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.
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 aforementioned institutions. Brussels is now bi-lingual, hosting and officially recognizing both 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.
When Brussels became the capital city of a new country in the 19th century, the old town was destroyed to make way for brand new ministries, palaces, schools, army barracks and office blocks constructed between 1880 and 1980. 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.
Brussels operates as a bilingual city where both French (85% of the population) and Dutch (Flemish) (15% of the population) are official languages. Thus all the streets have two names, which can sound totally different. For example, the Main Square is called both la Grand-Place and de Grote Markt. Although officially bilingual, French is undoubtedly Brussels' lingua franca. English is also widely understood, but not always widely spoken. Visitors should realize that language is a very divisive issue in Belgium (though this is not as noticeable in Brussels).
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. French speakers shouldn't have too much trouble understanding the local French. Dutch speakers may have some difficulty with the Belgian Dutch accent.
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 improving greatly. 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 sometimes 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 neighbor. 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).
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 you are very unlikely to encounter German speakers outside the German-speaking region in Belgium.
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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 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).
In the summer, average daily maximum temperatures rarely exceed 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 or even to be expected.
After October, temperatures drop off quite rapidly and winter months are damp and chilly. Snowfall is rare, and starts to melts fairly quickly, becoming slush on the ground. The winter visitor should be prepared for wet ground.
Brussels is split into nineteen communes or gemeenten (municipalities/boroughs):
- Bruxelles/Brussel - Brussels encompasses 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 as well as 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 technically 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.
- Use-it (Central Office), Galerie Ravenstein 25, 1000 Brussels (next to the Central Station). Mon-Sat: 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 2PM.
- Brussels International (Brussels Info Place), Rue Royale/Koningsstraat 2, ☎ +32 2 513-89-40, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 10AM-6PM.
- Brussels International (Tourism and Congress), Town Hall Grand-Place, ☎ +32 2 513-89-40, fax: +32 2 513-83-20, e-mail: email@example.com. 9AM-6PM; Sundays: winter 10AM-2PM, 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: Mon-Thu 8AM-5PM, Fri 8AM-8PM, Sat 9AM-6PM, Sun & holidays 9AM-2PM; Summer: Mon-Thu 8AM-8PM, Fri 8AM-9PM, Sat-Sun 8AM-8PM.
- Brussels International (Brussels Airport), Arrival hall. 8AM-9PM.
Brussels' main airport is Brussels Airport, (also referred to as Brussels National or Zaventem after the municipality it is in) (IATA: BRU). 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-Ataturk) 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: €8,50; Weekend return: €14,60; 1st class: €10.30) 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 chip credit 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.
Alternatively, Brussels can be reached by train much more cheaply via Zaventem village (dorp) station, which is within easy walking distance from the airport. At €2,90, the fare is three times cheaper than the ticket from Brussels Airport Station to the city. This is because the expensive Diabolo Surcharge on airport trains does not apply here; therefore, you can also travel this way using Go Pass or Rail Pass without need to pay Diabolo Surcharge. Zaventem dorp station is served by frequent local trains to all Brussels stations, taking roughly the same amount of time as the airport trains (15-20 minutes to Central Station). In order to reach Zaventem dorp station from the airport, go to the bus parking on level 0 and walk towards the end of it, where the airport bicycle lane starts. Follow the airport bicycle lane (marked in red) through the small car park and along the highway for about 700 metres until the first crosswalk at the roundabout. Cross the road to the left and walk into the street leading into the village (Vilvoordelaan). Keep going straight ahead for another 800 metres until you reach the railway station's back entrance.
Coming from Brussels, exit Zaventem station through the back entrance on the northern side (the left in the direction of driving from Brussels). Walk straight north on Vilvoordelaan for about 800 metres until you reach the airport highway overpass, where you cross under and turn right onto the airport bicycle lane indicated with 'Terminal'. Follow the 'Terminal' bicycle lane for about 700 metres along the highway until you arrive at the airport bus parking on level 0, where you can enter the Terminal.
- STIB Buses #12 and #21 (#12 operates M-F before 8PM and is an express, serving only major bus stops (although it is not any faster); #21 operates after 8PM 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 €4.00 from the vending machine next to the bus stop, or €6.00 on board. You can buy a Discover Brussels Card which costs €7.00 for a trip from the airport and unlimited metro usage for 24 hours. The card can be bought at the same "GO" ticket vending machine on the bus stop of #12/#21. Frequent travelers can buy a 10-trip ticket (€25.00), a monthly ticket (€49.00) or a yearly ticket (€514.00) for this line. The latter is valid on the entire STIB network. The "GO" ticket vending machine only accept coins or credit 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 €3.00 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.
