist attraction and symbol of the city. Just a short walk from the Grand Place-Grote Markt is the Manneken Pis a small bronze statue thought to represent the irreverent spirit of Brussels. This is a statue of a child urinating into a pool. Belgians have created hundreds of outfits for this statue. There are many stories of the statue’s origins. It is believed to have been inspired by a child who, while in the tree, found a special way to drive away invading troops. Another stories goes that a father was missing his child and made a declaration to the city that when he found him he would build a statue of him, doing whatever it was that he was doing. It has been also said a witch turned him a stone for peeing on her property. Yet another story goes that Brussels was under siege and enemies had planted explosives from blowing up thus saving the city. The most likely scenario is that it was the location of the market for urine, which was used for its ammonia content to tan leathers. None are definetively true.
The Statue of Europe Unity in Peace (French sculptor Bernard Romain) is a monumental work dedicated to Europe carries a universal symbol of brotherhood, tolerance and hope. Etterbeek Van Maerlant street.
Other landmarks include the Cinquantenaire park with its triuphal arch and nearby museums, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Brussels Stock Exchange, the Palace of Justice and the buildings of EU institutions in the European Quarter.
Cultural facilities include the Brussels Theatre and the La Monnaie Theatre and opera house. There is a wide array of museums, from the Royal Museum of Fine Art to the Museum of the Army and the Comic Museum. Brussels also has a lively music scene, with everything from opera houses and concert halls to music bars and techno clubs.
The city center is notable for its Flemish town houses. Also particularly striking are the buildings in the Art Nouveau new Brussels architect Victor Horta . In the heyday of Art Nouveau new Brussels suburbs were developed, and many buildings are in this style. The architecture of the quarter Schaerbeek, Etterbeek lxelles, and Saint-Gilles is particularly worth seeing.
Another example of Brussels Art Nouveau is the Stoclet Palace, by the Viennese architect Josef Hoffmann. The modern buildings of Espace Leopold complete the picture.
The city has had a renowned artist scene for many years. The famous Belgian surrealist René Magritte for example studied in Brussels. The city is also the capital for comic strip; some treasured Belgian characters are Lucky Luke, Tintin, Cubitus, Gaston Lagaffe and Marsupilami. Throughout the city walls are painted with large motifs of comic book characters, and the interiors of some Metro stations are designed by artists.
The Belgian Comics Museum combines two artistic leitmotifs of Brussels, being a museum devoted to Belgian comic strips, housed in the former Waucquez department store, designed by Victor Horta in the Art Nouveau style.
Brussels is officially bilingual French-Dutch, although French, mother tongue of the majority of the population, is the lingua franca and is most widely used.
The area around Grand-Place, Brussels historic center, is very walkable, with several pedestrianized streetss and only a few small hills. Other walkable areas include the large southern park Bois de la Cambre and the student neighborhood of lxelles. Brussels isn’t bike-friendly city, so you’ll rarely see the locals on 2 wheels. There are few bike lanes, and cycling in heavy traffic can be unnerving.
Central Brussels has a number of distinct shopping areas, each with their own feel and style, and each falling within a certain price range, from bargain to luxury. Shopping malls in the city center vary from glitzy and modern to ornate 19th-century arcades. You’ll also find plenty of markets selling antiques and knick-knacks to local produce.
All markets are open from early morning until at least noon, with some not closing until mid-afternoon. Place du Jeu de Balle hosts a flea market every Sunday morning.Each Sunday a huge food market takes over the area outside Brussels Midi train station. Marolles flea market sets up on Vossenplein square and along the surroundings streets. Artist and portrait painters set up their stalls daily in an informal marketplace along the narrow street of Boterstraat, near Grand-Place.
Food and drinks
The Brussels dining scene runs the gamut from quick snacks to award-winning haute cuisine. If you’re looking for something quick and filling, you’ll find Belgian waffle vendors all over the city. Local restaurants serve up classic mussels and french fries (moules-frites), and no trip to Brussels would be complete without a visit to a chocolate shop. Belgian beers are globally reowned, and the locally produced lambics are considered to be among the best of these. When it comes to nightlife, some pubs and clubs reamain open until dawn.
