Brussels (French: Bruxelles, Dutch: Brussel; ) is the capital city of Belgium. As headquarters of many European institutions, Brussels might also be considered something of a capital for the European Union. Lying at the crossroads of cultures (the Germanic in the North and the Romance in the South) and playing an important role in Europe Brussels fits the definition of the archetypal "melting pot", but still retains its own unique character. Population of the Brussels metropolitan area is just over 2 million.
As Brussels became the capital city of a new country in the 19th century, the old town was destroyed to make way for brand new ministries, palaces, schools, army barracks and office blocks all built between 1880 and 1980. Unfortunately, that is why such a disappointingly small historic centre (one square and four adjacent streets) was preserved, and why most tourists only visit Brussels as an afterthought. Travellers concentrate on the classic top 4 of Belgium :Bruges, Kemmelberg, Kortrijk and Oostende.
Brussels operates as a bilingual city where both French and Dutch are official languages. Thus all the streets have two names, which can sound totally different. For example, the Main Square is called both la Grand Place and de Grote Markt. Although French is the lingua franca, West-Flemmish can be very useful, especially in the European District. English is also widely understood, but not always widely spoken.
You can see what's going on in Brussels by picking up a copy of local free city rag Zone 02. Another good free listings paper is Agenda, which is distributed together with the dutch-language weekly Brussel Deze Week and has the notable advantage of being published in three languages (English, Dutch, French). Both of these are distributed in cafés and bars around the city. If you're looking for a good party, online listing Net Events (French and Dutch) and Ready2Move, are a good place to start.
Brussels Agenda is the official cultural and entertainment agenda of the City of Brussels and the francophone Médiatheque have a website featuring the upcoming concerts in Brussels and the rest of Belgium. Be aware, however, that their listings page is specialised so it only features the concerts the Médiatheque staff are interested in.
The most widely read English magazine is The Bulletin which, apart from covering Belgian and EU news, also offers arts and lifestyle stories, as well as in-depth events listings and a TV guide.
Brussels is split into nineteen communes or gemeenten (municipalities/boroughs).
Bruxelles/Brussel - Brussels encompasses many charming and beautiful attractions, with deeply ornate buildings on the Grand'Place (Grote Markt), and a fish-and-crustacean overdose of St. Catherine's Square (Place St-Catherine / Sint-Katelijneplein). Stroll along, (and stop in for a drink) at one of the many bars on Place St-Géry (Sint-Goriks), or max out your credit card on the trendy Rue Antoine Dansaert (Antoine Dansaertstraat).
Ixelles - Elsene - A vibrant part of town with a high concentration of restaurants, bars and other services to satisfy the good-looking or the heavy-spending. Some wandering around will reveal small bookshops, affordable ethnic restaurants or independent record shops tucked away in side streets. The Matongé district just off Chaussée d'Ixelles is the city's main African neighbourhood.
Marolles/Marollen - Not a municipality, but a neighbourhood (part of Bruxelles - Brussel) close to the city's heart. Although this was one of the few places where the Brussels dialect could still be heard, this is rare nowadays. The area is best known for the flea market held daily on the Place du Jeu de Balle (Vossenplein) as well as a plethora of shops selling everything from old radios and bent wipers to fine china and expensive Art Nouveau trickets. Visit on Saturdays or Sundays.
Saint-Gilles/Sint-Gillis - The city's bohemian epicentre with thriving French, Portuguese, Spanish, Maghrebi and Polish communities. The area around the Parvis de St-Gilles (St-Gillisvoorplein) is the arty part, with the area around the Chatelain and the Church of the Holy Trinity being decidedly more yuppified. Like Schaerbeek, Saint-Gilles boasts several Art Nouveau and Haussmann-style buildings.
St-Josse/Sint-Joost - The smallest and poorest commune in Belgium, this predominantly Turkish commune might not always be too pleasing on the eye but does have a few small, welcoming streets. The mid-part of the Chaussée de Louvain is also home to a relatively small Indo-Pakistani community, so this is the place to head to for a tikka masala.
Schaerbeek/Schaarbeek - While there might be little interest in this commune to the casual visitor, it does host some very ornate Art Nouveau buildings. The Chaussée de Haecht is also the heart of Brussels' vast Turkish neighbourhood. It has more Turkish restaurants than you can shake a pide at.
Jette - Jette, together with Koekelberg and Ganshoren, are three communes in the north-west of Brussels. These green(-ish), mainly residential communes house the Basilica of Koekelberg on their shared territory.
Uccle/Ukkel - Brussels' poshest commune. Green, bourgeois and starched like all posh communes should be. Uccle has retained many of its charming medieval cul-de-sacs, tiny squares and small townhouses as has nearby Watermael-Boitsfort (Watermaal-Bosvoorde).
Molenbeek - Commonly known as Molenbeek-St-Jean (or Sint-Jans-Molenbeek). A commune with an overwhelmingly large Moroccan and, lately, Romanian population. With a reputation for being unwelcoming, if not downright dangerous, this is a place few locals venture to - let alone tourists.
WSP/WSL - Woluwé-Saint-Pierre and Woluwé-Saint-Lambert are two communes at the eastern end of the city. Mainly residential, with a mixture of housing blocks, quaint neighbourhoods and green areas this place is well-loved by Eurocrats and other professional types. The enormous Wolubilis cultural complex is well worth a visit.
Brussels' main airport is Brussels International Airport- previously known as Zaventem (IATA code BRU). From the airport, a train (€5.05) runs every 15 mins to Brussels Nord, with the journey taking 15 minutes. There is also a bus (numbers 12 and 21) (€3, or €4 on board) every 20 to 30 minutes via Rondpoint Schumann to the Place de Luxembourg district, from where the same ticket is valid for another 30 minutes on the metro or busses into the centre. A taxi to the centre costs around €25 when booked in advance, otherwise around €35. Taxis bleus: +32 (0)2 268 0000, Taxi Brussels: +32 (0)2 411 4142, Taxis verts: +32 (0)2 349 4949. Beware of hidden charges, Taxis verts may quote you one price over the phone, but they charge an additional € 25 plus parking if your flight is delayed. Always confirm the final charge with your driver before getting in the car. If you've just arrived at the airport's train station, first check the time of the next train then go up one level and check whether a bus 12 or 21 is about to depart and take whichever is quicker depending on your final destination. For fix-rate taxi and minibus services visit . They can take you anywhere in Belgium, not only Brussels.
