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Grand' Place-Grote Markt, Brussels
Brussels (French: Bruxelles, Dutch: Brussel; ) is the capital city of Belgium. As headquarters of many European institutions Brussels might also be considered something of a capital for the European Union. The fact, moreover, that Brussels acts as political capital of NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) serves to give the city a Transatlantic twist. Lying at the crossroads of cultures (the Germanic in the north and the Romanic in the South) and playing an important role in Europe Brussels fits the definition of the archetypal "melting pot", but nonetheless retains its own unique character. Population of the Brussels metropolitan area is just over 2 million.
Brussels is split into nineteen communes or gemeenten (municipalities/boroughs).
High-rise and construction in Brussels
- Bruxelles/Brussel - From the deeply ornate buildings on the Grand'Place (Grote Markt), to the fish-and-crustacean overdose of St. Catherine's Square (Place St-Catherine / Sint-Katelijneplein), to the many bars on Place St-Géry (Sint-Goriks), to the trendy Rue Antoine Dansaert (Antoine Dansaertstraat), to the physically imposing Stock Exchange (Bourse / Beurs) - this is the best place to start exploring the city.
- Ixelles - Elsene - A vibrant part of town with a high concentration of restaurants, bars and other services to satisfy the good-looking or the heavy-spending. Some wandering about will reveal small bookshops, affordable ethnic restaurants or independent record shops tucked away in side streets. The Matongé district just off Chaussée d'Ixelles is the city's main african neighbourhood.
- Marolles/Marollen - Not a municipality, but a neighbourhood (part of Bruxelles - Brussel) close to the city's heart. Although this was one of the few places where the Brussels dialect could still be heard this is increasingly rare nowadays. The area is best known for the flea market held daily on the Place du Jeu de Balle (Vossenplein) as well as a plethora of shops selling everything from old radios and bent wipers to fine china and expensive art nouveau knick-knacks. Visit on Saturdays or Sundays.
- Saint-Gilles/Sint-Gillis - The city's bohemian epicentre with thriving French, Portuguese, Spanish, Maghrebi and Polish communities. The area around the Parvis de St-Gilles (St-Gillisvoorplein) is the arty part, with the area around the Chatelain and the Church of the Holy Trinity being decidedly more yuppified. Like Schaerbeek, Saint-Gilles boasts several art nouveau and Haussmann-style buildings.
- St-Josse/Sint-Joost - The smallest and poorest commune not just in Brussels but in Belgium, this predominantly Turkish commune might not always be too pleasing on the eye but does have a few small, welcoming streets. The mid-part of the Chaussée de Louvain is also home to a relatively small Indo-Pakistani community, so this is the place to head to for a tikka masala.
- Schaerbeek/Schaarbeek - While there might be little of immediate interest in this commune to the casual visitor, it does host some very ornate art nouveau buildings. The Chaussée de Haecht is also the heart of Brussels' vast Turkish neighbourhood , and lately, Romanian population. and has more Turkish restaurants than you can shake a pide at.
- Jette - Jette, together with Koekelberg and Ganshoren, are three communes in the north-west of Brussels. These green(-ish), mainly residential communes house the Basilica of Koekelberg on their shared territory.
- Uccle/Ukkel - Brussels' poshest commune. Green, bourgeois and starched like all posh communes should be. Uccle has, however, retained many of its charming medieval cul-de-sacs, tiny squares and small townhouses as has nearby Watermael-Boitsfort (Watermaal-Bosvoorde).
- Molenbeek - That's Molenbeek-St-Jean (or Sint-Jans-Molenbeek) to you. A commune with an overwhelmingly large Moroccan. With a reputation for being insalubrious, if not downright dangerous, this is a place few locals venture to - let alone tourists.
- WSP/WSL - Woluwé-Saint-Pierre and Woluwé-Saint-Lambert are two communes at the eastern end of the city. Mainly residential, with a lot of green areas, not cheap, and well-loved by Eurocrats and other professional types. The vast Wolubilis cultural complex is well worth a visit.
As Brussels became the capital city of a new country in the 19th century, the old town was destroyed to make way for brand new ministries, palaces, schools, army barracks and office blocks all built between 1880 and 1980, approximately. That is why such a disappointingly small historic centre (one square and four adjacent streets) was preserved, and why most tourists only visit Brussels as an afterthought. Most indeed concentrate on the classic top 4 of Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp and Leuven.
Brussels operates as a bilingual city where both French and Dutch are official languages. Thus all the streets have two names, which can sound totally different. For example, the Main Square is called both la Grand Place and de Grote Markt. Although French is the lingua franca, the proportion of French and Dutch-speakers is different in different neigbourhoods and boroughs. English is also widely understood.
You can see what's going on in Brussels by picking up a copy of local free city rag Zone 02 (French and Dutch). Another good free listings paper is Agenda - the latter is distributed together with the dutch-language weekly Brussel Deze Week and has the notable advantage of being published in three languages (English, Dutch, French). Both of these are distributed in cafés and bars around the city. If you're looking for a good party Net Events (French and Dutch) and Brussels Sucks... might be a good place to start.
Brussels Agenda is the official cultural and entertainment agenda of the City of Brussels and the francophone Médiatheque have a concert listings page featuring the upcoming concerts in Brussels and the rest of Belgium. Be aware, however, that their listings page is quite a personal endeavor so it only features the concerts the médiatheque staff are interested in.