- Tinker offers bus transfers to the city center; prices are calculated by seat and they work with early booking discount. Transfers are available from €9,95.
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 need to pay in coins, a change machine is nearby.
Brussels South Charleroi Airport
Brussels South Charleroi Airport (IATA: CRL) is located 42km 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 (€5.00 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.
- Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (IATA: CDG) has a direct high-speed train (TGV) connection to Brussels. TGV trains departing every three hours from CDG arrive at Brussels-Midi within c.a. 1.5 hours. The journey costs around EUR 60.
- Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (IATA: AMS) also has a high-speed train connection to Brussels-Midi, provided by Thalys. Ride time is also around 1.5h, but the frequency is hourly and the costs can be lower (even down to EUR 30) depending on the time of travel and booking.
- Cologne-Bonn Airport (IATA: CGN) is a little less than 2 hours by a direct train, departing 3 times a day and costing around EUR 50
- Antwerp Airport (IATA: ANR) 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 EUR 3 and the train ticket to Brussels can be had for just EUR 10, making the journey almost as cheap as getting to Brussels from Zaventem.
- Liège Airport (IATA: LGG) 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 three main railway stations:
- Bruxelles-Midi / Brussel-Zuid (Brussels South). This station is where the high-speed trains stop. There is a shower at Midi/Zuid located in the toilet near platforms 19-20 (between Origin'O and Quick).
- Bruxelles-Central / Brussel-Centraal.
- Bruxelles-Nord / Brussel-Noord (at Place Rogier).
- Bruxelles-Schuman / Brussel-Schuman (Right beneath the Berlaymont building of the European Commission, the station is used by all services going to Liege and Namur, as well as all international services to Luxembourg and the EuroCity services to Switzerland. Most of the trains stopping here also stop at either or all of the three above stations, continuing from Schuman to Brussel-Nord and then through Centraal to Midi/Zuid.).
- 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 sees 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 (1h52), Paris (1h20) and Amsterdam (2h00). 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/Luxemburg. An hourly Intercity train from Luxembourg (3h07, 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, ☎ +32 2 528-28-28. The Eurostar train line links Lille Europe (0h39, €22+), Ashford (1h38, €40+) and London St. Pancras (1h51, €40+) with Midi/Zuid. Some Eurostar tickets are also valid for domestic train travel within Belgium for 24h 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 both telephone and in-person bookings (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.
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 obviously cheaper, there are also "all Belgium" tickets), frequency, your age and occupation (students get discounts) and departure time (travel after 9AM and on weekends is usually cheaper).
Frequencies and approximate travel times from Brussels Central station to selected cities in Belgium:
- Antwerp - 6x/hour, 40min-1h15min
- Arlon - 1xhour, 2h50min
- Bruges - 2x/hour, below 1h10min (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-1h10min
- Kortrijk - 3x/hour 1h20min-1h45min (plus one extra connection per hour with a change Gent, 1h20min)
- Liege - 2x/hour, 1h-1h30min
- Namur - 2x/hour, 1h10min (+1/hour from Brussels-Schuman, same travel time)
- Ostend - 2x/hour, 1h20min (or with a change in Gent - 2x/hour, 1h40min)
- 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)
Note that 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. Do also keep 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.
- Eurolines, ☎ +32 2 274-1350, fax: +32 2 201-1140. 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
- Megabus, ☎ +44 871 2663333. Offers cheap bus travel from London, Paris, and Amsterdam to Brussels. In Brussels, the stop is outside the Central train station.
- iDBUS, ☎ +32 70 300-042. Runs a couch service between Paris, Lille and Brussels. Busses arrive at the Gare du Midi/Zuid Station.
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. Since June 2015, 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: 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 tickets are being phased out, but single journey (€2.10), 24 hour (€7.50), and Airport Line (€4.50) tickets are still available as paper tickets. 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 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 ticket on a MOBIB card, you hold the card in front of the white circle on the red card reader 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 the MOBIB card again when changing to another metro, tram or bus.
To validate a paper ticket, you use the orange validators. You insert the ticket with the arrow pointing down. A time stamp is printed on the back of the ticket and is also written on the magnetic strip. A single journey ticket remains valid for one hour, but you must still validate the ticket again when changing to another metro, tram or bus. The orange validators are being removed, so even long buses and trams may have only one orange validator; at metro stations there's always one gate which still has an orange validator.
