Brussels (French: Bruxelles, Dutch: Brussel) is the capital of Belgium and one of the three administrative regions within the country, together with Flanders and Wallonia. Apart from its role within its country, it is also an internationally important city, hosting numerous international institutions, and in particular the core institutions of the European Union. Due to that, it is sometimes referred to informally as the capital of the EU, and even used as a metonym for the EU institutions.
Brussels blends the heritage of a medieval Flemish town with the grandiose projects initiated after it became the capital of what was then a French-speaking country, as well as some impressive modern architecture erected in a large part to house the international institutions. Brussels is now bilingual, hosting and officially recognizing the Dutch- and French-speaking communities of Belgium, and has become increasingly international with the influx of people of various origin who came there to work, many of them for the European Union. This all makes Brussels a rather unique blend, sprinkled with a number of Belgian peculiarities, and for the inquisitive tourist a large treasure chest to discover.
Autonomy of Brussels
Within the Belgian federation, Brussels enjoys a large degree of autonomy. Although dependent on Belgium for matters such as defense and foreign policy, Brussels has its own government in charge of interior affairs, environmental policies, health care, economy, transport, tourism and education, and its own laws regarding these matters. The city has control over its own administrative region (the Brussels Capital Region), which is on the same level as Flanders and Wallonia in Belgium. This status of a city state within a host country is somewhat comparable to Vatican City and Hong Kong. The political autonomy of Brussels has drawn international interest as the host for politically independent entities such as the European Institutions (the European Commission and European Parliament), and the NATO headquarters. Brussels is a strongly internationally oriented metropolis, and despite shared languages, inhabitants identify as Brusselaars rather than Flemes or Walloons.
When Brussels became the capital city of a new country in the 19th century, large parts of the old town were destroyed to make way for brand new ministries, palaces, schools, army barracks and office blocks constructed between 1880 and 1980. The medieval city walls that once defended and surrounded the city were demolished. Only a small historic centre (one square and four adjacent streets) was preserved. The historic Flemish town centres are better preserved in other cities: Antwerp, Bruges, Ghent, Courtray, Leuven, Mechelen and Oostende. This thoughtless treatment of historic buildings has earned past city planners near-universal scorn and even given rise to the term "Brusselization" for cities that similarly tear down old buildings, replacing them with faceless concrete monstrosities.
Language in Brussels can be a confusing matter to visitors. The common language is French, with around 90% of the population in Brussels speaking it passably to fluently. You can easily get by with English, especially in the tourist areas. Dutch is also an official language: within Brussels, the population that speaks Dutch passably to fluently is limited to around 20%, though Dutch-speakers make up the majority of Belgium as a whole. Because Brussels is the country's capital, when it comes to official matters, French and Dutch have equal status in Brussels, with sometimes complicated rules to ensure a balance between the two. Streets, railway stations, bus stops and other places have names in the two languages. The two names don’t always sound or look similar. For example, the Brussels-South railway station is Bruxelles-Midi in French and Brussel-Zuid in Dutch. Watch out when making assumptions based on English: a common mistake is to think Bruxelles-Midi refers to the Brussels-Central railway station, due to midi seeming similar to middle. Areas outside of Brussels have only one official language, but may still have distinct names in the other language. For example, you may get a train ticket that lists Anvers (in French) as the destination, but the signs in the station there will only say Antwerpen (in Dutch). In Brussels, large segments of the population have neither French nor Dutch as their mother tongue, and many other languages can be heard on the street, with Arabic being particularly common.
Historically Dutch-speaking, Brussels became more and more French-speaking during the 19th and 20th centuries. Today, most inhabitants speak French in daily life. Some numbers say that more than half of the inhabitants of Brussels do not speak French at home. The Brussels dialect, a Brabantian dialect of Dutch, can be heard, especially in the outer districts of Brussels Capital Region. The French spoken is standard French. Dutch speakers speak standard Dutch but many also speak a dialect when talking to people from their region.
English has become a common spoken language because of the international institutions based in Brussels, such as the European Commission, the European Parliament and NATO. It is still relatively rare to find written tourist or general information in English, although the situation is changing. One can expect public announcements in train stations to at least be said in French and Dutch, while larger train stations (such as Zuidstation/Gare du Midi) typically include English and German. English is also used on metros, trams and buses, announced last for information such as line transfers and terminal stops. Do not hesitate to ask someone if you do not understand what has been said.
Considering the city's location and that it markets itself as the capital of Europe, spoken English is less prevalent in Belgium than in its Dutch neighbour. However, even if it is not as widely spoken as one may expect, it is nonetheless widely understood. As is often the case elsewhere, success in finding someone who speaks English depends on several factors such as age (14-35 year-olds are most likely to speak English), education and previous experience abroad.
German is also an official language in Belgium spoken as a mother tongue by about 70,000 people in the east of the country bordering Germany, but the only German you're likely to hear in Brussels would be overheard on the streets around the European institutions or by German tourists, even if there is a large German population residing there.
Other languages that are increasingly heard in Brussels include Arabic (at least 25% of Brussels' population is of Arab descent, chiefly from Morocco), Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Polish, and Russian.
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See the Brussels forecast at World Meteorological Organization
Brussels deservedly has a poor reputation for its weather. Weather in Brussels is very damp with a high and fairly evenly distributed annual average rainfall of 820 mm (32 in) and on average approximately 200 days of rainfall per year, both of which are more than that of London and Paris. The dampness makes the weather feel much colder than it is. The daily and monthly temperature variations are quite small. Daily differences between average highs and average lows don't exceed 9°C (16°F).
Summers in Brussels and Belgium in general are very unpredictable. Some weeks it can be 15°C (59°F) and raining all day, other weeks it can be over 30°C (86°F) with unlimited sunshine. In the summer, average daily maximum temperature is 22°C (72°F). The summer visitor should always be prepared for rain in Brussels. Warm and sunny weather is not constant during that season.
After October, temperatures drop off quite rapidly and winter months are damp and chilly. Snowfall is rare, and starts to melt fairly quickly, becoming slush on the ground. The winter visitor should be prepared for wet ground.
Brussels is split into 19 communes or gemeenten (municipalities/boroughs):
- Bruxelles/Brussel - Brussels offers many charming and beautiful attractions, with deeply ornate buildings on the Grand Place/Grote Markt, and a fish-and-crustacean overdose of St. Catherine's Square (Place St-Catherine/Sint-Katelijneplein). Stroll along, (and stop in for a drink) at one of the many bars on Place St-Géry/Sint-Goriksplein, or max out your credit card on the trendy Rue Antoine Dansaert/Antoine Dansaertstraat.
- Marolles/Marollen - A neighbourhood of Brussels close to the city's heart, one of the few places where the Brussels dialect of Dutch (Flemish) could still be heard. The area is best known for the flea market held daily on the Place du Jeu de Balle/Vossenplein and for a plethora of shops selling everything from old radios and bent wipers to fine china and expensive Art Nouveau trinkets. Visit on Saturdays or Sundays.
- Brussels/Ixelles-Elsene - A vibrant part of town with a high concentration of restaurants, bars and other services to satisfy the good-looking or the heavy-spending. Some wandering around will reveal small bookshops, affordable ethnic restaurants or independent record shops tucked away in side streets. The Matongé district just off Chaussée d'Ixelles/Elsenesteenweg is the city's main African neighbourhood. It is a large district in the South of Brussels spreading from newly gentrified immigrant neighbourhoods off the Chaussée d'Ixelles/Elsenesteenweg near the town centre to leafy suburbs close to the Bois de la Cambre/Ter Kamerenbos. The district is split in two by Avenue Louise/Louizalaan, which is part of the Bruxelles/Brussel district of the city.
- Molenbeek/Molenbeek - Commonly known as Molenbeek-St-Jean or Sint-Jans-Molenbeek. A commune with a very large Moroccan and, lately, Romani (Gypsy) population.
- Saint-Gilles/Sint-Gillis - The city's bohemian epicentre with thriving French, Portuguese, Spanish, Maghrebi and Polish communities. The area around the Parvis de St-Gilles/St-Gillisvoorplein is the arty part, with the area around the Chatelain/Kastelein and the Church of the Holy Trinity being decidedly more yuppified. Like Schaerbeek, Saint-Gilles boasts several Art Nouveau and Haussmann-style buildings.
- St-Josse/Sint-Joost - The smallest and poorest commune not only of Brussels, but of all Belgium, this commune might not always be too pleasing on the eye but does have a few small, welcoming streets. The mid-part of the Chaussée de Louvain/Leuvensesteenweg is also home to a relatively small Indo-Pakistani community, so this is the place to head to for a tikka masala. The Turkish community which was the largest community only a few years ago has declined rapidly, as they moved to relatively wealthier communes by St-Josse/Sint-Joost standards.
- Uccle/Ukkel - Brussels' poshest commune. Green, bourgeois and starched like all posh communes should be. Uccle has retained many of its charming medieval cul-de-sacs, tiny squares and small townhouses as has nearby Watermael-Boitsfort/Watermaal-Bosvoorde.
- Woluwé-Saint-Pierre/Sint-Pieters-Woluwe and Woluwé-Saint-Lambert/Sint-Lambrechts-Woluwe are two communes at the eastern end of the city. Mainly residential, with a mixture of housing blocks, quaint neighbourhoods and green areas this place is well-loved by Eurocrats and other professional types. The enormous Wolubilis cultural complex is well worth a visit.
- 1 Use-it (Central Office), Galerie Ravenstein 25, 1000 Brussels (next to the Central Station). M-Sa 10:00–18:30. Excellent information provided by young locals, and this central office has nice facilities, free coffee and free wifi. The best source for solo travelers. Maps and information about the European Use-it network. Free walking tour every Monday at 14:00.
- Brussels International (Brussels Info Place), Rue Royale/Koningsstraat 2, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. 10:00-18:00.
- Brussels International (Tourism and Congress), Town Hall Grand-Place, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 09:00-18:00; Sundays: winter 10:00-14:00, Jan 1-Easter closed. Located inside the town hall and usually crammed. Sells a couple of discount booklets or cards, such as the Brussels Card and public transport one-day passes
- Brussels International (Midi/Zuid station) (Central concourse). Winter: M-Th 08:00-17:00, F 08:00-20:00, Sa 09:00-18:00, Su & holidays 09:00-14:90; Summer: Sa-Th 08:00-20:00, F 08:00-20:00.
- Brussels International (Brussels Airport), Arrival hall. 08:00-21:00.
Brussels' main airport is 1 Brussels Airport (BRU IATA also referred to as Brussels National or Zaventem after the municipality it is in.). It has connections to pretty much all European capitals and many other major cities, but the intercontinental offering is more limited than at Europe's largest aviation hubs. Belgium's flag carrier Brussels Airlines, which operates an extensive network of flights within Europe, also offers long-haul flights to North America and, quite uniquely for a European airline, many African destinations. Major North American carriers also offer flights to Brussels, as do a few Asian ones.
Direct connections to Asia are especially scarce in Brussels - you may have to change in an intermediate airport, and may want to consider using one of the Middle Eastern carriers (Emirates, Etihad and Qatar all serve Brussels) or change in one of Europe's major hubs like London Heathrow Airport, Frankfurt Airport, Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport or Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. The latter two can also be reached by a direct train from Brussels. Turkish Airways (via Istanbul-Atatürk) and Finnair (via Helsinki) also have particularly developed networks of connections to the Far East.
Travel between Brussels Airport and Brussels City
- Belgian Rail operates trains (2nd class: Single: €8,80; Weekend return: €15,20; 1st class: €10.70) every 15 min from the airport (Level -1) to Brussels' three main stations, with most trains continuing to other parts of Belgium. The journey to the Central Station takes 15-20 minutes. Tickets can be bought from vending machines (coins or PIN cards only) or the train ticket office (notes accepted) located in the airport train station at Level -1. The trains are clean and well-maintained. To enter or exit the train, push the green button on the door, as the doors are not automatically opened at the stations as they are in other systems.
- STIB Buses #12 and #21 (#12 operates M-F before 20:00 and is an express, serving only major bus stops (although it is not any faster); #21 operates after 20:00 and on weekends, serving all stops on the route) run every 20-30 minutes via metro station Schuman (where you can transfer to metro lines 1 and 5) to the European district around Place du Luxembourg/Luxemburgplein (on the other side of the park from Gare Central). When boarding the bus make sure that the destination is Luxembourg, as some buses terminate at either the Schuman metro station or Gare de Bordet. The journey takes 30 minutes. The same ticket is valid for a total of 60 minutes on the trains (by SNCB), metro (by STIB), buses (by STIB, De Lijn and TEC) or trams (by STIB) from the moment it is validated. The buses depart from airport level 0. The ticket price is €4.50 from the vending machine next to the bus stop, or €6 on board. Frequent travellers can buy a 10-trip ticket (€32.) The "GO" ticket vending machines only accept coins or PIN based cards.
- De Lijn Buses #272 and #471 run every 30-60 minutes to Brussels' North Station (called Noordstation/Gare du Nord within the city or Brussel-Noord/Bruxelles-Nord in other places), 2 km north of Grand Place. Night bus #620 operates to/from the airport with a stop at the IJzer metro station (45 minute ride), 1 km north of Grand Place. The buses depart from level 0 of the airport. The ticket price is €3 on board. In contrast to the tickets sold by STIB, these tickets (sold by De Lijn) are not valid on other means of public transport within Brussels.
- Taxis to the center cost around €35. Taxis bleus/blauw (blue): +32 2 268 0000, Taxis Autolux: +32 2 411 4142, Taxis verts/groen (green): +32 2 349 4949. Beware of "waiting" charges if your flight is delayed and you pre-ordered a cab, some companies charge you parking fees + €25-30/hour for waiting. Always confirm the final charge with your driver before getting in the car. It is not uncommon for drivers to rip you off and charge €80 to go to the center, especially if they realize that it is your first time in Brussels and don't know your way around.
Luggage left facilities
Brussels Airport has a luggage locker service (Level 0) where you can leave luggage for a fixed duration. The lockers say that you will have to retrieve your bags within 72 hours or else they will be removed, but they are actually moved to the room next door and stored until you retrieve them. This is a useful facility for people wanting to stow away big suitcases somewhere safe. The rate is €7.50 per 24 hours. You must pay in coins, a change machine is nearby.
