In Brussels you must visit Cirio’s Bar in the Rue De La Bourse.
Founded by Italian magnate Francesco Cirio in 1903 it remains much as it was a hundred years ago - dark wooded panels, marble and shining brass.
Be sure to try the house speciality of a “Half and Half” - equal measures of champagne and white wine filled to the brim by bustling ultra efficient waiters.
Say hello to the cat “Minou” (French for “Kitty”) and lastly don’t forget to visit the magnificent turn-of-the-century toilets!
Brussels makes a great weekend trip with children.
Not so big and overwhelming, with so many "must sees," as Paris, but more than enough to keep you busy.
And there is loads of great chocolate - need I say more?
Don't miss MIM, with more than 1,000 ancient and rare instruments from around the world.
There is a lovely cafe overlooking the city on the top floor.
The best place we've found to stay with kids: Novotel Centre/Tour Noire. It has a cool hammam/indoor swimming pool surrounded by rocks which creates a very cool atmosphere. It is walking distance to Grand Place, also to many waterside restaurants and off-the-beaten path neighborhood places and playgrounds, good ethnic restaurants nearby, easy access to train station.
If you have more than a weekend, take a day trip to Bruges, Antwerp, or any other place in Belgium: distances are short!
Check out the fabulous Restaurant Vincent in Rue des Dominicains, where you walk through the kitchen to be seated.
No hidden secrets, the best steaks and the finest moules. Try the steak tartare, if you dare, prepared at your table with the freshest ingredients - and with amazing flair.
If you fancy a day of serious relaxation, and you're not the shy type, head to Grimbergen for a day at the thermal spa.
It's only €19 for the day and has a huge choice of saunas, steam rooms, jacuzzis and an open air swimming pool.
The catch is, if you want access to the Aquarius area, which has the pool and the best saunas, you have to be naked. There is a swimsuit section for those who prefer to cover their dignity, but it's kind of liberating, and certainly amusing, to hang out in the buff with the Belgians.
Leave Brussels fast, and ride on red velvet seats to Cologne.
Return tickets are only £20 on the Belgian Railways Website (SNCB). Cologne is a great city: cheap, at £20 pp/pn in a 3-star hotel; excellent art galleries; and good beer.
If you’re enjoying the delights of Brussels, then we’d recommend taking some time out in Leuven.
One of Europe’s oldest university towns, a short hop from Brussels by train, it offers grand architecture alongside quiet gardens, café-lined squares, great shopping and a slower pace of life.
Try out Café De Werf, (for the best breakfast you’ll have anywhere), or nearby Domus, boasting an on-site brewery alongside many other Belgian beers and fine Flemish food.
The peaceful Begijnhof and botanical gardens are not to be missed, and on Saturday mornings the artisans’ food market is a must.
You must go to A La Mort Subite on rue Montagne-aux-Herbes Potagères.
The name comes from a game they used to play called 421. Back in the day, employees of a local bank would while away their lunch hours playing 421 – and the loser, of course, was “sudden death” itself.
The room is enormous yet somehow each table provides intimacy (away from those crowds). As in a relaxed community of little tables holding hands.
Order a plate of cheese, salami and pickles and slosh back a fruity beer. Perfect when Brussels turns dark. The light in there is almost golden.
You might expect something special on ‘The Sacred Isle’ (Ilot Sacré), the area around Brussels’ Central station.
Among the many bars and restaurants surrounding the Grand Place is The Toone Theatre, 66 rue du Marche-aux-Herbes, providing three unique Belgian delights under one roof.
You can sample a rare local speciality ‘Plattekeis’ (cream cheese with radishes) accompanied by a choice of over 20 beers, including ‘trappiste’ monastery brews.
But the real treat is enjoying these while sitting on raised wooden benches being entertained with a puppet show, in traditional dialect, from the famous Toone Marionettes, whose performances date back to 1830.
Brussels gets extremely hot and sweaty in the height of summer. If you are there at this time of year and happen to be in the vicinity of the European institutions/Rond Point Schuman, you could do worse than pick up a picnic and head to the Parc du Cinquantenaire for a relaxing afternoon.
When evening falls, head back into the centre and go for a beer at the sinister ultraviolet coffin bar (Le Cerceuil, Rue Harengs, off the Grand Place). Oh, and the best chocolate is Leonidas.
Visit European parliament and arrange a visit to meet your MEP - hardly any UK citizens visit their representatives and it is always interesting to walk the corridors of power and see how many of the laws hat affect us are made.
The loo in your average Brussels night bar will be guarded fiercely by a ‘Madame Pee-Pee’ - an elderly Belgian lady camped at a small wooden desk who job it is to hustle you for Euro 50 cents and upwards in exchange for toilet access.
Make sure you always have your ‘Pee-pee’ fund to hand, as no amount of reasoning, wriggling, or pleading will get you in if you haven’t got the cash.
Cross them at your own peril. They may look old and frail, but they are stronger than you think. A frind of mine, not a small girl, was once pinned against a wall for several minutes by an irate ‘Madame Pee-Pee’ for trying to sneak in without paying!
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