Brussels (French: Bruxelles, Dutch: Brussel) is the capital of Belgium and -- unofficially -- also of the EU (Europa). Lying at the crossroads of cultures (the Germanic in the north and the Romanic in the South) and playing an important role in Europe it fits the definition of the so-called "melting pot" but still retains a character of its own.
Highrise and construction in Brussels
The main airport is Zaventem, IATA code BRU. There is a train (2.60 €) running every 15 minutes to Brussels centre taking 25 minutes, and bus line number 12 (3 €) every 20 to 30 minutes to the Schumann (European Parliament) district. A taxi to the centre costs around 20 € as of 2004 booked in advance, otherwise around 30 €. Taxis bleus: 02 268 0000, Taxi Brussels: 02 411 4142, Taxis verts: 02 349 4343.
There are several budget airlines flying to Charleroi's airport, IATA code CRL, which is still an hour from Brussels by coach (10 € in 2004) or by bus to Charleroi station and then by train.
Antwerp airport, IATA code ANR, also has a good train connection to Brussels.
The highspeed Thalys train, which connects Brussels with Cologne (2h30), Paris (1h30), Marseille (5h00) and Amsterdam (3h00). There are numerous rebates for travellers under 25 years or those who book two weeks in advance, or during promotions. Prices for Paris from 50 € return in advance, to over 150 € single on the day.
- Bookings and reservation for Thalys, tel.: 070 66 77 88.
The Eurostar train line links Brussels Midi with Lille (39mn from 22 €), Ashford (Kent) (1h38m from 40 €) and Waterloo, London (2h27m from 40 €).
- Eurostar bookings and queries at tel.: 02 528 28 28.
Eurolines (Tel: 02 274.13.50 Fax. 02 201.11.40, Tel UK +44 (0)126.96.36.199.11) offers bus travel from many countries to Brussels, for example 8 hours from London Victoria station at 39 €.
Gulliver's (Tel: +49 30 311 0 211) offers bus travel from Germany to many countries, for example 11 hours from Hamburg at 19 € in advance, 46 € normal price.
Brussels has 3 metro lines, many buses and some tramways, all run by STIB/MIVB.
A card that can be used for ten rides with public transport costs 9,80 €.
One hour tickets cost 1,40 € and are available from the driver. One, five and ten ride tickets are available at almost all metro and train stations, and possibly at newspaper kiosks. You validate the ticket in the orange box on the bus, or at the orange boxes at the metro and tramway stations before entering the platform. The orange boxes time-stamp the ticket, both in ink and magnetically, and it will be valid for one hour. You can interrupt your ride and interchangeably use any STIB/MIVB transport. You should revalidate your ticket for each new ride.
There are also one-day tickets available, for 3,80 €.
On Saturdays, Sundays and holidays you can take another person with you.
Other forms of transport are:
Brussels is a funny mixture of old and new.
- Manneken Pis: just a short walk from the Grand Place is the Mannekin Pis, a small bronze statue thought to represent the "irreverent spirit" of Brussels. http://www.manneken-pis.com/
- Go see the Grand Place. At night. Awesome. Some evenings a music and light show is provided with the buildings as canvas.
- At the Grand Place, have a "Gauffre Liegoise" (Belgian waffle with caramelized sugar) -- best ones are available from the little shops off the northeast corner of the Grand Place.
- Definitely check out the Arc de Triomphe on the east side of town. Cinquantenaire Park, Metro line 1 east, exit Schumann and walk east or exit Merode and walk west.
- Brave the tourist-trap restaurant gauntlet of the rue des Bouchers.
- See the history of film-making at Musée du Cinéma, it's free to look around, and classic and cult films are shown at low prices. Rue Baron Horta-str., walk from Gare Centrale.
- Musées Royaux d'Art et d'histoire The Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts shows historical art and modern art in one building. Opening hours: Museum of Historical Art Tues-Sun 10am-noon and 1-5pm; Museum of Modern Art Tues-Sun 10am-1pm and 2-5pm. Address: Rue de la Régence 3, at place Royale, Phone: 02/508-32-11, Prices: 5.00€ adults, 2.50€ students/seniors/disabled visitors, 1.25€ children 12-18, under 12 free. Description: In a vast museum of several buildings, this complex combines the Musée d'Art Ancien and the Musée d'Art Moderne 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 Hieronymus 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.
- Snapping up a Bargain at the Flea Market. Each day, from 7am to 2pm, the Marché-aux-Puces in place du Jeu de Balle offers everything from the weird to the wonderful at rock-bottom prices.
