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Holidays to Brussels
Brussels - a monument to historic Europe
Brussels is Europe writ large; historic, multicultural, and multiple scraps about which language to use. Oh yes, the slap fest between Dutch or French is an ongoing battle that is best avoided by the casual visitor! But come for cheap city breaks you should.
Brussels celebrates its EU-ness with a slightly quirky nature - lots of art-nouveau architecture coupled with historic squares, gorgeous old buildings and excellent public transport. Food is good here (testament to those bureaucratic salaries?!) but there is truly something for everyone with multiple cuisines and plenty of budget choices. Your starting point for a European city break in Brussels is the Grand Place, Brussels' quite magnificent central plaza. Stand in the middle and do a 360 turn taking in the grand buildings, the guildhalls and the rather spiffy restaurants.
Venture out from the Grand Place and you'll get a taste of the good life - shopping, museums and galleries, plus (do not miss) the museum cum gallery dedicated to Rene Magritte. Surreal indeed. And then there's the beer. If you lose your zest for beer in Belgium, you've lost it for life! Belgium is to beer what waffles are to cream, Spain is to bull fighting and England is to fish and chips. As a capital city Belgium is full of hotels - your choices for either end of the spectrum are good. Something to keep in mind is that, given the working week focuses on the EU and it's needs, many Brussels' hotel will give you a very good weekend rate, especially at the high end. Romantic breaks anyone? We're just saying...
Eating out in Brussels
Cheap, expensive and everything in between!
Ah food, glorious food - and it is indeed glorious in Brussels not the least of which because of the multicultural aspect to Brussels life. The standards are high across the board - you will eat quality food here. Can we suggest you avoid the main tourist area (Rue des Bouchers). By all means enjoy the sights, but eat in the nearby back streets. Many restaurants are housed in centuries old buildings and it's a pleasure to dine in the same nooks and crannies as merchants and townspeople of old.
Our recommendations? Try Le Cercle des Voyageurs on Rue des Grands Carmes. Stylish and booky - a good travellers rest.
The young, hip crowd heads to Belgo Belge in Rue de la Paix. Very good value at lunchtime and a buzzy atmosphere with modern cuisine.
If you want a good variety at a good price; head for Ixelles. If you like spicy Thai try Chez Saly close to Chatelaine Square. More Asian? Head to Rue Jules Van Praet and search out Au Lotus Thai. Further afield in the Saint-Gery area is Hong Hoa.
French and Italian styles are everywhere; try the restaurants around the Rue Saint Boniface area. For something a little fancy, drag yourself upmarket to Place Stephanie. Literally dozens of restaurants to choose from around here.
Of course no visit to Brussels is complete without mussels, fries and beer. You'll find a good example of this Belgian traditional fare at Chez Leon, Rue des Bouchers - touristy, but the service is quick and the mussels plentiful.
Things to look out for; many restaurants in the tourist area will draw you in with what seem reasonable prices and then charge for things like bread. The tip is included in the bill. Round up to the nearest euro if service was good. Many restaurants will help you do this by including odd prices.
What to wear, when to go
Brussels enjoys a moderate climate given its proximity to the sea and snow is rare. It can be wet with an average 200 days of rain per year. Summer hits the low 20s but nor does it get seriously cold. You can dine quite comfortably outdoors from June until mid-September.
Winter is often chilly although the coastal aspect keeps extreme cold at bay. Temps don't generally go below freezing. Average daytime temps hover around 6-8C.
Spring is delightful as the winter chill abates and the locals cast off their overcoats and restaurants bring out the al fresco tables. Average temps are in the early teens.
Autumn ranges from 9-15. We firmly believe that a city is at it's best in the shoulder seasons - because the tourist numbers are down and you can enjoy most of Brussels during the easy autumn temps.
Brussels - Belgian beer, Guildhalls and chocolate aplenty
Brussels is a large city, given it's approximate 1,000,000 inhabitants, but much of what the average visitor will want to see and do is set within inner city areas comprising Old Town in City of Brussels municipality. Your tour should include beer, chocolate, mussels, art and the Grand Place in no particular order.
Let's start with historic Brussels. The Old Town is home to the Grand Place, one of Europe's justifiably celebrated old market squares. Prosperous Guildhalls are responsible for the quite spectacular old buildings and their intricate facades. Many today house upmarket shops and restaurants but no visit to Brussels is complete without an hour or two soaking up the history and grandeur of old.
The nearby streets are charming - the townhouses and architecture of mediaeval Europe. If this is your thing, spend some wondering the nearby streets. Here's where you'll also find a good selection of restaurants at less touristy prices.
Chocolate - this is Belgium after all! There is, of course, a chocolate museum. It's on Rue de la Tete d'Or and very close to the Grand Place. After learning the history, you must sample the finest in the land and purveyors to the Royal family should keep you very satisfied we think! Wittamer are an old family company and their shop is on Place du Grand Sablon, a few blocks over from the Grand Place. The walk will build your appetite and assuage your conscience.