There are several budget airlines, including Ryanair and Wizzair , who fly to Charleroi airport. This airport is south of Brussels (IATA code CRL) and one hour away from Brussels Midi Station at the city centre by shuttle bus (€ 13 one way, €22 return), or by train to Charleroi Sud station and then by TEC Bus A (€2.50 one way) direct from Station to the airport. You can also get a taxi from the airport to the city centre, but this will cost a fixed price of approximately €90. The best deal is to book a shared airport transfer at www.charleroitransfer.com , the only door to door minibus company at Charleroi Airport (price for groups start from €10).
Brussels airport has a luggage locker service (Floor 0) where one can leave their luggage for a fixed duration. The lockers say that you will have to retrieve your luggage within 72 hours or else they will be taken out. But they will actually be moved to the room adjacent and stored there until you retrieve them. This is a useful facility for people wanting to stow away big suitcases somewhere safe. The rate is €7.50 per day.
Antwerp airport (IATA code ANR) also has a good train connection to Brussels.
Brussels has three main train stations: Bruxelles Midi-Brussel Zuid, to the south of the city core, Bruxelles Central-Brussel Centraal, which is right next to the city centre, and Bruxelles Nord-Brussel Noord, to the north of the city center (at Place Rogier). Unfortunately, high-speed trains stop only at Midi/Zuid, so you need to take the tram (or an ordinary train) a few stops north to get to Grand Place.
There is also an hourly Intercity train from Brussels midi/central/north to Amsterdam (via Rotterdam, The Hague, Schiphol Airport). A day return from Brussels to Amsterdam takes 2:50 hours. You don't need a reservation. A weekend return ticket costs €41.40.
The Eurostar train line links Midi/Zuid with Lille Europe (39m from €22), Ashford (1h38m from €40) and London St. Pancras (1h51m from €40). Most Eurostar tickets are also valid for internal train travel in Belgium (to and from any Belgian train station within 24h of the validity of the Eurostar ticket), so once in Belgium travel is free. Check in the bottom left hand corner of your ticket and confirm this before you get on the train.
Eurostar bookings and queries at tel: 02 528 28 28.
German ICE connects thrice a day to Frankfurt (€93 one way, "Europa Spezial Belgien" offer starting from €29).
Eurolines, +32 (0)2 274 1350 (U.K. +44 08 705 143 219), Fax +32 (0)2 201 1140. Offers bus travel from many countries to Brussels, for example 8 hours from London Victoria station at € 39. In Brussels, they stop outside the Gare du Nord-Noordstation and Gare du Midi-Zuidstation train stations.
Gulliver's, +49 (3)0 311 0211. Offers bus travel from Germany to many countries, for example 11 hours from Hamburg at €19 in advance, €46 normal price.
Brussels revamped its metro at the start of April 2009 to boast six lines, and at the same time rescheduled several tram and bus routes. Most are run by STIB-MIVB except for some regional buses, which are run by De lijn and Le Tec .
A card that can be used for ten rides on public transport costs €12.30. One hour tickets cost €1.70 if pre-purchased and are available from the driver for €2. One, five and ten ride tickets are available at almost all metro and train stations. There are also one-day tickets available, for €4.50. On Saturdays, Sundays and holidays you can take another person with you free of charge using the one-day ticket.
You validate the ticket in the small orange machines located in buses/trams, or at the entrance to metro stations/major tram stops. The orange machines time-stamp the ticket, both in ink and magnetically, and it will be valid for one hour. You can interrupt your ride and interchangeably use any STIB/MIVB transport. You should revalidate your ticket for each new ride. Other forms of transport are:
Since 2009, the city offers low-cost short-term "Villo" rentals at 180 locations near the central city. The system only accepts Smart cards (the ones with an electronic chip and activated by a PIN code), it does not accept the regular magnetic stripe cards. The first half hour is free, the next costs €0.50. Registration costs €1.50 for a day and €7 for a week. The year long ticket costs €30. It is advisable to wear a helmet and a fluo vest (not mandatory). The bikes are robust, but rather heavy. More detailed information can be found online at Villo (English, French and Dutch)..
Brussels has two official languages: French and Flemish. Historically French was the dominate language, however, in recent years Flemish has become more prevalent due to increased immigration from the region Flanders. Due to international institutions, English has become the second spoken language but it is still relatively rare to find written tourist or general information in English (although the situation is improving very slowly). All oral information in the train stations is only in French and Dutch. Do not hesitate to ask someone if you do not understand what has been said.
The level of English, considering Brussels' location and that it markets itself as the capital of Europe. Spoken English is less prevalent in Belgium as its Dutch neighbor. However, even if it is not as widely spoken as one may expect, it is nonetheless widely understood. As is generally the case elsewhere, the rate of success of finding someone who can speak English depends on several factors - notably age (14-35 year olds are most likely to speak English).
As German is an official language of Belgium, it is spoken by a percentage of people located in the southeast corner of Belgium bordering Germany.
Grand Place-Grote Markt , Surrounded by the city tower and a range of beautiful 300 year old buildings. In the evening, surrounded by bright lumination, it is simply ravishing. Some evenings a music and light show is provided with the buildings serving as a canvas. Have a
Parc du Cinquantenaire-Jubelpark - Definitely check out the Arc de Triomphe-Triomfboog on the east side of town. It's in the Parc du Cinquantenaire-Jubelpark. It is possible to go up to the terrasse above the arch, from where you'll have a good view of the city. Entry is through the Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and of Military History and is free. Take Metro line 1 east, exit Schuman and walk east or exit Mérode and walk west.
Rue des Bouchers-Beenhouwersstraat - There are many excellent restaurants in this area, but be wary of those targeting just the tourists.
