Belgium's cosmopolitan capital city is the perfect holiday destination for travellers craving a dose of upscale European culture as it boasts a profusion of superb architecture, over 70 museums and countless restaurants and entertainment venues. Home to the European Parliament and located within close proximity of the Netherlands, France, Germany and Luxembourg, Brussels is often referred to as the 'Capital of Europe', with a multi-cultural population that includes over 20,000 'Eurocrats'. Entertainment venues abound in Brussels, ranging from performance venues and fine restaurants to scores of bars, clubs and pubs. Visitors can take in concerts at the National Orchestra and National Opera House, watch performances at over 30 separate theatres, enjoy sublime seafood at De Broukere and haute cuisine in the city centre, or dance the night away at St Gery's effervescent nightclubs. Live music - jazz in particular - is a popular feature of the Belgian social scene, with local and international artists performing at venues across the city.
There's lots to see in Brussels from the bizarre comic strip to enjoying its café culture in the Grand-Place. Here are our suggested must visits/dos. Brussells wears three impressive hats, as the capital of Flanders, Belgium and Europe. It started life as a fortress, then developed into a market square and eventually blossomed into the economic, political and social centre of the Flemish capital. There's lots to see in the city from the bizarre comic strip to enjoying its café culture in the Grand-Place. Here is a list of ten bests of Brussels of our suggestions:
- Grote Markt (Dutch) / Grand-Place (French)
- Hôtel de Ville - Town Hall
- Manneken-Pis - 'Pissing Boy' aka Petit Julien
- City Museum - Maison du Roi (French) - Broodhuis (Flemish)
- Centre Belge de la Bande Dessinée - Belgian Comic Strip Center
- Heysel Park and the Atomium
- Basilica of the Sacred Heart (Koekelberg Basilica)
- Royal Museums of Fine Art - Musées Royaux des Beaux Arts
Where to Stay
It would be better to stay near Grand' Place and Gare centrale, e.g. at the Méridien right opposite the station. This is also where all the HoHo buses start from, and although your train to Paris leaves from Gare du Midi, your Thalys ticket includes the trip from Gare centrale to that station. If you stay near Avenue Louise, be careful as many hotels in that area describe themselves as being in central Brussels which is totally untrue (and the Vintage Hotel's website says it is 10 minutes from the Grand' Place, which would have to be by taxi: there's no direct public transport link from Louise to the GP area and it's a good 30 minute walk). The hotels most convenient for Louise metro station, from which you can get to and from Gare du Midi, are the Hilton, Sofitel and Citadines, followed by the Vintage and then the ones in Ch. de Charleroi. There is a reason why other hotels are more reasonably priced - they are not nearly as conveniently located for tourists as those near Gare centrale or on the metro. Brussels hotels are in any case more focussed on businessmen which is why prices drop at weekends.
How to Reach Your Hotel
Compared to most airports around the world, Brussels Airport is one of the most accessible and closely located airports to a main city centre. Brussels is 12 kilometres (7 miles) from Brussels Airport the fastest travelling time is an 18 minute drive from the airport to the city. Travel methods include train, several types of bus, taxi and car. The Airport Line is a public Brussels Airport bus operated by STIB that take you from and into the European district of Luxemburg and the city centre. There are two buses: Line 12 and Line 21. Line 12 (operates Mon-Fri until 8pm) is express only travels to main stations - the only metro stop is Schuman (EU Headquarters) and the last stop is Luxemburg station. Line 21 (operates after 8pm on weekdays and on weekends) has many more stops and ends at Hertog / Ducale, the metro stops are Schuman and Trone. The last stop is close to the city and just outside the Royal Palace - 10 minutes walk from Brussels Centrale. Fares are €3 outside the bus; €4 on the bus; €21 for 10 trips.