Brussels may be the capital city of Belgium, but it is also the unofficial capital to the European Union. Home to the headquarters of many European institutions such as the European Commission, the Council of the European Union, and European Council, the city’s inhabitants come from a wide range of backgrounds, brewing up a melting pot of cultures alongside some epic lambic beers.
Don’t bother with brussel sprouts. Go for the waffles, the moules frites, the renowned chocolate pralines. Look out for the Américain frites, a local creation of raw minced beef, eggs and Belgium fries. Beer connoisseurs will find their mecca in this city, home of legendary lambiek. Local watering holes such as the century-old Brasserie Cantillon are the best places to appreciate some lovingly made family brew.
When you’ve had your fill, get ready to explore. The market square of the Grand-Place is a good place to start. Historically, it was where food was traded and bought, hence the streets around it are named after various foods such as poulet (chicken), herbes (herbs) and fromage (cheese). The square itself is flanked by grand architecture from the Baroque, Gothic and Louis XIV eras, an eclectic mix that renders its UNESCO world heritage status.
Tap into the thriving music scene, which boasts a variety that bears testimony to the city’s diverse demographic. Even African nightspots can be found in the Matonge district. Place St-Géry and the Marolles district are lined with bars and clubs for all musical inclinations. Of course, a walk to the famous peeing boy of Brussels, or more appropriately, the Manneken Pis, is mandatory. Several legends surrounding this unorthodox monument, a couple of which involve the little boy saving the city from fire by urinating on the flames. As large as the stories are, the statue itself is petite, at around 61 centimetres tall.
If you have time, take a day trip to Bruges, a charming UNESCO-protected city. Touristy it may be, but this place will certainly delight; its citizens still live in preserved medieval houses, and in the evening, the streets fill with the sound of music. Train back to Brussels in time for some folklore at Theatre Toone, or watch an opera at the renowned Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie. Belgium is also famous for its contemporary dance! Wash it all down with another pint of lambic. Bliss.
Public transport is convenient and accessible. The city centre is serviced by metro and tram lines.
Doors to metro trains and trams do not open automatically so be sure to pull the leaver or press the button on the door before you miss your stop. For areas unreachable by these two, there are buses available. However, the city centre is a more-than manageable walk.
Getting to Brussels
Brussels airport is the main airport, although budget flights from Europe such as Ryanair and Wizzair land in Charleroi airport south of the city. From both airports, there are train, bus and taxi options to the city. The high-speed Eurostar trains also service the route between London, Paris and Amsterdam.