Atomium , +32 (0)475 4777, Open daily from 10:00 AM till 6:00 PM. Ticket Sale ends at 5.30 PM, Take Metro line 1A direction Roi Baudouin-Koning Boudewijn and get off at Heysel-Heizel - approximately 5 mins easy walk from the station, Besides the Atomium there is a Ferris Wheel that takes you almost as high up as the Atomium but for a much shorter time. Costs €5 for adults. Built for the 1958 Brussels World Fair (Expo ’58), it is a 335 foot (102 meters) tall representation of an atomic unit cell. More precisely, it is symbolic of a unit cell of an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times. Nine steel spheres 54 feet (18 meters) in diameter connect via tubes with elevators 105 feet (35 meters) long. Windows in the top sphere provide an awesome panoramic view of Brussels. Originally planned to last only six months, the Atomium is still today the most popular attraction in Brussels. It hosts a lackluster exposition inside.
Musées Royaux d'Art et d'Histoire (MRAH) - Koninklijke Musea voor Kunst en Geschiedenis (KMKG) , +32 (0)2 741 7211, Open Tu-Fr 9.30AM-5PM, Sa-Su and holidays 10AM-5PM, closed Mo and various holidays, last entry 4PM, Parc du Cinquantenaire 10, This museum has an important collection of art objects from different civilizations from all over the world. The museum was founded in 1835 and was located in the Hallepoort/Porte de Hal, one of the last remaining medieval city gates of Brussels.
Musées Royaux des Beaux Arts de Belgique - Koninklijke Musea voor Schone Kunsten van België (Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium) , +32 (0)2 508 3211, Museum of Historical Art: Tues-Sun 10AM-noon and 1-5PM; Museum of Modern Art: Tue-Sun 10AM-1PM and 2-5PM, Rue de la Régence-Regentschapstraat 3, at Place Royale-Koningsplein, Features both historical art and modern art in the one building. In a vast museum of several buildings, this complex combines the Musée d'Art Ancien-Museum voor Oude Kunst and the Musée d'Art Moderne-Museum voor Moderne Kunst under one roof (connected by a passage). The collection shows off works, most of them Belgian, from the 14th to the 20th century, starting in the historical section, with Hans Memling's portraits from the late 15th century, which are marked by sharp lifelike details, works by Hiëronymus Bosch, and Lucas Cranach's Adam and Eve. You should particularly seek out the subsequent rooms featuring Pieter Brueghel, including his Adoration of the Magi. Don't miss his unusual Fall of the Rebel Angels, with grotesque faces and beasts. But don't fear, many of Brueghel's paintings, like those depicting Flemish village life, are of a less fiery nature. Later artists represented include Rubens, Van Dyck, Frans Hals, and Rembrandt. Next door, in a circular building connected to the main entrance, the modern art section has an emphasis on underground works - if only because the museum's eight floors are all below ground level. The collection includes works by van Gogh, Matisse, Dalí, Tanguy, Ernst, Chagall, Miró, and local boys Magritte, Delvaux, De Braekeleer and Permeke. Don't miss David's famous
Musée Belvue , +32 (0)70 22 0492, Tuesday to Sunday, from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (June to September), from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (October to May), Place des Palais 7, 1000, Bruxelles, Features Belgium's history. Before it became a museum, the former 18th century luxury hotel was a royal residence.
Natural Sciences Museum of Belgium , +32 (0)2 627 4238, Open: daily from 9:30AM to 4:45PM; Saturday, Sunday and during school holidays (except the Summer break), from 10AM to 6PM; during the Summer break daily from 9:30AM to 4:45PM daily and in weekends from 10AM to 6PM, Rue Vautier 29, near Luxembourg station, . The museum is well-known for its famous collection of iguanodons (dinosaurs discovered in a coal-mine in Belgium). The dinosaur collection has been refreshed in October 2007 and includes discovery activities for the children. The other parts of the museum are also interesting, as an exhibit of all animals that live in our houses and a collection of mammals.
Horta Museum , +32 (0)2 543 0490, Open daily 2PM-5:30PM, closed Monday, Rue Américaine 25, Saint-Gilles, tram 81, tram 92 (place Janson), bus 54, The home of noted Belgian **Art Nouveau** architect and designer Victor Horta. Seeing where he lived and worked is a great way to get an introduction to the art nouveau style in Brussels. It is one of four Horta works to be inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Royal Museum for Central Africa (RMCA) , Leuvensesteenweg 13, 3080 Tervuren, Take tram 44, The Museum is home to some truly remarkable collections. Its collection of ethnographic objects from Central Africa is in fact the only one of its kind in the world. It also contains the entire archives of Henry Morton Stanley which are of great historical value.
Belgian Comic Strip Center (Centre Belge de la Bande Dessinée, Belgisch Centrum van het Beeldverhaal) , +32 (0)2 219 1980, +32 (0)2 219 1980, Tue-Sun 10AM-6PM, 20 Rue des Sables, Located in Europe's earliest Shopping-Mall (a shiny Jugendstil palais). There is a permanent exposition featuring the early beginning of comics as well as it's development. There is enough room for other varying expositions. The bookshop at the ground floor sells many different comics. A readers' library operates on the ground floor, where, for a low entrance fee, you can read many different comic books.
Autoworld , +32 (0)2 736 4165, 10:00 - 18:00 (4/1-9/30) 10:00-17:00 (10/1-3/31), Parc du Cinquantenaire 11, Metro: Merode or Schuman Train Station (Line 1) / Train: Merode or Schuman Train Station / Bus: 20, 28, 36, 67, 80 / Tram: 81, Automobiles from the dawn of the motoring age to 1970s including the earliest Mercedes, Renaults, BMW Isettas, Tatras, Ford T-birds, even a jeepney from the Philippines.
Musée Royal de l'Armée - Koninklijk Museum van het Leger en van de Militaire Geschiedenis (Belgian Army Museum and Museum of Military History) , +32 (0)2 737 7809, 9:00 - 16:45, Jubelpark 3 Parc du Cinquantenaire, Metro: Merode or Schuman Train Station (Line 1) / Train: Merode or Schuman Train Station / Bus: 20, 28, 36, 67, 80 / Tram: 81, The Belgian Army Museum and Museum of Military History occupies the north wing of the Palais Cinquantenaire. It provides an overview of the development of military technology and of the major campaigns fought on Belgian soil. The museum has three principal sections: Belgian military history (documents, uniforms and weaponry from the Middle Ages to the present day, including a most comprehensive collection of medieval arms and armor); the Armored Vehicle Hall with artillery, tanks etc. from the two World Wars; and the Air Section (Brussels Air Museum) with a collection of aircraft from World War I onwards. The Brussels Air Museum's high point is its collection of original aircraft from World War I.
