Brussels is many things at once: history, architecture, business, bureaucracy, fun. Brussels is Belgium but it’s Europe as well. You might think you can’t expect too much from a city whose trademark is a 61cm bronze fountain of a naked baby peeing (Manneken Pis) and where French fries (les frites) are the most popular dish but, despite appearances, Brussels is worth going beyond the clichés and taking the time to visit the vibrant capital of Europe.

Think of it like a European “Big Apple”; an authentic melting pot of people and languages. Expats from the 27 member states of the European Union, which has its headquarters in the city, are the main piece of this puzzle of nationalities, but not the only ones. There is a very lively Maghrebi population, who will try to seduce you by selling their products at Sundays’ Gare du Midi Food Market or welcoming you in one of the countless kebab shops around the city, and you’ll see Central Africa nationals strolling along the Matongé neighbourhood. A walk around Brussels is like taking a stroll around the world.

Brussels is not as big as other European capitals, which makes it a people friendly place and easy to visit. With a pleasant walk or by hiring a Villò (public bikes rental programme), you can easily reach the main highlights of the city. Apart from the famous Gran Place and the downtown, there are quite a few hidden gems worth checking out. Go green and walk along Bois de la Cambre or Foret de Soigne and enjoy a beautiful sunset over the city from Place Poualert. Discover art and history at the Royal Museum of Central Africa, the Kanal Centre Pompidou (a contemporary art museum located in a former Citroen garage!), MIMa (the Museum of visual arts built inside an ancient Brewery), and The Belgian Comics Strip Center (Did you know that The Smurfs is a Belgian comic?). Have a look at the picturesque Flea Market in Place Jeu de Balle and go find the female version of Manneken Pis, Jeanneke pis, less known than its counterpart but still fun to check out.

While wandering around, don’t forget to make a stop and hydrate yourself with a pint of beer. Belgium is famous for its beer making history and, trust me, Belgians take beer very seriously! The choice of types of beer is endless: Trappist (made by monks), abbey beers, white, blonde, wheat, Lambic, and many more. If you are up for a beer tasting try the Brussels Beer project or la Brasserie de la Senne, Place Flagey, or Parvis de Saint Gilles, or simply stop by one of the nice terraces in Saint Gery (downtown), relax, and drink your pint.

One very important recommendation: Don’t visit Brussels if you are on a diet. Yes, you do need to try the frites, and make sure you have the proper ones bought in a kiosk on the street and served in the paper cone. Maison Antoine in place Jourdan or Frit Flagey in place Flagey are definitely must go places for some of the best frites in Brussels. Once you taste them you will understand why they are renowned all over the world.

Beyond frites, you can find literally every kind of cuisine you have in mind. Do you fancy Reunion Island food? You can have it. Mauritius, Ethiopian, Korean food? Of course. Spanish tapas? Italian mozzarella di bufala? Yes! But if you want to stick with local food and enjoy Belgian specialities like carbonnade flamande (meat stewed with beer) or stump saucisse (sausages with potatoes mashed with vegetables), have a dinner at a typical and cosy local tavern, like Restobieres or Les Brassins. And don’t forget to bring back home a box of Belgian pralines…

Brussels has really something for everyone. Go and get lost in beer, food, and art!

Visit Brussels with G Adventures

Tags: Belgium, Europe