Not only the European Union’s capital city, but also one of the thriving capitals of Europe, Brussels was always going to be on the terrorist radar. But don’t let last year’s troubles put you off visiting, because this fabulously friendly city has so much to offer, from culture to chocolate, ancient guild houses to ultra-modern parliamentary architecture.
Here’s eight things not to be missed in the city of the Manneken Pis:|
Thinking about drinking in Europe, you probably picture pale, weak lager, served in giant glasses. But in Brussels, you’ll discover an altogether darker side to beer, served in over-sized wine glasses that respect its strength. Belgian beer has a famous history, lost in the mists of time and the secrets of the Trappist Monks. Beers such as Westmalle, at 7% and Rochefort, at up to 11.3%, are typical of the dark, malty flavors available. To enjoy them at their best, join a Brussels’ beer tour, which includes nibbles and knowledge along the way.
Belgian chocolate bears little resemblance to the milky stuff we get here in Britain. The Belgians take their chocolate very seriously, and some of the finest chocolatiers in the city look like jewelers, with designer shop window displays and attentive, uniformed sales people to help you make your choice. Join a chocolate tour and you’ll enjoy free samples from some of the city’s best chocolate makers.
Yes, seriously; no trip to the Belgian capital is complete without sampling the famous double-fired chips. They are truly something special; crispy and crunchy on the outside, yet light and fluffy inside. But be warned – the soggy offerings of your local chippy will never seem the same again after these.
The most popular stop on any Brussels city tour is the Grand Place, which is an amazing central square with breathtaking medieval buildings on all four sides. From ancient guild houses to the traditional town hall, it’s a truly unique piece of history. Make sure you come back at night and enjoy the all square lit up from one of the many bars and restaurants around the perimeter, or plan your trip to coincide with the bi-annual flower festival to see a stunning carpet of flowers fill the square.
The Street Art
Brussels is a compact and easy to walk city that feels very safe and friendly, but you should still keep your eyes peeled and your wits about you or you’ll miss one of its most original and unusual attractions. Street art in Brussels is taken to a whole new level, with whole buildings covered in incredible murals, often featuring Belgium’s favorite son, Tin Tin. They are all over the city in the most unexpected places.
The Heart of Europe
One of the three bases for the European Parliament, Brussels has a number of iconic buildings, including the hemicycle meeting chamber and the offices of the MEPs. There are lots of ways to view the parliament buildings, including guided tours and personal tours from your MEP. Brussels is also home to the Belgian Government and the Belgian Royal family, and you can see the Chamber of Representatives and the Palais de Bruxelles either end of the Parc de Bruxelles.
As you would expect from a modern European capital, Brussels has a thriving nightlife. You can dine in style in the many restaurants in the city center, enjoy a Belgian beer overlooking the Grand Place or even try your luck in the Grand Casino Brussels Viage – just make sure you know the rules first so you don’t lose all your city break spends.
As a cosmopolitan capital, and home to so many foreign nationals working at the European Parliament, you’ll find lots more English speakers in Brussels than you would in Paris or Berlin. What’s more, the people of Brussels are incredibly friendly, and will go out of their way to make you feel at home in their city, whether you’re buying their chocolates or just asking for directions on the comprehensive underground metro system.