Welcome to Brussels
Brussels is the hidden city of Europe; its fairytale charm and sensual delights too often overridden by slick, international showpieces such as the European Parliament. But Brussels is two entirely different cities, overlapping like drawings on a magic lantern; the gleaming modern metropolis concealing an ancient place of rivers and markets, tapestries and guilds.
This duality even extends to the language- though French is largely spoken, the bilingual street signs and many older businesses insist on both French and Dutch. Meanwhile, Michelin-starred restaurants sit alongside hole-in-the-wall beer cellars, Medieval streets meander towards the cartoonishly futuristic Atomium, and cobbles, canals and Gothic spires abut glass-walled government hubs.
Brussels hides flea markets amongst designer stores and 19th century chocolatiers beside minimalist bars. Some beautiful old cities are content to fester gently, too proud of their past to risk evolving. Brussels changes and grows. But everywhere, a new boutique hides a Medieval doorway, an ancient passage conceals a thriving restaurant. Here, we always want to see what is hidden.
The Grand Place (Grote Markt)
Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert
La Roue d'Or
Villette- Charlotte Bronte
Mood Indigo (forthcoming) dir. Michael Gondry
44 Grandes Chansons - Jacques Brel
Mannekin Pis is the famous statue of a small boy weeing. In reality, it's disappointingly small, and there will inevitably be tourists taking silly pictures of each other in front of it. Only bother if you genuinely find it hilarious.
Only get taxis if you really need to- walking is enjoyable in Brussels, and it can be hard to find a cab on the street.
St Gilles is the Bohemian 'left bank' area of the city and good for an afternoon's wander, away from the main tourist routes. Visit Rue Vanderchrick, an entire street designed by Art Nouveau architect Ernest Blerot in 1902.
Buy a Brussels Card, which offers discounts on attractions and galleries.
Public transport is popular in the city, as many streets are pedestrianised. However, parking is available at most Metro stations as well as in eighteen fee-paying car parks in the heart of the town, marked by a ‘P’ and costing around €4 per day- this varies as they are privately operated.
The public transport system – STIB-MIVB – operates a bi-lingual tram, bus and Metro service. The Metro, marked by ‘M’ around the town, offers tickets valid for any transport for up to an hour with a single ticket, which costs around €2. Packages are available for daily and weekly rates: €6.50 and €13 respectively. They can be bought from either stations or kiosks in the city.BIKE
There are 180 locations in Brussels that hire out ‘villos’, but only accept debit cards. The first half hour is free, and it's €0.50 for every subsequent half-hour. WALKING
With many cobbled and pedestrianised streets, Brussels is a city small enough to travel on foot – though in Winter, public transport may be a better option. Tourist Information: Town Hall, Grand Place, to the right of the main entrance.