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.
- Grand Place-Grote Markt. Surrounded by the city tower and a range of beautiful 300 year old buildings. In the evening, surrounded by bright lumination, it is simply ravishing. Some evenings a music and light show is provided with the buildings serving as a canvas. Have a "gaufre de Liège-Luikse wafel" here (Belgian waffle with caramelized sugar)—the best ones are available from the little shops off the northeast corner of the Grand Place-Grote Markt. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
- Manneken Pis. Just a short walk from the Grand Place-Grote Markt 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.}
- Parc du Cinquantenaire-Jubelpark. Definitely check out the Arc de Triomphe-Triomfboog on the east side of town. It's in the Parc du Cinquantenaire-Jubelpark. It is possible to go up to the terrasse 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. Take Metro line 1 east, exit Schuman and walk east or exit Mérode and walk west.
- 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), ☎ +32 2 475-4777. Open daily from 10AM till 6PM. Ticket Sale ends at 5:30PM. 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 recent 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 11PM At night, the nine spheres are lit up with 2,970 lights that offer a very special show. To enrich your visit: audioguides in EN (but also in F, NL, ES, IT and RU) are available at the cash desk for €2. Visio-guides are also available (€2) for the deaf and hard of hearing people. In August 2010, a zip-line was 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.
- Palais de Justice/Justitiepaleis (Law Courts of Brussels), Place Poelaert/Poelaert Plein, ☎ +32 2 508-64-10. 08:00-17:00 Mon-Fri. Larger than St. Peter's basilica in Rome, it cost 45 million Belgian Francs to construct in 1866. Free.
- Basiliek van het Heilig Hart / Basilique du Sacré Coeur (Basilica Koekelberg), Basiliekvoorplein/Parvis de la Basilique, ☎ +32 2 421-16-60, 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.
- Palais Royale/Koninklijk Paleis (Royal Palace), Place des Palais/Paleizenplein, ☎ +32 2 551-20-20. Royal Palace with a park out front. Free.
- 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.
- Mini-Europe, ☎ +32 2 478-0550. Hosts a set of scale models of famous European structures. €12.90 Adults; €9.70 under 12.
- Thieffry metro station. 24h open. Famous metro station named after Belgian WWI air ace Edmond Thieffry. Contains some interesting sculptures of modern art. €2.50 Adults; €0.80 under 12.
- Statue of Europe. Also referred to as Unity in Peace, this sculpture symbolises peace through European integration, while at the same time aiming to demonstrate the motto of the European Union (EU), United in Diversity. It is located in the garden of Convent Van Maerlant (the library of the European Commission) Van Maerlant street, in the European Quarter of Brussels.
- Red Light District. 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 actually get a drink in there though. Despite heavy police presence, it still remains a fairly seedy area, not the kind of place where you'd want to walk alone at night.
Museums and galleries
- Musée du Cinquantenaire - Jubelpark Museum, Parc du Cinquantenaire-Jubelpark 10, ☎ +32 2 741-7211. Open Tu-Fr 9:30AM-5PM, Sa-Su and holidays 10AM-5PM, closed Mo and various holidays, last entry 4PM. Part of the Musées Royaux d'Art et d'Histoire (MRAH) - Koninklijke Musea voor Kunst en Geschiedenis (KMKG) (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. Adults €8.
- 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, ☎ +32 2 508-3211. Museum of Historical Art: Tues-Sun 10AM-noon and 1-5PM; Museum of Modern Art (Magritte Museum) Mar: Tue-Sun 10AM-1PM and 2-5PM. 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." €8.00 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.
- Musées d'Extrême-Orient - Musea van het Verre Oosten, Avenue Van Praetlaan 44 (Tram: 3 or 23 (Araucaria stop). Bus: 53, De Lijn 230, 231 et 232 (De Wand stop)), ☎ +32 2 268-16-08. Tu-Fr 9:30AM-5:30PM, Sa-Su 10AM-5PM, closed Mo. Intriguing complex of three buildings in the Laaken area, not far from the Atomium. They comprise a Japanese tower, a Chinese pavilion, and a museum of Japanese art. The architecture and decor may seem over the top to today's tastes, but there are some outstanding examples of Chinese export porcelain, and rotating exhibitions of Japanese artefacts from the Edo period (1600-1868). €4 adults, €3 students, €1.50 children.
