Brussels City Guide
Besides being the capital city of Belgium, Brussels is often considered to be the capital of all of Europe for it is home to the headquarters of the European Union. Brussels is a Flemish-French bilingual enclave situated in the Flemish speaking area of Belgium. It hosts several important European and global organizations like the European Commission, the council of the European Union, the European Parliament, the Eurocontrol(a European body for the safety of air navigation) and the headquarters of the NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization).
Aside from the intergovernmental agencies, Brussels also plays host to the European headquarters of numerous multinational corporations like UPS, Proctor and Gamble and others. It is no wonder then that city welcomes nearly 14 million business travelers annually.
Brussels is not a dull, boring city saturated with all business; Brussels in fact has much to offer for tourists as well. The city is home to numerous impressive landmarks like the Grand Place, the Palais Royale, the Magritte Museum and the quirky Manneken Pis along with a rich gastronomic culture that features high quality chocolate and beer along with immensely popular native eats like Pomme frites and waffles. In fact, Brussels, which is home to a largely cosmopolitan population, offers a good assortment of dining, shopping and nightlife options that render the city as a prominent destination on any traveler’s vacation map.
Where to stay in Brussels
The city of Brussels is made up of 19 communes or districts. These communes enclose the city as well as the Brussels’ Capital region. This center city was ringed by fortified ramps in the 14th century but today features wide boulevards and is known as the Petite Ceinture which has the beautiful Grand Place at its center. Visitors on business or leisure trips to Brussels hardly venture away from this inner sanctum that is characterized by parks and green spaces and hosts the best bars and restaurants in the city.
The Grand Place Hotels
The Grand Place is the epicenter of Brussels. This center of the city is a UNESCO World Heritage site and hosts several important landmarks like the Town Hall, guildhalls and the neo gothic Breadhouse or the Masion du Roi( French)/Broodhuis (Dutch), which is now home to the City Museum. This area is the favored accommodation option of most visitors to Brussels and it accordingly hosts a wide array of hotels that cater to myriad travel budgets.
The Avenue Louise neighborhood is located near the Grand Place and is yet another popular neighborhood for accommodations in Brussels. This neighborhood hosts several prominent museums like the Horta Museum, the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, the Museum of Musical instruments and the European Union Parliament Building. It is also home to many varied hotels that include deluxe hotel properties, business-oriented hotels and even discount hotels and budget accommodation.
Brussels South - Midi Train Station area
The Brussels South-Midi Train Station is the biggest train station in Brussels that plays host to nearly a thousand trains a day including the cross-channel train service, the Eurostar. As a result the area around the station is populated with a wide variety of hotels.
Brussels North- Gare du Nord station area
The Brussels North railway station is yet another important station in Brussels that plays host to both domestic and international trains and as a result, the area around this station too is littered with hotels that offer rooms of every grade and type.
Places to see in Brussels
Grand Place (Central Square)
The Grand Place is often thought to be the heart of Brussels. Dating back to the Middle Ages, the Grand Place is one of the prettiest squares in Europe and surrounded by quaint cobbled stone streets. The Grand Place hosts the city’s magnificent Town Hall building, which is a Gothic edifice that dominates the square. Also located here are several 17th century baroque guild houses and other gothic buildings and museums. The Grand Place is the site for many festivals and events in Brussels.
Royal Museums of Fine Arts
The Royal Museums of Fine Arts are a must-do attraction for any art lover on a vacation to Brussels. These museums consist of the twin museums, namely the Museum of Ancient art and the Museum of Modern Art. The museum of Ancient art dates back to 1887 and features the best collection of Belgian art in the world including prominent works by artist like Van Dyck and Rubens. The Museum of Modern Art was inaugurated in 1984 and features the best Belgian and international contemporary artists of our time like Francis Bacon.
This little bronze fountain sculpture is located near the Grand Place and is often considered to be the symbol of Brussels. This sculpture features a naked, little boy urinating into the fountain’s basin. It was designed by Jerome Duquesnoy in the early 17th century. Today this quirky landmark is one of Brussels’ most popular landmarks.
The imposing Royal Palace was built in the 19th century as the official residence of the Belgian Royal family. Today this magnificent building faces Brussels Park and is used for official and ceremonial events. The Royal Palace is open to the public in summer months and is well worth exploring as it has a treasure trove of historical artifacts and contemporary artworks.
The Museum of Musical Instruments (MIIM)
This quirky museum is housed in a grand Art Nouveau building that dates back to 1899 and was designed by Paul Saintenoy. The museum offers displays of a wide variety of musical instruments. Each of the display cases of these instruments are equipped with headsets that allow visitors to discover the sounds that are produced by a particular instrument.
