Brussels travel guide
As the capital of the country which invented praline, the French fry and the waffle, Brussels is the place to come if you want to eat well.
The treacly scent of slowly braising sugar emanates from around just about every corner, while down at the docks, a row of inviting restaurants offers the classic moules-frites (mussels and fries) cooked in just about every way imaginable.
Tempting though nearly everything is, there’s more to Brussels than chocolate and Tin Tin (although there is a museum dedicated to both). The compact city centre is a confection of cobbled streets and chocolatiers interspersed with bars selling that other Belgian speciality – delicious wheat beer.
The residents are a cosmopolitan bunch who can switch from French to Flemish and then to English faster than you can say ‘frite’. Reserved at first, the locals are quick to warm up and have none of the icy disdain often displayed by their Parisian counterparts.
They also love a good party – even better if it follows a slap-up meal – and as a result, the city’s many bars and clubs are a vibrant bunch and overflow with revellers come weekends.
There’s no shortage of things to do during the day either, whether it’s getting up close and personal with the Manneken Pis (a tiny statuette of a urinating boy) or marvelling at the riotous colour of the works on display at the surrealist Magritte Museum.
All of this makes Brussels’ staid reputation abroad something of anomaly and the blame can be placed squarely at the feet of a single institution – the European Parliament which is headquartered in the city. Housed in a strikingly ugly post-modern block, it bustles with bureaucrats drawn from all corners of the Continent and it’s not uncommon to see a motorcade sweep past as a premier from one country or another arrives.
More interesting are the Royal and Sablon districts, which teem with art galleries. Meandering down one of the myriad side streets, discovering flea markets and boutique stores as you go is a pleasure that you won’t find in the Brussels guide books.