A Weekend in Brussels

Page 1

A weekend in

Brussels – A Scan Client Publishing book


A weekend in Brussels



A weekend in Brussels


A weekend in Brussels

6 Before you go 8 French and Dutch for beginners 10 Brussels for beginners 12 Welcome to Brussels

___ 14 VENDREDI/VRIJDAG/FRIDAY 16 A first impression 20 Five comic book hotspots 22 Culinary Brussels 24 Wining & dining


28 The enchanting downtown 34 Manneken Pis: to go or not to go? 36 The authentic Sainte-Catherine and Saint-Géry 40 Five stunning Art Nouveau destinations 42 The sophisticated uptown 46 Belgian beer for beginners


50 The heart of Europe 54 Brussels, city of politicians 56 The awe-inspiring Atomium 58 Green Brussels 60 The culture-rich suburbs 64 Still some time left?


70 Vive Bruxelles! 74 Index 76 Metro map

Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert.


A weekend in Brussels

Hi, Growing up in a village in the far north of Flanders, I hardly ever visited Brussels as a child. Like most Flemish people, we did our shopping, dining and strolling in Flemish cities like Antwerp, Ghent and Bruges, so there was never any real reason for me to head to the capital. It was only when I was 21 years old and decided to study cinema that I had no choice but to rent a room in the scary, big metropole. On my very first day at college, the headmistress said: “Brussels is not a city that will try its best to be loved. You have to learn to love it yourself.” I don’t think I fully understood what those words meant back then, but having lived in the city for two years – both in the stunning Rue de Flandre (see page 38) and in the run-down red-light district – I now feel there is no better way to describe the city. Behind the corners of the charming, cobbled alleys and the impressive, neo-Gothic palaces awaits a pure and interesting city that can be a bit rough around the edges, but that never fails to amaze. It is a city of bizarre contradictions, of unconventional beauty and multicultural unity. Its long and rich history has shaped the city, for better and for worse. But now that I’m a Bruxellois myself, I probably love the spots that seem unsightly at first, most of all. And that is why A weekend in Brussels is such an important book to me. It first rushes you past the obvious hotspots and then helps you to escape the herd of photo-craving tourists. In a little over 70 pages, I share with you two years’ worth of local finds. The book takes you to distant metro stops, far beyond the hop-on-hop-off bus territory, and brings you eye to eye with the locals. Because the real beauty of Brussels has little to do with golden façades, peeing boys or iron spheres. Bon voyage!

Arne Adriaenssens Author


A weekend in Brussels

BEFORE YOU GO … allow us to point out some easy ways to get more out of your city trip to Brussels. As is so often the case, the secret lies in the preparation. When should you go? What’s the best way to get there? Where should you stay? Which items are indispensable in your luggage? There is so much to see in Brussels, so don’t waste your valuable time on figuring it all out on the spot.

When to go? Let’s face it: Brussels isn’t exactly an exotic, sunny paradise. In fact, the weather is pretty much the same as in the United Kingdom, if a tad drier. To increase your odds of having a sunny stay, late spring or summer are the times to go. From April on, the temperatures are mild and the number of rainy days decreases. In July and August, the temperatures can climb up to 25 degrees – or you might even get a rare 30 degrees, if you’re lucky. If you go between September and April, you might want to wear a warm coat and


bring an umbrella. These are just statistics, though. The weather in Brussels seems to follow only one rule – you can never be sure what to expect.

Grand Place.

Brussels is easy to walk through, so hiking boots can – but don't need to be – worn. Avoid entering the historic centre on stilettos, though. Its cobbled streets make it a high-heel nightmare.

What to pack? Besides warm, waterproof clothing (if you go in winter), you should bring some cash with you. While supermarkets, restaurants and major shops almost always accept card payments, smaller purchases often have to be made in cash. Of course, the city counts ATMs aplenty, so you can withdraw money anywhere you want.

What to book? Brussels isn’t overly touristy, so booking your visits in advance is usually not required. Only a guided visit to the European institutions requires a reservation. When going for dinner, however, we advise you to book a table in advance, at least if you’ve got your mind set on a specific place. Belgians eat

A weekend in Brussels

around 7pm, so by then, it can be hard to find a vacant table anywhere. If you want to go to a concert, play or sports event, check in advance whether a reservation is necessary. How to get there? Brussels is easy to reach by plane, as most British and European international airports have at least one daily connection with Brussels Airport. Moreover, flights are usually very cheap. If you are lucky, you can get to Brussels for 20 euros or less. If you want to travel by train, you can take the intercity from Amster-

dam (3 hours), the Thalys from Amsterdam (2 hours) or Paris (1.30 hours), the Eurostar from Amsterdam (2 hours) or London (2 hours), the ICE from Cologne (1.45 hours) and Frankfurt (3 hours), or the night train from Innsbruck (15 hours) or Vienna (14 hours).

to stay when he came to Brussels – (from €112) are great options. If you search a bit, you will also discover that the city counts plenty of well-hidden boutique hotels and charming bed and breakfasts – both wallet friendly.