- Musée BELvue - BELvue Museum, Place des Palais-Paleizenplein 7, ☎ +32 70 22-0492. Tuesday to Sunday, from 10AM-6PM (June to September), from 10AM-5PM (October to May). Features Belgium's history. Before it became a museum, the former 18th century luxury hotel was a royal residence. BELvue: €3, Coudenberg: €4, BELvue + Coudenberg: €5.
- Natural Sciences Museum of Belgium, Rue Vautier-Vautierstraat 29 (near Luxembourg station), ☎ +32 2 627-4238. Open: daily from 9:30AM-4:45PM; Saturday, Sunday and during school holidays (except the Summer break), from 10AM-6PM; during the Summer break daily from 9:30AM-4:45PM daily and in weekends from 10AM-6PM. The museum is well-known for its famous collection of iguanodons (dinosaurs discovered in a coal-mine in Belgium). The dinosaur collection has been refreshed in October 2007 and includes discovery activities for the children. The other parts of the museum are also interesting, as an exhibit of all animals that live in our houses and a collection of mammals. Price between €4.50 and €7, free the first Wednesday of each month as of 1PM.
- Hortamuseum, Rue Américaine 25, Saint-Gilles/Amerikastraat 25, Sint-Gillis (tram 81, tram 92 (place Janson), bus 54), ☎ +32 2 543-0490, fax: +32 2 538-7631. Open daily 2PM-5:30PM, closed Monday. 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.
- Royal Museum for Central Africa (RMCA), Leuvensesteenweg 13, Tervuren (Take tram 44 through at Montgomery and get off at terminus after a 20 minutes enjoyable trip through woodland patches. The museum is a 300 m walk away), ☎ +32 2 7695211, fax: +32 2 7695242. Tue-Fri 10-17, Sat&Sun 10-18. The Museum is home to some truly remarkable collections. Its collection of ethnographic objects from Central Africa is in fact the only one of its kind in the world. It also contains the entire archives of Henry Morton Stanley which are of great historical value. The actual state of the museum makes it some kind of "museum in the museum" Apart the new (or newish) sections about the Congo River and the colonial period (with some ambiguous statements about the Belgian role), the structure of the museum seems to have been "frozen" 50 years ago. Casing, labels (largely almost nonexistent or vanished), (dis)organization of the collection in homogenous topics, especially in the ethnographic section, reflect those of a museum conceived a century ago and never updated since. Labels, where available, are in Dutch and French only in the permanent exhibition. In fact, the museum will close from 8/7/2012 to mend these issues and will reopen after major renovations of buildings and exhibitions about 2015. The audio-guided farewell tour "Uncensored" (€7, including permanent exhibition access) temporary exhibition (largely embedded inside the permanent exhibition tour) digs deep in the history of the museum. In some ways, it is a pity that in the future we will get a more enjoyable and interesting museum, but we will soon loose this unique remainder of the old age of museums. €4 adults, €1.50 young people (13-17), free for children under 12.
- Belgian Comic Strip Center (Centre Belge de la Bande Dessinée, Belgisch Centrum van het Beeldverhaal), Rue des Sables-Zandstraat 20, ☎ +32 2 219-1980, fax: +32 2 219-23-76, e-mail: email@example.com. Tue-Sun 10AM-6PM. 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), ☎ +32 2 507-8370. A history of film-making. Free to look around; classic and cult films are shown at low prices.
- 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), ☎ +32 2 736-4165. 10:00-18:00 (4/1-9/30) 10:00-17:00 (10/1-3/31). 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.
- Musée Royal de l'Armée - Koninklijk Museum van het Leger en van de Militaire Geschiedenis (Belgian Army Museum and Museum of Military History), Parc du Cinquantenaire-Jubelpark 3 (Metro: Merode or Schuman Train Station (Line 1)/Train: Merode or Schuman Train Station/Bus: 20, 28, 36, 67, 80/Tram: 81), ☎ +32 2 737-7809. 9:00-16:45. The Belgian Army Museum and Museum of Military History occupies the north wing of the Palais Cinquantenaire. It provides an overview of the development of military technology and of the major campaigns fought on Belgian soil. 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€.
- Musical Instruments Museum (Musée des Instruments de Musique or Muziekinstrumentenmuseum), Montagne de la Cour-Hofberg 2, ☎ +32 2 545-01-30. Open Tu-Fr 9:30AM-16:45PM, Sa-Su 10AM-16:45PM. 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.