Brussels' main airport is Brussels airport (in the past used to be Zaventem), IATA code BRU. From the airport, a train (€ 2.80) runs every 15 mins to Brussels city centre, the journey taking 25 minutes. There is also a bus line number 12 and 11 (€ 3) every 20 to 30 minutes via Rondpoint Schumann to the Place de Luxembourg(European Parliament) district, from where the same ticket is valid for another 30 minutes on the metro or busses into the centre. A taxi to the centre costs around € 25 when booked in advance, otherwise around € 35. Taxis bleus: 02 268 0000, Taxi Brussels: 02 411 4142, Taxis verts: 02 349 4949. If you've just arrived at the airport's train station, first check the time of the next train then go up one level and check whether a bus 11 or 12 is about to depart and take whichever is quicker depending on your final destination.
There are several budget airlines flying to Brussels South airport (list flights), IATA code CRL, which lies one hour away from Brussels city centre by coach (€ 11), or by bus to Charleroi station and then by train. You can also get a taxi from the airport to the city centre, but this will cost approximately € 90 and is a fixed price.
Since 2006 cash withdrawal is not a problem in Charleroi Airport. On 29th February 2007, the new terminal was brought in use, that is bigger and nicer.
Antwerp airport, IATA code ANR, also has a good train connection to Brussels.
Brussels has three main train stations: Bruxelles Midi-Brussel Zuid, to the south of the city core, Bruxelles Central-Brussel Centraal, which is right next to the city centre, and Bruxelles Nord-Brussel Noord, to the north of the city center (at Place Rogier). Unfortunately, most high-speed trains stop only at Midi/Zuid, so you need to take the Metro (or an ordinary train) a few stops north to get to Grand Place.
- The high speed Thalys train connects Brussels with Cologne (2h23), Paris (1h20) and Amsterdam (2h00). There are numerous rebates for in advance, to over € 150 single on the day.
- There is also an hourly Intercity train from Brussels midi/central/north to Amsterdam (via Rotterdam, The Hague, Schiphol airport). A dayreturn from Brussels to Amsterdam takes 2:50 hours. You don't need a reservation. A weekend return ticket costs € 41.40.
- The Eurostar train line links Midi/Zuid with Lille Europe (39m from € 22), Ashford (1h38m from € 40) and London St. Pancras (1h51m from € 40). Most Eurostar tickets are also valid for internal train travel in Belgium (to and from any Belgian train station), so once in Belgium travel is free. Check in the bottom left hand corner of your ticket and confirm this before you get on the train.
- Eurostar bookings and queries at tel.: 02 528 28 28.
- German ICE connects thrice a day to Frankfurt (93€ one way).
Eurolines (Tel: 02 274.13.50 Fax. 02 201.11.40, Tel UK +44 (0)220.127.116.11.11) offers bus travel from many countries to Brussels, for example 8 hours from London Victoria station at € 39. In Brussels, they stop outside the Gare du Nord-Noordstation and Gare du Midi-Zuidstation train stations.
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.
By train & bus
Grand' Place-Grote Markt, Brussels
Brussels has 3 metro lines, many buses and several tram lines, most run by STIB-MIVB except the buses, they are also run by De lijnand Le Tec.
A card that can be used for ten rides with public transport costs €11.
One hour tickets cost €1.50 if pre-purchased and are available from the driver for €2. One, five and ten ride tickets are available at almost all metro and train stations. You validate the ticket in the small orange machines located in buses/trams, or at the entrace to metro stations/major tram stops. The orange machines 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 € 4,00.
On Saturdays, Sundays and holidays you can take another person with you.
Other forms of transport are:
- The train service NMBS/SNCB: http://www.b-rail.be Tel: 02 528 28 28
- The Flemish region (Dutch speaking) public bus service De Lijn: http://www.delijn.be Tel: 070 220 200
- The Walloon region (French speaking) public bus company TEC: http://www.infotec.be (Website in 4 languages: German, Dutch, English and Dutch) Tel: 010 23 53 53
The easiest way to see the city is to take one of the interesting tours offered by Brussels Bike Tours. They take you on an easy (no hills) ride that lets you discover the city in just 4 hours.
Since 2006, the city offers low-cost short-term "CycloCity" rentals at various fixed locations near the central city. The system only accepts "smart cards" (the ones with an electronic chip and activated by a PIN code), it does not accept the regular "magnetic stripe" cards. The minimum is €0.50 for the first half hour, any additional hour costs €0.50, registration costs €1.50 and lasts a week. It is advisable to wear a helmet and a fluo vest. The bikes are robust, but rather heavy, sometimes an inconvenience on Brussels' many hills. More detailed information can be found here (English, French and Dutch).
- Grand Place-Grote Markt . Surrounded by the city tower and a range of beautiful 300 year old buildings. At night, awesome. Some evenings a music and light show is provided with the buildings serving as a canvas. Have a "Gauffre Liègoise-Luikse wafel" here (Belgian waffle with caramelized sugar)—the best ones are available from the little shops off the northeast corner of the Grand Place-Grote Markt.
- Manneken Pis,  - just a short walk from the Grand Place-Grote Markt is the Manneken Pis, a small bronze statue thought to represent the "irreverent spirit" of Brussels. This statue of a child performing one of Nature's most basic functions is believed to have been inspired either by a child who, while in a tree, found a special way to drive away invading troops, OR to commemorate a child who found a unique method putting out a fire, that threathened the city. Belgians have created hundred of outfits for this statue , each with a hole strategically placed to allow the water flow to continue.
- Parc du Cinquantenaire-Jubelpark. Definitely check out the Arc de Triomphe-Triomfboog on the east side of town. It's in the Parc du Cinquantenaire-Jubelpark. It is possible to go up to the terrasse above the arch, from where you'll have a good view of the city (free entrance). Take Metro line 1 east, exit Schumann and walk east or exit Mérode and walk west.
