The fascinating capital of Belgium and Europe is historic yet hip, bureaucratic yet bizarre, self confident yet unshowy and multicultural to its roots. These contrasts are multilayered – Francophone alongside Flemish, and Eurocrats cheek-by-jowl with immigrants. And all this plays out in a cityscape that swings from majestic to quirky to rundown and back again. Organic art-nouveau facades face off against 1960s concrete disgraces, and regal 19th-century mansions contrast with the brutal glass of the EU’s Gotham City. This whole maelstrom swirls forth from Brussels’ medieval core, where the Grand Place is surely one of the world’s most beautiful squares.
One constant is the enviable quality of everyday life, with a café/bar scene that could keep you drunk for years. But Brussels doesn’t go out of its way to impress. The citizens’ humorous, deadpan outlook on life is often just as surreal as the classic canvases of one-time resident Magritte.