- Musée Magritte Museum, 1 Place Royale-Koningsplein 1, ☎ +32 2 508-32-11, fax: +32 2 508-32-32. Tuesday to Sunday: from 10AM-5PM, Wednesday until 8PM Closed Mondays, January 1st, 2nd Thursday of January, May 1st, November 1st and 11th, December 25th. 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.
- Musée Juif de Belgique - Joods Museum van België, 21 Rue des Minimes-Miniemenstraat 21, ☎ +32 2 512-19-63. Everyday except Mondays from 10AM-5PM. Dedicated to the craft, folk art, culture and religion of the Jewish people in Belgium. Standard rate: €5, Concession €3.
- Train World, Prinses Elisabethplein 5, Schaarbeek (in and next to the Schaarbeek train station). 10:00 - 17:00, closed on Mondays. Belgian train museum, newly opened in September 2015 10€.
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.
- European Parliament, Rue Wiertz/Wiertzstraat 60 (European Quarter), ☎ +32 2 284-21-11, fax: +32 2 284-35-30. Mon-Thu at 10.00h and 15.00h; Fri at 10.00h only; Closed official holidays. Multimedia-guided tours in all official EU languages. Don't forget to bring an ID card/driver License with you. Free.
- European Commission, Rue Archimède/Archimesstraat 73. Guided tours not available. Presentations available for groups of 15 or more, booked in advance.
- European Council, Rue de la Loi / Wetstraat 175, ☎ +32 2 281-2140, fax: +32 2 281-6609. Guided tours not available. Presentations available for groups of 15 or more, booked in advance.
- Cantillon Brewery, Rue Gheude - Gheudestraat 56, ☎ +32 2 521-49-28. Monday to Friday from 8:30AM till 5PM; Saturday from 10AM-5PM; 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).
- Bibliotheca Wittockiana, Rue du Bemelstraat 21, ☎ +32 2 770-5333. 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.
- 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.), ☎ +32 2 515-3108. Open from 1:30PM-7PM on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays 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.
- 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.).
- The imposing modern city hall is open to visitors.
- The town’s main church (Saint Peter) was 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.
- 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.
- Abbaye de Forest. 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
- Church of Saint Augustine. A white art deco church in the middle of a roundabout
- Audi factory. 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.
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). Both of these 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 11AM & 2PM. 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, ☎ +32 484 89-89-36, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. From April to October daily at 10AM. From July to September daily at 10AM and 3PM. Daily bike tours in English allow you to see the main sights in just 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.
- Visit Brussels Line. 10AM-4PM. 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, ☎ +32 2 513-77-44, fax: +32 2 502-58-69, 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, ☎ +32 2 219-33-45, fax: +32 2 219-86-75, 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. 2h walking tours €10; 3h 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 subtitled in French and Dutch (on cinema listings look for 'OV').
- Actors Studio, Petite Rue des Bouchers - Kleine Beenhouwersstraat, Brussels 1000, ☎ +32 2 5121696. 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. Is part of the Centre for Fine Arts and 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. Is Brussels' International Fantastic Film Festival (film fantastique in French). This two-weeks 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. Is 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.
Very few shops in Brussels open before 10AM, and most open about 10:30-11AM. 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 €5.05 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, ☎ +32 2 514-30-17. 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.
- 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
- 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. every day from 7AM-2PM. This flea market offers everything from the weird to the wonderful at rock-bottom prices.
- Marché du Midi, Midi/Zuid station. Sun 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.
- 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.
- Brüsel, 100 Boulevard Anspachlaan. Right in the center and one of the most up to date stores when it comes to contemporary comics.
- Filigranes, 39 Avenue des Arts-Kunstlaan. open 7 days a week. the largest bookshop in Brussels, features a small bar/café inside and quite often live music.
- Sterling Books, Wolvengracht 23, ☎ +32 22 23 62 23. 10:00-18:00. Closed on Sundays. One of the most popular English bookshops in downtown Brussels.
- 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.
One shall however always bear in mind that it is important to check the prices of food items before ordering, just like what people should do 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.
Visitors should 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 just €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.
- 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 acceptés. 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Arcadi, Rue d'Aremberg-Aremberglaan 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 current 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.
- Sel et Sucre Creperie - Glacier, Avenue des Celtes-Keltenlaan, 4 (near Merode subway station, Parc du Cinquantenaire-Jubelpark and the Arc de Triomphe-Triomfbloog). 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-Triomfbloog.