- Brave the tourist-trap restaurant gauntlet of the Rue des Bouchers-Beenhouwersstraat
- The Bourse - stock market building
Museums and Galleries
- Musées royaux d'Art et d'Histoire (MRAH) - Koninklijke Musea voor Kunst en Geschiedenis (KMKG) , Parc du Cinquantenaire 10, tel +32 (0)2 741 72 11, open Tu-Fr 9.30am-5pm, Sa-Su and holidays 10am-5pm, closed Mo and various holidays, last entry 4pm; adults €5 -
- Musées Royaux des Beaux Arts - Koninklijke Musea voor Schone Kunsten  feature both historical art and modern art in the one building. Opening hours: Museum of Historical Art Tues-Sun 10am-noon and 1-5pm; Museum of Modern Art Tue-Sun 10am-1pm and 2-5pm. Address: Rue de la Régence-Regentschapstraat 3, at Place Royale-Koningsplein, 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-Museum voor Oude Kunst and the Musée d'Art Moderne-Museum voor Moderne Kunst 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 Hiëronymus 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. Don't miss David's famous "Death of Marat."
- Musée Belvue  has as its subject Belgium's history. Before it became a museum, the former 18th century luxury hotel was also a royal residence. Open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (June to September), from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (October to May). BELvue: 3 euros, Coudenberg: 4 euros, BELvue + Coudenberg: 5 euros. Place des Palais, 7.
- Natural Sciences Museum of Belgium, Rue Vautier 29 (near Luxembourg station), . Open: daily from 9:30am to 4:45pm; Saturday, Sunday and during school holidays (except the Summer break), from 10am to 6pm; during the Summer break daily from 9:30 am to 4:45 pm daily and in weekends from 10 am to 6 pm. The museum is well-known for its famous collection of iguanodons (dinosaurs discovered in a coal-mine in Belgium). The dinosaur collection has been refreshed in October 2007 and includes discovery activities for the children. The other parts of the museum are also interesting, as an exhibit of all animals that live in our houses and a collection of mammals. Price between 4,50 € and 7 € - free the first Wednesday of each month as of 1pm.
- Horta Museum , 25, rue Américaine, Saint-Gilles, tel + 32 2 543 04 90, fax +32 2 538 76 31, mailto:[email protected], open daily 2pm-5.30pm, closed Mo, admission adults €7, students / seniors €3, guided tours available by appointment, tram 81, tram 92 (place Janson), bus 54 - the home of noted Belgian art nouveau architect and designer Victor Horta. Seeing where he lived and worked is a great way to get an introduction to the art nouveau style in Brussels. It is one of four Horta works to be inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List
- Royal Museum for Central Africa (RMCA) , Leuvensesteenweg 13, 3080 Tervuren - tram 44, The Museum is home to some truly remarkable collections. Its collection of ethnographic objects from Central Africa is in fact the only one of its kind in the world. It also has in its keeping the entire archives of Henry Morton Stanley which are of great historical value.
- Centre Belge de la Bande Dessinée - Belgisch Centrum voor het Beeldverhaal , Rue de Sables-Zandstraat 20, tel +32 2 219.19.80, fax +32 2 219.23.76, mailto:[email protected], open daily 10am-6pm, closed Mo - popularly known as the CBBD
- Maison de la Bande Dessinée  is located in Europe's earliest Shopping-Mall (a shine Jugendstil palais). Bd de l'Impératrice 1 (near Central Station). There is a permanent exposition featuring the early beginning of comics as well as it's development. There is enough room for other varying expositions. Tue-Sun 10am-6pm. Prices: € 7.50 adults, € 6.00 students/seniors. The bookshop at the ground floor sells many different comics. A readers' library operates on the ground floor, where, for a low entrance fee, you can read many different comic books.
- Snapping up a bargain at the Flea Market. Each day, from 7am to 2pm, the Marché aux Puces-Vlooienmarkt in Place du Jeu de Balle-Vossenplein 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.
- See the history of film-making at Musée du Cinéma-Filmmuseum, it's free to look around, and classic and cult films are shown at low prices. Rue Baron Hortastraat, walk from Gare Centrale-Centraalstation.
Take Metro line 1A direction Roi Baudouin-Koning Boudewijn and alight at Heysel-Heizel.
- the Atomium , approximately 5 mins easy walk from the station - re-opened on February 18 2006 after renovation work was completed. The Atomium was built for the 1958 Brussels World Fair (Expo ’58), it is a 335 foot tall representation of an atom. More precisely, it is symbolic of a unit cell of an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times. Nine steel spheres 54 feet in diameter connect via tubes with elevators 105 feet long. Windows in the top sphere provide an awesome panoramic view of Brussels. Originally planned to last only six months, the Atomium is still today the most popular attraction in Brussels.
About 12 km from Brussels:
- Waterloo Battlefield, Lion Mound Official website - Discover Waterloo Battlefied. See the battlefield exactly like it was June the 18th of 1815 when Wellington faced Napoleon for an ultimate battle that changed Europe's face forever. Visit the Lion Hamlet and experience the new animation: Battlefield Tour.
Brussels is well catered for when it comes to film. French films are subtitled in Dutch, and vice versa, all other films are shown in the original version subtitled in French and Dutch.