Musical Instruments Museum , +32 (0)2.545.01.30, Open Tu-Fr 9.30AM-16.45PM, Sa-Su 10AM-16.45PM, Montagne de la Cour 2, The mim houses more than 7000 instruments, from all times and all over the world. The museum’s reputation is built on its extraordinary collection. The exhibits are displayed on four different floors featuring a wide range of instruments from all time periods and areas of the world. The MIM is a place to experience music. An infrared headphone system allows each visitor to enjoy the sound and melodies played by the instruments presented. The restaurant on the roof is also famous because of its panoramic view over Brussel.
Musée Magritte Museum , +32 (0)2 508 32 11, Tuesday to Sunday: from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m, Wednesday until 8 p.m. Closed Mondays, January 1st, 2nd Thursday of January, May 1st, November 1st and 11th, December 25th, 1 Place Royale, 1000 Brussels, This museum is dedicated to the life and art of the Belgian artist René Magritte. It holds a multidisciplinary collection containing more than 200 of Magritte's works.
Brussels has a fair number of cinemas, if limited compared to most European capitals. French films are subtitled in Dutch, and vice versa, all other films are shown in the original version subtitled in French and Dutch.
Actors Studio and Styx, run by the cooperative nouveau cinema. Both cinemas screen interesting films in their original version with French and Dutch subtitles. Actor's studio, Petite Rue des Bouchers - Kleine Beenhouwersstraat, Brussels 1000, tel: 025121696 or Cinéma Styx, Rue de l'Arbre Bénit - Gewijde Boomstraat 72, Ixelles-Elsene 1050.
Cinema Nova is an independent-to-the-bone cinema showcasing the more esoteric side of cinema - films which would not be shown elsewhere are generally shown here. A Korean Ultraman rip-off, a Pakistani documentary or a bleak Chilean cinema vérité flick? Only at Nova. Nova Cinema, 3 rue Arenberg-Arenbergstraat, Brussels 1000.
Arenberg is a good arthouse cinema with a well-programmed selection of films. Especially good for the newer arthouse flicks. Cinéma Arenberg, 26 Galerie de la Reine - Koninginnegalerij, Brussels 1000.
Musée du Cinema/Filmmuseum is part of the Centre for Fine Arts and features a carefully chosen selection of contemporary and classic arthouse films. The best thing about this isn't just the building (due to be restored soon) but also the fact that the entrance fee is cheap. So if you can't live without your dose of Werner Herzog or Jan Svankmajer fret not - this place won't cost you an arm and a leg. Royal Film Museum, 9 Rue Baron Horta - Baron Hortastraat, Brussels 1000.
Vendome, 18 Chaussée de Wavre, Waversesteenweg, Ixelles-Elsene 1050. Another arthouse cinema. It's located near the Porte de Namur (Naamsepoort) and acts as the metaphysical gateway to a lively african neighbourhood known locally as Matongé.
Flagey is the old broadcasting headquarters and now houses the regional TV station TVBrussel . It labels itself 'the sound and images factory'. Quite an apt description - arthouse films, theatre pieces or world-renowned musicians are all featured here. Flagey, Place Sainte-Croix - Heilig-kruisplein, Ixelles-Elsene 1050.
UGC De Brouckère - This is the most centrally located UGC in Brussels. Another UGC exists in Ixelles. As far as programming goes it's the usual Hollywood and mainstream European fare you'd expect from any other UGC in Europe. UGC De Brouckère, 38 Place De Brouckère - De Brouckèreplein, Brussels 1000.
Offscreen is a showcase for unusual, independent and unreleased films, cult classics, extraordinary documentaries and offbeat genres from around the world. Takes place during the month of February and/or March in co-production with Cinema Nova and in collaboration with the Film Museum of the Royal Belgian Film Archive.
Brussels has a good selection of year round events, many suitable for English speaking visitors. The following sites are are useful to check out whats on.
Very few shops in Brussels open before 10AM, and most kick off about 10:30-11AM. Many shops are closed on Sunday and Monday.
Shopping at Galeries Saint Hubert-Sint Hubertusgalerijen. The world's first shopping mall, opened in 1847, is a light and airy triple-gallery enclosing boutiques, bookshops, cafés, restaurants, and a theater and cinema.
Marché aux Puces - Vlooienmarkt (Flea Market). Place du Jeu de Balle-Vossenplein, every day from 7AM to 2PM. This flea market offers everything from the weird to the wonderful at rock-bottom prices.
Belgium Beer Tour is a tour operator specializing in tours of Belgium breweries. It offers a great way for beer lovers to visit their favourite breweries and discover new ones. The tours cover a wide range of beers and appeals to connoisseurs and amateurs alike
Beer Mania, 174-176 Chausse de Wavre, 1050 Ixelles. Claims to have a stock of over 400 beers, but has been overrun by beer tourists. The stock is extensive, but quite pricey in comparison to GB, Del Haize, or Carrefour. Beer Mania is a great place to find out of the ordinary beers.
GB/Carrefour. Branches around the city carry a wide variety of beers, including almost all Trappist beer. Selection varies by store. The GB in Grand Place has a large selection and is approximately 33% of the price of the tourist shops.
Delhaize. Similar to GB/Carrefour, but a tad more expensive.
Match. Another store similar to GB/Carrefour, but has more of the unusual Belgian beers including Delerium.
Comic books and rare books. De Slegte on Rue des Grands Carmes-Lievevrouwbroersstraat, FNAC on Rue Neuve-Nieuwstra, 100 Boulevard Anspachlaan. Right in the center and one of the most up to date stores when it comes to contemporary comics.
