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Getting around Brussels

Public transport

The integrated public transport network in Brussels is operated by Société des Transports Intercommunaux Bruxellois - STIB (tel: +32 (0)70 232 000; www.stib.be).

Many metro stations display the works of local artists. With comfortable seats, the service is pleasant even during rush hour. The underground prémétro is a fast way to travel between Gare du Nord, place de Brouckère, Bourse and the Bruxelles-Midi Eurostar terminal.

Tram and bus stops are indicated by red and white signs respectively. The route number and destination are displayed on the front of the vehicle and all stops are request stops. Passengers get on at the front of buses and off at the rear. Brussels' bright yellow and blue trams serve the city centre and suburbs.

MOBIB preloadable smartcards are valid on all STIB public transport in Brussels. You can buy these and charge them up at metro stations, bus and tram stops, or at metro station kiosks, BOOTIK agencies, supermarkets and newsagents. You can also top them up online at www.stib.be

In addition to the STIB network, Belgian National Railways' local trains depart from Bruxelles-Chapelle, Bruxelles-Quartier Léopold, Bruxelles-Schuman and Bruxelles-Congrès, linking the inner city to the suburbs.

Taxis

Official Brussels taxis have a taxi light with a blue and yellow plaque on the roof, and can be hailed in the street or picked up at a rank; in the city centre, there are ranks at the major railway stations and at the Bourse, place de Brouckère and Porte de Namur. You can also pre-book taxis by phone from Taxis Autolux (tel: +32 (0)25 123 123), Taxis Bleus (tel: +32 (0)2 268 0000) or Taxis Verts (tel: +32 2 349 4949). Fares are metered and include service; tipping is optional.

Driving

Although commuter traffic is heavy on the outskirts of Brussels during rush hour, the centre is relatively easy to negotiate, once you've mastered the one-way system. In addition to car parks located in the city centre, there is pay-and-display parking in certain streets. There is also a large public car park under the Novotel Hotel, rue de la Montagne. Free street parking is available on Sundays and holidays.

Car hire

The minimum age for hiring a car is usually 21, but there are often surcharges if you're under 25. Always check that third-party liability insurance is covered by the hire rates. Major providers, with desks at Brussels Airport and Bruxelles-Midi railway station, include Avis (tel: +32 (0)70 22 30 01; www.avis.be), Europcar (tel: +32 (0)2 522 9573; www.europcar.com) and Hertz (tel: +32 (0)2 717 3201; www.hertz.be).

Bicycle hire

Pro Vélo, rue de Londres 15 (tel: +32 2 502 7355; www.provelo.org), offers bicycles for hire as well as guided themed tours.

Brussels also has its own bikeshare scheme called Villo! (tel: +32 78 051 110; http://en.villo.be). You can buy a one-day or seven-day ticket and bikes are available 24 hours a day.

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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.

The Dominican

Part of the Carlton hotel group, The Dominican is the place to come if you want to be pampered while on a break in Brussels. It takes its name from the Dominican abbey which was originally built on this site in the 1400s. Its design is first rate, taking on the hushed feel of the abbey’s cloisters. Rooms are huge, the beds vast and the breakfast top notch.

Hotel Metropole Brussels

The 19th-century Hotel Metropole, with its grand art nouveau interior, is the first choice for those wishing to combine a lust for nostalgia with a need for modern comfort. A stone's throw from the Grand-Place, this palatial hotel offers a truly grand entrance hall and an Italian baroque style restaurant, L'Alban Chambon. There are 283 comfortable rooms and 15 suites, many decorated with drapes, swags and chandeliers.

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.