- Actors Studio and Styx, run by the cooperative nouveau cinema . Both cinemas screen interesting films in their original version with French and Dutch subtitles. Actor's studio, Petite Rue des Bouchers - Kleine Beenhouwersstraat, Brussels 1000, tel: 025121696 or Cinéma Styx, Rue de l'Arbre Bénit - Gewijde Boomstraat 72, Ixelles-Elsene 1050
- Cinema Nova  is an independent-to-the-bone cinema showcasing the more esoteric side of cinema - films which would not be shown elsewhere are generally shown here. A Korean Ultraman rip-off, a Pakistani documentary or a bleak Chilean cinema vérité flick? Only at Nova. Nova Cinema, 3 rue Arenberg-Arenbergstraat, Brussels 1000
- Arenberg  is a good arthouse cinema with a well-programmed selection of films. Especially good for the newer arthouse flicks. Cinéma Arenberg, 26 Galerie de la Reine - Koninginnegalerij, Brussels 1000
- Musée du Cinema/Filmmuseum  is part of the Centre for Fine Arts and features a carefully chosen selection of contemporary and classic arthouse films. The best thing about this isn't just the building (due to be restored soon) but also the fact that the entrance fee is cheap. So if you can't live without your dose of Werner Herzog or Jan Svankmajer fret not - this place won't cost you an arm and a leg. Royal Film Museum, 9 Rue Baron Horta - Baron Hortastraat, Brussels 1000
- Vendome  is yet another arthouse cinema. It's located near the Porte de Namur (Naamsepoort) and acts as the metaphysical gateway to a lively african neighbourhood known locally as Matongé. Vendome, 18 Chaussée de Wavre - Waversesteenweg, Ixelles-Elsene 1050
- Styx  - Cinéma d'art et d'essai - Rue de l'Arbre Bénit, 72, 1050 Brussels (Ixelles) - 02-512 21 02
- Flagey  is the old broadcasting headquarters and now houses the regional TV station tvbrussel. It labels itself 'the sound and images factory'. Quite an apt description - arthouse films, theatre pieces or world-renowned musicians are all featured here. Flagey, Place Sainte-Croix - Heilig-kruisplein, Ixelles-Elsene 1050
- UGC De Brouckère . This is the most centrally located UGC in Brussels. Another UGC exists in Ixelles. As far as programming goes it's the usual Hollywood and mainstream European fare you'd expect from any other UGC in Europe. UGC De Brouckère, 38 Place De Brouckère - De Brouckèreplein, Brussels 1000
- Kinepolis  was the first megaplex in the world. It's located at Heysel, near the Atomium, and has 25 screens showing a wide selection of mainstream films.
- BIFFF  is Brussels' international fantasy film festival (film fantastique in french). This two-weeks festival is scheduled yearly in March. Warm ambiance.
- Offscreen  is a showcase for unusual, independent and unreleased films, cult classics, extraordinary documentaries and offbeat genres from around the world. Takes place during the month of February and/or March in co-production with Cinema Nova and in collaboration with the Film Museum of the Royal Belgian Film Archive.
Very few shops in Brussels open before 10am, and most kick off about 10:30-11am. Many shops are closed on Sunday and Monday.
- Shopping at Galeries Saint Hubert-Sint Hubertusgalerijen. The world's first shopping mall, opened in 1847, is a light and airy triple-gallery enclosing boutiques, bookshops, cafés, restaurants, and a theater and cinema.
- Beer Mania claims to have a stock of over 400 beers.
- Film :
- Excellence, 94 - 96 Boulevard Anspachlaan. A must for all movielovers. Great collection classics and rare dvd's, books, vintage movie posters, screenprints, postcards, ... . +32 2 502 84 68
- Books :
- Comic books and rare books. De Slegte on Rue des Grands Carmes-Lievevrouwbroersstraat, FNAC on Rue Neuve-Nieuwstraat
- Brusel, 100 Boulevard Anspachlaan. Right in the center and one of the most up to date store when it comes to contemporary comics.
- Filigranes, largest bookshop in Brussels, open 7 days a week, features a small bar/café inside and quite often live music, located at 39 Avenue des Arts-Kunstlaan.
- Sterling Books One of the more popular english bookshops in downtown Brussels
- Pele-Mele, Boulevard Maurice Lemonnierlaan, 55 & 59 (Metro "Anneessens") - maze-like, second-hand bookshop with huge selection of used books at bargain prices. Bookworm's paradise! You can't afford to miss it!
- Waterstone's, 71-75 Boulevard Adolphe Maxlaan (Metro "De Brouckère"). English-language books.
- FNAC, City 2 commercial center, Rue neuve. A big book/CD/DVD/electronics shop.
- Mediamarkt, 111-123 Rue Neuve. This shop is at the uppermost level of the Galeria Inno department store. Sells CDs, DVDs and consumer electronics. Slightly cheaper than FNAC.
- Marcolini, 39 Place du Grand Sablon. Arguably the best belgian chocolates.
- Wittamer, 6-12-13 Place du Grand Sablon. Another excellent chocolate maker.
- Chocopolis, 81 Rue du Marché aux Herbes. Between Grand Place and Central Station. Many types of chocolate at reasonable prices.
- Maison Renardy 17, rue de Dublin 1050 +32 02 514 30 17 Bruxelles A great little shop with delicious chocolate and friendly service. Stop by for a cup of tea or coffee, try one of their chocolates free with your tea, and then bring a whole box home.
- General shopping along Rue Neuve-Nieuwstraat with GB supermarket at City 2 accessed from Rue Neuve-Nieuwstraat and Metro Rogier.
- Galeria Inno, 111-123 Rue Neuve. Department store (fashion, cosmetics, etc.)
- Belgian Lace is among the best in the world. Several shops are located at the Grand' Place-Grote Markt itself.