Where to stay? As a business centre pur sang, Brussels counts numerous affordable business hotels. If you crave a bit more luxury, lush places like Steigenberger Wiltcher (from €179) and The Hotel – where Barack Obama used



A weekend in Brussels

Place Poelaert.


A weekend in Brussels

FRENCH AND DUTCH FOR BEGINNERS Although located above the Belgian language border (which separates the Dutch-speaking north from the Frenchspeaking south), Brussels is a bilingual city – on paper, at least. In practice, however, the street language is French and French only.

About half of the natives only speak French, compared to just five per cent who strictly speak Dutch only. The rest usually speak them both, or speak one of the many other languages spoken in the Belgian capital. The city is home to 180 different nationalities which speak around 104 different mother tongues, making it the second-most multi-cultural city in the world, after Dubai. Today, there are even more native English speakers than native Dutch speakers in Brussels. Yet, to integrate as well as possible: here is a brief glossary of both tongues. But beware, real ‘Bruxellois’ tend to switch from Dutch to French and back in one and the same sentence.

Place Poelaert.

Parles Français

Spreekt u Nederlands?

Bonjour Hello

Hallo Hello

Au revoir Goodbye

Tot ziens Goodbye

Bon matin Good morning/afternoon

Goedemorgen Good morning

Bonsoir Good evening

Goedemiddag Good afternoon

Comment ça va? How are you?

Goedenavond Good evening

S’il vous plaît Please

Hoe gaat het? How are you?

Monsieur Sir

Alstublieft Please

Madame Madam

Meneer Sir

Merci Thank you

Mevrouw Madam

Je ne parle pas Français. Parlez-vous

Dankuwel Thank you

Anglais? I don’t speak French. Do you

Ik spreek geen Nederlands? Spreekt

speak English?

u Engels? I don’t speak French. Do

Peuvez-vous m’aider? Can you help

you speak English?


Kan u mij helpen? Can you help me?

Demain Tomorrow

Morgen Tomorrow

Hier Yesterday

Gisteren Yesterday

Ou est le/la …? Where can I find the

Waar is de/het… Where can I find


the …?

Rue… …Street

…straat …Street

J’adore Bruxelles! I love Brussels!

Ik hou van Brussel! I love Brussels!

Que pouvez-vous recommender?

Wat kan u me aanbevelen? What

What would you recommend?

would you recommend?

Une bière A beer

Een pint A beer

Un café A coffee

Een koffie A coffee

L’addition, s’il vous plaît. The bill,

De rekening, alstublieft. The bill,



Une banque A bank

Een bank A bank

La gare The railway station

Het station The railway station

L’hôpital A hospital

Het ziekenhuis A hospital

L’aéroport An airport

De luchthaven An airport


A weekend in Brussels

Royal Greenhouses of Laeken.

BRUSSELS FOR BEGINNERS Belgian traffic Belgium is a small country with many cars. That's why you might get stuck in traffic quite frequently. In the city centre, the many traffic lights, the pedestrian zones and the lack of affordable parking spots make it unattractive to move by car. In the suburbs, the big ring road is home to many a traffic jam as well, especially in the morning and around 5pm. An easy way to avoid getting stuck is to opt for public transport. Train, metro and tram are ideal, but also buses and taxis can save you time as they have priority on the highways. Note that services like Uber do not offer this benefit.


As a tourist visiting Brussels, you share the city with its locals for a weekend. Therefore, it is only right to try to blend in, get acquainted with the local customs and habits, and understand the peculiarities that give the metropolis its unique vibe.

The Brussels Capital Region is a low emission zone. Check on lez.brussels if your car is still allowed to enter the city and its suburbs. Propper etiquette Tipping? Don’t! Service is always included on your bill in Belgium. In a more up-market establishment, you might want to simply round up the total. Otherwise, you only tip if the service or food was really extraordinary. Being late? Don’t! Belgians are quite punctual, and they will expect the same from you. If you have a reservation or an appointment, try to arrive on

time. If you arrive over 15 minutes late without notifying the other person, it is considered very rude. Ironically, public transport in Belgium is often far from punctual, so if you arrive five minutes late at the station, chances are you can still catch your train. Smoking? Do – where appropriate! Belgium is not a country of smokers. As such, you can hardly ever smoke inside. Restaurants, bars and other public places are strictly off limits. Some establishments might have designated smoking areas, but waiters are not allowed to serve food there, so you’ll have to pick up your plates and drinks at the bar.

