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Brussels Travel Guide

About Brussels

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.

Key facts

Population:
1139000
Latitude:
50.846328
Longitude:
4.356205

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24 hours in: Brussels

On the lookout for great food, culture and plenty of art? Then Brussels is the city for you: cheaper than Paris and more off-beat than you'd think, travel to this charming capital to uncover what lies beyond the beer and chocolate.

Featured Hotels

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Hotel Amigo Brussels

Although within short walking distance of the bustling Grand-Place, the Rocco Forte Hotel Amigo is a haven of calm and comfort. The building served as a prison in the 16th century and opened as a luxury hotel in 1957. Furnished with rich tapestries and antiques, it offers a friendly welcome and has a restaurant and cocktail bar, meeting rooms and a banqueting suite. The décor of the 176 rooms and suites blends contemporary elegance with dashes of colour and humour - Hergé characters and Magritte graphics appear here and there.

Odette En Ville

This design-led boutique hotel, in the beautiful Chatelain quarter, nods towards classic film noir sets with luxurious decor that isn’t stuffy and sleek, cosy rooms. There are even art and photography books for sale here. Guests can score a massage or treatment at Serendip Spa round the corner at a discounted rate.

Made In Louise

Located just outside the city centre, Made In Louise has earned a reputation as Brussels’ hottest boutique hotel. Family run, the attention to detail runs deep, from the individually designed bedrooms through to the excellent tips on local bars and restaurants. The breakfast is spectacular, so be sure to get up early enough for it.

NH Stephanie

With crisply decorated, modern rooms, this hotel is excellent value for money for those who don't mind staying a little over 1km (0.6 miles) outside of the city centre. A good breakfast is included and the superior rooms feature thoughtful extras such as free, Wi-Fi, coffee making machines and a choice of pillows.

Mozart

This 50-room hotel occupies a 17th-century building in a lively area just off the Grand-Place, amid a plethora of bars and small eating places. For a budget option with simple rooms and facilities, its lobby is surprisingly grandiose, elaborately decked out in marble, patterned tiles and baroque furniture. There's more cheerfully florid décor in the small courtyard garden.