Brussels South Charleroi Airport
2 Brussels South Charleroi Airport (CRL IATA) (42 km (26 mi) south of Brussels). Several budget airlines, including Ryanair and Wizzair operate service from this airport to cities such as Barcelona, Belgrade, Budapest, Dublin, Edinburgh, Manchester, Rome, Sofia, and Warsaw.
To travel between the airport and the city:
- Brussels City Shuttle operates buses (€14 one-way, €28 return if bought online; €17 one-way if purchased from the machines at the airport or from the driver) every 30 minutes to Brussels Midi/Zuid station, with a journey time of 1 hour (less on the weekends). Buying online is cheaper and faster. The bus stops at Midi/Zuid station (Midi/Zuid station PDF map), on the Rue de France/Frankrijkstraat in the west. The metro and international trains (Eurostar, Thalys) are on the west side of the station, so upon entering the station from the bus stop, head left rather than straight. When traveling to the airport, it would be better to arrive at the Brussels Midi/Zuid stop far in advance of the bus departure time as the queue to board the bus could be very long (there are no ticket machines and people buy tickets on board). Therefore you might miss the bus and wait another 30 minutes. Also note that the traffic on the way out of Brussels can be heavy in peak hours, so the journey may take longer than planned.
- TEC-bus A (€5 one way) operates service from the airport to the Charleroi South (Charleroi-Sud) train station, from where you can connect to an intercity train (€9.20 one way) to Brussels. A combined train+bus ticket to or from Brussels can be obtained for €14.20 from the TEC vending machine at the airport. The bus journey takes 20 minutes and the train takes an additional hour. Trains depart every 30-60 minutes.
- Taxis from the airport to the city center cost a fixed price of €90. For the return trip to Charleroi you can book in advance a Charleroi-based taxi (€90). Taxis operating from Brussels use a higher fare and will take you to the airport for a fixed price of €120 or based on the meter up to €170.
High speed rail and the central location of Brussels amid many major European cities make it entirely feasible to fly into several other airports and take the train from there. Depending on your itinerary, this may be both faster and cheaper, as connections may align better.
- Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG IATA) has a direct high-speed train (TGV) connection to Brussels. TGV trains departing every three hours from CDG arrive at Brussels-Midi within ~1.5 hours. Book tickets early for the best prices.
- Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS IATA) also has a high-speed train connection to Brussels-Midi, provided by Thalys. Ride time is also around 1.5 hr, but the frequency is hourly and the costs can be lower (even down to €30) depending on the time of travel and booking.
- Cologne-Bonn Airport (CGN IATA) is a little less than 2 hours by a direct train, departing 3 times a day and costing around €50
- Antwerp Airport (ANR IATA) is quite close to Brussels, getting from there requires one to take a bus to Antwerpen-Berchem railway station (takes 10 minutes, buses depart approximately ever 12 minutes), from where a train to Brussels departs every 20 minutes and takes less than 40. A single ride bus ticket in Antwerp is €3 and the train ticket to Brussels can be had for just €10, making the journey almost as cheap as getting to Brussels from Zaventem.
- Liège Airport (LGG IATA) can be reached by trains between Brussels and Liege (running every 30 minutes and taking about 1 hour), but you need to take a bus or a taxi between one of Liege's train stations and LGG, which extends the journey to over 1.5 hours.
Brussels has five main railway stations:
- 3 Bruxelles-Midi / Brussel-Zuid — This station is where the high-speed trains stop. There is a shower room at Midi/Zuid located in the toilet near platforms 19-20 (between Origin'O and Quick).
- 4 Bruxelles-Central / Brussel-Centraal
- 5 Bruxelles-Nord / Brussel-Noord
- 6 Bruxelles-Schuman / Brussel-Schuman
- 7 Bruxelles-Luxembourg / Brussel-Luxemburg — On the opposite end of the European quarter, at the Esplanade of the European Parliament, it is the next station on the same line as Schuman and has the same services stopping there. The name stems from the fact that all trains to Luxembourg, as mentioned above, go through there.
Apart from the above, there are also stations of Brussels-Congress, Brussels-Chapel and Brussels-West, as well as stations in municipalities of the Brussels region that do not have "Brussels" in their name (e.g. Schaerbeek, Evere) which only see limited local service by RER trains.
International train services to Belgium include:
- Thalys. The high speed Thalys train connects Brussels with Cologne (1hr 52min), Paris (1hr 20min) and Amsterdam (2hr). It is much cheaper to book further in advance. With your Thalys ticket you can also take a local train to or from Central-Centraal, Nord-Noord, Schuman and Luxembourg/Luxemburg stations.
- Intercity from Luxembourg. An hourly Intercity train from Luxembourg (3hr 07min, via Arlon, Libramont, Namur) connects to Midi/Zuid, Central, Nord/Noord, Schuman and Luxembourg/Luxemburg stations. You don't need a reservation. A weekend return ticket costs €41.60.
- Eurostar, ☎ . The Eurostar train line links Lille Europe (0hr 39min, €22+), Ashford (1hr 38min, £32+) and London St. Pancras (1hr 51min, £32+) with Midi/Zuid. Some Eurostar tickets are also valid for domestic train travel within Belgium for 24 hr from the time of the Eurostar ticket. Check in the bottom left hand corner of your ticket to confirm this. A €7 service fee will be added for telephone and in-person bookings (but doesn't apply when booking over the Internet).
- ICE. German ICE connects four times a day to Cologne and Frankfurt (€39 one way, "Europa Spezial Belgien" offer starting from €29).
- TGV. Connects Lyon, Marseille, Avignon, Bordeaux, Montpellier, Nice and many other French destinations to Midi/Zuid.
- Izy. Izy is a subsidiary of Thalys marketed as low cost. Trains are only available on the Paris-Brussels route and there are less departures than for other operators, but prices can be the cheapest of all train options. from €19 for a regular seat; €15 for a folding seat, €10 without a guarantee of a seat.
Arriving by train from within Belgium
Belgium has one of the most dense and best developed railway networks in Europe. Domestic trains are operated by the national railway operator NMBS/SNCB (hotline: +32 2 528-2828). Besides simple one-way tickets there is a bewildering variety of tickets available depending on the exact route (returns are cheaper, there are also "all Belgium" tickets), frequency, your age and occupation (students get discounts) and departure time (travel after 09:00 and on weekends is usually cheaper).
Frequencies and approximate travel times from Brussels Central station to selected cities in Belgium:
- Antwerp - 6x/hour, 40min-1hr 15min
- Arlon - 1xhour, 2hr 50min
- Bruges - 2x/hour, below 1hr 10min (the service to Kortrijk also continues to Bruges, but it takes twice as much time)
- Charleroi - 2x/hour, 1 hour
- Dinant - 1x/hour from Brussels-Schuman (not Central), 1.5 hours (you can also go from Central to Namur and change to Dinant there, travel time is longer by 15 minutes that way)
- Gent - 6x/hour, 40min-1hr 10min
- Kortrijk - 3x/hour 1hr 20min-1h45min (plus one extra connection per hour with a change Gent, 1hr 20min)
- Leuven - 5x/hour, 25 min
- Liege - 2x/hour, 1hr -1hr 30min
- Mechelen - 7x/hour, 25-30 min
- Namur - 2x/hour, 1hr 10min (+1/hour from Brussels-Schuman, same travel time)
- Ostend - 2x/hour, 1hr 20min (or with a change in Gent - 2x/hour, 1hr 40min)
- Waterloo - 2x/hour direct local train, 30min (or via Braine-L'Alleud, with a change from Intercity to local train - 2x/hour, total travel time below 40min)
All three major stations in Brussels are very busy and there are trains departing in many directions almost every minute. If you are on the platform, do check if the train you are boarding is the one you intend to, as it may be the one that departs just those few minutes are earlier. Be vigiliant for last-minute platform changes. As the announcements for many trains (except for major international services and trains to Brussels Airport) are made in French and Dutch only, it is worthwhile to pay attention to departure displays. Always memorize the name of your destination in both French and Dutch to easily recognize it - the name as you may know it in English might not be used at all.
Several bus operators offer long-distance connections to Brussels. The station for long distance coach services is 8 Brussels North CCN in a narrow street to the north-west of the railway station bearing the same name. While waiting for a connecting coach, the 1 Starbucks inside the station can offer warmth and power sockets without the obligation to buy their overpriced drinks.
- 9 Eurolines, ☎ , fax: . Offers bus travel from many countries to Brussels, for example 8 hours from London Victoria station at €39. In Brussels, they stop outside the Gare du Nord-Noordstation and Gare du Midi-Zuidstation train stations. They have an office with toilets, heating, and a spare power socket under the staircase of the railway station left entrance.
- OUIBUS, ☎ . Runs a couch service between Paris, Lille and Brussels. Busses arrive at the Gare du Midi/Zuid Station.
- De Lijn, ☎ . The Flemish region (Dutch speaking) public bus service.
- TEC, ☎ . The Walloon region (French speaking) public bus company.
- Flixbus. A German company with a network throughout most of Europe. Offers services to numerous German destinations, Paris, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Bratislava and London. Unlike Eurolines they do not have an office in the station, but they routinely set up a mobile info desk manned by staff in an easily recognizable bright green outfits, somewhere along the boarding area.
Brussels is connected to Tervuren by tram 44, following the trajectory of the Tervuren Avenue (Tervurenlaan) between 10 Tervuren station and 11 Montgomery metro station. The scenic 10 km long journey through the Sonian Forest takes about 20 minutes, with a frequency of 5 trams per hour. A single ticket is €2.10, and allows you to get off at any station along the way and back on the next tram within the ticket validity of an hour. Tickets can be purchased in Tervuren station or from the tram driver at an additional fee.
Brussels can also be reached from Kraainem by tram 39, which connects Montgomery metro station to the 12 Ban-Eik station and traverses Kraainem halfway. Get on at stop 13 Wilderozenweg, on a walking distance of Kraainem's tourist attractions, and take tram 39 direction Montgomery. Travel time is approx. 15 minutes. As with tram 44, a ticket costs €2.10, can be purchased in advance or from the tram driver at an additional fee, and remains valid for an hour.
Brussels metro line 1 extends until Kraainem, from which Brussels can be reached from 14 Kraainem metro station which is closest to Kraainem's tourist attractions, and from 15 Stokkel metro station closer to Kraainem's commercial district Stokkel. Tavel time to the Brussels Grand Place from Kraainem station is about 25 minutes. A single ticket Jump costs €2.10. Tickets must be purchased from a GO vending machine in either Kraainem or Stokkel metro station, and can only be paid with euro coins or Maestro compatible cards. Bills are not accepted.
Brussels is the third capital on Eurovelo Route 5, which starts in London, through Brussels and Switzerland and ends in southern Italy. A number of other international and national cycle routes converge on Brussels.
Most sights in Brussels are fairly close together, within reasonable walking distance of each other. The oldest part of town can have uneven cobblestone roads, but the rest of the city is fairly easy to walk. A zone of 50 hectares in the city center is reserved for pedestrians, the second largest in Europe after Venice. Brussels has many wet days, and in winter small amounts of snow can make the ground slushy, so water-resistant footwear is a must if you will be out walking all day.
The metro in Brussels is quite clean and safe compared to most metro systems. Metro entrances are marked by big "M" signs in blue and white, with the station name underneath. All announcements are made in Dutch, French and English. There are 6 metro lines. Tickets are sold through reusable plastic cards (gray MOBIB cards) or disposable paper RFID cards. An empty MOBIB Basic card costs €5, they are available at major metro and underground tram stations, including those at the three major railway stations (Brussels South, Central and North). Tickets can be put onto a MOBIB card at the GO vending machines in all metro stations and at many tram and bus stops. Paper RFID tickets can be purchased from GO vending machines, and are available for a single journey (€2.10), 24 hour (€7.50), and Airport Line (€4.50). A MOBIB card is required for the return trip (€4.20), 5 journey (€8), 10 journey (€14), 48 hour (€14) and 72 hour (€18) tickets. Single journey paper RFID tickets can be bought from the driver on buses and trams (not on the metro) for €2.50, the Airport Line ticket can be bought from the driver on bus lines 12 and 21 for €6.
To validate a MOBIB card or ticket, push it against the red card readers within the white circle until it beeps. On buses and trams, the card readers are on the vehicle. At metro and underground tram stations, the card readers are at the entrance. Most stations have the card readers on automatic gates. A green status light indicates a ticket was validated. If it's red, there's no valid ticket on your card. A single journey ticket remains valid for one hour, but you must still validate again when changing to another metro, tram or bus.
A group of people can share a single MOBIB card if it has multiple single journey tickets, or a 5 or 10 journey ticket. For example, if you are 3 people with a single MOBIB Basic card with a 10 journey ticket: you hold the card in front of the red card reader until it beeps to validate it for the first person, then you simply do this again 2 more times for the other 2 people. The card can still be used for 7 journeys after that. The first 3 validations remain valid for one hour. When changing to another metro, tram or bus, you have to validate the card again and you have to again validate it 3 times.
- Brussels Bike Tours will take you on an easy (no hills) ride that lets you discover the city in just 4 hours.
- Villo runs a bike sharing network that has over 2,500 bicycles available at over 200 bike stations throughout the city. Users can take a bike from any station and return it to a different station. Membership fees are €1.60/day or €7.65 per week, payable by using a credit card with a smart chip at the automated kiosks attached to every station. On top of membership fees, usage fees vary, but the first 30 minutes are free. It is advisable to wear a helmet and a fluro vest (not mandatory). The bikes are robust, but rather heavy.
A Brussels Card is available for discounts at many attractions. Available in 24 hr (€24), 48 hr (€36) and 72 hr (€43) versions, it offers a free guidebook, free entry to many museums, free use of public transit, and discounts at various shops, restaurants and attractions. May not be worth it to those who already receive discounts (children, students, etc.) The card can be purchased on-line in advance for a discount, or at the tourist offices at: Grand-Place, Midi/Zui station, BIP. Some museums also sell the card.