Choc till you drop
Brussels is chock full of chocolates, but ground zero for the chocoholic is Place du Grand Sablon-Grote Zavel, where you will find three shops selling some of the best chocolate in the world: Neuhaus, Pierre Marcolini  and Wittamer . Each store has its own specialities: Pierre Marcolini's take-away cakes and ice cream are reasons to stay alive, while Wittamer is the only one with a cafe on premises and also sells the ultimate hot chocolate. Passion Chocolat (20 Rue Vanderlinden) is a bit out of the way but its artisanal chocolate is worth a visit, and you can taste lots of it for free at the entrance.
There is plenty of good eating to be had in Brussels.... Most people concentrate on the three classics: mussels (moules), fries (frites) and chocolate. A few more adventurous bruxellois dishes include anguilles au vert / paling in't groen (river eels in green sauce), meat balls in tomato sauce, stoemp (mashed vegetables and potatoes) and turbot waterzooi (turbot fish in cream and egg sauce). For dessert, try a Belgian waffle (gauffre), also available in a square Brussels version dusted with powdered sugar, and choices of bananas, whip cream and many other toppings. Although many prefer the round, syrup-coated version from Liège.
The matter over which establishment serves up the best frites (locally known as fritkots) remains a matter of heated debate. Some argue that the best frites in Brussels are served at the fritkot near the Barriere de Saint-Gilles, while others defend St-Josse's Martin (Place Madou) as the prime purveyor of the authentic Brussels frite just as others claim Antoine remains the king of the local french fry.
- Maison Antoine, Place Jourdanplein - tasty fries with a large collection of sauces situated on a square close to the European Parliament. You can eat your fries (frites) in one of the several bars/cafés that carries the sign frites acceptés.
- Chez Martin. The small nondescript fritkot plonked on Place Madou (Saint-Josse-ten-Noode/Sint-Joost-ten-Node) and run by the calm and affable Martin is a serious contender for the best friterie in Brussels. You can eat your frites at the nearby Cafe Gambrinus and wash them down with a pintje or two.
- La Friterie de la Place de la Chapelle, rue Haute-Hoogstraat (near Les Marolles). Another personal choice for the best frites in Brussels: the big chunks, fried golden, with the usual dazzling array of sauces.
- La Friterie de la Barrière, rue du Parc - Parkstraat (just off the Barrière de St-Gilles). Golden and crispy frites - just the way they should be. This exterior of this fritkot also serves as mini-museum with several tracts, articles and other literature on the fronts and sides of the shack on the good ol' Belgian frite.
- Arcadi, 1B rue d'Aremberg, just at the exit of "Galleries de la Reine", in the direction opposite to the Grand-Place - a quirky combination of old and new, the menu ranges all over the place but the reason people flock here is the selection of over 30 sweet and savoury pies (tartes). A slice big enough for a meal, served with salad, costs €4-6.
- Schoups (sandwich bar & ice cream), Bld Emile Jacqmain 58 (near the Place De Brouckere), ☎ +32 2 217 66 58, . 7am-3pm. For a really good sandwich and excellent ice cream.
Quality food is available online in and around Brussels from various companies, including the webportal ebistro .
Rue des Bouchers, bustling on a Saturday night
Brussels' tourist restaurant gauntlet can be found in Rue des Bouchers-Beenhouwerstraat , just to the north of Grand Place. The place has a bad reputation for waiters imposing themselves on passers-by, trying to lure customers into their restaurant. The authorities are aware of this, and are trying to take measures. Some restaurants may also tempt you with cheap prices for the menus, but when seated, the item on the menu happens to be unavailable, and you're forced to accept another, noticeably more expensive dish. Often, the exaggerated price of the wines will also compensate for the attractive menu. Knowing this however, you may be able to negotiate a better deal before entering.
A few restaurants stand out from the crowd, though:
- Aux Armes de Bruxelles, 13 Rue des Bouchers-Beenhouwerstraat, tel +32 2 511 5550, closed Mo - basic honest food, including some very decent moules. Crowded.
- Chez Léon, 18, Rue des Bouchers, tel. +32 2 511 1415, . Now franchised into France as well, but this is the original and, while it's huge and it looks like a tourist trap, the moules are excellent and it's packed every day. Moules, beer and a starter will set you back €25, and kids eat for free.
- Scheltema, 7, Rue des Dominicains, tel. 02/512.20.84. . Specialized in seafood.
Outside the Rue des Bouchers, you may try:
- Au Pré Salé, 20, Rue de Flandre-Vlaamsesteenweg (near place St Catherine), tel. +32 2 513 6545. A former butcher shop, which explains the white tiled walls and minimal decoration, but locals flock here for some of the best moules in town, sold by the kilo (figure on €24) and served up in half a dozen ways. Also serves the full range of other Brussels favorites.
- Falstaff, 19, Rue Henri Mausstraat 19 (by the Bourse-Beurs), . Has decent food and is open every day until 02:00, around 20-30 Euros.
- Le Beau Soleil, 7, Rue Joseph Lebeau (Sablon area). This tiny restaurant (approx. 14 seats) 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 but 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 like being invited by friends. Tel.: 0479420382.