Comic Strip Museum
Brussels’ world renowned comic strip museum is housed in a beautiful Art Nouveau building that was designed by famous Belgian Art Nouveau architect Victor Horta in 1906. This building was originally built as a private residence for the Waucquez family who actually used it as a site for their wholesale cloth business. The building now offers displays of everything related to comic strips and includes exhibits of both French (Bandes Dessinés) and Flemish comics(Stripverhalen) including exhibits of the TinTin comic strip, which was created by Herge and is Belgium’s most important contribution to the world of comics.
Best time to visit Brussels
Brussels experiences a maritime temperate climate which is influenced by its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean. The weather in Brussels typically features warm summers and mild winters. Temperatures in Brussels generally range from 72 F (22C) in the summer months to 43F(6C) in the winter months. The city also receives much rainfall all throughout the year though snowfall is rare occurrence during the Brussels winters.
This relatively mild year round weather renders Brussels an all weather destination. In fact Fare Buzz periodically announces tempting flight deals to Brussels and if a trip to Brussels is on your agenda, you should connect with Fare Buzz on Facebook and Twitter in order to receive advance information about these cheap air tickets to Brussels.
Getting around in Brussels
Brussels is served by its Brussels International airport; located eight miles/ 13 km to the northeast of the city. The airport receives a whole host of low cost and full service carriers which makes getting to Brussels from any part of the globe a breeze. The Brussels airport is served by the Airport City Express train that provides connections to the North, South and Central stations in Brussels. The Brussels airport is additionally served by the Airport Line Bus and other modes of public transport like public buses and metered taxis.
Brussels in fact is equipped with an efficient and extensive public transport system that consists of the metro, trams and buses. The city is also equipped with a fleet of metered taxis that can be hailed at the many taxi stands located around the city.
Visitors to Brussels don’t usually choose to rent a car for the duration of their stay in Brussels as they tend to avail of the city’s excellent public transport system. However if you wish to travel outside Brussels and go on to neighboring destinations of Antwerp or Burges, then it probably makes sense to hire a car for your Brussels vacation. Fare Buzz can be of help at this instance as well as it offers wide array of reasonable car rentals for Brussels that can be booked at the same platforms that you make your other travel bookings for Brussels.
Where to shop in Brussels
No destination is complete without shopping and Brussels with its multitude of shopping options ensures that shoppers enjoy the hunt as much as the purchase. The two main shopping streets of Brussels are Rue Neuve and Avenue Louise. Avenue Louise is the epicenter of luxury shopping in Brussels. This long street plays host all the big names of the fashion world like Gucci, Prada, Chanel, Vuitton, Hermes, Giorgio Armani, Gianni Versace, Christian Dior and many more. More affordable fashion brands can be found around the Innovation department store also located here.
If you rather shop for more reasonably-priced finds, then you should perhaps focus your shopping expeditions around Rue Neuve, home to department stores like Galeria Inno and the City2. The large Woluwe Shopping Centre located in the eastern half of the city, which hosts more than 130 diverse stores is also well worth a visit.
The city’s Place du Grand Sablon, is the main spot for specialty shopping. This is where you will fine Belgium’s many famed chocalatiers like Pierre Marcolini, Wittamer, Neuhuas, Godiva and many more. Chocolate lovers will be delighted to learn that popular upscale chocolate brands Neuhaus and Godiva also have outlet stores in Brussels in addition to regular stores, where chocolates are offered at huge discounts.
In addition to chocolate stores, the Grand Place also hosts many antique stores which offer much opportunity to shop for antiques and other curiosities. The city’s many souvenir shops line the streets that surround the Grand Place and offer various knick-knacks which make for popular souvenirs like postcards, traditional lace and traditional Belgian gobelins tapestries and so forth.
Where to eat in Brussels
Not many people are aware of the fact that Brussels is one of the leading gastronomic capitals of Europe, which is home a plethora of Michelin starred restaurants. According to 2012 records, Brussels hosts 18 Michelin starred restaurants which puts the Belgian capital in third place behind London and Paris. Top rated restaurants in Brussels include eateries like L’Alban Chambon, Alexandre, La Belle Maraichere, Le Bistro du Mail, Bon Bon, Comme Chez Soi and Le Coriandre.
For more wallet-friendly options in Brussels do try eateries like Le Coin des Artistes, La Mamma, La Kasbah, Brasserie Jaloa and Noordzee / Mer du Nord (the best spot for Belgian seafood).
Nightlife in Brussels
Brussels nowadays offers a vivacious nightlife scene. Bars, nightclubs, live music venues abound in the Belgian capital where almost every street sports a bar or pub. Favored nightlife haunts in Brussels currently include thumping nightclubs like Fuse, the Wood, Le You and Studio 44 offering a range of music styles like techno, electro, house, R&B, Salsa and more. As for bars and lounge, current favorites include The Flat (a sleek lounge), A La Becasse, A La Mort Subite, La Fleur en Papier Dore and Au Bon Vieux Temps. If you are a fan of live music try and spend an evening at bars L’Archiduc, Bizon bistro or Music Village (a popular jazz bar).