- Snack Pizzeria Porte de Halle, Avenue Henri Jaspar-Henri Jasparlaan, 134 (directly across the city ring from Porte de Halle-Halsepoort), ☎ +32 2 534-0051. 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.
- 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:
- Si Bemol, Bloemenstraat-Rue aux Fleurs 20, ☎ +32 2 219-63-78. 7PM on till usually 5AM, closed Sundays. Small but nice, friendly, of the beaten path local place. Lots of dedicated pictures on the wall from French and Belgian performing artists from the 60s and 70s. Basic honest Brussels and Belgian fare.
- Aux Armes de Bruxelles, Rue des Bouchers-Beenhouwerstraat 13, ☎ +32 2 511-5550. Closed Mondays. Basic honest food, including some very decent moules. Crowded, although worth the wait.
- Chez Léon, ☎ +32 2 511-1415. 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.
- Scheltema, Rue des Dominicains-Predikherenstraat 7, ☎ +32 2 512-2084. Specializes in fresh and tasty seafood.
- Au Pré Salé, 20, Rue de Flandre-Vlaamsesteenweg (near St Catherine square), ☎ +32 2 513-6545. 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.
- Falstaff, 19, Rue Henri Mausstraat 19 (by the Bourse-Beurs). open every day until 2AM. Has cheap and decent food. around €20-30.
- Le Beau Soleil, Rue Joseph Lebeaustraat 7 (Sablon area). 9AM-5PM (Mo-Fr), 9AM-6PM (Sat,Sun), closed on Wednesday. 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.
- Les Brassins, Rue Keyenveld-Keienveldstraat 36, Ixelles-Elsene, ☎ +32 2 512-6999. 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.
- 'T Kelderke, Grand'Place, 15 Grote Markt, ☎ +32 2 513-7344. 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.
- Les Chapeliers, Rue des Chapeliers 1-3 Hoedenmakersstraat, ☎ +32 2 513-6479. 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:
- Lune de Miel, ☎ +32 2 513-9181. Some very tasty Thai and Vietnamese dishes served in a fine decor.
- Shamrock, ☎ +32 2 511-4989. Its exterior and misleading name belie a great range of individually cooked Indian food. Get to know the owner and he'll treat you like an old friend.
- Thanh-Binh, ☎ +32 2 513-8118. 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.
- Restaurant Vismet, Place Sainte-Catherinplaats 23, ☎ +32 2 218-85-45. A small bistro that really gets busy after 19:00. Very good seafood. The handwritten menu can throw foreigners off, but everything on the menu(s) are top notch. Appetizers: around €15; Main dishes: €18-30.
- Jacques, Quai aux Briques-Baksteenkaai 44, ☎ +32 2 513-2762. An authentic old bistro, with a charming kitsch decor. Very good fish.
- Viva M'Boma, Vlaanderenstraat-Rue de Flandre 17, ☎ +32 2 512-1593. For real Belgian home cooking. Terrace in the summer.
- Brussels Resto, Place Sainte Catherine-Catherinplaats 3, ☎ +32 2 502-35-73. 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:
- Madou's Provence, Rue de la Presse-Drukpersstraat 23, ☎ +32 2 217-3831. Closed Saturday noon and Sundays. Innovative southern French cuisine at affordable prices.
- 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.
- Dolma: Buddhist cafe/wholefood shop on Chausée d'Ixelles-Elsensesteenweg (It is on the right hand side, just before Place Flagey, on your way out of town).
- Les Brassins. Belgian-French cuisine, tasty and a real bargain.
- Belga Queen. 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.
- La Belle Maraichere, Place Sainte-Catherineplaats 11, ☎ +32 2 512-9759. closed We-Th. A classic fish restaurant. Very fresh fish and good old traditional cooking.
- Comme Chez Soi, Place Rouppe/Rouppeplaats, ☎ +32 2 512-29-21. Classic Michelin-starred restaurant.
- Les Larmes du Tigres (Tears of the Tiger), ☎ +32 2 512-1877. Justitiepaleis, de Wynantsstraat 21, closed Tu. 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.
Forget about eating out if you're strictly vegan. There are some vegetarian restaurants that might cater without animal products though:
- Dolma, ☎ +32 2 6498981. A very nice vegetarian buffet Monday till Saturday from 19 till 21h. Chaussée d'Ixelles-Elsenesteenweg 329.
