Brussels, Capital city of Belgium
Brussels is a city with dual personalities. It is where Flemish meets French, hip meets historic and beautiful meets bizarre. The Belgian capital is filled with contradictions, contrasts, and intrigue, coming together to create a multicultural experience in a true historic heirloom. Art nouveau architecture and monumental edifices outline the city’s casual atmosphere, where cafe culture reigns and locals practice a laissez-faire attitude.
Although religious turmoil destroyed much of the city’s religious architecture in the late 18th century, the industrial boom of the 19th century brought splendid architectural experiments to Brussels. New buildings reflected splendid Art Nouveau design, characterized by glass and iron formed in sinuous lines, floral motifs and organic tendrils. One of the best examples of the aesthetic is the Old England Building, home of the eclectic Museum of Musical Instruments. Another stunning specimen of Art Nouveau style is the Maison Cauchie, one of the most beautiful homes in Brussels now protected as a national monument.
Brussels is also known for elevating sweet treats into an art form. One of the greatest national delights is chocolate, from dark to white, coated or patterned, solid or filled with a dizzying array of decadent treats. You can find delicious goodies nearly anywhere in the city, including at national chains like Neuhaus or Corne Port Royal, but the best delights are crafted individually at boutique chocolatiers like Planete Chocolate. Enjoy window shopping at the boutique stores; the experience of choosing among so many options is almost as sweet as eating the treats themselves.
Besides the chocolate, one of the highlights of the city is the magnificent Grand Place, the central square of Brussels. Hidden away in the heart of the old town, the place can only be accessed through narrow side alleys that lead to charming cafes, cellar restaurants, museums and the beautiful town hall building. Visit at different times of the day to watch the Grand Place transform in the different sunlight. No matter when you visit, you will see locals milling about and visitors simply absorbing its beauty.
Not all of Brussels’ treasures are as conspicuous as the Grand Place. The Musée Magritte, a tribute to Rene Magritte, houses an outstanding collection of the surrealist master’s personal items in a completely unremarkable, yellow-brick house. The outside may be nothing special, but the inside of the museum is a treasure trove of famous paintings and an incredibly interesting peek of the artist’s personal life.
Other Brussels museums
Other remarkable museums include the Musée d’Art Ancien, which houses works by Flemish primitives, the Musée d’art Moderne, a subterranean gallery showcasing art from the 19th and 20th centuries and the Musée Royaux des Beaux-Arts, one of the country’s premier collections of modern and ancient art.
Rue des Bouchers
Brussels, like many European cities, is best explored on foot. Many of the city’s cobbled streets have been pedestrianized, including the lively Rue des Bouchers. Seafood restaurants and bustling cafes line the famous street, tempting travelers and locals alike with marine delicacies and craft beers.
The Place Flagey is also ideal for an afternoon of walking and exploring. The recently revitalized square is the hip center of Brussels, housing concert venues, bars, brasseries, restaurants and cinemas. Stop by Frites Flagey to sample the city’s best fries and enjoy the juxtaposition of modern and historic Belgian style from a bench at the nearby Bois de la Cambre.
5 Reasons Why Brussels is the Ultimate Romantic Getaway
With its elegant buildings, high quality cuisine, scenic walks, café culture and world-renowned chocolate; if ever there was a city that should be high on the list of romantic weekend break destinations it’s Brussels.
That’s right, the same Brussels that is famous for being the heartland of Eurocratic red tape is also an ideal romantic retreat. Perhaps it’s down to its part-French heritage, but step away from the stuffy European Parliament and you will find a city that’s full of charm, character, elegance and, well, romance.
Still don’t believe me? Here are five reasons why you should hop on the Eurostar and head to Brussels for a romantic weekend away.
1. Small and intimate
Unlike Paris, Brussels is a small city and as such it is an intimate and friendly one. Most tourist attractions can be easily got to on foot, while it still retains many ‘big city’ benefits, such as good restaurants and numerous art galleries.
On top of this, Brussels is a city where you can just spend a day exploring its parks and squares. Consider heading to the Parc de Bruxelles; this old, formal park is located in the center of the city and is a perfect place to enjoy a romantic stroll. Scattered throughout the park are classic statues and fountains, plus it offers great views of the Palais Royal and Palais de la Nation.
2. Scenic streets
Many of the great European cities have a number of architecturally significant buildings that give them an individual character. Even here Brussels stands its ground. Forget any preconceptions of drab parliament-style constructions, instead Brussels is home to a range of beautifully designed buildings, from 18th Century Palaces to the Art Deco, Brussels packs many architectural movements into its small city.
What Brussels is most know for, however, is Art Nouveau. At the turn of the 19th Century wealthy merchants and artists began renovating their homes in the Art Nouveau style, and roughly 500 of these buildings are still standing today. With its abundance of decorative flowery details, along with its feminine curved lines and influences from nature, Art Nouveau is arguably one of the most romantic architectural movements.
3. Chocolate paradise
Along with flowers and jewelry, chocolates are a traditional romantic gift and Belgium is world-famous for its chocolates. In fact chocolate-making is so highly revered in the country that it has strict rules about the ingredients and processes that can be used. As a result, it will probably come as no surprise that Brussels has some of the best (and most expensive) chocolate shops on the planet. Not only can you sample and buy the confectionery, but there are also museums dedicated to it. For those looking to take their passion for chocolate one step further, there are even workshops and demonstrations that show you the art of chocolate making.
4. Café culture
From elegant and expensive restaurants to old-fashioned cafes, Brussels has a range of eating options that will suit all types of budgets and tastes. You will find a variety of international cuisines available in Brussels, including French, Italian and Turkish. That said, you cannot go to Brussels without sampling some of the local cuisine, and there are lots of restaurants and cafes in the city that serve a number of traditional Belgium dishes.
Belgium cuisine is largely influenced by that of its neighbors, France and Holland, and as such it has the reputation of being as high quality as French cuisine, but without the pretention. Fish and meat make up the bulk of traditional Belgium dishes, however fries, which are thought to originate from the country, are also very popular. Another internationally popular Belgium dish is waffles and they are sometimes eaten as a street snack, as well as desserts.
If the romance of Brussels has gotten to you and you want to buy your partner an extra special gift, or perhaps even a proposal is on the horizon, then head to Diamondland. Although located in Antwerp, it is less than a 50 minute drive from Brussels and well worth the trip, especially if you’re looking for the perfect diamond. Not only will you be able to choose from a vast range of settings, stones and cuts, but you will also be able to watch as your ring is being made there and then.
Even for those not looking to splash out just yet, a visit to Diamondland might give you some future inspiration.
With just over a million citizens, Brussels is centrally located in Belgium and straddles the border between the Dutch and French speaking sides of Belgium.
French is the predominant language in Brussels although Dutch was historically the chief language. German is found in some areas as Belgium’s third official language and English is common but mostly as a second language.
Brussels Predominant Religion
- 74% Catholic
- 25% Muslim
- 1% Other
As exemplified by its many cathedrals, the large majority of the population is Catholic despite only 10% attending church regularly. Most Citizens in the “other” category consider themselves atheist or agnostic.
The official currency of Brussels is the Euro.
Brussels has an oceanic climate enjoying pleasantly warm summers and cool winters. It rarely snows but does experience a fair amount of rainfall, approximately 200 days of the year.
Brussels Main Attractions
- Grand Place
- Mannekin Pis
Other Attraction in Brussels
- The Royal Palace
- Church of Our Lady Sablon
- St Michael and St Gudula Cathedral
- Palace of Justice