We’re going to be honest with you when we tell you that Brussels isn’t Europe’s most exciting town. These days it’s best known for being the headquarters of the European Union and NATO, and all those bureaucrats may be important, but they don’t make for a super fun group with which to party. The lack of a major university in central Brussels also contributes to its reputation of being a bit of a grandmother of a city. But there are actually plenty of reasons to visit Belgium’s handsome capital and plenty to keep you busy for a few days at least.
What To Do
The Grand Place or main town square in the center of Brussels is one of the most impressive in all of Europe. The architecture is stunning and traditional and if the weather is decent there is plenty to keep you occupied just in the square itself. Many evenings they have a music and light show in the square, which is a nice contrast to the traditional look during the day. A short walk away is the famous Manneken Pis statue of a little boy, often dressed in costumes, taking a leak into a fountain.
Many people think Belgium is home to the world’s finest beers. Forget about the ubiquitous Stella Artois and try a few of the monk-brewed craft beers that are sometimes flavored and can contain up to 12% alcohol. Belgium is also home to some of the world’s finest chocolate and you’ll have plenty of chances to sample it for yourself, including a small chocolate museum right in Grand Place square.
The center of Brussels is a very pleasant place to wander around, but the city has many interesting sights around its edges. This makes it a great place to take a half-day or daylong bus tour. You can see the EU and NATO buildings as well as enjoy/endure a demonstration and sales pitch at a traditional lace factory.
Brussels is centrally located so it’s a great stop for Eurail Pass holders. It’s a convenient hub between Amsterdam, Paris, and Cologne. If you are flying into Brussels you’ll book into Zaventern Airport (code: BRU), which is just outside the city and easily accessible by an affordable 15-minute train ride. Brussels isn’t a major hub so you should check prices there, but also check prices into nearby Amsterdam or Paris Airports for possible deals.
Where To Stay
The center of the city is fairly compact. There are many hostels in Brussels and loads of hotels in Brussels in all price ranges. The public transportation system is very good, but it’s still probably worth it to pay a little extra to stay near the center rather than save a bit of money and end up spending hours each day commuting back and forth to the things you intend to see.