- 1 Grand Place (Grote Markt). 24/7. Surrounded by beautiful 300-year-old buildings. In the evening, lit by bright illumination, it is simply ravishing. Some evenings a music and light show is provided with the buildings serving as a canvas. Have a Belgian waffle with caramelized sugar here — the best ones are available from the little shops off the northeast corner of the Grand Place. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Free.
- 2 City Hall (Stadhuis), Grote Markt. The oldest part of the present Town Hall is its east wing (to the right when facing the front). This wing, together with a shorter belfry, was built and completed in 1420 under direction of Jacob van Thienen. Initially, future expansion of the building was not foreseen, however, the admission of the craft guilds into the traditionally patrician city government apparently spurred interest in providing more room the building. As a result, a second, somewhat longer wing was built on to the existing structure, with Charles the Bold laying its first stone in 1444. This left wing was built by Guillaume de Voghel who in 1452 also built the Magna Aula at the Coudenberg. The facade is decorated with numerous statues representing nobles, saints, and allegorical figures. The present sculptures are reproductions; the originals have been moved to the city museum. The 96-meter tall tower in Brabantine Gothic style emerged from the plans of Jan van Ruysbroek, the court architect of Philip the Good. By 1454 this tower replacing the older belfry was completed. Above the roof of the Town Hall, the square tower body narrows to a lavishly pinnacled octagonal openwork. Atop the spire stands a 5-meter tall gilt metal statue of the archangel Michael, patron saint of Brussels, slaying a dragon or devil. The tower, its front archway and the main building facade are conspicuously off centre relative to one another. According to legend, the architect upon discovering this "error" leaped to his death from the tower. More likely, the asymmetry of the Town Hall was an accepted consequence of the scattered construction history and space constraints. After the bombardment of Brussels in 1695 by a French army under the Duke of Villeroi, the resulting fire completely gutted the Town Hall, destroying the archives and the art collections. The interior was soon rebuilt, and the addition of two rear wings transformed the L-shaped building into its present configuration: a quadrilateral with an inner courtyard completed by Corneille Van Nerven in 1712. The Gothic interior was revised by Victor Jamar in 1868 in the style of his mentor Viollet-le-Duc. The halls have been replenished with tapestries, paintings, and sculptures, largely representing subjects of importance in local and regional history. The Town Hall accommodated not only the municipal authorities of the city, but until 1795 also the States of Brabant. In 1830, a provisional government assembled here during the attempt of the Third French Revolution which provoked the separation of the Southern Netherlands from the Northern Netherlands, resulting in the formation of Belgium as is known now. At the start of World War I, as refugees flooded Brussels, Town Hall served as a makeshift hospital. On 20 August 1914, the occupying German army arrived at the Grand Place and hoisted a German flag at the left side of the Town Hall. The Town Hall has been designated a historic monument since 9 March 1936.
- 3 King's House (Broodhuis), Grote Markt. A 19th-century building hosting the Brussels City Museum, with an extensive collection items of the city's history. The Dutch name Broodhuis (literally bread house) dates from the 13th century, when a wooden hut existed on the grand place where bakers sold their bread. It was replaced by a stone building in 1405, but at the beginning of the 15th century it was gradually abandoned when bakers started selling their wares door to door. The vacant building was then occupied by the Duke of Brabant, turning it into an administrative centre, and renaming it to Duke's House ('s Hertogenhuys). It later became the property of emperor Charles V, but its condition soon deteriorated due to lack of maintenance, and was razed to the ground at orders of the emperor. This architect Antoon II Keldermans was commissioned to design a new building in Gothic style, the plans finished in 1514 and construction was carried uit from 1515 to 1536. After Keldermans' death, subsequent architects finished the building. Under Spanish reign, queen Isabella of Spain ordered the renovation of the facade in 1625 and placed it under protection of the Holy Mary foundation. During French bombardments in 1695, the building was damaged to such an extent that extensive maintenance was required, but due to lacking finances this was limited to the minimal efforts to prevent collapse. Only in 1767 a second renovation was carried out. Taken over by the city of Brussels in the 1860, the house was renamed House of the People (Volkshuis), but fell prey to decay a second time and razed at the end of the 19th century, then reconstructed in neo-Gothic style, which was very popular at the time. It was one of the achievements of major Carl Buls, known for his progressive ideas, and Jules Anspach. Construction responsibilities were assigned to architect Pierre-Victor Jamaer, who constructed the building based on the original plans of Antoon Keldermans. Construction started in 1873 and took over 20 years and cost 2 million francs, which was a fortune at the time. It became the best example of neo-Gothic style in Belgium, and assigned the function of city museum in 1887. From 1895 to 1895, the belfry's carillon featured 49 bells, which were planned to be extended by another 6 bells in 1895, and moved to the City Hall's belfry. However, this was never carried out because of the failing mechanism of the carrillon, and it was eventually removed from the Belfry completely in 1898. The belfry has remained empty ever since. Since 1998 the King's House is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It hosts many statues that used to decorate the City Hall and were removed and replaced with replicas to preserve the originals. Over 500 costumes of Mannenken Pis are stored in the basement of the King's House, and a smaller selection is on display.
- 4 Manneken Pis, Stoofstraat 57 (walk south-west from the Grand Place in the street adjacent to the City Hall). 24/7. A short walk from the Grand Place is the Manneken Pis, a small bronze statue thought to represent the "irreverent spirit" of Brussels. This is a statue of a child urinating into a pool. Belgians have created hundreds of outfits for this statue. There are many stories of the statue's origins. It is believed to have been inspired by a child who, while in a tree, found a special way to drive away invading troops. Another story goes that a father was missing his child and made a declaration to the city that when he found him he would build a statue of him, doing whatever it was that he was doing. It has also been said a witch turned him to stone for peeing on her property. Yet another story goes that Brussels was under siege and enemies had planted explosives in the city; a boy saw the lit fuse and urinated on it, preventing the explosives from blowing up thus saving the city. The most likely scenario is that it was the location of the market for urine, which was used for its ammonia content to tan leathers. None are definitively true. In 1747, Louis XV's soldiers stole the statue, upsetting many of the city's residents. Louis XV made it up to the city by giving the statue a medal of honor (so that he must be saluted when French soldiers pass by) and by giving him an outfit. He now gets dressed up on special occasions. Free.
- 5 Mannenken Pis Wardrobe (GardeRobe Mannenken Pis), Eikstraat 19 (uphill from Mannenken Pis), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Tu-Su 10:00-17:00. This small museum houses the wardrobe of Mannenken Pis, Brussels' most famous statue. Because Mannenken Pis currently has nearly 1000 different costumes, of which some historic specimens are sensitive to decay resulting from variations in temperature and humidity, only about 100 costumes are shown to visitors at a time. The collection on display rotates regularly. The costumes in storage can be viewed through an interactive database.
- 6 Cinquantenaire Park (Parc du Cinquantenaire - Jubelpark) (take Metro line 1 east, exit Schuman and walk east or exit Merode and walk west). 24/7. Park with monumental arch commemorating the 50th anniversary of Belgium's independence. It is possible to go up to the terrace above the arch, from where you'll have a good view of the city. Entry is through the Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and of Military History and is free, but a supplement must be paid for access to the arch. Any backpacks or luggage must be stored in small lockers at the entrance, so don't take too many belongings along if you plan to enter the museum. The arch is beautifully lit at night, and usually less crowded. Free.
- 7 Palace of Justice (Justitiepaleis), Poelaertplein (get off at tram stop Poelaert), ☎ . M-F 08:00-17:00. Built between 1866 and 1883 in eclectic style by celebrated architect Joseph Poelaert, the Palace is the most important court building in Belgium. The total cost of the construction, land and furnishings was 45 million Belgian Francs, or 1.1 million euro. A notable landmark in Brussels, it is said to be the largest building constructed in the 19th century, and larger than the St. Peter's basilica in Rome: it is 160 m by 150 m, with a total build surface of 26.000 m². The 104 m high dome weighs 24.000 tons. The building has 8 courtyards with a surface of 6.000 m², 27 large court rooms and 245 smaller court rooms. Its conception started in 1860, when Belgium was only 30 years old, during the reign of King Leopold I who announced the building of the Palace with a royal decree, followed by an international architectural contest for its design. All entered designs were found to be unacceptable and rejected however, and then minister of justice Victor Tesch appointed Joseph Poelaert as the designer. Poelart died in 1879, 4 years before the building was finally completed. For its construction, a section of the Marollen neighborhood had to be demolished, leading to the expropriation and forced relocation of hundreds of inhabitants. As a result, the word architect became one of the most serious insults in Brussels! Ironically, Poelaert himself lived in a house only a few hundred meters away of the construction site, in the Marollen. The location of the palace is symbolic, being the hill where convicted criminals were hanged during the Middle Ages. The building includes many interior statues by sculptor Pierre Armand Cattier, and figures of Roman jurists Cicero and Ulpian, by Antoine-Félix Bouré. According to a story, Adolf Hitler was so fond of the building that he dispatched Albert Speer to study it in 1940. Events turned out unfavorably however, and at the end of the Second World War, the retreating Germans started a fire in the Palace in an attempt to destroy it, leading to the collapse of the cupola and heavily damaging other parts of the building. By 1947 most of the damage was repaired, and the cupola rebuilt 2.5 meters higher than the original. In 2003 a new series of renovations have begun, aiming to strengthen the roof structure and walls, and applying a new layer on the gilded cupola. Because of financial problems the renovation works are progressing slowly, however, and in 2013 it was determined that the decade-old scaffolding was, ironically, in need of renovation itself because it had started to rust and became unsafe. Free.
- 8 Basiliek van het Heilig Hart / Basilique du Sacré Coeur (Basilica Koekelberg), Basiliekvoorplein/Parvis de la Basilique, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. The fifth biggest church in the world, with an impressive interior and an amazing view over Brussels and its surroundings.
- 9 Royal Palace (Koninklijk Paleis/Palais Royal), Place des Palais/Paleizenplein (across Warande Park), ☎ . The ceremonial royal palace, where foreign statesmen are received by the King of Belgium. Free when open, from the National Holiday of 21 July until September. Closed otherwise.
- 10 The Bourse. Former stock market building. Locals like to sit on the steps, sometimes with fries. A local restaurant owner has proposed turning the unused building into a beer hall.
The Heysel (Heizel in Dutch) is a plateau in the north of Brussels, best known for hosting the 1935 and 1958 World Fairs. The Centenary Palace and Atomium are famous remnants of these World Fairs. Built at what were in 1935 the outskirts of the city, the Heysel is relatively far away from the Brussels city center and can be reached easiest by metro. Take line 6 direction of Koning Boudewijn and get off at 2 Heysel/Heizel. The journey takes about 30 minutes from Grand Place when taking the metro at Central Station and requires a transfer at 3 Beekkant or 4 West Station.
- 11 Atomium, Square de l'Atomium/Atomiumplein (Take Metro line 6 direction Roi Baudouin-Koning Boudewijn and get off at Heysel-Heizel - approximately 5 min easy walk from the station), ☎ . Daily 10:00-18:00. Ticket sales end at 17:30. Unavoidable icon of Brussels and Belgium, important place for international tourism, unique creation in the history of architecture and emblematic vestige of the World Fair in Brussels (Expo 58) the Atomium continues to embody its ideas of the future and universality, half a century later. In its cultural programme it carries on the debate of 1958: What kind of future do we want for tomorrow? Our happiness depends on what? Its renovation in 2006 gave its original brightness back, and the new equipments guarantee its durability. Five of the nine spheres are open to the public (so they say, but not really true). One of them is housing a permanent exhibition dedicated to Expo 58 (just some small models of some countries pavilions). Another sphere is dedicated to temporary exhibitions with scientific themes (often closed when there is no exhibition). The upper sphere offers spectacular views of the city of Brussels. When the sky is clear, the view reaches till Antwerp. There is a "kids zone" sphere which staff will happily direct you to even though you can never go in, it is only open to touring schoolchildren, and there is nothing inside except places for kids to sleep. In truth there are only three spheres: the top (restaurant), middle (snack bar) and bottom; the only thing to see really is the view; rather expensive at €11. The restaurant, also situated at the top, is open every day till 23:00 At night, the nine spheres are lit up with 2,970 lights that offer a very special show. To enrich your visit: audioguides in English (but also in French, Dutch, Spanish, Italian and Russian) are available at the cash desk for €2. Visio-guides are also available (€2) for the deaf and hard of hearing people. A zip-line is available from the top of the tallest sphere (102m); the "Death Ride" (run by former members of the Belgian Special Services) is a separate €25, and offers a rather unique view of the insides of the Atomium and the surrounding city. Children of less than 6 years, coach drivers, disabled persons: free, children as from 6 years till 11 years: €2, adults: €12, teachers showing their teacher card: €9, children as from 12 till 18 years, students showing their student card and seniors (as from 65 years): €8.
- 12 Centenary Palace (Eeuwfeestpaleis), Belgiëplein 1, e-mail: email@example.com. The construction of the halls started in 1935, when 5 halls were built for the 1935 World Fair. Hall 5, informally known as the Centenary Palace, was the most ornamental of the first 5 halls and is currently still in use. After the World Fair, expositions, trade fairs, congresses and other events took place in the halls. At the end of the 40s Palace 4 was added, by 1957 also Palaces 7, 8, 9 and a Patio, in preparation of the 1958 World Fair. In 1977 Palace 11 was added, in 1989 Palace 12, and most recently in 1993 the Auditorium. The 32th edition of the Eurovision Song Festival took place in the Centenary Palace in 1987.
- 13 Mini-Europe (Mini-Europa), Brupark, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 10 March - 30 June: 9:30-18:00, 1 July - 31 August: 9:30-20:00, 1 September - 30 September: 9:30-18:00, 1 October - 6 Janary: 10:00-18:00, 24/12 and 31/12: 10:00-17:00. A miniature park at the foot of the Atomium, Mini-Europe has reproductions of monuments of the European Union on show, at a scale of 1:25. Over 80 cities and 350 buildings are represented. The park also features live action models of trains, mills, cable cars etc, and an erupting Vesuvius. The monuments were chosen for the quality of their architecture or European symbolism. Most of the monuments were made using moulds and cast in epoxy resin, but newer models are made in polyester. Three models are made out of stone, including the Tower of Pisa in marble, and computer assisted 3D milling was used to create them. Some of the models require massive undertakings, the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela required over 24.000 hours of work, and the scale model of the Brussels Grand Place itself cost 350.000 euro to build. The landscape is completed by plants, dwarf trees, bonsais, bushes and flowers, creating the impression of a garden. €12.90 Adults; €9.70 under 12.
