What you need to know about Brussels
Few cities combine old and new quite like Brussels – one minute you’re in a bustling centre of European commerce and government, and the next you’re presented with some of the most breathtaking buildings in Europe.
The best things to see and do
The city’s Grand-Place is a must-see – this splendid central square offers a wealth of grand architecture and gilded statues, as well as the magnificent gothic Hôtel de Ville. The city’s museums are equally jaw-dropping, packed with ancient history and art, stone carvings and sculpture, and of course no visit to Brussels would be complete without a visit to the city’s much-loved Manneken Pis; Paris may have the Eiffel Tower, but the symbol of Brussels is a statue of a little boy peeing into a fountain, which pretty much tells you everything you need to know about the understated charm of this wonderful city.
The best food and drink
Belgium is passionate about eating out, with more Michelin-starred restaurants per head of population than Paris. Regardless of your budget, it’s pretty hard to eat bad food in Brussels, and with over 1500 restaurants to choose from, you won’t be short of dining options. The Rue des Bouchers (just off the Grand-Place) has a fantastic array of ethnic restaurants offering great value dishes, with a vibrant, buzzing atmosphere and plenty of noise and colour. Traditional Bruxellois dishes combine Walloon and Flemish ingredients and techniques, offering up delicious dishes like steamed pigs’ feet and rabbit cooked in beer, as well as popular dishes like mussels and steak. If you fancy a drink, Brussels has bars and café-bars in abundance, often in beautiful Art Nouveau buildings that serve a huge range of outstanding Belgian beers. Take a wander down any of the back streets near the Grand Place, and you’ll soon find your favourite!
The best way to get around
Brussels’s city centre is compact enough to explore on foot, and there’s no better way to explore the historic architecture and delightful streets around the Grand-Place. It’s a city that serves pedestrians well, with lots of space and dedicated walkways and cycleways for anyone who isn’t in a hurry.
Outside of the historic centre, everyone in Brussels seems to be on a deadline, with heavy traffic and pollution that makes it a rather dispiriting experience for city walkers. However, public transport in Brussels is excellent, with a fully-integrated network of overground and underground trains, trams and buses that will take you anywhere you need to go. Taxis are easy to find in Brussels too, and pretty good value, so you won't be hard-pressed to pick one up outside your serviced apartment!
The best events and festivals
In May Brussels hosts the Iris Festival, a huge street party with music, fireworks and performances all over the city centre. Every type of music from classical to jazz and techo is represented, and while it’s really a party for the city’s one million residents than visitors, everyone is welcome to come and join in the fun. If a weekend of beer drinking is your idea of heaven, the Belgian Beer Weekend in September attracts beer-lovers from all over the world for tastings, parades, and celebrations of Belgium’s favourite tipple. For film buffs, the Brussels Short Film Festival showcases more than 300 short films from 40 countries, and takes place every year in April or May.