Brussels is a colourful, charismatic and stunning city, full of rewarding surprises, it is least of all “boring”.
Don’t bother with the slightly eccentric and haphazard metro system – just walk. Central Brussels is small enough to potter round in a day.
Aim for the splendid Place du Grand Sablon (where you can get the best chocolates in the world) then head downhill to La Bourse and Grand Place and west into the trendy St. Catherine and St. Géry areas.
Make sure you take in plenty of good food and drink along with the stunning Art Nouveau and Art Deco buildings that populate so many streets.
The best thing about Bruxelles/Brussel and the bilingual-Belgians is that they know all this; they just don’t go shouting it from every corner of the Grand Place.
I can heartily recommend buying the finest cheeses, meats and bread, beer and chocolates from the above areas, getting back on the Eurostar and turning all the other passengers green with envy as you tuck-in. Brussels is nearer than Paris too!
Visit Musée du Cacao et du Chocolat. Belgium is renowned for its delicious chocolate, which makes this an essential visit.
The museum tells the story of chocolate, right from its cocoa-based origins, as well as having lots of unexpected things made out of chocolate.
Ever fancied wearing chocolate? Marvel at the chocolate clothing, which means chocolate can now be worn outside the bedroom!
Sample the museum’s delicacy as you explore and you can even take some home with you, with a visit to the shop. It can be found on Rue de la Tête d'Or, Brussels.
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.
Day trip? You’ve time for architecture and shopping if you take tram 55 towards Bordet, to Beurs, walk past the roman remains and into Grand Place.
Ten minutes from here via the Place des Martyrs, have lunch and marvel at the Art Nouveau masterpiece by Victor Horta the Center of the Comic Strip on Zandstraat.
Down the south of Brussels about 20 miles away lays lovely town Waterloo, the famous battlefield, where Napoleon was finally defeated by Wellington.
Worthy to climb the Lion Hill or take the guided tour around the spot for five euros (especially the tour mirrors the battlefield spirit). Also maps are only 1.50 euros.
It is best to visit on a Sunday, as that's the day for the famous flea market in Waterloo (next to Careffour supermarket) with antiques and about 300 food stalls.
Waterloo is approachable by train (a return is only three euros on weekend) from central station, or by bus from Brussels.
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.
Visiting Magritte's house gives you a little insight into a surrealist mind.
A tram-ride from central Brussels, the suburban house is packed with glimpses of the banal, everyday things that inspired Magritte’s extraordinary, warped images: the fireplace (empty without its emerging steam train); the pipe (that is in fact not a pipe); the lamp post (that actually works like any other). The domestic details of this historic house are probably no different from a thousand others in Brussels.
But in the context of wonderful Magritte originals and the fascinating story of his life (displayed upstairs), they take on a new significance.
To see the best in art nouveau or deco architecture take a tour organised by ARAU.
What they lack in guiding skills (on your left on your right) they more than make up for in enthusiasm and knowledge; plus you will visit places the public don’t usually have access to.
Should you need more Nouveau visit the Horta House, and if after all those curves you crave as I did straight lines, stand outside the wonder that is the Palais Stoclet in the Avenue de Tervurenlaan.
Escape Brussels for a few hours and head 7.5km east to Tervuren.
A stroll in the expansive grounds of the Royal Museum for Central Africa is a joy in any season. You could describe a visit as quirky but it does give you a snapshot of Belgium's colonial past albeit from one side.
Then either continue by bus to the historic university town of Leuven or relax in a Tervuren bar or restaurant before catching the number 44 tram back to Montgomery where you connect with the Brussel's underground system.
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 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.
The KVS Bol theatre is dazzling. It’s an impressive example of how well Brussels can occasionally weave together traditional and modern design and produce something uniquely memorable.
Following extensive refurbishment, it reopened in 2006 to reveal a stage that sits inside a vast ball encased within the walls of its 19th Century building.
Most performances support the Flemish language, and shows in French or English are not uncommon. But if you can’t attend one of these, try having a drink in the gorgeous second floor bar.
Just a short walk from the Eurostar terminus in Brussels is the Cantillon Brewery, breweing traditional Belgian beer styles including gueuze and the cherry-flavoured kriek.
Get to Gare du Midi a couple of hours early when catching your train home, and tour the old, atmospheric brewery, before picking up some refreshments for the journey back!
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.
If you are in Brussels and are feeling torn between sight-seeing and cafe relaxation then head to the terrace bar at the Museum of Instruments where you can do both at the same time.
The view is truly extrodinary: one of the best in Europe. The museum, I should add is, is also worth seeing and inexpensive.
But if museums are not your thing then don't worry – you don't have to pay for entry to get to the terrace-bar. Just tell reception where you are heading and hop into the elevator.
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 number 44 tram takes you on a very pleasant journey from Art Nouveau Montgomery, in the east of the city centre, to suburban Tervuren, with wonderful parks and cafes, and its famous, controversial African museum.
The tram trundles along avenues of Art Nouveau mansions and impressive embassies, past parks, boating lakes (and Brussels tram museum!), and even through a forest all on its own, on a dedicated track away from all other traces of civilisation!
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