Filigranes, the largest bookshop in Brussels, open 7 days a week, and features a small bar/café inside and quite often live music, located at 39 Avenue des Arts-Kunstlaan.
Sterling Books, One of the more popular English bookshops in downtown Brussels.
Pele-Mele, Boulevard Maurice Lemonnierlaan, 55 & 59 (Metro "Anneessens") - maze-like, second-hand bookshop with huge selection of used books at bargain prices. A bookworm's haven.
Waterstone's, 71-75 Boulevard Adolphe Maxlaan (Metro "De Brouckère"). English-language books.
FNAC, City 2 commercial center, Rue neuve. A big book/CD/DVD/electronics shop.
Mediamarket, 111-123 Rue Neuve. This shop is at the uppermost level of the Galeria Inno department store. Sells CDs, DVDs and consumer electronics. Slightly cheaper than FNAC.
Wittamer, 6-12-13 Place du Grand Sablon. Another excellent chocolate maker.
Chocopolis, 81 Rue du Marché aux Herbes. Between Grand Place and Central Station. Pick and choose your favorite type of chocolates, all at reasonable prices.
Maison Renardy 17, rue de Dublin 1050 +32 02 514 30 17 Bruxelles. A great boutique shop with delicious chocolate and friendly service. Stop by for a cup of tea or coffee, and get one of their chocolates free with your tea. Still peckish? You're able to bring a whole box home.
Godiva, branches around the city. Not very popular and quite pricey.
For the frugal, you can buy 100-200 gram gourmet bars of chocolate in grocery stores for about €1 each. Good brands to buy are Côte-d'Or and Jacques, both are Belgian.
General shopping along Rue Neuve-Nieuwstraat with GB supermarket at City 2 accessed from Rue Neuve-Nieuwstraat and Metro Rogier.
Galeria Inno, 111-123 Rue Neuve. Department store (fashion, cosmetics, etc.)
Belgian Lace is among the best in the world. Several shops are located at the Grand' Place-Grote Markt itself. Beware of some shops that sell Belgian lace even though production was outsourced abroad. Ask for a country of origin if purchasing around Grand Place.
Brussels is chock full of chocolates, but the ultimate indulgence for the chocoholic is Place du Grand Sablon-Grote Zavel, where you will find three shops selling some of the best chocolate in the world: Neuhaus, Pierre Marcolini and Wittamer. Each store has its own specialties: Pierre Marcolini's take-away cakes and ice cream are reasons to be tempted, while Wittamer is the only one with a cafe on premises and also sells the ultimate hot chocolate. Passion Chocolat (20 Rue Vanderlinden) is a bit out of the way but its artisan chocolate is worth a visit, and you can taste lots of it for free at the entrance.
There is plenty of good eating to be had in Brussels. Most people concentrate on the three classics: mussels (moules), fries (frites) and chocolate. A few more adventurous bruxellois 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 a Belgian waffle (gauffre), also available in a square Brussels version dusted with powdered sugar, and choices of bananas, whipped cream and many other toppings. Although many prefer the round, caramelized version from Liège.
The matter over which establishment serves up the best frites (locally known as fritkots) remains a matter of heated debate. Some argue that the best frites in Brussels are served at the fritkot near the Barriere de Saint-Gilles, while others defend St-Josse's Martin (Place Saint-Josse/Sint-Joostplein) as the prime purveyor of the authentic Brussels frite just as others claim Antoine (Place Jourdan/Jourdanplein) remains the king of the local french fry. No matter which fritkot you're at, try to be adventurous and have something other than ketchup or mayonnaise on your fries. Of the selection of bizarre sauces you've never seen before, "andalouse" is probably the most popular with the locals.
Maison Antoine, Place Jourdanplein - tasty fries with a large collection of sauces situated on a square close to the European Parliament. You can eat your fries (frites) in one of the several bars/cafés that carries the sign frites acceptés. Vegetarians be careful. Fries are cooked in Beef fat.
Chez Martin. The small nondescript fritkot plonked on Place Saint-Josse/Sint-Joost (Saint-Josse-ten-Noode/Sint-Joost-ten-Node) and run by the calm and affable Martin is a serious contender for the best friterie in Brussels. You can eat your frites at the nearby Cafe Gambrinus and wash them down with a pintje or two.
La Friterie de la Place de la Chapelle, rue Haute-Hoogstraat (near Les Marolles). Another personal choice for the best frites in Brussels: the big chunks of potato, fried golden, and served with the usual dazzling array of sauces.
La Friterie de la Barrière, rue du Parc - Parkstraat (just off the Barrière de St-Gilles). Golden and crispy frites - just the way they should be. This exterior of this fritkot also serves as mini-museum with several tracts, articles and other literature on the fronts and sides of the shack on the good ol' Belgian frite.
Arcadi, 1B rue d'Aremberg, just at the exit of "Galleries de la Reine", in the direction opposite to the Grand-Place - a quirky combination of old and new, the menu ranges all over the place but the reason people flock here is the selection of over 30 sweet and savoury pies (tartes). A slice big enough for a meal, served with salad, costs €4-6.
Snack Pizzeria Porte de Halle, Avenue Henri Jaspar, 134, directly across the city ring from Porte de Halle. The gentlemen running the place speak a little bit of English and serve the best donar kebap and pizza in the neighborhood. The #39-Pizza Porte De Halle is probably their best pizza. Tel. 02/534 0051; Open 11:00 - 23:00 w/free delivery on orders over €10
Sel et Sucre Creperie - Glacier, Avenue des Celtes, 4, near Merode subway station, Parc du Cinquantenaire-Jubelpark and the Arc de Triomphe-Triomfbloog. The fantastic crepes and friendly service makes up for the ordinary decor and just around the corner from the Arc de Triomphe-Triomfbloog. Open 12:00 - 22:00.
Quality food is available online in and around Brussels from various companies, including the webportal ebistro.
Brussels' tourist restaurant gauntlet can be found in Rue des Bouchers-Beenhouwerstraat, just to the north of Grand Place. The place has a bad reputation for waiters imposing themselves on passers-by, trying to lure customers into their restaurant. The authorities are aware of this, and are trying to take measures. Some restaurants may also tempt you with cheap prices for the menus, but when seated, the item on the menu happens to be unavailable, and you're forced to accept another, noticeably more expensive dish. Often, the exaggerated price of the wines will also compensate for the attractive menu. Knowing this however, you may be able to negotiate a better deal before entering.