- 14 Brussels Design Museum (ADAM), Belgiëplein 1, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. 10:00-18:00. Museum centered around product design. The permanent collection is the Plasticarium, featuring 2.000 pieces, from everyday objects to pieces of art, from the post-modernism to pop-art, the utopia of everything in plastic. Featured works are from Joe Colombo, Maurice Calka, Verner Panton, Aero Aarnio, Pierre Paulin and Philippe Starck. This unique collection was put together since the beginning of the 80's by the Brussels collector Philippe Decelle. Temporary exhitibtions are changing every 4 to 6 months. It is located in the Trade Mart and officially opened on 11 December 2015. The eye catch staircase at the entrance was designed by Jean Nouvel. 10€.
- 15 Planetarium, Avenue de Bouchout (Adjacent to Mini-Europe), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. M–F: 09:00-17:00, Sa–Su: 10:00–17:00, plus regular evening events. Wide range of 360° films suitable for all ages, presented in French, Dutch and English. Adults: €7, concessions: €5. There are combo tickets available with Mini-Europe, with Atomium, and with the Mira Observatory in Grimbergen.
Museums of the Far East
The Museums of the Far East consist of 3 Asian buildings on the premises of the Royal domain of Laken: the Japanese Tower, the Chinese Pavilion, and the Museum of Japanese Art. They currently host art treasures from China and Japan, and are run under the direction of the Royal Museums of Art and History. The idea for an outdoor display of oriental buildings originated with King Leopold II, who had been impressed by the Tour du Monde panorama at the Paris World Exhibition of 1900. The buildings were designed by French architect Alexander Marcel, who was commissioned by King Leopold II with responsability for the project. All 3 musea are currently closed because of structural health issues and their collections have been transferred to Jubelpark, but the buildings are also from the outside worth a visit. The musea can be reached from the city center by taking tram 3 direction Esplanade from 5 Beurs or 6 De Brouckere, and getting off at 7 Araucaria. Travel time is approx. 35 minutes.
- 16 Japanese Tower (Japanse Toren), Van Praetlaan 44, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. The bright red tower in oriental style stands nearly 50 m tall and hosts Japanese art from before export to the West became common. It features Imari porcelain from the 17th and 18th century, as well as 19th century lacquery, bronze vases, ivory objects and other assorted ornamental items. The exceptional blue-white vase at the entrance was donated in 1910 to the Belgian government by the Japanese emperor. The tower is the center of a replicated Japanese garden. It was originally known as a Tō, a Japanese pagoda, of which construction started in 1901 until its inauguration in 1905.
- 17 Chinese Pavilion (Chinees Paviljoen), Van Praetlaan 44, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Work on the pavilion started in 1905, shorty after completion of the Japanese pagoda. The interior of the pavilion was originally designed as a restaurant, but never used for this purpose. After King Leopold II's death in 1909, the original plan for a museum was abandoned, and the building was donated to the Belgian State where it served as part of the Trade Museum of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The decoration centers around European elements mixed with Chinese oriental architecture. On display are an extensive overview of Chinese ceramics, historically exported to Europe in the 17th and 18th century to decorate the living rooms of kings and nobelty. The pavilion is located in the Chinese Garden.
- 18 Museum of Japanese Art (Museum voor Japanse Kunst), Van Praetlaan 44, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. The museum building was originally designed as covered garage and parking for carriages and the first cars, but later converted into the present day museum. It hosts a rich collection of traditional Japanese art, primarily dating from the Edo period (1600-1868). The collection features room screens, kimonos, samurai armor and weapons, sword ornaments and hilts, lacquery and inro (storage boxes for jewelry), netsuke (belt buttons), and much more. Some of the Japanese prints are world class, and only on display in alternating series for conservational reasons.
Museums and galleries
- 19 Antoine Wiertz Museum, Vautierstraat 62 (get off at Brussel-Luxemburg train station), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Tu-F 10:00-12:0o, 12:45-17:00. The museum, which has preserved its original atmosphere, is dedicated to painter, sculptor and writer Antoine Wiertz (1806-1865), a somewhat controversial artistic figure of the Belgian Romantic movement. Wiertz loved the spectacular, painting giant canvasses to indulge his thirst for the excessive, like the more than 8 m long Greeks and Trojans fighting over the body of Patroclus. Wiertz is also known for his dramatic subjects and horror scenes, such as his Premature Burial. His most famous painting is probably Two Girls (La Belle Rosine), in which a young woman faces a skeleton, reflecting the artist's fascination with death and the fragility of human life. Wiertz also produced numerous portraits and self-portraits. The construction of this workshop-museum in the Léopold district of Brussels was agreed in 1850 between Wiertz and the Belgian government. During the year following the artist's death, the entire collection of works then in his studio was bequeathed to the state. Since 1868, the Wiertz Museum has been part of the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium. Free.
Science and technology
- 20 Natural Sciences Museum of Belgium (Museum voor Natuurwetenschappen), Vautierstraat 29 (near 16 Luxembourg station), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. daily 09:30-16:45; Sa, Su and during school holidays (except the Summer break) 10:00-18:00; Summer break 09:30-16:45; weekends 10:00-18:00. The museum is well-known for its collection of iguanodons (dinosaurs discovered in the Bernissart coal mine in the Belgian Hainaut province). The dinosaur collection includes discovery activities for the children. Other parts of the museum feature gems and geology, wildlife in Brussels (BiodiverCITY exposition), and the development of life. between €4.50 and €7, free the first Wednesday of each month from 13:00.
- 21 Train World, Prinses Elisabethplein 5, Schaarbeek (in and next to the Schaarbeek train station). Tu-Su 10:00 - 17:00. Belgian train museum, opened in September 2015. €10.
- 22 Autoworld, Parc du Cinquantenaire-Jubelpark 11 (Metro: Merode or Schuman Train Station (Line 1)/Train: Merode or Schuman Train Station/Bus: 20, 28, 36, 67, 80/Tram: 81), ☎ . Apr-Sep: 10:00-18:00; Oct-Mar 10:00-17:00. Automobiles from the dawn of the motoring age to 1970s including the earliest Mercedes, Renaults, BMW Isettas, Tatras, Ford T-birds, even a jeepney from the Philippines. Adults €6, children €7-133, children 6 and under free.
- 23 Cinquantenaire Museum (Musée du Cinquantenaire - Jubelpark Museum), Parc du Cinquantenaire-Jubelpark 10, ☎ . Tu-F 09:30-17:00, Sa Su and holidays 10:00-17:00. Part of the Koninklijke Musea voor Kunst en Geschiedenis (KMKG) - Musées Royaux d'Art et d'Histoire (MRAH) (Royal Museums of Art and History) group of museums. This museum has an important collection of art objects from different civilizations from all over the world. The museum was founded in 1835 and was located in the Hallepoort/Porte de Hal, one of the last remaining medieval city gates of Brussels. The gate is still operated as a separate museum by the same museum foundation. €8.
- 24 Horta Museum, Rue Américaine 25, Saint-Gilles/Amerikastraat 25, Sint-Gillis (tram 81, tram 92 (place Janson), bus 54), ☎ , fax: . Tu-Su 14:00-17:30. The home of noted Belgian Art Nouveau architect and designer Victor Horta. Seeing where he lived and worked is a great way to get an introduction to the art nouveau style in Brussels. It is one of four Horta works to be inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. It can be very busy on rainy Sundays and the queue is outside, so don't forget your umbrella. Adults €10, students/seniors €3.50, guided tours available by appointment.
- 25 Musées Royaux des Beaux Arts de Belgique - Koninklijke Musea voor Schone Kunsten van België (Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium), Rue de la Régence-Regentschapstraat 3, at Place Royale-Koningsplein, ☎ . Museum of Historical Art: Tu-Su 10:00-12:00, and 13:00-17:00; Museum of Modern Art (Magritte Museum) Mar: Tu-Su 10:00-13:00, and 14:00-17:00. Features both historical art and modern art in the one building. In a vast museum of several buildings, this complex combines the Musée d'Art Ancien-Museum voor Oude Kunst and the Musée d'Art Moderne-Museum voor Moderne Kunst under one roof (connected by a passage). The collection shows off works, most of them Belgian, from the 14th to the 20th century, starting in the historical section, with Hans Memling's portraits from the late 15th century, which are marked by sharp lifelike details, works by Hiëronymus Bosch, and Lucas Cranach's Adam and Eve. You should particularly seek out the subsequent rooms featuring Pieter Brueghel, including his Adoration of the Magi. Don't miss his unusual Fall of the Rebel Angels, with grotesque faces and beasts. But don't fear, many of Brueghel's paintings, like those depicting Flemish village life, are of a less fiery nature. Later artists represented include Rubens, Van Dyck, Frans Hals, and Rembrandt. Next door, in a circular building connected to the main entrance, the modern art section has an emphasis on underground works - if only because the museum's eight floors are all below ground level. The collection includes works by van Gogh, Matisse, Dalí, Tanguy, Ernst, Chagall, Miró, and local boys Magritte, Delvaux, De Braekeleer and Permeke. Don't miss David's famous "Death of Marat." €8 adults per museum or €13 combo ticket, €2.50 students/seniors/disabled visitors, €1.25 children 12-18, under 12 free. Also free on the first Wednesday afternoon of every month.
- 26 [dead link]Musée Juif de Belgique - Joods Museum van België, 21 Rue des Minimes-Miniemenstraat 21, ☎ . Tu-Su 10:00-17:00. Dedicated to the craft, folk art, culture and religion of the Jewish people in Belgium. Standard rate: €5, Concession €3.
- 27 Musée Magritte Museum, 1 Place Royale-Koningsplein 1, ☎ , fax: . Tu-Su 10:00-17:00 W until 29:00. Closed Mondays, Jan 1, 2nd Th of Jan, May 1, Nov 1 and 11, Dec 25. This museum is dedicated to the life and art of the Belgian artist René Magritte. It holds a multidisciplinary collection containing more than 200 of Magritte's works. Standard rate: €8, Combi with Modern & Ancient Art Museum: €13, Students 18-25 years and school groups min. 12 pers.: €2. Audioguide: €4.
- 28 BELvue Museum (Musée BELvue), Paleizenplein-Place des Palais 7, ☎ . Jun-Sep: Tu-Su 10:00-18:00; Oct-May: Tu-Su 10:00-17:00. Features Belgium's history. Before it became a museum, the 18th-century luxury hotel was a royal residence. BELvue: €3, Coudenberg: €4, BELvue + Coudenberg: €5.
- 29 Belgian Army Museum and Museum of Military History (Koninklijk Museum van het Leger en van de Militaire Geschiedenis - Musée Royal de l'Armée), Jubelpark-Parc du Cinquantenaire 3 (Metro: Merode or Schuman Train Station (Line 1)/Train: Merode or Schuman Train Station/Bus: 20, 28, 36, 67, 80/Tram: 81), ☎ . Daily 09:00-16:45. In the north wing of the Cinquantenaire Palace, this museum provides an overview of the development of military technology and of the major campaigns fought on Belgian territory. The museum has three principal sections: Belgian military history (documents, uniforms and weaponry from the Middle Ages to the present day, including a most comprehensive collection of medieval arms and armor); the Armored Vehicle Hall with artillery, tanks, etc. from the two World Wars; and the Air Section (Brussels Air Museum) with a collection of aircraft from World War I onwards. The Brussels Air Museum's high point is its collection of original aircraft from World War I. €8.
- 30 Belgian Comic Strip Center (Centre Belge de la Bande Dessinée, Belgisch Centrum van het Beeldverhaal), Rue des Sables-Zandstraat 20, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Tu-Su 10:00-18:00. Located in Europe's earliest Shopping-Mall (a shiny Jugendstil/Art Nouveau palace). There is a permanent exposition featuring the early beginning of comics as well as it's development. There is enough room for other varying expositions. The bookshop at the ground floor sells many different comics. A readers' library operates on the ground floor, where, for a low entrance fee, you can read many different comic books and buy fries. €10 adults, €6 students/seniors.
- Musée du Cinéma-Filmmuseum, Palais des Beaux-Arts-Paleis voor Schone Kunsten, 9 rue Baron Horta-Baron Hortastraat 9 (walk from Gare Centrale-Centraalstation), ☎ . A history of film-making. Free to look around; classic and cult films are shown at low prices.
- 31 Musical Instruments Museum (Musée des Instruments de Musique or Muziekinstrumentenmuseum), Montagne de la Cour-Hofberg 2, ☎ . Tu-F 09:30-16:45, Sa Su 10:00-16:45. The museum houses more than 7000 instruments, from all times and all over the world. The museum’s reputation is built on its extraordinary collection. The exhibits are displayed on four different floors featuring a wide range of instruments from all time periods and areas of the world. The MIM is a place to experience music. An infrared headphone system allows each visitor to enjoy the sound and melodies played by the instruments presented. The restaurant on the roof is also famous because of its panoramic view over Brussles. You need around 3 or 4 hours to really enjoy the whole museum, make sure you have enough time! The ornate façade of the building was decorated as such to promote the work of local tradesman and to protest the loss of jobs due to automation. Adults €8; over 65 €6; under 26 €2.
- 32 Bruxella 1238, Beursstraat, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Guided tour at 10:15 on first Wednesday of every month. From 1238 onwards the Franciscans were given permission to settle between the Senne river and the Grand Place, which were strategic points in the city in the Middle Ages. This settlement reflects the important role played by these men in the city’s social and religious life. The site knew good times and periods of adversity, expansion, destruction during the Calvinist period and the 1695 bombardment; it was rebuilt several times, only to finally disappear during the French period. In this underground archaeological museum, the history of Belgium’s capital city is told from a different angle.
