There are few cities with such a multicultural feel as Brussels. As one of the major European centers for politics and with three official languages, this beautiful and multifaceted city will have you believing you're in a fairytale.
With all of its history and amazing gothic architecture, Brussels is sure to inspire you and transport you back in time. But you won't stay in the past for long - Brussels is one of Europe's most bustling, fashionable modern cities.
The people in Brussels are some the kindest you'll ever meet and the potential language barrier doesn't affect their happy disposition.
Full of lavish, ornate buildings and shops, Brussels is also home to Art Nouveau, a historic and international style of art dating from the 19th century that was inspired by the curves of plants and flowers.
Belgium is known for many food delicacies. From chocolate brands like Neuhaus and Godiva to the famous Belgian waffle and frites, you'll have so many delicious food options you won't even know where to begin.
Brussels may be known for its food, but it's famous for its beer. With some bars offering a staggering 100+ beer options, hops lovers are in for a treat.
The city has museums showcasing some of the most famous artists, such as the Magritte Museum. You'll also find the fascinating Parlamentarium and the delectable Chocolate Factory.
Brussels is home to some of the most beautiful shopping arcades in all of Europe. With stores selling clothing to stationery or collectible items, wandering through Les Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert and Passage du Nord is an enchanting experience.
Standing at the center of this square, you are immersed in the timeworn yet beautiful 14th century. Buildings lean against one another with their gilded facades glistening even on cloudy days. The Town Hall and City Museum tower above; alluring streets lead away from the square towards local digs like la Mort Subite, for a taste of Belgian Beer or fries. On your wanderings, don't miss the hilarious "Manneken Pis" statue - this little boy peeing into a fountain exemplifies Belgian humor.
With views of the iconic Town Hall spire in one direction, and of the Royal Palace in the other, this hilltop is both a gorgeous viewpoint and cultural center. The well-groomed garden defines the starting point to a walk past the Library and Museum of Fine Arts. Quirkier museums on the mount include the Museum of Musical Instruments and the Magritte Museum.
This architectural marvel has been around since the 19th century, and it pioneered the shopping mall experience that we know and love today. At the forefront of lifestyle trends since its opening, the Galeries sell everything from fashion items to delectable chocolates. Wander onwards towards the age-old Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula, and find the nearby Museum of Comics for some variety in your true, Belgian experience.
The streets of this chic neighborhood are lined with chocolatiers, confectioners, and most importantly antique shops. Grand Sablon Square is the hub of these popular walking streets, and host to weekend markets for books and a slew of trinkets and treasures. The gothic Notre-Dame Church has overlooked the scene of the Sablon down below since the 15th century.
Iconic of the capital city of Belgium, this futuristic sculpture-building was created for the 1958 World Fair in a celebration of science. The shiny constellation of gargantuan atoms towers over the Mini-Europe sculpture park, and commands attention from every direction. Inside, the renovated museum has caught up with the 21st century, offering exhibitions, multimedia installations, and a restaurant with gorgeous city views.
Deciding when you should visit Brussels depends on your personal weather preference. Summer is a popular time to enjoy the many gardens and parks, while the winter season is also popular for the Christmas markets. Temperatures in the summer are usually pleasant, rarely going above 85 degrees, but the winters can get quite cold, easily reaching below freezing with occasional snow. The shoulder seasons are also great times to visit Brussels for the changing colors of the leaves in the fall and bright hues in the spring.
There are two airports that serve Brussels. Brussels Airport (BRU) is a hib for big-name airlines like Brussels Airlines, British Airways, and Delta Air Lines, and is located about 10 miles from the city center. To get into the center, you can take any of the bus lines underneath the airport, which drop you off all around the city, and cost EUR2.10 for a single journey. The second airport is Brussels South Charleroi Airport (CRL), which is mainly served by budget airline Ryanair. Although this airport is 30 miles from the city center, a cheap bus ticket will take you right into the center. A taxi to and from the BRU airport will be around EUR40. Many taxis will refuse to drive all the way out to Charleroi.
Most trains will come into Brussels Midi Station or Central Station, in the city center, but a few will stop at Brussels North and South. Eurostar from London runs trains nearly every two hours into Midi and Thalys runs trains ever 30 minutes to an hour from Paris and Amsterdam.
Traveling to Brussels by car is an excellent option as well. There are many highways that meet up in the center of Brussels, but if you're coming from the north you'll come in via the A12, going straight into the city center and from the south you'll travel up the E19. Highways circle around Brussels so you can approach from pretty much any direction.
Coming into Brussels by bus is quite convenient with GoEuro. With direct bus services from London, Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, and more, you'll be dropped off at Brussels North Station. From here you can take the subway to just about anywhere in the city.
If you're after luxury, there's the Sofitel, the Pullman or Warwick in the city center. Boutique hotels in renovated historic buildings are also common with options like the Augustin or Pantone, as well as Made in Louise in Ixelles. Brussels also has a wide selection of top-notch affordable hostels for those looking to spend less money.
The City Center - this is by far the most common area where visitors spend their time. It's home to Grand Place, many beautiful shopping arcades such as Les Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, and a multitude of museums to enrich your stay.
Ixelles - this district, popularized as Audrey Hepburn's birthplace, is known for its expansive and beautiful parks. Grab a coffee from a cafe and enjoy a book in one of the many gardens.
Etterbeek - with the famous Parc du Cinquantenaire and luxury shopping streets, this district is great for a day of picnicking and shopping sprees.
Public transportation in Brussels is excellent, with a large subway (metro) network, lots of trams, and many buses. A single ticket is EUR2.10, but the best offer is a 24-hour ticket for just EUR7.50, which includes the links to and from the airport.
Taxis are another excellent way to get around Brussels as they're plentiful and relatively affordable. The pickup fee is usually around EUR2.40 and an additional EUR2 per mile. Traffic isn't usually too bad in Brussels, so you'll find your journeys go relatively quickly.
There are several Hertz, Avis, and Sixt locations in the city as well as at the airport and you can expect to pay around EUR60 per day for a standard vehicle. Parking in Brussels can be a challenge, with most on-street parking reserved for residents. Expect to pay between EUR2 - EUR4 per hour for street parking and up to EUR20 per day to park in lots.
The best overall shopping street is Rue Neuve, just a short walk from Grand Place and home to many boutiques and chains. Avenue Louise in Ixelles is another great option, with this large boulevard lined with 19th-century townhouses and stores like Prada, Gucci, and Louis Vuitton.
Brussels has many small convenience stores throughout the city that offer pre-made food, groceries, drinks, as well as personal care items. Delhaize is one of the most common and also tends to be the most affordable, but you also have the option of Carrefour, Aldi, or Hema. A loaf of bread or a baguette will usually be around EUR1 and 10 eggs around EUR2. Most other snacks will be EUR4 or under.
Some of the most authentic snacks, like Belgian waffles or frites, will be a euro or less from stands in the street. Branch out into Brussels' classic mussels and try Chez Léon near Grand Place or La Brouette nearby for a cozy, intimate dining feeling. Brussels also loves Thai and Vietnamese food so it's an ideal place to try cuisine from these regions as well. Prices can vary greatly, but a main dish will usually be around EUR15 or EUR20 at a moderate place and up to EUR40 from some of the more luxurious restaurants. Drinks, especially beer, can be quite cheap and for some real Belgian spirit be sure to try Délirium, with up to 2,000 types of beer for a few euros each.