A few restaurants stand out from the crowd though:
Aux Armes de Bruxelles, 13 Rue des Bouchers-Beenhouwerstraat, +32 (0)2 511 5550. Closed Mondays. Basic honest food, including some very decent moules. Crowded, although worth the wait.
Chez Léon, 18, Rue des Bouchers, +32 (0)2 511 1415, . Now franchised into France as well, this is the original and while it's huge and looks like a tourist trap, the moules are excellent and it's packed every day. Moules, beer and a starter will set you back €25, and kids eat for free.
Scheltema, 7, Rue des Dominicains, +32 (0)2 512 2084. Specializes in fresh and tasty seafood.
Outside the Rue des Bouchers, you may try:
Au Pré Salé, 20, Rue de Flandre-Vlaamsesteenweg (near place St Catherine), +32 (0)2 513 6545. A former butcher shop, locals flock here for some of the best moules in town, sold by the kilo (figure on €24) and served up in half a dozen ways. Also serves the full range of other Brussels favorites.
Falstaff, 19, Rue Henri Mausstraat 19 (by the Bourse-Beurs). Has cheap and decent food and is open every day until 2AM, around €20-30.
Le Beau Soleil, 7, Rue Joseph Lebeau (Sablon area). This tiny restaurant (approx. 14 seats) looks like a violin workshop, so you sit next to all the tools and half finished violins. Unlike other Belgian restaurants, it is open from 9AM to 5PM (Mo-Fr), 9AM to 6PM (Sat,Sun), closed on Wednesday. The menu is small but really delicious. The atmosphere is informal and friendly.
Les Brassins, Rue Keyenveld-Keienveldstraat 36, Ixelles-Elsene, +32 (0)2 512 6999. Its crowd is mostly made out of young couples or students. Rich choice of beer, with more than 50 varieties on the menu, and good quality of food.
'T Kelderke, Grand'Place, 15 Grote Markt, +32 (0)2 513 7344. €9-19 Main courses. €8.50 Plat du jour. Well-made typical Belgian fare. Try the carbonnades à la flamande (Flemish beef stew) & mussels. Note that this place can feel cramped when full of diners.
Close to the Bourse Jules Van Praetstraat (rue Jules Van Praet) is another rapidly developing street of restaurants and bars. Those of note include:
Lune de Miel, +32 (0)2 513 9181. Some very tasty Thai and Vietnamese dishes served in a fine decor.
Shamrock, +32 (0)2 511 4989. Its exterior and misleading name belie a great range of individually cooked Indian food. Get to know the owner and he'll treat you like an old friend.
Thanh-Binh, +32 (0)2 513 8118. The restaurant is very popular amongst the Euroworkers and business types common in Brussels and serves good Thai food. It can get crowded and is often noisy but is well worth a try.
Place Saint Catherine is also a popular area, and once the fishmongering centre of Brussels. While many of the fish shops have moved elsewhere, it is still home to many good seafood restaurants featuring lobster as a specialty.
Restaurant Vismet, Place Sainte-Catherin 23, +32 (0)2 218 85 45. A small bistro that really gets busy after 19:00. Very good seafood. The handwritten menu can throw foreigners off, but everything on the menu(s) are top notch. Appetizers: around €15; Main dishes: €18-30
Jacques, Quai aux Briques 44, +32 (0)2 513 2762. An authentic old bistro, with a charming kitsch decor. Very good fish.
Viva M'Boma, Rue de Flandre 17, +32 (0)2 512 1593. For real Belgian home cooking. Terrace in the summer.
It is outside the touristic centre that the best deals can be found. Here are a few addresses in the Upper Town and Louise Area:
Madou's Provence, 23, Rue de la Presse, Bruxelles. +32 (0)2 217 3831. Closed Saturday noon and Sundays. Innovative southern French cuisine at affordable prices.
Belga Queen , Rue du Fossé aux Loups-Wolvengracht 32. A restaurant within an old, restored bank building. Has an oyster bar, gorgeous bathrooms (with strange stall doors), and a cigar bar housed in the old bank vaults. A good looking younger crowd seem to enjoy this place, and don't miss the offbeat restrooms.
La Belle Maraichere, Place Sainte-Catherine 11, +32 (0)2 512 9759, closed We-Th. A classic fish restaurant. Very fresh fish and good old traditional cooking.
Les Larmes du Tigres (Tears of the Tiger), Justitiepaleis, de Wynantsstraat 21, +32 (0)2 512 1877, closed Tu, . Upmarket and stylish Thai restaurant found just behind the Palais de Justice and better than most food found in Thailand.
De Gulden Boot (la Chaloupe d'Or), 24 Grote Markt (Grand Place) - One of the most famous restaurants in Brussels, situated on Grand Place. Beautiful old building, but too much of a tourist trap. And even after a €200 dinner, you will get charged €0.50 to visit the toilet.
L'Element Terre - Located in Ixelles, L'Element Terre features an ecclectic menu and wonderful, attentive service. Chaussée de Waterloo 465.
Belgium is to beer what France is to wine, it is home to one of the greatest beer traditions in the world, and Brussels is a great place to sample some of the vast variety on offer. Typical beers of Brussels are gueuze (rather bitter) and kriek (rather sweet, cherry based).
A special drink only found in Brussels is the "half-en-half" ("half and half"). It's a mixture of white wine and champagne.
"Brasserie De l'Union", 55 Parvis De Saint-Gilles - Sint-Gillisvoorplein. This is a place with a true "atmosphere", wooden chairs and tables, big old wooden bar, a crowd that reflects the diversity of Saint-Gilles. Everybody is welcome and come as you are. This is a bar that just oozes human warmth and a comfortable ambiance. When the sunny days are coming, the terrace is one of the best in Saint-Gilles.
À La Bécasse, Rue de Taborastraat 11, +32 (0)2 511 0006. Serves a typical Brussels product this slightly sweetened Lambic beer, white beer based on Lambic, Kriek Lambic and so on. The entrance is not that easy to find.