- 33 Coudenberg Museum (Coudenbergpaleis), Paleisplein 7, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Tu-F 07:30 - 17:00. From the middle ages, a castle overlooked Brussels from Coudenberg hill. From the 12th century, the successive monarchs and their representatives transformed a small fortified castle into a sumptuous residential palace, one of the most beautiful palace of Europe and one of Charles V’s main residences. This prestigious building is severely damaged by fire in 1731. Some forty years later, the ruins of the palace are pulled down and the ground flattened out for the construction of the new royal district. The remains of this palace make up the Coudenberg archaeological site. During your visit, you will discover the Isabella Street and the old structures of the main buildings of the former palace of Brussels, which are now the foundations for today’s royal district and the Hoogstraeten House where the most interesting discoveries made during the various archaeological excavations conducted on the Coudenberg are displayed. €7.
- 34 Sewer Museum (Riolenmuseum), Octrooipaviljoen - Anderlechtse Poort, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Tu-Sa 10:00 - 17:00. The Sewer Museum invites you on an unusual trip into a very hidden side of Brussels but which is absolutely vital for the running of the city. Unlike the other museums, this one is active, with the Senne river playing the leading role. A museum that tells the story of when, why and how the sewers were built, describes the jobs that people do in this underground world and explains the city's water cycle. €8.
Brussels is considered to be the de facto capital of the European Union, having a long history of hosting the institutions of the European Union within its European Quarter. The EU has no official capital, and no plans to declare one, but Brussels hosts the official seats of the European Commission, Council of the European Union, European Council, as well as a second seat of the European Parliament.
- 35 European Parliament, Rue Wiertz/Wiertzstraat 60 (European Quarter), ☎ , fax: . M-Th at 10:00 and 15:00; F at 10:00 only; closed official holidays. Multimedia-guided tours in all official EU languages. Don't forget to bring an ID card/driver's license with you. Free.
- 36 European Commission, Rue Archimède/Archimedesstraat 73. Guided tours not available. Presentations available for groups of 15 or more, booked in advance.
- 37 European Council, Rue de la Loi / Wetstraat 175, ☎ , fax: . Guided tours not available. Presentations available for groups of 15 or more, booked in advance.
- 38 House of European History, Rue Belliard 135 / Belliardstraat 135. M 13:00-18:00. Tu-F 09:00-18:00. Sa-Su 10:00-18:00. Closed on international holidays such as Christmas, New Years Eve, New Years Day, 1 May and 11 November.. This European Union owned museum showcases the history of the European continent and people as well as the revolutions that took place in this part of the world that resulted in the Europe that we can see and feel today. Free entrance.
- 39 Parlementarium, Wiertzstraat 60 (train to Brussel-Luxemburg station), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. M 13:00-18:00, Tu-F 9:00-18:00, Sa-Su 10:00-18:00. The Parlamentarium is the visitors' centre of the European Parliament and is located in the Parliament's Espace Léopold complex. The official opening was on 14 October 2011 by President of the European Parliament Jerzy Buzek. The permanent exhibition contains hundreds of multimedia components, explaining the European Parliament and other European Union institutions. The entrance to the centre is located on the Parliament's esplanade. Each visitor is provided with a personal multimedia guide which guides them through the exhibition, location is used to display content relevant to each area. It is also needed to activate each installation and shows in-depth information, plays audio using an in-ear speaker and displays short films in the visitor's selected language. All content in the Parlamentarium is available in the 24 official EU languages. Tours are held for children, blind and deaf people. Its most famous exposition is State of deception about propaganda of Nazi Germany. Note that unusually strict security measures enforced at the Parlementarium entrance, with airport style bag and visitor scanners at the entrance. Be prepared to leave restricted items like pocket knives at the security desk, where they can be picked up again at the end of your visit. Lockers are available free of charge to store backpacks. Free.
The Brussels metro and premetro network stretches out over a distance of 52 km under the city, with a total of 69 stations. Each station has a unique theme, and many have been decorated by renowed artists. All metro stations can be visited with a 2.10 € Jump ticket, which includes access to the stations and transport between them for a duration of 1 hour.
- 40 Vandervelde, Emile Vanderveldelaan 107 (metro line 1 direction Stokkel), ☎ . 6:00-00:30. Opened on 7 May 1982, the Vandervelde metro station was named after Belgian politician Emile Vandervelde. The murals on the platform walls are from the hand of artist Paul De Gobert, officially titled La grande Taupe et le petit Peintre, but known as The Four Seasons because it depicts the transition of nature from one season into another. The 360° painting is placed on top of a band in earth colors, representing the geological layers of the underground. The work shows the environment of the station as it used to look before urbanization, thus focusing the viewer's attention on the effect of urbanization on nature. Some of the marshes and willow trees in the murals can still be observed today in the Woluwe valley. The Four Seasons is currently the largest painting, in surface, in Belgium. 2.10€.
- 41 Stokkel (Stockel), Hinnisdaallaan 39 (terminus station of metro line 1), ☎ . 6:00-00:30. Stokkel opened on 31 August 1988 and is currently still the terminus station of metro line 1 to the East side of Brussels. Known as Stokkel for the neighbourhood it is located in (or Stockel in the ancient Dutch spelling), the murals in the station illustrate over 140 characters from Hergés comic The Adventures of Tintin (Kuifje in Dutch), one of the more populare and internationally known Belgian comic figures. The sketches were drawn by Hergé himself, not long before his death, and completed by Studio Hergé which conserves its heritage. Recommendable for comic and Tintin fans. The metro station is located adjacent to a shopping mall, which by itself is also worth a look around. 2.10€.
- 42 Eddy Merckx, Josse Leemanslaan 8 (metro line 5 direction Erasmus), ☎ . 6:00-00:30. This station is one of the most recent additions to the Brussels metro network, inaugurated on 15 September 2003, and serves as a tribute to Belgian cyclist Eddy Merckx, best known as five-time winner of the Tour de France. The station is decorated as an Eddy Merckx museum, with objects commemorating the cyclist, including the bicycle on which he set the hour record in 1972. 2.10€.
- 43 Belgica, Belgicalaan 59 (metro line 6 direction Koning Boudewijn), ☎ . 6:00-00:30. Opened in 1982, the station houses since 2009 a permanent exhibition on climate, centered around the Belgian Antarctic research ship Belgica. A steel sculpture, designed by Camiel Van Breedam, decorates the entrances of the station. The information panels, streching out over the entire length of both platforms are in 3 languages (Dutch, English and French). 2.10€.
- 44 Cantillon Brewery, Rue Gheude - Gheudestraat 56, ☎ . M-F 08:30-17:00; Sa 10:00-17:00; Closed on Sundays and public holidays. The last traditional gueuze/lambic brewery in Brussels, Cantillon still uses natural yeast fermentation (not injected like almost every other beer). The lambics and gueuzes are made in original style with no sweetners or syrups added. Only 100% bio (organic) and natural fruits are used creating a distinctly sour drink. This museum-esque atmosphere is still a functioning brewery. The tour includes two small glasses of lambic and gueuze, and if you've never had a natural beer before, then you will be (pleasantly) surprised by the taste. An absolute must for beer lovers, save room in your luggage to take bottles back with you! Tour with tasting €10, tasting alone €2.
Woluwé-Saint-Pierre is a commune in Brussels. It is mostly a well-to-do residential area, which includes the wide, park-lined, Tervuren Avenue (French: Avenue de Tervueren, Dutch: Tervurenlaan) and the numerous embassies located near the Montgomery Square (Square Montgomery, Montgomeryplein).
- 45 Bibliotheca Wittockiana, Rue du Bemelstraat 21, ☎ . A museum that is dedicated to the art of binding books, with one of the most prestigious bookbinding collections in the world. Quite interesting. A discovery of forgotten discipline. Amazing use of materials, that unexpectedly gives room to innovation. €5, €3 for reduced ticket. Free on the first Sunday of the month..
- 46 Musée du Transport Urbain Bruxellois-Museum voor het Stedelijk Vervoer te Brussel (Transportation Museum of Brussels), 364 Avenue de Tervuren/Tervurenlaan (Take Metroline 1B (dir. Stockel). Step down at Metro M station Montgomery. There, take Tram 39 (dir. Ban Eik) or 44 (dir. Tervuren) from their terminus. Step down at 6th stop “Depot de Woluwe/Woluwe Remise”. Tram museum is just at your left.), ☎ . Sa Su and holidays 13:30PM-19:00 from the first weekend of April until the first weekend of October. Old trams are regularly used to link the museum to one of Brussels suburbs, Tervuren, through a very nice wooded area. The trip is especially pleasant on a sunny day. From the end station in Tervuren you can go to a nearby old train station that has been converted to a bar and small restaurant named Spoorloos (literally "without tracks"). €5 Adults, €2 Children age 6-11, under 6 free.
- 47 Woluwe Park, Near Avenue de Tervuren (From center, take a tube (Stockel direction), step down at Montgomery station. Take tram 39 or 44. Step down at 4th station Chien vert. Or, by bus 36 if you take it at Schuman station area.).
- 48 City Hall of Woluwé-Saint-Pierre, Avenue Charles Thielemans 93. Open for visitors.
- 49 Saint-Pierre Church, Rue Felix Poels. Erected in 1755 on the site of a much older building and perpendicular to it, with funds from the abbey of Forest. Traces of the older building can still be seen on the left of the current church.
- 50 Stoclet/Stokkel House. Several turn-of-the-century houses and manors can still be seen today, such as the Stoclet/Stokkel House, a UNESCO World Heritage site, which was built between 1905 and 1909 on a design by Josef Hoffmann and contains mosaics and paintings by Gustav Klimt.
Forest (pronounced with a silent "st") is the French name of one of the municipalities surrounding Brussels (the Flemish name is Vorst), known for its historically important abbey, a collection of art deco buildings and a major concert hall. Green and tranquil as the name might suggest, Forest is nevertheless also home to a large portion of Brussels' industrial facilities, including a car factory and the depot used by Eurostar trains.
- 51 Abbaye de Forest, Place Saint-Denis. The benedictine abbey was built as a priory to women in the 12th century and expanded many times in the following century as it gained importance. The downfall came in the 18th century, when a fire ravaged the convent and later the aftermath of the French Revolution led to its suppression. The remaining building complex has been restored in the 1960s and serves now a community centre.
- Town Hall of Forest. A major art deco monument.
- 52 Church of Saint Augustine, Place de l'Altitude Cent. A white art deco church in the middle of a roundabout.
- 53 Audi factory, Boulevard de la Deuxième Armée Britannique. The former Volkswagen Vorst factory is, as of 2015, the sole production site for the Audi A1. It offers 2-hour guided factory tours in Dutch, English, French and German at different times of the day. Reservations are required in advance via an online applications and availability is limited.
- 54 Wiels, Avenue Van Volxem 354, ☎ . Tu-Su 11:00-28:00. Art exhibition center located in a former brewery. On the ground floor the industrial heritage remained well kept. There also is a view platform on the roof. €12 for a normal ticket, €10 for 60+ and €5 for students.
You can see what's going on in Brussels by picking up a copy of local free city newspaper Zone 02. Another good free listings paper is Agenda, which is distributed together with the Dutch-language weekly Brussel Deze Week and has the notable advantage of being published in three languages (English, Dutch, French). They are distributed in cafés and bars around the city. If you're looking for a good party, online listing Net Events (French and Dutch) and Ready2Move, are a good place to start.
Brussels Agenda is the official cultural and entertainment agenda of the City of Brussels and the francophone Médiatheque has a website featuring the upcoming concerts in Brussels and the rest of Belgium. However, their listings page only features concerts Médiatheque staff are interested in.
The most widely read English magazine is The Bulletin which, apart from covering Belgian and EU news, also offers arts and lifestyle stories, as well as in-depth events listings and a TV guide.
- Sandeman's Brussels Free Tours, meeting point right outside the City Hall at the Grand Place. Daily tours at 11:00 and 14:00. Informative 3-hour tour. Groups can be large due to the low price! Pay what you wish.
- Brussels Bike Tours, meeting point right outside the Tourist Information Office at the Grand Place, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. From April to October daily at 10:00. From July to September daily at 10:00 and 15:00. Daily bike tours in English allow you to see the main sights in about 3.5 hours. It includes a halfway stop for fries and beer (not included in price). Reservations recommended. General €25 - Full-time students €22.
- 1 Brussels Pub Crawl, At the bottom of the tallest white tower, nearby the big wooden door on Brussels Grand Place, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. M W-Sa at 21:30. Free welcome beer, mini beer tasting, party guide, and massive drink discounts. The tour starts at 21:30PM and finishes after 13:00. It visits 4 bars/club in 3 hours. Book on the website or just show up. only €7.
- 2 Beer experience in Brussels, Meeting point located at the bottom of the tallest white tower, nearby the big wooden door on Brussels Grand Place, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. M W-Sa nights at 20:90. One-hour interactive & fun course on beer & Belgian brews. Learn everything you always wanted to known about beer & more. Get to meet other travelers and taste 5 beers for free! That's the fastest way to become a beer snob. Booking is compulsory either on the website or by phone. €14.
- 3 Waffle Workshop, Waffle Workshop starts on Brussels Grand Place, in front of the Tourism Office (biggest white building), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Daily at 15:15. Learn how to make the best Brussels Waffles during this 90' hands on activity! Everything is provided: assistance from start to end, all ingredients, toppings(chocolate, cream, fruits, nutella,...), cookware, take home recipe, a free drink and as many waffles as you can eat! Great for team buildings, stag/hen parties, families & friends. general €28 - student €25 - kids €18 - family €75 (2 adults & 2 kids).
- Visit Brussels Line. 10:00-16:00. Hop-on/hop-off city open-deck double-decker bus tours with commentary. 12 stops around the city, bus departing every 30 minutes. €18.
- Brussels City Tours, Grasmarkt-Rue du Marché aux Herbes 82, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. Brussels City Tours is the main bus-tour company, with 2¾-hour tours of all the major sights. €25/€23/€12.50.