- Taking a Ferry Trip. The ferry in question is a tiny, electrically operated pontoon that makes a 1-minute crossing to Robinson's Island in the lake at the heart of Bois de la Cambre.
- Shopping at Galeries Royales St-Hubert. The world's first shopping mall, opened in 1847, is a light and airy triple-gallery enclosing boutiques, bookshops, cafes, restaurants, and a theater and cinema.
Comic books and rare books. De Slegte on rue des Grands Carmes, FNAC on rue Neuve.
General shopping along rue Neuve with GB supermarket at City 2 accessed
from rue Neuve and Metro Rogier.
- Frites! Belgian Fries are usually of high quality and served with a choice of sauces, common is "Frites avec Mayonnaise".
- Pigging Out on Belgian Chocolates. Those devilish little creations--handmade Belgian pralines--are so addictive they should be sold with a government health warning. Try the Wittamer chocolatier in place du Grand Sablon, and eat your fill. Passion Chocolat is a bit offroad but it's artisanal chocolate is worth a visit, you can already taste lots of it for free in the entrance.
- Falstaff has decent food and is open every day until 02:00, around 20-30 Euros. Rue Henri Mausstraat 19 by the Bourse.
- Aux Armes de Bruxelles, 13 rue des Bouchers Telephone +32 25115550. Closed Mondays (as of 2001). Basic honest food. Crowded. From 5 Euros upwards (as of 2001).
- Resto.be will help you find almost any restaurant in Belgium, comments and appreciations must not be taken literally.
- Taverne du Passage is an old-style luxurious Restaurant in the Galerie de la reine (see aboves). Tel.: +32 2512 3731
- Léon 1893 is in middle of many others Restaurant around de la rue des Bouchers 18 proposing typical Belgium food like moule et frites. Tel: +42 2511 1415
- Insider-Tip: Le Beau Soleil. This very little restaurant (approx. 14 seats) is located in Rue Lebeau 7. The interior looks like a violin workshop, so you sit next to all the tools and half finished violins. Unlike other Belgian restaurants, it is open from 9am to 5pm (Mo-Fr), 9am to 6pm (Sat,Sun), closed on Wednesday. The menu is small, really delicious. (I had the best Quiche and cheese cake of my life!). The atmosphere is informal, so do not expect a formal restaurant atmosphere. It is more kind of being invited by friends. Tel.: 02/5032779.
- Les Brassins is located in Ixelles rue Keyenveld 36. It's audience is mostly made out of young couples or students. Rich choice of beer, good quality of food. Tel.: +32 2512 6999
Belgium has a lot to offer for beer lovers.
- Bier Circus no 89 (moves to no 57 March 2005) , rue de l'Enseignement/Onderrichtstraat, tel: 218-00-34 have an impressive selection of beers.
- Beer Mania claims to have a stock of over 400 beers.
- A La Becase serves a typical Brussels product this slightly sweetened Lambic beer, white beer based on Lambic, Kiek Lambic and so on. It's entrance is not that easy to find. rue de Tabora 11, Bruxelles 1000, Tel: 02 511 0006
- The hostel Generation Europe offers beds for budget travelling.
- Recommend the Hotel A La Grande Cloche (they're on the web) -- cheap rates, decent rooms, decent location halfway between Gare Du Midi and the Grand Place (about a 10-minute walk to either). Address: 10/12 Place Roupe, 1000 Bxl, price around 70 Euros.
- Hotel Opera is centrally placed on Rue Grétry 53, Brussels. Quoted price of 73 Euros may be negotiated downwards if booking a off-peak weekend or 3 or more days.
- Party Guide is a Flemish site featuring parties in Brussels and around. The calendar on the left bottom may be helpful for choosing your sleepless nights. Every entry is featuring the performing dj's, prices and often also links and how to get there.
- Hydra-breaks organises "Next Level" and "Caliente" drum and bass parties at various locations. Next level is a midsize party with international headliners. Caliente is a smaller club night with Belgian DJs.
- Gays and Lesbians may want to check out the Next parties. They organize a free party bus from Brussels center.
- The Cooperative nouveau cinema plays the Actors Studio and the Styx. Both cinemas are screening interesting films in their original version with French and Flemish subtitles. Actor's studio, 16 petite rue des bouchers, bruxelles 1000, tel: 025121696. Cinéma Styx, 72 rue de l'Arbre Bénit, 1050 Bruxelles.
- Contrary to what some people might think, Bruxelles Midi does not lie in the middle of the city. It's in the south-west.