À La Mort Subite, 7, rue Montagne-aux-Herbes Potagères, . This is the Brussels cafe par excellence. Opened since 1927, the decor remains unchanged but still retains its charm. A warm welcome greets the eclectic clientile of which La Mort remains a firm favorite.
Bier Circus, 57, Rue de l'Enseignement-Onderrichtsstraat, +32 (0)2 218 0034, . Has an impressive selection of beers, including some extremely hard to find beers. Examples of rare beers they have in stock, are Lam Gods (a delicious beer brewed from figs) and the rarest of the Trappist beers, winner of the Beer of the Year 2005, Westvleteren. Open Tuesday to Friday, 1200-14300 & 1800-2300; Saturday 1800-2300.
BXL Cafe/Bar, Place de la Vieille Halle aux Blés-Oud Korenhuis 46, +32 (0)2 502 9980. Open daily noon-midnight (Fri/Sat until 1AM). A stylish, friendly internet cafe in the center of Brussels. Offering high speed internet access, occasional live music/DJ, latest movies shown on video screens around the bar, regular art exhibitions. Gay friendly space with women's night every Wednesday from 8PM.
""The Floris"", Right across from Delirium Cafe, great absinthe bar!
The Monk, 42 St Katelijnestraat/ Rue St. Catherine, . A large proper brown bar with walls covered in dark wood and mirrors. Lots of young people from the neighborhood, cool music and a decent Malt whiskey selection.
Delirium Cafe, 4A, Impasse de la Fidelité-Getrouwheidsgang (on a pedestrian only sidestreet), +32 (0)2 514 4434, . Right in the centre of Brussels within five minutes walk of the Grand Place. This bar is all about the beer, offering over 2000 different beers from all over the world. They even hold the Guinness world record for most beers available! Popular amongst foreigners. Check if they have your own local beer. View their website for more info.
Chez Moeder Lambiek, Rue Savoiestraat 68 (behind Saint Gilles-Sint-Gillis city hall). Has a huge list of different beers, with several hundred obscure beers not likely found anywhere else. This cafe is one of the last remaining old-fashioned brown cafes in Brussels.
Le Greenwich, 7 Rue des Chartreux, Kartuizerstraat, +32 (0)2 511 4167. Another wood-panelled brown cafe where the only sound is the sound of the chess pieces on the chess board. Shh!
Brasserie Verschueren, 11-13 Parvis de St-Gilles, Sint-Gillisvoorplein, 02/539 40 68. Something of an institution in hip Saint-Gilles. Under the watchful eye of the portly, bearded deep-voiced owner, hipsters, starving artists and local poodle-brandishing ladies mingle and drink endless beers and coffees. A beautiful woodwork football (soccer) tableau shows the scores of some long lost second and third division teams from yesteryear.
Cirio, 18 Rue de la Bourse, Beursstraat (near the Bourse). A traditional café where time has come to a stop. Also offers some simple meals. Don't forget to visit the bathroom, with the original tiles and porcelain.
Mappa Mundo, Place Saint Géry-Sint Goriksplein 2, +32 (0)2 514 3555. One of the many trendy bar/cafés located on the popular Place Saint Géry-Sint Goriksplein. You are assured good drinking in at least one of these establishments, which are very popular with younger Eurocrats, foreigners and interns, giving them a rather friendly cosmopolitan character.
Le Tavernier. While all the above locations are situated downtown in central Brussels, this location is the most popular bar on a strip of bars right by the Cimétière d'Ixelles-begraafplaats van Elsene. It's location right off the student campus make it extremely popular with students who just want to kick back and have a few relaxed drinks. Note on certain nights there is also live music (making the establishment a lot more hectic). Worth a look especially towards the beginning and end of the academic year and in the summer (especially for their Jazzbreaks nights). They also have a website. 445 Chaussée de Boondael-Boondaalsesteenweg.
Hydra-breaks organises "Hydra Sessions" and also "Next Level" and "Caliente" drum and bass parties at various locations. Hydra Sessions are major D&B nights with international headliners such as Pendulum, Spor, or Raiden, along national djs.
Bulex nights is a monthly night out for many locals since more than 10 years, blending all kind of music in unexpected venues. Come as you are.
The Fuse (Rue Blaes 208) is a nightclub where it all started and is a Brussels institution. Be sure to check it out.
The Botanique is the place for rock and pop. They do, on occasion, bring more experimental acts.
The Botanique's Flemish counterpart, the Ancienne Belgique features the same mix of rock and pop with the occasional excursion into more unchartered, experimental territory.
Recyclart - For electronica, noise-rock, electroclash, minimal techno as well as art exhibitions, social projects and installations.
Gays and Lesbians: the two biggest monthly gay clubs remain at La Demence at the Fuse. 100% House & Trance. Don't miss the crowded (but super small) Le Belgica bar, which plays house music.
Hotel rates in Brussels can vary widely (especially at the upper end) depending on how many EU bigwigs happen to be in town. Good deals are often available on weekends and during the summer when the bureaucrats flee on vacation.
2Go4 Hostel 99 emilie jaacquin. near the city centre. its cheap around €20 a night. very clean and very modern and chic.
Youth Hostel Van Gogh (CHAB) , Rue Traversière 8, +32 2 217 01 58 (Fax +32 2 219 79 95). Good location, near Brussels North Station, quick access to all train stations via metro and airport. Very clean reception, friendly staff, and lively bar with good ambience which stays open late. Rather basic doulbe rooms (toilets in rooms with no doors).
Hotel Chaochow Palace, Brabantstraat 80 1210 Sint-Joost-ten-Node, +32 2 223 07 07. Only 200 meters from Brussels North Station. Nice reception. Doubles and triples for only € 28 / night / person, including a delicious buffet breakfast. A three star hotel which doesn't seem like, but anyway, afordable accommodation.
Hostel Jacques Brel, Rue de la Sablonnière-Zavelput 30, +32 2 218 01 87 (Fax +32 2 217 20 05). Centrally located and within walking distance of the Beer Circus, and has a reputation for being unclean and chaotic which may not be deserved. Reception closes early and there's a curfew between 1 and 6 AM.