- Architectural tours, Boulevard Adolphe Maxlaan 55, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Saturday mornings Mar-Nov, groups year-round. Atelier de Recherche et d'Action Urbaine, a Francophone Brussels heritage conservation group, runs tours of the city's architectural gems, offering a variety of theme tours to Art Nouveau buildings, Art Deco houses, the EU quarter, the Grand Place area and the Marolles/Marollen. 2-hr walking tours €10; 3-hr bus tours €17 (under 26 years €13).
- Horse-drawn carriages, Rue Charles Bulsstraat. Horse-drawn carriages do circuits of the Lower Town starting from Rue Charles Bulsstraat, near Grand Place. €18 per carriage.
Brussels has a fair number of cinemas, if limited compared to most European capitals. French films are subtitled in Dutch, and vice versa, all other films are shown in the original version ("VO") subtitled in French and Dutch (VOstBIL, or if just French then VOstFR).
- Actors Studio, Petite Rue des Bouchers - Kleine Beenhouwersstraat, Brussels 1000, ☎ . Run by the cooperative nouveau cinema. Screens interesting films in their original version with French and Dutch subtitles.
- Styx, Rue de l'Arbre Bénit - Gewijde Boomstraat 72, Ixelles-Elsene. Also run by the cooperative nouveau cinema. Screens interesting films in their original version with French and Dutch subtitles.
- Cinema Wellington. Located in downtown Waterloo with French, Flemish and English spoken films as well as French and Flemish subtitles. Screencasts most mainstream American films as well as French movies. The Wellington Passage - Chaussée de Bruxelles 165, 1410 Waterloo, tel: +32 2 3549359, +32 2 3549359
- Cinema Nova. Is an independent-to-the-bone cinema showcasing the more esoteric side of cinema - films which would not be shown elsewhere are generally shown here. A Korean Ultraman rip-off, a Pakistani documentary or a bleak Chilean cinema vérité flick? Only at Nova. Nova Cinema, 3 rue Arenberg-Arenbergstraat.
- Cinéma Galeries. An arthouse cinema and exhibition venue located within the Saint Hubertus Galleries. Cinéma Galeries, 26 Galerie de la Reine - Koninginnegalerij.
- Musée du Cinema/Filmmuseum. Part of the Centre for Fine Arts, it features a carefully chosen selection of contemporary and classic arthouse films. The best thing about this isn't just the building (due to be restored soon) but also the fact that the entrance fee is cheap. So if you can't live without your dose of Werner Herzog or Jan Svankmajer fret not - this place won't cost you an arm and a leg. Royal Film Museum, 9 Rue Baron Horta - Baron Hortastraat.
- Vendôme, 18 Chaussée de Wavre-Waversesteenweg, Ixelles-Elsene. Another arthouse cinema. It's located near the Porte de Namur (Naamsepoort) and acts as the metaphysical gateway to a lively African neighbourhood known locally as Matongé.
- Flagey, Flagey, Place Sainte-Croix Heilig-kruisplein, Ixelles-Elsene. The old broadcasting headquarters and now houses the regional TV station TVBrussel. It labels itself 'the sound and images factory'. Quite an apt description arthouse films, theatre pieces or world-renowned musicians are all featured here.
- UGC De Brouckère. This is the most centrally located UGC in Brussels. Another UGC exists in Ixelles. As far as programming goes it's the usual Hollywood and mainstream European fare you'd expect from any other UGC in Europe. UGC De Brouckère, 38 Place De Brouckère - De Brouckèreplein.
- Kinepolis. Was the first megaplex in the world. It's located at Heysel, near the Atomium, and has 25 screens showing a wide selection of mainstream films.
- BIFFF. Brussels' International Fantastic Film Festival (film fantastique in French). This two-week festival is scheduled yearly in March and is a must see for tourist and locals alike.
- Offscreen. A showcase for unusual, independent and unreleased films, cult classics, extraordinary documentaries and offbeat genres from around the world. Takes place during the month of February and/or March in co-production with Cinema Nova and in collaboration with the Film Museum of the Royal Belgian Film Archive.
Brussels has a good selection of year round events, many suitable for English speaking visitors. The following sites are useful to check out what's on.
- Classictic Concerts. A site selling classical tickets, but has an excellent rundown of all the upcoming classical concerts.
- Wallonie Tourism. Brought to you by the French Speaking Tourist board.
- Ancienne Belgique. For popular concerts, where the stadium bands stop in.
The Bozar Center for Fine Arts
The Paleis voor Schone Kunsten (Dutch) or Palais des Beaux-Arts (French) , Rue Ravensteinstraat 23, tel: +32 2 507-82-0, is often referred to as "Bozar" or "PSK". Construction was completed in 1928 and includes exhibition and conference rooms, movie theater and concert hall which serves as home to the National Orchestra of Belgium. The complex contains a large concert hall, a recital room, a chamber music room, lecture rooms and a vast gallery for temporary exhibitions. Since 2002, the Belgian federal institution has chosen the brand name BOZAR. It has seven artistic departments: Bozar Expo, Bozar Music, Bozar Cinema, Bozar Dance, Bozar Theatre, Bozar Literature, Bozar Studios and Bozar Architecture.
- Bozar Architecture. Open to the public with exhibitions and lectures working in close collaboration with the Information Centre for Architecture, Town Planning and Design.
- Bozar Cinema. Has showings of quality films for the general public, a special series for Young Film Fans (in the Henry Le Boeuf Hall), and cross-fertilising events that explore connections between cinema, video, and the other arts (Terarken rooms, Horta Hall).
- Bozar Dance. Hosts international contemporary dance productions.
- Bozar Expo. Has many exhibitions every year, in cooperation with the most prestigious international institutions, alternating the great collections with contemporary art, various national heritages, and support for young artists.
- Bozar Literature. Hosts meetings with Belgian and foreign writers.
- Bozar Music. Concerts in almost a dozen venues, both at the Centre for Fine Arts and elsewhere in Brussels, with Western classical music from the Middle Ages to our times, as well as non-European classical music, traditional music, jazz, blues, rock, etc. in a great variety of line-ups and genres, from chamber ensembles to big bands, from recitals to concert performances of opera.
- Bozar Theatre. Oriented towards avant-garde theatre.
- Bozar Studios. The Centre’s educational service, operating as an artistic department in its own right.
- 4 Enygma, Albertinaplein 3, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. M-Su 10:00-midnight. Escape games in the city center, near the Central Station. Widely considered among the most immersive escape games in the country. Three rooms available. Early booking is recommended. Puzzles of elevated complexity, not recommended for beginners. €20-120.
- 5 Red Light District, Aarschotstraat. Just like Antwerp and Amsterdam, Brussels also has its own Red Light District. It is located mainly in Rue d'Aerschot/ Aarschotstraat, behind the North Train Station. Contrary to the Netherlands, prostitution is not legal in Belgium, they exploit a loophole in the local legislation presenting brothels as "bars". Do not expect to get a drink in there though. Despite heavy police presence, it remains a fairly seedy area, not the kind of place where you'd want to walk alone at night.
Very few shops in Brussels open before 10:00, and most open about 10:30-11:00. Many shops are closed on Sunday and Monday.
- Beer Mania, 174-176 Chausse de Wavre-Waversesteenweg, Ixelles/Elsene. Claims to have a stock of over 400 beers, but has been overrun by beer tourists. The stock is extensive, but quite pricey in comparison to GB, Delhaize, or Carrefour. Beer Mania is a great place to find out of the ordinary beers.
- GB/Carrefour. Branches around the city carry a wide variety of beers, including almost all Trappist beer. Selection varies by store. The GB in Grand Place has a large selection and offers prices that are approximately a third of the prices in tourist shops.
- Delhaize. Similar to GB/Carrefour, but a tad more expensive.
- Match. Another store similar to GB/Carrefour, but has more of the unusual Belgian beers including Delirium.
- Cora. Two very large supermarkets on the outer limits of Brussels. They have a much larger choice of beers than Carrefour/ Delhaize/ Match and some very nice gift boxes but still with reasonable supermarket prices.
- Leonidas (branches across the city). very popular with the locals. Inexpensive and good quality, at €6.95 for 250g.
- Neuhaus (branches across the city). A bit more expensive than Leonidas and a bit higher quality. Very popular with the locals as well. It is also possible to get good discounts by buying directly at the shop outlet outside of the factory (Postweg 2, 1602 Vlezenbeek, tel: +32 2 568-23-10) which is just on the outer limits of Brussels, just a short walk away from the Erasme/ Erasmus metro station. Prices can go as low as €10 per kilo, however only the products that are specifically marked as having reduced prices are worth the trip, other products have the exact same price as in local shops.
- Mary (branches across the city). Excellent handmade chocolates, with this store originating from 1919.
- Passion Chocolat, 2/4 Rue Bodenbroek, also 20 Avenue Louis Gribaumont. Delicious chocolates, and they often offer free samples of 1-2 chocolates from their collection.
- Marcolini, 39 Place du Grand Sablon-Grote Zavel Plein. Arguably the best Belgian chocolates and priced accordingly. The country-specific products are difficult to find and quite worth the price.
- Wittamer, 6-12-13 Place du Grand Sablon-Grote Zavel Plein. Another excellent chocolate maker, with also a selection of macarons and cakes. They may however insist on a minimum 100g purchase for the chocolates.
- Chocopolis, 81 Rue du Marché aux Herbes-Grasmarkt (Between Grand Place and Central Station). Pick and choose your favorite type of chocolates, all at reasonable prices.
- Maison Renardy, 17 Rue de Dublinstraat, ☎ . A great boutique shop with delicious chocolate and friendly service. Stop by for a cup of tea or coffee, and get one of their chocolates free with your tea. Still peckish? You're able to bring a whole box home.
- Godiva (branches around the city). Not very popular and quite pricey.
- Chocolate bars. For the frugal, you can buy 100-200 gram gourmet bars of chocolate in grocery stores for about €1 each. Good brands to buy are Côte-d'Or and Jacques, both are Belgian.
- Belgian Lace. among the best in the world. Several shops are located at the Grand' Place-Grote Markt itself. Beware of some shops that sell Belgian lace even though production was outsourced abroad. Ask for a country of origin if purchasing around Grand Place.
- 1 Galeries Saint Hubert-Sint Hubertusgalerijen, Galerie du Roi 5. The world's first shopping mall, opened in 1847, is a light and airy triple-gallery enclosing boutiques, bookshops, cafés, restaurants, and a theater and cinema
- 2 Galeria Inno, 111-123 Rue Neuve-Nieuwstraat. Department store (fashion, cosmetics, etc.)
- 3 General shopping (along Rue Neuve-Nieuwstraat). with GB supermarket at City 2 accessed from Rue Neuve-Nieuwstraat and Metro Rogier.
- Marché aux Puces - Vlooienmarkt (Flea Market), Place du Jeu de Balle-Vossenplein. Daily 07:00-14:00. This flea market offers everything from the weird to the wonderful at rock-bottom prices. Features prominently in both the comic and film versions of The Secret of the Unicorn, a Tintin adventure.
- 4 Marché du Midi - Zuidmarkt, Midi/Zuid station. Su 06:00 – 14:00. One of the largest markets in Europe, with a strong North African influence. A great source of fresh fruits and vegetables, and the prices drop to dirt cheap by 13:30. Also a wide selection of clothes and other items.
- 5 Christmas market, Grand Place, Boulevard Anspachlaan and on Vissenmarkt-Marché aux Poissons. Late Nov-Early Jan. 240 wooden Christmas chalets line the streets looking like gingerbread houses, twinkling with fairy lights and covered with ‘snow-top’ roofs. The chalets sell a variety of Christmas items, decorations, gifts and Christmas season food (including "vin chaud/gluhwein" mulled wine). Activities include a skating rink, a Ferris wheel, and ice dinosaur monster (admission fees). Brass bands, free performances and ice sculptures are also on display.
- 6 Brüsel, 100 Boulevard Anspachlaan. Right in the center and one of the most up to date stores when it comes to contemporary comics.
- 7 Filigranes, 39 Avenue des Arts-Kunstlaan. Daily. the largest bookshop in Brussels, features a small bar/café inside and quite often live music.
- 8 Sterling Books, Wolvengracht 23, ☎ . M-Sa 10:00-18:00. One of the most popular English bookshops in downtown Brussels.
- 9 Pele-Mele, Boulevard Maurice Lemonnierlaan, 55 & 59 (Metro Anneessens). Maze-like, second-hand bookshop with huge selection of used books at bargain prices. A bookworm's haven.
Chocolate until you drop
Brussels is chock full of chocolates, but the ultimate indulgence for the chocoholic is Place du Grand Sablon-Grote Zavel Plein, where you will find three shops selling some of the best chocolate in the world: Neuhaus, Pierre Marcolini and Wittamer. Each store has its own specialties: Pierre Marcolini's take-away cakes and ice cream are reasons to be tempted, while Wittamer is the only one with a cafe on premises and also sells the ultimate hot chocolate. Passion Chocolat (20 Rue Vanderlindenstraat) is a bit out of the way but its artisan chocolate is worth a visit, and you can taste lots of it for free at the entrance.
There is plenty of good eating to be had in Brussels. Most people concentrate on the three classics: mussels (moules in French and mosselen in Dutch), fries (frites in French and frieten in Dutch) and chocolate. A few more adventurous Bruxellois/Brusselse dishes include anguilles au vert/paling in 't groen (river eels in green sauce), meat balls in tomato sauce, stoemp (mashed vegetables and potatoes) and turbot waterzooi (turbot fish in cream and egg sauce). For dessert, try a Belgian waffle (wafel in Dutch and gauffre in French), also available in a square Brussels version dusted with powdered sugar, and choices of bananas, whipped cream and many other toppings. Although many prefer the round, caramelized version from Liège.
Check the prices of food items before ordering, as you should when visiting pubs in France and Soho, London. Beware especially when servers make choices for you. It has been reported that tourists have to pay up to €7 for a litre of sparkling water, costing less than €0.70 in local stores.
Also beware of the 'Italian Restaurant Streets' in the tourist and shopping districts. These streets are lined with small Italian restaurants, some offering "3 course meals" for €12 or 13. They are all run by just a few shop owners and serve unappetizing store purchased food. They will not 'include service' as most all restaurants in Brussels do, and many tourists have reported getting scammed here, especially when not paying with exact change. A common practice is to present you a menu where prices aren't anything near the ones advertised in the windows. Be sure you ask why there is such a price difference before ordering and do not hesitate to leave if you do not agree with the price. If you were offered a drink and already sipped from your glass before receiving the menu (as is often the case) then just pay for the drink and leave.