- Les Brassins, Rue Keyenveld-Keienveldstraat 36, Ixelles-Elsene, . Its audience is mostly made out of young couples or students. Rich choice of beer, with more than 50 varieties on the menu, and good quality of food. Tel.: +32 2 512 6999
Close to the Bourse Jules Van Praetstraat (rue Jules Van Praet) is another rapidly developing street of restaurants and bars. Those of note include:
- Lune de Miel. Some very tasty Thai and Vietnamese dishes, in a fine decor. Tel.: +32 2 513 91 81
- Shamrock. Its unpreposessing exterior and misleading name bely a great range of individually cooked Indian food. Get to know the owner and he'll treat you like an old friend. Tel.: +32 2 511 49 89
- Thanh-Binh . The restaurant is very popular amongst the Euroworkers and business types common in Brussels and serves good Thai food. It can get crowded and is often noisy but is well worth a try. Tel.: +32 2 513 81 18
Place Saint Catherine is also a popular area, once the fishmongering centre of Brussels. While many of the fish shops have moved elsewhere it is still home to many good seafood restaurants featuring lobster as a speciality.
- Jacques. An authentic old bistro, with an incredible kitch decor. Very good fish. Quai aux Briques 44. Tel.: +32 2 513 27 62 
- Viva M'Boma. For the real Belgian cooking. Terrace in the summer. Rue de Flandre 17. Tel.: +32 2 512 15 93
It is outside the touristic centre that the best deals can be found. Here are a few adresses in the Upper Town and Louise Area:
- Madou's Provence, 23, Rue de la Presse, Bruxelles. Tel. +32 2 217 3831. Closed Saturday noon and Sundays. Innovative southern French cuisine at affordable prices.
- Chez Oki, 62, Rue Lesbroussart, Ixelles-Elsene . French-Japanese fusion cuisine in a modern decor. The chef has worked for prestigious restaurants in Paris. Reasonable prices.
- Apocalypse (Viet-Thai), Av. Adolphe Buyl 20 (Cambre, near the Free University of Brussels), ☎ +32 2 647 07 18. Every day 12am-3m 6pm-12pm. Excellent Thai food in a relaxed ambiance. €20 for a two-dishes meal with beer and tea.
- Belga Queen , Rue du Fossé aux Loups-Wolvengracht 32 - a restaurant within an old, restored bank building. Has an oyster bar, gorgeous bathrooms (with strange stall doors), and a cigar bar housed in the old bank vaults. The young and well-to-do seem to enjoy this place a lot.
- La Belle Maraichere, Place Sainte-Catherine 11, closed We-Th, tel +32 2 512 97 59 - a classic fish restaurant. Very fresh fish and good old traditional cooking.
- Taverne du Passage , Galerie de la Reine-Koninginnegalerij, tel +32 2512 3731 - an old-style luxurious restaurant.
- Les Larmes du Tigres (Tears of the Tiger) , Justitiepaleis, de Wynantsstraat 21, closed Tu, tel +32 2512 18 77 - upmarket and stylish Thai restaurant found just behind the Palais de Justice and better than most food I've eaten in Thailand.
- De Gulden Boot (la Chaloupe d'Or), 24, Grote Markt (Grand Place) - One of the most famous restaurants in Brussels, situated on Grand Place. Beautiful old building, but too much of at tourist trap. And even after a 200 € dinner, you will get charged 0.5 € if you visit the toilet.
- Dolma - a very nice vegetarian buffet Monday till Saturday from 19 till 21h . Chaussée d'Ixelles 329. Reservation 02/6498981
- La Tsampa' - an organic/vegetarian shop annex restaurant , closed on Saturday and Sunday. Rue de Livourne 109.
Belgium is to beer what France is to wine: it is home to one of the greatest beer traditions in the world, and Brussels is a great place to sample some of the vast variety on offer. Typical beers of Brussels are gueuze (rather bitter) and kriek (rather sweet, cherry based).
A special drink only found in Brussels is the so-called "half-en-half" ("half and half"). It's a mixture of white wine and champagne.
- À La Bécasse, Rue de Taborastraat 11. Tel: 02 511 0006. Serves a typical Brussels product this slightly sweetened Lambic beer, white beer based on Lambic, Kriek Lambic and so on. The entrance is not that easy to find.
- À La Mort Subite, 7, rue Montagne-aux-Herbes Potagères, . "At the Sudden Death" may not sound like the most pleasant of places for a drink, but this unpretentious brasserie has been serving their trademark brew of the same name, available in gueuze and kriek versions, for four generations now. €3.50 for the house beers.
- Bier Circus, 57, Rue de l'Enseignement-Onderrichtsstraat, tel: 02 218 00 34, . Has an impressive selection of beers, including some extremely hard to find beers. Examples of rare beers they have in stock, are Lam Gods (a delicious beer brewed from figs) and the rarest of the Trappist beers, winner of the Beer of the Year 2005, Westvleteren.
- BXL Cafe/Bar is a stylish, friendly internet cafe in the center of Brussels. Offering high speed internet access, occasional live music/DJ, latest movies shown on video screens around the bar, regular art exhibitions. Gay friendly space with women's night every Wednesday from 20h00. Open 7/7 12h00>24h00 (Fri/Sat>01h00). Place de la Vieille Halle aux Blés-Oud Korenhuis 46, Tel: 02/502 9980.
- Delirium Cafe, 4A, Impasse de la Fidelité-Getrouwheidsgang (on a pedestrian only sidestreet), tel. +32-25144434, . Right in the centre of Brussels within five minutes walk of the Grand Place. This bar is all about the beer, offering 3000+ different variations from all over the world. Popular amongst foreigners. Check if they have your own local beer. View their website for more info.
- Chez Moeder Lambiek, Rue Savoiestraat 68, behind Saint Gilles-Sint-Gillis city hall has the largest list of different beers, with several hundred obscure beers not likely found anywhere else. This cafe is one of the last remaining old-fashioned brown cafe's in Brussels.