- La Tsampa. An organic/vegetarian shop annex restaurant, closed on Saturday and Sunday. Rue de Livourne-Livornostraat 109.
- L'Element Terre (in Ixelles-Elsene). L'Element Terre features an eclectic menu and wonderful, attentive service. Chaussée de Waterloo-Waterloosesteenweg 465.
Brussels currently has only one kosher restaurant, Balthazar Kosher Restaurant, a meat restaurant located near the European Parliament.
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.
A special drink only found in Brussels is the "half-en-half" ("half and half"). It's a mixture of white wine and champagne.
- 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.
- À La Bécasse, Rue de Taborastraat 11, ☎ +32 2 511-0006. 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.
- À La Mort Subite. Rue Montagne-aux-Herbes Potagères-Bergstraat 7. This is the Brussels cafe par excellence. Opened since 1927, the decor remains unchanged but still retains its charm. A warm welcome greets the eclectic clientile of which La Mort remains a firm favorite.
- Bier Circus, 57, Rue de l'Enseignement-Onderrichtsstraat, ☎ +32 2 218-0034. Open Tuesday to Friday, 1200-1430 & 1800-2300; Saturday 1800-2300. 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, ☎ +32 2 502-9980. Open daily noon-midnight (Fri/Sat until 1AM). 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 8PM.
- The Floris. Right across from Delirium Cafe, famous for its absinthe.
- 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.
- The 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.
- Delirium Cafe, Impasse de la Fidelité-Getrouwheidsgang 4A (on a pedestrian only sidestreet), ☎ +32 2 514-4434. 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.
- Chez Moeder Lambic, Rue Savoiestraat 68 (behind Saint Gilles-Sint-Gillis city hall), ☎ +32 2 503 60 68. 11AM-1AM weeknights; 11AM-2AM weekends. 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.
- Le Greenwich, Rue des Chartreux-Kartuizerstraat 7, ☎ +32 2 511-4167. Another wood-panelled brown cafe where the only sound is the sound of the chess pieces on the chess board. Shh!
- Brasserie Verschueren, Parvis de St-Gilles-Sint-Gillisvoorplein 11-13, ☎ +32 2 539-40-68. 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.
- 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.
- Le Corbeau, Sint-Michielsstraat 18 (North of Debrouckere, near City2 and Inno), ☎ +32 2 219-5246. 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
- De Walvis. One of the very few hip and non-smoking bars in Brussels. Dansaert street.
- Crystal Lounge. 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.
- Mappa Mundo, Place Saint Géry-Sint Goriksplein 2, ☎ +32 2 514-3555. 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Le You. For young clubbers who just want to party, 2 minutes walking due South-East from the Grande 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.
- 2Go4 Hostel, Rue Emilie Jacquinstraat 99 (Metro De Brouckere), ☎ +32 2 219-30-19, fax: +32 2 219-30-09, e-mail: email@example.com. Very clean and very modern and chic. Free wi-fi (ask at reception for a code). €20+.
- Hostel Jacques Brel, Rue de la Sablonnière-Zavelputstraat 30 (Metro Botanique), ☎ +32 2 218-01-87, fax: +32 2 217-20-05. Has a reputation for being unclean and chaotic which may not be deserved. Reception closes early and there's a curfew between 1 and 6AM.
- Génération Europe Youth Hostel, Rue de l'Eléphant-Olifantstraat 4 (Molenbeek-Saint-Jean), ☎ +32 2 410-38-58, fax: +32 2 410-39-05. Offers beds for budget traveling. A bit farther from city centre, not as safe area. €22.50+.
- Youth Hostel Van Gogh (CHAB), Rue Traversière-Dwarsstraat 8 (Saint-Josse-ten-Noode), ☎ +32 2 217-01-58, fax: +32 2 219-79-9. 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+.
- New Hotel Charlemagne. A 4-star hotel which combines modernity and comfort.
- Citadines Sainte-Catherine Brussels, 51, quai au Bois à Brûler, ☎ +32 2 221-14-11, fax: +32 2 221-15-99, 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.
- Citadines Toison d'Or Brussels, 61-63, avenue de la Toison d'Or, ☎ +32 2 543-53-53, fax: +32 2 543-53-00, 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
- Hotel Bloom, Rue Royale-Koningsstraat 250, ☎ +32 2 220-66-11, fax: +32 2 217-84-44. A bloomy hotel with clean rooms. Free internet and breakfast. €100+.