The matter over which establishment serves up the best frites (locally known as fritkots in Dutch and "friterie" in French) remains a matter of heated debate. Some argue that the best frites in Brussels are served at the fritkot near the Barriere de Saint-Gilles, while others defend St-Josse's Martin (Place Saint-Josse/Sint-Joostplein) as the prime purveyor of the authentic Brussels frite just as others claim Antoine (Place Jourdan/Jourdanplein) remains the king of the local french fry. No matter which fritkot you're at, try to be adventurous and have something other than ketchup or mayonnaise on your fries. Of the selection of bizarre sauces you've never seen before, "andalouse" is probably the most popular with the locals.
- 1 Maison Antoine, Place Jourdanplein. Tasty fries with a large collection of sauces situated on a square close to the European Parliament. You can eat your fries (frites) in one of the several bars/cafés that carries the sign frites accepted. Vegetarians be careful. Fries are cooked in Beef fat. Although this place has a very good reputation which can be guessed from the long line of people waiting to be served, purists will tell you that is certainly not the best place in town to get your fries. €3.
- La Friterie de la Place de la Chapelle, Rue Haute-Hoogstraat (near Les Marolles/Marollen). Another personal choice for the best frites in Brussels: the big chunks of potato, fried golden, and served with the usual dazzling array of sauces.
- 2 La Friterie de la Barrière, Rue du Parc-Parkstraat (just off the Barrière de St-Gilles/Bareel van Sint-Gillis). Golden and crispy frites just the way they should be. This exterior of this fritkot also serves as mini-museum with several tracts, articles and other literature on the fronts and sides of the shack on the good ol' Belgian frite.
- 3 Friterie Tabora, Rue Taborastraat 2 (near the Bourse). All natural frites with the widest selection of sauces available. It's open almost 24/7 and is a favourite among locals.
- 4 Arcadi, Rue d'Arenberg-Arenberglaan 1B (just at the exit of "Galleries de la Reine", in the direction opposite to the Grand-Place). A quirky combination of old and new, the menu ranges all over the place but the reason people flock here is the selection of over 30 sweet and savoury pies (tartes). A slice big enough for a meal, served with salad, costs €7-7.50. Also special of cafe & slice of pie for €5.
- Mamma Roma. 3 shops: Flagey (Chaussee de Vleurgat-Vleurgatsesteenweg 5), Chatelain/Kastelein (Rue du Page-Edelknaapstraat 5) and Place Jourdan/Jourdanplein. Small pizzeria for eat-in (bar-style seating) or takeaway, sold by weight. Delicious crunchy base and some unusual toppings (one was spicy with walnuts, very tasty). Long queues but speedy service, deals available for pizza + drinks.
- 5 Sel et Sucre Creperie - Glacier, Avenue des Celtes-Keltenlaan, 4 (near Merode subway station, Parc du Cinquantenaire-Jubelpark and the Arc de Triomphe-Triomfboog). 12:00-22:00. The fantastic crepes and friendly service makes up for the ordinary decor and just around the corner from the Arc de Triomphe-Triomfboog.
- Snack Pizzeria Porte de Halle, Avenue Henri Jaspar-Henri Jasparlaan, 134 (directly across the city ring from Porte de Halle-Halsepoort), ☎ . 11:00-23:00. The gentlemen running the place speak a little bit of English and serve the best donar kebap and pizza in the neighborhood. The #39-Pizza Porte De Halle is probably their best pizza. Free delivery on orders over €10.
- 6 Tapas Locas, Rue Marche au Charbons-Kolenmarktstraat 74. Crazy tapas, sensible prices. Some tapas include miniaturised Belgian favourites as well as the usual Spanish suspects.
Brussels' tourist restaurant gauntlet can be found in Rue des Bouchers-Beenhouwerstraat, just to the north of Grand Place. The place has a bad reputation for waiters imposing themselves on passers-by, trying to lure customers into their restaurant. The authorities are aware of this, and are trying to take measures. Some restaurants may also tempt you with cheap prices for the menus, but when seated, the item on the menu happens to be unavailable, and you're forced to accept another, noticeably more expensive dish. Often, the exaggerated price of the wines will also compensate for the attractive menu. Knowing this however, you may be able to negotiate a better deal before entering.
A few restaurants stand out from the crowd though:
- 7 Aux Armes de Bruxelles, Rue des Bouchers-Beenhouwerstraat 13, ☎ . Tu-Su. Basic honest food, including some very decent moules. Crowded, although worth the wait.
- 8 Chez Léon, ☎ . Rue des Bouchers-Beenhouwerstraat 18. Now franchised into France as well, this is the original and while it's huge and looks like a tourist trap, the moules are excellent and it's packed every day. Moules, beer and a starter will set you back €25, and kids eat for free.
- 9 Scheltema, Rue des Dominicains-Predikherenstraat 7, ☎ . Specializes in fresh and tasty seafood.
- 10 Le Pré Salé, 20, Rue de Flandre-Vlaamsesteenweg (near St Catherine square), ☎ . A former butcher shop, locals flock here for some of the best moules in town, sold by the kilo (figure on €24) and served up in half a dozen ways. Also serves the full range of other Brussels favorites.
- Le Beau Soleil, Rue Joseph Lebeaustraat 7 (Sablon area). M Tu Th F 09:00-17:00; Sa Su 09:00-18:00. This tiny restaurant (approx. 14 seats) looks like a violin workshop, so you sit next to all the tools and half finished violins. Unlike other Belgian restaurants. The menu is small but really delicious. The atmosphere is informal and friendly.
- 11 Les Brassins, Rue Keyenveld-Keienveldstraat 36, Ixelles-Elsene, ☎ . Its crowd is mostly made out of young couples or students. Rich choice of beer, with more than 50 varieties on the menu, and good quality of food. In summer they have a few tables outside on a beautiful pedestrianized street.
- 12 'T Kelderke, Grand Place, 15 Grote Markt, ☎ . Well-made typical Belgian fare. Try the carbonnades à la flamande (Flemish beef stew) & mussels. Note that this place can feel cramped when full of diners. €9-19 main courses, €8.50 Plat du jour.
- 13 Les Chapeliers, Rue des Chapeliers 1-3 Hoedenmakersstraat, ☎ . Just off the Grote Markt with reasonable prices and excellent food. Seems to be popular among the locals without full of tourists.
Close to the Bourse Jules Van Praetstraat (rue Jules Van Praet) is another rapidly developing street of restaurants and bars. Those of note include:
- 14 Lune de Miel, ☎ . Some very tasty Thai and Vietnamese dishes served in a fine decor.
- 15 Thanh-Binh, ☎ . The restaurant is very popular among the Euroworkers and business types common in Brussels and serves good Thai food. It can get crowded and is often noisy but is well worth a try.
Place Saint Catherine-Catherinplaats is also a popular area, and once the fishmongering centre of Brussels. While many of the fish shops have moved elsewhere, it is still home to many good seafood restaurants featuring lobster as a specialty.
- 16 Restaurant Vismet, Place Sainte-Catherinplaats 23, ☎ . A small bistro that really gets busy after 19:00. Very good seafood. The handwritten menu can throw foreigners off, but everything on the menus is top notch. Appetizers: around €15; Main dishes: €18-30.
- Jacques, Quai aux Briques-Baksteenkaai 44, ☎ . An authentic old bistro, with a charming kitsch decor. Very good fish.
- 17 Viva M'Boma, Vlaanderenstraat-Rue de Flandre 17, ☎ . For real Belgian home cooking. Terrace in the summer.
- Brussels Resto, Place Sainte Catherine-Catherinplaats 3, ☎ . Offers quality food, especially its steak at acceptable prices. The menu is in Dutch and French which can cause difficulty in deciphering the specialties.
It is outside the touristic centre that the best deals can be found. Here are a few addresses in the Upper Town and Louise Area:
- 18 Madou's Provence, Rue de la Presse-Drukpersstraat 23, ☎ . Closed Saturday noon and Sundays. Innovative southern French cuisine at affordable prices.
- 19 Chez Oki. Rue Lesbroussart-Lesbroussartstraat 62, Ixelles-Elsene. French-Japanese fusion cuisine in a modern decor. The chef has worked for prestigious restaurants in Paris. Reasonable prices.
- L'Ultime Atome: Increasingly chic, but still just about affordable brasserie, serving tasty food and drink from breakfast till late. Place St Boniface-Bonifatiusplaats (off the Chausée d'Ixelles-Elsensesteenweg).
- Mano a Mano: Italian restaurant on Place St. Boniface-Bonifatiusplaats; Good food, not too expensive.
- L'Amour Fou: Similar to above located on Place Fernand Coqplaats.
- 20 Belga Queen, Rue du Fossé aux Loups-Wolvengracht 32. Rue du Fossé aux Loups-Wolvengracht 32. A restaurant within an old, restored bank building. Has an oyster bar, gorgeous bathrooms (with strange stall doors), and a cigar bar housed in the old bank vaults. A good looking younger crowd seem to enjoy this place, and don't miss the offbeat restrooms.
- 21 La Belle Maraichere, Place Sainte-Catherineplaats 11, ☎ . F-Tu. A classic fish restaurant. Very fresh fish and good old traditional cooking.
- 22 Comme Chez Soi, Place Rouppe/Rouppeplaats 23, ☎ . Classic Michelin-starred restaurant.
- 23 Les Larmes du Tigres (Tears of the Tiger), Rue de Wynantsstraat 21 (On the backside of the Palais du Justice / Justitiepaleis), ☎ . W-M. Upmarket and stylish Thai restaurant found just behind the Palais de Justice and better than most food found in Thailand.
- De Gulden Boot (la Chaloupe d'Or), 24 Grote Markt (Grand Place). One of the most famous restaurants in Brussels, situated on Grand Place. Beautiful old building, but too much of a tourist trap. And even after a €200 dinner, you will get charged €0.50 to visit the toilet.
Vegetarians can find at least one menu item at many, though not all, regular restaurants. Vegans will have a harder time, while the Veganizer BXL initiative is looking to widen their options, it’s best to head for the vegetarian-vegan restaurants:
- 24 Dolma, Chaussée d'Ixelles-Elsenesteenweg 329, ☎ . A very nice vegetarian buffet, at lunch and dinner time, Monday through Saturday. The day’s menu is on the website, with vegan options (“végétalien”) indicated. Around €30 for buffet with dessert and drinks.
- 25 La Tsampa, Rue de Livourne/Livornostraat 109, ☎ . An organic/vegetarian shop annex restaurant, closed on Saturday and Sunday. Rue de Livourne-Livornostraat 109.
- 26 Moonfood, 58 Rue des Colonies, Koloniënstraat, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. M-F 12:00-20:09. 100% vegan, organic, and gluten-free restaurant in central Brussels
Some non-vegetarian restaurants that are particularly vegetarian-friendly:
- Exki, Place de la Bourse-Beursplein 2. Chain of self-service “bio” restaurants with vegetarian and vegan items labelled. About 20 locations within Brussels.
- 27 El Turco, Place de Londres-Londenplein 6, ☎ . M-F 11:30-15:00 and Tu-F 19:00-22:30. Turkish-inspired buffet restaurant. Offers meats and fish, but the cold buffet is entirely vegetarian. €25 for all, excluding drinks.
Belgium is to beer what France is to wine, it is home to one of the greatest beer traditions in the world, and Brussels is a great place to sample some of the vast variety on offer. Typical beers of Brussels are gueuze (rather sour) and kriek (rather sweet, cherry based).
Smoking is prohibited in all bars. It is allowed to smoke on the outdoor parts that many bars install on the street during the warmer months.
A special drink only found in Brussels is the "half-en-half" ("half and half"). It's a mixture of white wine and champagne.
- 2 Brasserie De l'Union, 55 Parvis De Saint-Gilles - Sint-Gillisvoorplein. This is a place with a true "atmosphere", wooden chairs and tables, big old wooden bar, a crowd that reflects the diversity of Saint-Gilles. Everybody is welcome and come as you are. This is a bar that just oozes human warmth and a comfortable ambiance. When the sunny days are coming, the terrace is one of the best in Saint-Gilles.
- 3 À La Bécasse, Rue de Taborastraat 11, ☎ . Serves a typical Brussels product this slightly sweetened Lambic beer, white beer based on Lambic, Kriek Lambic and so on. The entrance is not that easy to find.
- 4 À La Mort Subite, Rue Montagne-aux-Herbes Potagères-Bergstraat 7. This is the Brussels cafe par excellence. Since its opening in 1927, the decor remains unchanged but retains its charm. A warm welcome greets the eclectic clientele of which La Mort remains a firm favorite.
- 5 Bier Circus, 57, Rue de l'Enseignement-Onderrichtsstraat, ☎ . Tu-F 12:00-14:30 & 18:00-23:00; Sa 18:00-23:00. Has an impressive selection of beers, including some extremely hard to find beers. Examples of rare beers they have in stock, are Lam Gods (a delicious beer brewed from figs) and the rarest of the Trappist beers, winner of the Beer of the Year 2005, Westvleteren. Also offers meals with beer as an ingredient.
- BXL Cafe/Bar, Place de la Vieille Halle aux Blés-Oud Korenhuis 46, ☎ . Su-Th 12:00-00:00; F Sa 22:00-01:00. A stylish, friendly internet cafe in the center of Brussels. Offering high speed internet access, occasional live music/DJ, latest movies shown on video screens around the bar, regular art exhibitions. Gay friendly space with women's night every Wednesday from 20:00.
- 7 Bizon Cafe, Rue Pont de la Carpe-Karperbrugstraat 7. A relaxed blues/rock bar in St Gery area. Excellent place for a beer or five.
- 8 Monk, St Katelijnestraat-Rue St. Catherine 42. A large proper brown bar with walls covered in dark wood and mirrors. Lots of young people from the neighborhood, cool music and a decent Malt whiskey selection.
