If ever a city could claim split personality, it’s Brussels. French versus Flemish, historic versus hip, bizarre versus boring. Full of contrasts, contradictions and intrigue, this is a multicultural equation that goes much deeper than just red tape and Eurocrats. An historic heirloom is closer to the mark. And in an age where so much is already discovered, Belgium’s capital seduces as one of Western Europe’s unknowns.
Brussels is a city of fine food, café culture, Art Nouveau architecture and the surreal. Pull up a chair and join laissez-faire locals who value the city’s casual atmosphere. Watch money go down on swish Ave Louise or buy dried caterpillars just blocks away in Matonge, the capital’s African quarter. Some of the world’s most enduring images of surrealist art were created in the nondescript northern suburb of Jette. And the architecture ranges from monumental edifices such as the Grand Place to organic Art Nouveau façades and the EU’s real-life Gotham City.
Constant among all this is the quality of everyday life – the shopping’s great, the restaurants fab, the chocolate shops sublime and the pub scene extraordinary. For a long time Brussels didn’t go out of its way to impress, but its stint as Cultural Capital of Europe in 2000 saw the city dusted and polished in a flurry that brought renewed life to historic buildings and decaying streets. A new spirit, just short of cockiness, emerged, flaming outside interest and inner-city regeneration. Nearly a decade on, Brussels is looking better than ever.
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Best places to stay in Brussels
Free Bruges & Brussels city map
Exploring Belgium’s highlights is a whole lot easier with our free, printable PDF map.
Best places to drink in Brussels
Brussels destination guides
Eat well on the move in Europe
Planning a long, languid meander across Europe? Of course, this continent's food is rightfully reverred, but if you're not clever you can easily run out of money - or lose your appetite - when it comes to choosing where to chow down. Here are a few handy tips for eating well while you're on the road in Europe: 1.
Brussels Chocolate Walking Tour and Workshop
You'll pound the pavement in Brussels on a four hour guided walking tour with a twist as you following the trail of Brussels’ top chocolate shops. A chocoholics dream! Your knowledgeable local guide will point out the major sights and explain the history of Brussels and why its famous for mouth watering chocolate.
Brussels Beer Tasting Tour
Take this Brussels beer-tasting tour to discover why Belgium is so famous for its mouth-watering beers! No country in the world boasts a brewing tradition as rich and diverse as Belgium’s, and this tour is the perfect way to visit some of the finest breweries, learn about the country's beer heritage and taste great beers.
Starry night: top five art hotels
In the words of Oscar Wilde on his death bed: 'Either this wallpaper goes, or I do.' If art matters to you, then the hotels you choose to stay in probably do too. Here's our pick of the world's best hotels for art lovers, and some suggestions of what to see while you stay there.