- Le Greenwich, 7 Rue des Chartreux - Kartuizerstraat, tel: 32-2-511.41.67. Another wood-panelled brown cafe where the only sound is the sound of the chess pieces on the chess board. Shh!
- Brasserie Verschueren, 11-13 Parvis de St-Gilles - Sint-Gillisvoorplein, tel: 02/539 40 68. Something of an institution in hip Saint-Gilles. Under the watchful eye of the portly, bearded deep-voiced owner, hipsters, starving artists and local poodle-brandishing ladies mingle and drink endless beers and coffees. A beautiful woodwork football (soccer) tableau shows the scores of some long lost second and third division teams from yesteryear...
- "Brasserie De l'Union", 55 Parvis De Saint-Gilles - Sint-Gillisvoorplein. This is a place with a true "atmosphere", wooden chairs and tables, big old wooden bar, a crowd that reflects the diversity of Saint-Gilles. Everybody is welcome and come as you are: local supporters, musicians, young immigrants, little old ladies… This is a bar that just oozes human warmth. Bonus : You can also grab something to eat and on occasions, listen to live music and when the sunny days are coming, the terrace is one of the best in Saint-Gilles.
- Cirio, 18 Rue de la Bourse - Beursstraat (near the Bourse) . A traditional café where time has come to a stop. Also offers some simple meals. Don't forget to visit the bathroom, with the original tiles and porcelain.
Bars and clubs
- Mappa Mundo Is one of the many Trendy bar/cafés located on the popular Place Saint Géry-Sint Goriksplein. You are assured good drinking in at least one of these establishments, which are very popular with younger Eurocrats, foreigners and interns, giving them a rather friendly cosmopolitan character. Place Saint Géry-Sint Goriksplein 2, Tel: 02/5143555.
- Le Tavernier While all the above locations are situated downtown in central brussels, this location is the most popular bar on a strip of bars right by the Cimétière d'Ixelles-Kerkhof van Elsene. It's location right off the student campus make it extremely popular with students who just want to kick back and have a few relaxed drinks. Note on certain nights there is also live music (making the establishment a lot more hectic). Worth a look especially towards the beginning and end of the academic year and in the summer (especially for their Jazzbreaks nights). They also have a website. 445 Chaussée de Boondael-Boondaalsesteenweg.
- Gays and Lesbians: the two biggest monthly Gay clubs remain La Demence at the Fuse, and Strong parties at the Residence Palace. Both 100% House & Trance. Don't miss the crowded (but super small) Le Belgica bar, soft and Housy.
- Hydra-breaks organises "Hydra Sessions" but also "Next Level" and "Caliente" drum and bass parties at various locations. Hydra Sessions are major D&B nights with international headliners such as Pendulum, Spor, or Raiden, along national deejays.
- Bulex nights is a monthly night out for many locals since more than 10 years, blending all kind of music in unexpected venues, as well as their weekly edition Jeudibar. Come as you are.
- Just behind the Grand Place at Rue des Pierres 50 1000 Brussels the Music Village  is a great jazz club that is host to the annual International Young Jazz Singers Competition. Tel : +32 (0)2 / 513 13 45
- Fuse. The Fuse (Rue Blaes 208) is where it all started - a Brussels institution. 'Nuff said.
- The Botanique (Metro: Botanique/Kruidtuin) is the place for rock and pop. They do, on occasion, bring more experimental acts.
- The Botanique's Flemish counterpart, the Ancienne Belgique features the same mix of rock and pop with the occasional excursion into more unchartered, experimental territory
- Recyclart - for electronica, noise-rock, electroclash, minimal techno as well as art exhibitions, social projects and installations.
- Magasin4 at Rue des Magasins 4 (Metro: Yser/Ijzer) is proud to be loud. Punk, hardcore, noise and even hip-hop and french chanson feature regularly here.
- Le Bunker is so underground it hurts. A squat "owned" by a film-makers collective in the heart of Brussels' seedy red-light district. They regularly feature fringe acts - experimental music, noise, funeral folk and all sorts of weird and (sometimes) wonderful music.
- RTT is another favorite for off-the-wall noisiness and weirdness
- Structure Beton is the place for skewed electroclash, drum 'n' bass, drill 'n' bass and anything else 'n' bass
Hotel rates in Brussels can vary widely (especially at the upper end) depending on how many EU bigwigs happen to be in town, but very good deals are often available in summer when the bureaucrats are on vacation.
- Youth Hostel Van Gogh (CHAB) , Rue Traversière 8, +32 2 217 01 58 (Fax +32 2 219 79 95). Good location, near Brussels North Station, quick access to all train stations via metro and airport. Very clean friendly staff, and lively bar with good ambience which stays open late.
- Hostel Jacques Brel , Rue de la Sablonnière-Zavelput 30, +32 2 218 01 87 (Fax +32 2 217 20 05). Centrally located and within walking distance of the Beer Circus, but has a bad rep for being unclean and chaotic. Reception closes early and there's a curfew between 1 and 6 AM.
- Youth Hostel Generation Europe, Rue de l'Eléphant-Olifantstraat 4, +32 2 410 38 58 (Fax +32 2 410 39 05). Offers beds for budget travelling.
- Bugget Brussels Hotels, Rue du Damier 7, +32 2 310 16 71 (Fax +32 2 310 16 71). Offers budget hotels in Brussels from 50 USD.
- Hotel A La Grande Cloche, Place Rouppeplein 10, +32 2 512 61 40 (Fax: +32 2 512 65 91) . Cheap rates, decent rooms, decent location halfway between Gare du Midi-Zuidstation and the Grand' Place-Grote Markt (about a 10-minute walk to either). Price around € 70.