- Hotel Cafe Pacific, Rue Antoine Dansaertstraat 57, ☎ +32 2 213-00-80, fax: +32 2 213-00-83, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Clean, small, cozy, romantic, great location. €120+.
- Hotel NH Atlanta, 7 Boulevard Adolphe Max, ☎ +32 2 2170120, fax: +32 2 2173758, e-mail: email@example.com. Four star. Traditional Hotel situated next to Place de Brouckereplaats. €82+.
- Louise Hotel Brussels, Rue Veydtstraat, 40. 3 star. Budget boutique hotel with 49 rooms in the commercial area of Louise Avenue-Louizalaan. €60+.
- Thon Hotel Brussels City Centre, Avenue du Boulevard-Boulevardlaan 17, ☎ +32 2 205-15-11, fax: +32 2 201-15-15. Major 4-star hotel in the centre of Brussels with 454 rooms. €69+.
- Courtyard Brussels, Avenue des Olympiades 6, ☎ +32 2 337 08 08. 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.
- Hotel Manos Stephanie. €325.
- Pullman Brussels Midi, Place Victor Horta 1, ☎ +32 2 52-89-800, fax: +32 2 52-89-801. Opened in 2013, the Pullman is an upscale business-oriented hotel right opposite the Brussels-Midi / Brussel-Zuid railway station
- Sofitel Brussels Le Louise, Avenue de la Toison d'Or-Guldenvlieslaan 40 (Metro: Louise-Louiza), ☎ +32 2 514-22-00, 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.
- 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.
- Stanhope Hotel, Rue du Commerce-Handelsstraat 9 (in the European district), ☎ +32 2 506-91-11, fax: +32 2 512-17-08, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 108 rooms including 2 apartments.
- Radisson Blu Royal, Rue du Fosse-aux-Loups/Wolvengracht 47, ☎ +32-2-2192828. 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.
- Le Chatelain All Suite Hotel, Rue du Châtelain-Kasteleinsstraat 17, ☎ +32 2 646-00-55. 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.
Brussels is generally a safe city. Some suburban neighbourhoods have a poor reputation, but most travellers are unlikely to visit them. The neighbourhoods of Schaarbeek, Brussels North, St-Josse, Marollen, Anneessens, Molenbeek and Anderlecht should be avoided at night if possible.
However, pickpockets, sometimes in teams, operate in crowded tourist areas, and the train and metro stations (particularly at night) as well as parks (even in daytime) attract drug addicts and other shady types. Travellers should be particularly alert for distractions such as being asked for the time or directions and having attention diverted from their hand or shopping bag. Particularly popular at the moment seems to be the "soccer move distraction", when they suddenly stick their foot between your legs as if they are playing an imaginary soccer game. Avoid travelling with laptops at any time.
In the Parc de Bruxelles/Warandepark, between the Royal Palace and the Belgian Parliament, criminals have been noted threatening their victims with violence. Do not leave your bags unwatched but keep them close to your body. If you are robbed, there is a police office 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.
In addition to the above advice be aware of Brussels Midi-Zuid train station, one of the poorest areas in the city: it is not advised to wander there alone at night.
In train stations, especially the Nord-Noord train station, scam artists show up in groups trying to distract you with some questions and steal your belongings. They are really professional, and business travelers are often targeted. When being approached by strangers in Brussels at any time, be very vigilant and keep your belongings in close sight.
- Fitness Palace, Rogier van der Weydenstraat 3 (Zuidpaleis (Palais du Midi)), ☎ +32 2 5132616, e-mail: email@example.com. 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.
- Andorra, Rue de la Montagne/Bergstraat 10, ☎ +32 2 513-28-06, fax: +32 2 513-07-41, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Austria, Place du Champ de Mars 5, ☎ +32 2 2890-700, fax: +32 2 5136641, e-mail: email@example.com. Mo–Fr 10:00–12:30.
- Greece, Rue des Petits Carmes/Karmelietenstraat 10, ☎ +32 2 545-5500, +32 2 545-5501 (Emergencies), fax: +32 2 545-5585, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Turkey, Rue Montoyer/Montoyerstraat 4, ☎ +32 2 5134095, +32 2 5061120, fax: +32 2 5112550, +32 2 5140748, e-mail: email@example.com. Mo–Fr 09:00–13:00 14:00–18:00.
Visit the following Belgian cities, all within a two-hour drive of Brussels:
- 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)