A weekend in Brussels

SOS Belgium Hopefully, once back home, you’ll find that reading this part turned out to be a complete waste of time. Yet, should something go wrong during your stay in Brussels, you’d better know where to get help. Like in the rest of continental Europe, the general emergency number is 112. If you call this line, they can help you in Dutch, French, German or English. For ambulance, police or the fire brigade, this is the number to call. Regarding moderately urgent health issues, you can go to the nearest doctor or hospital. On evenings, weekends or public holidays, you can consult the on-duty doctor (find out which on gbbw.be). A general consultation with a doctor will cost you about 25 euros. If tests or procedures have to be done, this can be more expensive. If you have an EHIC

(European Health Insurance Card), you’ll be refunded the difference between what you’ve paid and what you would have paid for the same procedure in your home EU country. As a European citizen, having private travel insurance is not strictly required when visiting Belgium. Belgium has both a federal and a local police force. You will only meet the former at the airport. The latter is divided into 185 jurisdictions, each with a proper office. If you need police assistance in the city of Brussels, you can find their office close to Grand Place (Rue du Marché au Charbon 30). If your passport gets stolen, or for any other reason you need to reach your country’s authorities, you can head to the British (Avenue d'Auderghem 10) or American consulate (Boulevard du Régent 27). Most other nations have a consulate or embassy in the European capital as well.

Grand Sablon.


A weekend in Brussels

WELCOME TO BRUSSELS Land in sight! Hungry for a waffle yet? Or do you already feel the need for a cold one? Well, that will have to wait a little longer, I’m afraid, because you are not in Brussels just yet. Most likely, you land at Brussels Airport, which is located just outside of the city, in a village called Zaventem. As it is Belgium’s biggest airport, the public transport to Brussels is quite well-arranged – you just have to manage to choose and distinguish between the many public transport companies.

By train

Brussels Airport.



The easiest connection to the city is by train. There is a station underneath the arrivals hall with connections to the city centre every ten minutes. The trains are operated by NMBS/SNCB, so make sure you buy a ticket at one of their machines or desks. A ticket to any of Brussels’ stations will cost you €3.40. On top of that, each train traveller from and to the airport has to pay the so-called Diablo tax, a surplus of €5.50. Within around 20 minutes, you arrive at Brussels Central Station.

ish bus company) and MIVB-STIB (the Brussels equivalent). The most straight-forward trip to the city centre is with the MIVB-STIB airport line 12, which drops you off in the European quarter or at the Royal Palace. An airport ticket will cost you €4.50 (or €6 if you buy it on the bus itself). If you decide to take De Lijn, you can ride along all the way to the Brussels North Station (lines 272 and 471). To go straight to the Atomium, take line 820. A single De Lijn ticket costs you €3 if you buy it in advance.

By bus

By taxi

At the ground-floor exit of the airport, you’ll find the bus station. Here, you’ll find buses run by De Lijn (the Flem-

In front of the airport, you can also choose to grab a taxi. You’ll recognise licensed taxis by their yellow-blue label.

A weekend in Brussels

They work with a taximeter, but on average, your trip to the city centre will cost you around €45. The taxi app Uber isn’t licensed, but very popular in Brussels. Most Uber drivers, however, won’t be able to enter the designated taxi zone and might pick you up at the Kiss&Ride area. Often, their prices are quite a bit lower than those of licensed taxis.


From Brussels South Charleroi Airport The name Brussels South is a bit deceptive, as Charleroi is a 60-kilometre drive away from Brussels city centre. If you do end up here, however, just walk down to the Heppignies la Folie bus stop, a one-kilometre hike from the arrival hall. Here, take bus 68 (run by the Wallonian bus company TEC) to its final destination: Charleroi Sud. Here, you have regular train connections to Brussels’ biggest stations. Altogether, it will take you two hours (25 minutes by bus, one hour by train and about half an hour of transfer time) and cost you €12.50 (€3 for the bus and €9.50 for the train).


A weekend in Brussels


A weekend in Brussels



A weekend in Brussels

A FIRST IMPRESSION Arriving in a cultural melting pot like Brussels can be a bit overwhelming. There is so much to see and explore, and the minuscule map that you might carry with you does not indicate where to start your journey. Luckily, there are a few spots in Brussels that act as commencing points to give you a warm welcome to the city. This way, you can take the edge off your city-tripping appetite as soon as you have dropped your bags at your hotel.


SHOPPING IN AND AROUND THE CITY If it is shopping that you are after, you’ve got plenty of places to go. For high-street brands, head for Rue Neuve or one of the nearby shopping centres: City 2 and Anspach Shopping Centre. Another lovely shopping paradise is the brand-new Docks Bruxsel. Here, you’ll find your regular high-street fashion brands, as well as the White Cinema: a theatre entirely designed in bright white and fluorescent purple, as if it were a Star Wars spaceship. Unfortunately, this mall is a bit further away from the centre. For designer brands, Avenue Louise is the place to go. Along this busy avenue, you’ll find household names such as Chanel and Louis Vuitton, as well as outlets of Belgian design heroes like Natan. If you are in the mood for some perusing and strolling, try Marché aux Herbes and Rue des Fripiers, which are packed with adorable, fun shops.