- Youth Hostel Sleep Well , Rue du Damier 23, +32 2 218 50 50 (Fax +32 2 218 13 13). Centrally located, very clean. Available double rooms with private facilities (about €60).
- Hotel Aberdeen, Rue du Colombier 4, +32 2 223 52 58 (Fax +32 2 223 12 33), [email protected] Very centrally located (Rue Neuve), clean and comfortable, but quite noisy at night. In summer 2006, prices were about €55 per double room.
- Bruegel Youth Hostel, Heilige Geeststraat 2. This hostel looks like a nice place - and in fact it might be very clean - but there have been problems with rude and unfriendly staff.
- ApartmentsApart , . +48.22.820.9231 (1-866-387-6429 Toll Free from the USA & Canada). Beautifully furnished 1, 2 & 3 bedrooms offered. 5 minutes from the city center by Metro. Apartments start as low as € 118 per night for 4 guests (under € 30 per person). The friendly staff and extra services will ensure you a wonderful stay.
- Arlequin, 17 to 19 Rue de la Fourche-Greepstraat, . Free Wi-Fi Internet.
- La Madeleine  Rue de la Montagne-Bergstraat 20-22, tel +32-2 513-29-73, fax +32-2 502-13-50, [email protected] Just off the Grand' Place and a short walk away from Central Station. Room rates range from € 52 to over € 100. Breakfast included. The rooms are quite small but have the basic amenities such as phone, TV. No airconditioning however.
- Opera is centrally placed on Rue Grétrystraat 53. Quoted price of 73 Euros may be negotiated downwards if booking a off-peak weekend or 3 or more days.
- Villa Primavera , . Rue de la Presse-Drukpersstraat, 18, tel +32.475.501856. Fully-furnished studio-type, 1 & 2 bedrooms apartments from 1 night to 1 year. 5 minutes from the Central Station. Just behind the Belgian Parliament and Park of Brussels. Close to EU district. Room rates from € 60 for 4 guests for one-month stays (€ 15 per person). Free cable TV and Wi-Fi Internet access in every apartment.
- The Phileas Fogg Hotel. Luxury boutique hotel housed in a typical Brussels townhouse. The Phileas Fogg Hotel is located at walking distance from the Grand Place, Botanical Gardens, The Brussels Jazz Station, Art Deco and Art Nouveau and the Cathedral.
- Hotel Floris Avenue . Elegant 4 star residence in the heart of Brussels; a stylish Brussels hotel offering guests superb accommodation and facilities in the heart of this modern city. The Hotel Floris Avenue is centrally located between the Eurostar Thalys Terminus and famous Grand Place!
- Hotel Floris Louise . Boutique hotel in Brussels within spacious modern rooms tailored with guests' comfort in mind; designed combining soft colours and rich fabrics to offer luxury and style. Hotel Floris Louise is located in the heart of Brussels close to the exclusive shopping area 'Avenue Louise'.
- Hotel Manos Stephanie . Boutique hotel with charm, ideal choice for the modern traveller. Centrally located in the heart of Brussels, just yards away from the most fashionable shopping and business district, the Hotel Manos Stephanie is a reflection of Brussels genuine hospitality.
- Hotel Van Belle, Chaussée de Mons 39 (close to Clemenceau on Metro line 2. 20 minute walk from Grand Place,Free shuttle bus to/from Gare de Midi), ☎ +32-2-521.35.16 ([email protected]), . not the nicest neighbourhoud, but decent rooms, good service. Good value for the money. From €50.
- Hilton Brussels , 38, Boulevard de Waterloo, Brussels, Belgium 1000, tel +32-2-5041111, fax +32-2-5042111
- Sofitel Brussels Toison d'Or, Avenue de la Toison d'Or-Gulden Vlieslaan 40 (subway station Louise-Louiza, turn to the right towards the Hilton - it's right across the street), tel +32 2 5142200 (fax: +32 2 5145744, email: [email protected]), . A rather nice Sofitel with good rooms, conveniently located close to the very heart of the city in the fashionable Luisa district. €99 - €495 per person per night (breakfast €25/person - but there is a Quick fast food restaurant right next door).
- Sofitel Brussels Airport, Bessenveldstraat 15, Diegem, . 15 min. from city centre, 11 conference rooms up to 750 delegates. Contact: (+32)2/7136666
- Radisson SAS Royal, Rue du Fosse-aux-Loups 47, +32-2-2192828, . Three minutes' walk from the Grand Place and the Central Station. Free Wifi, fitness center with sauna and solarium, restaurant "Sea Grill" has two Michelin stars. Rates from €95 per night.
Brussels is generally a very safe city. Some suburban neighborhoods have a poor reputation, but travelers are unlikely to visit them. However, pickpockets, sometimes in teams, operate in crowded tourist areas, and the train and metro stations (particularly at night) attract drug addicts and other shady types. Travelers should be particularly alert for distractions such as being asked for the time or directions and having attention diverted from their hand or shopping bag.
You can get to any of the following 'foreign' cities from Brussels within 3 hours without the use of a plane:
Amsterdam/Rotterdam/The Hague/Utrecht (car - longer by train), Luxembourg (car or train), Paris (train - longer by car), London (by train), Aachen (train or car), Lille (less than an hour by train or car), Cologne/Bonn (train or car)
But first, visit the beautiful old Belgian cities of Bruges, Ghent, Namur, Tournai, Antwerp, Leuven, ...
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