- 9 Delirium Cafe, Impasse de la Fidelité-Getrouwheidsgang 4A (on a pedestrian only sidestreet), ☎ . Right in the centre of Brussels within a five-minute walk of the Grand Place. This bar is all about the beer, even holding the 2004 Guinness world record for most beers available with 2,004 beers in 2004 (now 3,162 beers, according to their website)! Popular among foreigners. There are some smoke-free areas. Also next door are three different bars specialising in rum, tequila, and absinthe.
- 10 Chez Moeder Lambic, Rue Savoiestraat 68 (behind Saint Gilles-Sint-Gillis city hall), ☎ . M-F 11:00-01:00; Sa Su 11:00-02:00. Has a huge list of different beers, with several hundred obscure beers not likely found anywhere else. This cafe is one of the last remaining old-fashioned brown cafes in Brussels. Beer: 25cl: €4.
- 11 Le Greenwich, Rue des Chartreux-Kartuizerstraat 7, ☎ . Another wood-panelled brown cafe where the only sound is the sound of the chess pieces on the chess board. Shh!
- 12 Brasserie Le Verschueren, Parvis de St-Gilles-Sint-Gillisvoorplein 11-13, ☎ . Something of an institution in hip Saint-Gilles. Under the watchful eye of the portly, bearded deep-voiced owner, hipsters, starving artists and local poodle-brandishing ladies mingle and drink endless beers and coffees. A beautiful woodwork football tableau shows the scores of some long lost second and third division teams from yesteryear.
- 13 Le Cirio, Rue de la Bourse-Beursstraat 18 (near the Bourse). A traditional café where time has come to a stop. Also offers some simple meals. Don't forget to visit the bathroom, with the original tiles and porcelain.
- 14 Le Corbeau, Sint-Michielsstraat 18 (North of Debrouckere, near City2 and Inno), ☎ . A bar with a strong selection of beer, Edgar Allen Poe themed, hence the name (The Raven). Known for the clientele who dance on the tables all around the bar. Reasonably priced, well trafficked.
Bars and clubs
- 15 De Walvis, Rue Dansaert 209. One of the very few hip and non-smoking bars in Brussels.
- 16 Crystal Lounge, Avenue de la Toison d'Or - Gulden-Vlieslaan 40. This prestige location, nestling in the heart of the Louise district in Brussels, offers a new style of Lounge Bar – Restaurant entirely dedicated to the well-being of its guests. The service, the musical atmosphere and the lighting... everything has been carefully thought out to offer a unique experience depending on the time of day: if the client chooses a table at midday, he will discover a totally different Crystal Lounge from the one he would find sitting at the bar in the evening, or in a salon in the middle of the afternoon.
- 17 Mappa Mundo, Place Saint Géry - Sint Goriksplein 2, ☎ . One of the many trendy bar/cafés located on the popular Place Saint Géry-Sint Goriksplein. You are assured good drinking in at least one of these establishments, which are very popular with younger Eurocrats, foreigners and interns, giving them a rather friendly cosmopolitan character.
- 18 Le Tavernier, 445 Chaussée de Boondael-Boondaalsesteenweg. While all the above locations are situated downtown in central Brussels, this location is the most popular bar on a strip of bars right by the Cimétière d'Ixelles-Begraafplaats van Elsene. It's location right off the student campus make it extremely popular with students who just want to kick back and have a few relaxed drinks. Note on certain nights there is also live music (making the establishment a lot more hectic). Worth a look especially towards the beginning and end of the academic year and in the summer (especially for their Jazzbreaks nights).
- Hydra-breaks. Organises "Hydra Sessions" and also "Next Level" and "Caliente" drum and bass parties at various locations. Hydra Sessions are major D&B nights with international headliners such as Pendulum, Spor, or Raiden, along national djs.
- Bulex nights. A monthly night out for many locals since more than 10 years, blending all kind of music in unexpected venues. Come as you are.
- 19 The Fuse, Rue Blaesstraat 208. A nightclub where it all started and is a Brussels institution. Be sure to check it out. Popular among the young people for its Electronic scene, often having Dubstep and Drum & Bass nights, such as Rockme On Electro, Cartel, F*ckin Beat or other parties. (Watch out for these other parties in nights spread out in other smaller clubs in Brussels).
- Botanique. The place for rock and pop. They do, on occasion, bring more experimental acts.
- The Botanique's Flemish counterpart, the Ancienne Belgique features the same mix of rock and pop with the occasional excursion into more unchartered, experimental territory.
- Recyclart. For electronica, noise-rock, electroclash, minimal techno as well as art exhibitions, social projects and installations.
- 20 Le You, Rue Duquesnoy, Duquesnoystraat 18. For young clubbers who just want to party, 2 minutes walking southeast from the Grand Place.
- Gays and Lesbians. The two biggest monthly gay clubs remain at La Demence at the Fuse. 100% House & Trance. Don't miss the crowded (but super small) Le Belgica bar, which plays house music. There are quite a lot of gay bars easily recognisable by their flag around the Grand Place area, especially on the street Marché Au Charbon/ Kolenmarkt.
Hotel rates in Brussels can vary widely (especially at the upper end) depending on how many EU bigwigs happen to be in town. Good deals are often available on weekends and during the summer when the bureaucrats flee on vacation.
- 1 2Go4 Hostel, Rue Emilie Jacquinstraat 99 (Metro De Brouckere), ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. Very clean and very modern and chic. Free wi-fi (ask at reception for a code). €20+.
- 2 Hostel Jacques Brel, Rue de la Sablonnière-Zavelputstraat 30 (Metro Botanique), ☎ , fax: . Has a reputation for being unclean and chaotic which may not be deserved. Reception closes early and there's a curfew between 01:00 and 06:00.
- 3 Génération Europe Youth Hostel, Rue de l'Eléphant-Olifantstraat 4 (Molenbeek-Saint-Jean), ☎ , fax: . Offers beds for budget traveling. A bit farther from city centre, not as safe area. €22.50+.
- 4 Youth Hostel Van Gogh (CHAB), Rue Traversière-Dwarsstraat 8 (Saint-Josse-ten-Noode), ☎ , fax: . Good location, near Brussels North Station, quick access to all train stations via metro and airport. Very clean reception, friendly staff, and lively bar with good ambience which stays open late. Rather basic double rooms (toilets in rooms with no doors). €19.00+.
- 6 Citadines Sainte-Catherine Brussels, 51, quai au Bois à Brûler, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. The residence is complete with an indoor garden and fountain. All 169 studios and apartments have a bathroom with separate toilet, a fully-equipped kitchen area with stove and WiFi. 5 apartments are equipped for people with reduced mobility.
- 7 Citadines Toison d'Or Brussels, 61-63, avenue de la Toison d'Or, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. The residence offers two types of stay: a rented flat or the prestige option. Each studio and apartment in the self-catering accommodation houses a bathroom with a separate toilet, a fully-equipped separate kitchen area
- 8 Hotel Bloom, Rue Royale-Koningsstraat 250, ☎ , fax: . A bloomy hotel with clean rooms. Free internet and breakfast. €100+.
- 9 Hotel Cafe Pacific, Rue Antoine Dansaertstraat 57, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Clean, small, cozy, romantic, great location. €120+.
- 10 Hotel NH Collection Brussels Centre, 7 Boulevard Adolphe Max, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. Four star. Traditional Hotel situated next to Place de Brouckereplaats. from €99.
- 11 Made in Louise, Rue Veydt, 40, ☎ . Recently renovated boutique hotel with 49 rooms in the commercial area of Louise Avenue-Louizalaan. €100+.
- 12 Sweet Brussels, 78, Avenue de Stalingradlaan, ☎ . Boxspring bed and breakfast. €85+.
- 13 Thon Hotel Brussels City Centre, Avenue du Boulevard-Boulevardlaan 17, ☎ , fax: . Major 4-star hotel in the centre of Brussels with 454 rooms. €69+.
- 14 Courtyard Brussels, Avenue des Olympiades 6, ☎ . Positioned between a housing and a commercial area, close to NATO and reasonably close to the airport. Quality furnished spacious rooms, cold breakfast is good but cooked breakfast questionable. Underground parking available.
- 15 Hotel Manos Stephanie, Chaussée de Charleroi, 28 B-1060 Brussels, ☎ . and the Manos Premier Hotel, 200m away €325.
- 16 Pullman Brussels Midi, Place Victor Horta 1, ☎ , fax: . Opened in 2013, the Pullman is an upscale business-oriented hotel right opposite the Brussels-Midi / Brussel-Zuid railway station
- 17 Sofitel Brussels Le Louise, Avenue de la Toison d'Or-Guldenvlieslaan 40 (Metro: Louise-Louiza), ☎ , e-mail: H1071@sofitel.com. Fully refurbished in 2008 and located in the Avenue Louise-Louizalaan area. Parking nearby. Eurostar station 5 minutes away. from €129.
- 18 Hotel Metropole Brussels. As the city's only 19th-century hotel still in operation, this 5-star landmark is in the historic centre. 313 rooms and suites, fitness center, 12 meeting rooms, award-winning gourmet restaurant l'Alban Chambon.
- 19 Stanhope Hotel, Rue du Commerce-Handelsstraat 9 (in the European district), ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 108 rooms including 2 apartments.
- 20 Radisson Blu Royal, Rue du Fosse-aux-Loups/Wolvengracht 47, ☎ . Three minutes' walk from the Grand Place and the Central Station. Free Wifi, fitness center with sauna and solarium, restaurant "Sea Grill" has two Michelin stars.
- 21 Le Chatelain All Suite Hotel, Rue du Châtelain-Kasteleinsstraat 17, ☎ . This luxury hotel offers spacious suites, a beautiful garden and a rooftop health and fitness centre. Located in the Avenue Louise-Louizalaan area. Rates at this 5 star hotel start at €89 per night.
- 22 Warwick Brussels, Rue Duquesnoy-Duquesnoystraat 5 (on the edge of the Grand Place), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Starting from €99.
This might come as a shock to the uninitiated, but Brussels is increasingly dealing with the reputation of being a rather unsafe city by Western European standards; though it is by no means as dangerous as certain cities in the USA or Latin America, Brussels does feel – and is in fact – more dangerous than other major European cities like Amsterdam or London.
Areas to watch out for
Generally speaking, tourists are unlikely to suffer too many safety issues in the city center and on major streets. On the other hand, some suburban neighborhoods have a reputation for crime and decay, though most travelers are unlikely to visit them. The neighborhoods of Schaarbeek, North Brussels, St-Josse, Marolles, Molenbeek and Anderlecht should be avoided at night if possible. Parts of Ixelles (especially Matongé and the Place Flagey) should also be approached with caution at night.
Most of East and South Brussels are safe, as is, rather unsurprisingly, the areas in and around the European quarter.
Pickpocketing is by far the most likely issue you will come across in Brussels. This activity is mostly carried out by teams in crowded tourist areas, train and metro stations, and in parks (even during the daytime). Keep in mind that those who commit these petty crimes are really professional. When being approached by strangers in Brussels at any time, be very vigilant and keep your belongings in close sight.
In the Parc de Bruxelles/Warandepark, between the Royal Palace and the Belgian Parliament, criminals have been noted threatening their victims with violence. If you are robbed, there is a police station right next to the gate in front of the Belgian Parliament (on the right side when leaving the park, hidden in the bushes) where experienced policemen will help you. Most of them speak French, Dutch and English well.
Some other parks that have seen a surge in criminal activity in recent years include the Laeken and Osseghem parks - both located near the Atomium –, and the Bois de la Cambre in southeastern Brussels. While strolling around these parks during the day should not be an issue, do stay away at night; these have become magnets for gangs and, increasingly, prostitutes and illegal immigrants.
If you are travelling by train, be aware that the areas surrounding the Brussels Midi-Zuid train station is one of the poorest in the city: it is not advised to wander there alone at night. The same applies to the Nord-Noord train station; do not venture too far away from the Northern Quarter (the business district that surrounds the Nord-Noord station), as several rough areas are located nearby, including the city's red light district.
- Fitness Palace, Rogier van der Weydenstraat 3 (Zuidpaleis (Palais du Midi)), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 10:30-22:00. €8 daypass, €6 offpeak.
At present, the capital city of Brussels hosts 185 embassies. Foreign affairs keeps an updated list of foreign representations.
- 5 Georgia, Rue Père Eudore Devroye 245, 1150 Woluwe Saint Pierre, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com.
- 6 Greece, Rue des Petits Carmes/Karmelietenstraat 10, ☎ , (Emergencies), fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Philippines, Avenue Moliere/Molierelaan 297, ☎ , , fax: .
- 10 Turkey, Rue Montoyer/Montoyerstraat 4, ☎ , , fax: , , e-mail: email@example.com. Mo–Fr 09:00–13:00 14:00–18:00.
- United Kingdom, Avenue d'Auderghem/Oudergemlaan 10, ☎ .
Visit the following Belgian towns and cities, all within a two-hour drive of Brussels:
- Kraainem - Bordering Brussels to the east. Architecture from the 16th to 18th century, primarily interesting for history and architecture enthusiasts.
- Tervuren - South-east of Brussels, on the outskirts of the Sonian Forest, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
- Waterloo - About 15 km south of Brussels. Visit where Wellington and Bluecher faced Napoleon for an ultimate battle that changed Europe's face forever. Further south, don't miss the Abbey of Villers-la-Ville.
- Sint-Pieters-Leeuw - About 10 km south of Brussels. Visit the nature reserve with Galloway cattle (not in winter) so near to Brussels
- Mechelen - About 35 km NE of Brussels.
- Leuven - About 30 km east of Brussels.
- Antwerp - About 55 km north of Brussels.
- Bruges - About 100 km NW of Brussels.
- Ghent - About 60 km NW of Brussels.
- Namur - About 60 km SE of Brussels.
- Tournai - About 90 km west of Brussels.
- Mons - About 70 km south of Brussels.
You can also get to any of the following 'foreign' cities from Brussels within 3 hours without the use of a plane:
Amsterdam/Rotterdam/The Hague/Utrecht (train or car), Luxembourg (car or train), Paris (train - longer by car), London (by train), Aachen (train or car), Maastricht (one hour by train) Lille (less than an hour by train or car), Cologne/Bonn (train or car)