Youth Hostel Generation Europe, Rue de l'Eléphant-Olifantstraat 4, +32 2 410 38 58 (Fax +32 2 410 39 05). Offers beds for budget travelling.
Hotel A La Grande Cloche, Place Rouppeplein 10, +32 2 512 61 40 (Fax: +32 2 512 65 91) . Cheap rates, decent rooms, and a central location halfway between Gare du Midi-Zuidstation and the Grand' Place-Grote Markt (about a 10-minute walk to either). Price around € 70.
Hotel Abberdeen, Rue du Colombier 4, +32 2 223 52 58 (Fax +32 2 223 12 33), email@example.com. Very centrally located (Rue Neuve), clean and comfortable, but quite noisy at night.
Thon Hotel Brussels Airport Berkenlaan 4 tel +32 2 721 77 77, fax +32 2 721 55 96, firstname.lastname@example.org. Thon Hotel Brussels Airport is in quiet surroundings close to the Brussels Airport and the NATO headquarters.
ApartmentsApart . Tel +48.22.820.9231 (1-866-387-6429 Toll Free from the USA & Canada). Beautifully furnished 1, 2 & 3 bedrooms offered. Five minutes from the city center by Metro. Apartments start as low as € 118 per night for 4 guests (under € 30 per person). The friendly staff and extra services will ensure you a wonderful stay.
La Madeleine Rue de la Montagne-Bergstraat 20-22, tel +32-2 513-29-73, fax +32-2 502-13-50, email@example.com. Just off the Grand' Place and a short walk away from Central Station. Room rates range from € 52 to over € 100. Breakfast included. The rooms are quite small but have the basic amenities such as phone, TV. No airconditioning however.
Thon Hotel Brussels City Centre Avenue du Boulevard 17, tel +32 2 205 15 11, fax +32 2 201 15 15, firstname.lastname@example.org. Major 4-star hotel in the centre of Brussels with 454 rooms. Thon Hotel Brussels City Centre is idealy situated in the heart of Brussels. Close to the new business district, next to the World Trade Centre, the Belgian government area and the European Parliament.
Villa Primavera . Rue de la Presse-Drukpersstraat, 18, tel +32.475.501856. Fully-furnished studio-type, 1 & 2 bedrooms apartments from 1 night to 1 year. 5 minutes from the Central Station. Just behind the Belgian Parliament and Park of Brussels. Close to EU district. Room rates from € 60 for 4 guests for one-month stays (€ 15 per person). Free cable TV and Wi-Fi Internet access in every apartment.
The Phileas Fogg Hotel . Luxury boutique hotel housed in a typical Brussels townhouse. The Phileas Fogg Hotel is located at walking distance from the Grand Place, Botanical Gardens, The Brussels Jazz Station, Art Deco and Art Nouveau and the Cathedral.
Hotel Floris Avenue . Elegant 4 star residence in the heart of Brussels; a stylish Brussels hotel offering guests superb accommodation and facilities in the heart of this modern city. The Hotel Floris Avenue is centrally located between the Eurostar Thalys Terminus and famous Grand Place.
Hotel Floris Louise . Boutique hotel in Brussels within spacious modern rooms tailored with guests' comfort in mind; designed combining soft colours and rich fabrics to offer luxury and style. Hotel Floris Louise is in the heart of Brussels close to the exclusive shopping area 'Avenue Louise'.
Hotel Manos Stephanie . Boutique hotel with charm, ideal choice for the modern traveller. Centrally located in the heart of Brussels, just yards away from the most fashionable shopping and business district, the Hotel Manos Stephanie is a reflection of Brussels genuine hospitality.
Louise Hotel Brussels , Rue Veydt, 40 1050 bruxelles, Budget boutique hotel in Brussels. Features 49 rooms and is in the commercial area of the famous Louise Avenue, steps from European Parliament and Downtown
Cosy Room B&B , email@example.com . Budget Bed & Breakfast in Brussels located in a great and trendy surrounding, a few steps from European Parliament, the SQUARE-Brussels Meeting Center' and Downtown.
Hotel Metropole Brussels - As the city's only 19th-century hotel still in operation, this 5-star landmark is in the historic center of Brussels. Short walk from Grand Place, the Royal Theatre de la Monnaie and the Bourse. 19th-century palace, 313 rooms and suites, fitness center, 12 meeting rooms, award-winning gourmet restaurant l'Alban Chambon.
Sofitel Brussels Toison d'Or, Avenue de la Toison d'Or-Gulden Vlieslaan 40 (subway station Louise-Louiza, turn to the right towards the Hilton - it's right across the street), tel +32 2 5142200 (fax: +32 2 5145744). A rather nice Sofitel with good rooms, conveniently located close to the very heart of the city in the fashionable Luisa district. €99 - €495 per person per night (breakfast €25/person - but there is a Quick fast food restaurant right next door'').
Stanhope Hotel Rue du Commerce 9, tel +32 2 506 91 11, fax +32 2 512 17 08, firstname.lastname@example.org. The Stanhope Hotel is situated in the heart of the European district. Within walking distance you can find the main tourist attractions in Brussels like the Royal Palace, the Grand Place and the Sablon.The boutique hotel offers 108 marvellous rooms, including 2 apartments that are perfectly suited for longer stays.
Radisson SAS Royal, Rue du Fosse-aux-Loups 47, +32-2-2192828, . Three minutes' walk from the Grand Place and the Central Station. Free Wifi, fitness center with sauna and solarium, restaurant "Sea Grill" has two Michelin stars. Rates from €95 per night.
Brussels is generally a safe city. Some suburban neighborhoods have a poor reputation, but travellers are unlikely to visit them. The neighborhoods of Schaarbeek, Brussels North and Brussels Center should be avoided at night if possible. However, pickpockets, sometimes in teams, operate in crowded tourist areas, and the train and metro stations (particularly at night) attract drug addicts and other shady types. Travellers should be particularly alert for distractions such as being asked for the time or directions and having attention diverted from their hand or shopping bag. Travelling with laptops at anytime is strongly discouraged.
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