Travel

Brussels

Brussels

The largest city and capital of this northern European kingdom is a lively, full of fine restaurants, and excellent chocolate manufacturers.

The administrative capital of the European Community, melting pot of Flemish and Valons (bilingual French and Dutch), and many other nationals working in the central office of NATO is relatively small, but very attractive.

Brussels became the capital of Belgium in the 19th century, and was entirely rebuild from 1880 to 1980. Only a small historic centre that contains La Grande Place (de Grote Markt) was preserved.

It is full of 300-year-old buildings surrounding the pavement-stoned square. Many of the buildings contain souvenir shops, other businesses, and some official buildings including the city hall.

The architecturally interested tourist can spend a full day studying the facades of these ornamental buildings. At night the Grande Place is illuminated, rendering it even more beautiful and unforgettable.

Nearby you can see the Meneken Piss, an irreverent bronze statue of a little boy. You will hear the story when you visit the place.

There are many museums to visit – Royal Museum of Art and History, Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Far Eastern Museum, Natural Sciences Museum, Royal Museum of Central Africa (Belgium colonized Central Africa for centuries).

Palais du Justice, Atomium, and Basilique du Sacre Coeur are must-see sights, as is the Parc du Cinquantainaire.

Brussels has an excellent subway system that is easy to navigate, but you can visit all sights on foot, or even rent a bike.

The Brussels card is available in 24, 48, or 72-hour versions and allows you access to public transportation, entry to more than 30 museums and discounts in participating restaurants and attractions.

Any tourist interested in beer is advised to visit a Belgian pub, and if time permits, the Cantillon brewery.

Belgians love beer; drink a lot of their beers, and export almost 50 per cent of the total output to many European counties and overseas.

Even monasteries feature their own breweries and their products to maintain their buildings. The monks also keep some for their own consumption.

Belgium gets it fair share of rain due to its location. May and August are the best months, but still it rains during many days.

While in Brussels, a visit to a chocolate manufacturer is customary. You can visit Neuhaus, Goodiva, Renardy, Marcolini, or Leonidas.. All produce fine chocolates that can compete favourably with any made in Switzerland and many would even surpass their Swiss counterparts pending on your taste preferences.

Belgians like good food, and fine wines and Brussels offers an opportunity to sample fine French cuisine. The service in high-end restaurants is practiced art.

For breakfast, try Belgian waffle, and for lunch you can choose steak frites, or beer-marinated braised beef (carbonade).

Many international airlines fly to Southern Charleroi Airport. Economy airlines like Ryan Air and many others also fly Brussels.

There is no shortage of accommodation from the most humble to the most luxurious hotel, but reservations are highly recommended.

You can book a tour to visit architectural buildings, or take a bike tour, or a sightseeing bus tour if you want to familiarize yourself before visiting sights that interest you most.

While in Brussels buy Belgian lace, beer, and chocolate.

Antwerp, Spa, Gent, and Bruge (Brugge) can be visited in day trips.

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