Hearty Belgian cuisine can be found throughout the city in “brown cafes”, traditional bars with wooden interiors. The area of Marolles is known for its typical Belgian neighborhood restaurants. lxelles is home to a range of hip casual dining options. High- end dining spots are scattered across the city, but you’ll find a high concentration around Place du Grand Sablon, Place Chàtelain and along Avenue Louise. St. Catherine/ St. Géry is an up-and-coming area with a number of trendy bars and eateries. The Quai aux Briques in St. Catherine is famous for seafood restaurants.
There is plenty of good eating to be had in Brussels. Most people cencentrate on the three classics ; mussels (Moules in French and mosselen in Flemish), fries (frites for French) and chocolate. A few more adventurous Bruxellois/Brusselse dishes include anguilles au vert/paling in ‘t groen (river eels in green sauce), meat balls in tomato sauce, stoemp (mashed vegetables and potatoes) and turbot waterzooi(turbot fish in cream and egg sauce. For dessert try Belgian waffle.
One shall however always bear in mind that it is important to check the prices of food items before ordering, just like what people should do when visiting pubs in France and Soho, London. Beware especially when servers make choices for you .It has been reported that tourist have to paid up to €7 for a litre of sparkling water, costing less than €0.70 in local stores.
Beer lovers from around the world make pilgrimages to Belgium to sample its reowned brews. There are hundreds of varieties available, but the rich Trappist ales brewed at abbeys such as Westvleteren, Rochefort and Westmalle are particularly reowned.
Beers from Brussels region are made in an unusual way: spontaneously fermented using wild yeast to create a sharply refreshing drink called lambic. This is then mixed with fruit or aged in barrels to form geuze. You can see these processes in action at the Brasserie Cantillon brewery, near Brussels Midi train station.
Central Brussels has hundreds of small stores dispensing waffles from windows facing the street. You’ll find local-style waffles and their slightly sweeter and denser Liège cousines in equal abundance. Locals eat them with a light dusting of icing sugar and choices of bananas, whipped cream and many other toppings.
Mussels and fries
French fries – said to have been invented in Belgium are served at friterie stalls across the city. A popular way to enjoy them is on a cafe terrace with a bowl of steaming mussels, the latter served plain or with garlic, cream, white wine or curry powder.
Belgian chocolate is world-famous, thanks to its time-honored, exacting preparation methods . To this day, artisans temper liquid chocolate porcelain blocks. Belgian pralines- a sweet paste of sugar and nuts coated in chocolate are a traditional specialty. Most of the Belgium’s top chocolatiers have stores in central Brussels. The area around Place de Grand Sablon has plenty of chocolate stores and cafes, including some where you can sample the goods for free. It also forms an important part of the Belgian economy and culture. In order to prevent adulteration of the chocolate with low-quality fats from other sources, a minimum level of 35% pure cacao was imposed. Adherence to traditional techniques also serves to increase the quality of Belgian chocolate. In particular, artificial, vegetable-based or palm-oil-based fats, which raise the melting point are banned from products labelled “Belgian chocolate”. Many firms produce chocolates by hand, which is laborious and explains the prevalence of small, independent chocolate outlets, which are popular with tourist. Famous chocolate companies strictly follow traditional recepes for their products.
For the frugal, you can buy 100-200 grams gourmet bars of chocolate in grocery stores for about €1 each. Good brands to buy are Cote-d’Or and Jacques, both are Belgian.
Nightlife in Brussels encompasses everything from music cafes and dance to hip-hop joints and gay bars, and there’s a lively pub culture too. Many central cafes and pubs are open throughout the day and night, although pubs are usually busiest around 9 PM. Most clubs don’t really get going until well into the night, usually after 11 PM. Clubs often have time nights, so a single venue might host an electronic dance music rave one night and 70’s funk party the next.
The city center of Brussels is compact and divided into two main areas. The western portion is the Lower Town, fanning out from the Grand-Place. Above and to the east is the upper Town, an area that was built for upper class Francophiles. The Lower Town and Upper Town are divided by a bustling boulevard which runs through the center under several names. Berlaimont, L’lmperatrice and L’Empereur. You can easily cover all the Brussels main attractions and enjoy all the city has to offer in a comfortable three days , that’s if you don’t overdo it with the spectacular Belgian beer at the many bars you’ll find scattered throughout the city.