Besides being home to the European Commission, Brussels is home to top-notch eateries, plush hotels, first-class museums, galleries and boasts a fantastic array of shopping opportunities. In an age where so much is already discovered, Flanders’ capital enthrals visitors as one of Western Europe’s great surprises.
Brussels is a hugely under-rated city, too often maligned for its association with the EU. The Flemish capital is a city of fine food, cafés and culture, Art Nouveau, architecture and the surreal. It is easily accessible from every part of the UK and offers plenty of attractions to keep visitors amused for days! Pull up a chair and join locals who treasure the city’s casual atmosphere. Watch as visitors saunter down swish Avenue Louise or Rue Antoine Dansaert, where many of Belgium’s trendy designers have their boutiques. Some of the world’s most enduring images of surrealist art were created by René Magritte in the northern suburb of Jette and the architecture ranges from monumental edifices to intricate Art Nouveau façades. A perfect example of this is the Museum of Musical Instruments. Take the elaborate glass elevator to the top and see the EU’s real-life Gotham City.
Watch The World Go By
Constant throughout the city is the quality of everyday life; the shopping is great, the restaurants are superb, the chocolate shops sublime and the bar scene extraordinary. The centre of cool in Brussels has long been the adjoining areas of St Catherine and St Géry where come nightfall, the young arrive to party. There are many trendy bars that line Place St Géry but it is also great for quiet dining or sitting in a café and watching the world go by. Hot on its heels in the cool stakes are the areas that flank avenue Louise, namely St Gilles and Ixelles, including the Congolese area of Matongé. While St Gilles, with its Art Nouveau buildings, is elegantly chic, with place du Chatelain being the focus of activity - everyone who is anyone in Brussels drinks there on a Wednesday night - Ixelles is a bustling ethnic quarter that is much more down to earth. There are bars a plenty on rue St Boniface and Marché aux Charbons, but the classic that has been there forever is L'Ultime Atome (14 Rue St Boniface). And while you're in the area, make sure you see Cityscape, a piece of entangled wooden street art that is capturing the imagination of the Bruxellois.
For a long time Brussels seemed content to remain in the shadows but its stint as Cultural Capital of Europe in 2000 saw the city dusted and polished in a flurry that brought renewed life to historic buildings and sleepy streets. A new spirit emerged fanning outside interest and inner-city regeneration. Nearly a decade on, Brussels is looking better than ever.
"Brussels is astonishing for its new restaurants, bars and shops which - added to the glories of its Art Nouveau heritage, its famous cartoons, world-class museums and of course, traditional mussels and frites - gives it a real vibrancy and excitement."
Mary Anne Evans, Chair of the Guild of British Travel Writers
Good to know
Charlotte and Emily Bronte spent nearly a year in Brussels learning French. Charlotte spent a further year there teaching English; Villette and The Professor draws on her time in Flanders.
Must sees in Brussels
Atonium - Unmistakable symbol of Brussels and Belgium and unique feat in the history of architecture: the Atomium is today the most popular attraction in the Capital of Europe.
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Mini Europe - Located at the foot of the Atomium, Mini-Europe is the only park where you can have a whistlestop tour of Europe in a few short hours. A truly unique journey!
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Comic strip museum - The museum devotes much of its space to the history of the comic strip in Belgium, with Hergé undoubtedly at the head of a group whose fame is international: blow-up drawings, three-dimensional reproductions (the famous rocket used by Tintin to travel through space), etc.
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