Rue Neuve.

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Rue Neuve, City 2, Anspach Shopping Centre, Marché aux Herbes and Rue des Fripiers are all close to Plaçe de la Monnaie (De Brouckere, metro 1 and 5). Avenue Louise is on metros 2 and 6, and Docks Bruxsel on tram lines 3 and 7. Shops are usually open from 10am to 6pm.

A weekend in Brussels

Rue des Bouchers.

T H E M E D I E VA L H E A R T Îlot Sacré, or ‘the Holy Islet’, as it could be translated, is a maze of medieval alleys and streets that form the most picture-perfect neighbourhood in the entire city. It only covers about eight streets and a handful of ÎLOT SACRÉ galleries, yet most tourist snapshots are taken right here. In the 1950s, when tourism in Brussels started to pick up, plenty of restaurants opened up here, all serving the legendary Belgian classics that foreigners like so much. The famous Rue des Bouchers in particular is a tourist hotbed. It is, therefore, hardly a surprise that Îlot Sacré isn’t the place where you get the best value for your buck (for our restaurant recommendations, see page 25). Yet, a walk through its streets is an absolute must. Deep inside the maze of streets, you’ll find Jeanneke Pis, the better half of the city’s iconic peeing statue (see page 34). This fountain of a peeing girl was placed here in 1987 by the restaurant owners in a quirky attempt to lure more tourists to their establishments.

Rue des Bouchers.

Îlot Sacré can be entered through the majestic Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert (see page 31) or through one of the many alleys that enter the ‘islet’ from Marché aux Herbes, Rue des Fripiers or Rue de l’Ecuyer (De Brouckere or Gare Centrale, metro 1 and 5). From the central Rue des Bouchers, you can enter most of the neighbourhood’s side alleys.

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A weekend in Brussels

VISIT A BREWERY Think about Belgium, and you’ll likely think about beer. A visit to Brussels is, therefore, not complete without a tipple or two. To fully immerse yourself in the country’s centuries-old brewing culture, visit one of CANTILLON the traditional breweries. Brussels counts plenty of them, but most famous is the Cantillon brewery, the specialities of which are its iconic lambic, its sweet Kriek and Framboise, and plenty of other great brews. On Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays, you can join a 1.5-hour-long tour in English – but this excursion must be booked in advance. It takes you through the brewing halls, explains the path from barley to beer, and finishes with a tasting of the exquisite brews. At other days and times, you can visit the brewery on your own. Rue Gheude 56 (Anderlecht) (Clemenceau, metro 2 and 6). €9.50 including guide and tasting; €7 for a self-guided visit (discounts available). Guided tours in English are available on Monday, Friday and Saturday (timetables vary, see website). Self-guided visits are possible from Monday to Saturday (with the exception of Wednesday) from 10am to 4pm.

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A weekend in Brussels

THE BEST VIEW IN TOWN If there is one panorama in the city that you just can’t miss, it is that of Mont des Arts. This stunning view (which also adorns this weekend guide’s cover), is the perfect place for watching the sun rise, set or just MONT DES ARTS shine upon the city. Centrally, you’ll see the neo-Gothic tower of the City Hall, and in the distance, you’ll spot the Koekelberg Basilica. Besides its stunning view, Mont des Arts is also known for its lush flower beds and the regal statue of King Albert I on his horse. Every hour, you can also enjoy the music of the carillon, which is hidden behind the giant clock that adorns the right-hand-side gate to the hill. In the evening, you’ll hear many jazz musicians play the saxophone in the park. (Bruxelles-Central or Parc, metro 1 and 6 or NMBS-SNCB train.) Accessible 24/7.

TEXTBOOK AUTHENTICITY AND CHARM Like in most cities, modernisation, gentrification and globalisation have had their effect on Brussels’ so-called ‘couleur locale’. Luckily, one iconic neighbourhood resisted these external influences and is still inhabMAROLLEN ited by a colourful mix of authentic Bruxellois: the Marollen. Since the Middle Ages, this area has been drenched in authenticity. The central Place du Jeu de Balle fills with salesmen every morning, all aiming to sell their merchandise at the popular flea market. If you want to buy antiques after 2pm, you can still roam the Marollen’s streets, as they are packed with ‘brocanteries’ and peruse-worthy antique shops. If you speak French or Dutch, you will also notice that the locals speak a tongue of their own, somewhere halfway between the city’s official idioms. This peculiar language is one of the last remaining Brussels dialects. Enter the district from the north-west (Bruxelles-Chapelle or Bruxelles-midi, most NMBS-SNCB trains pass here) or from the south-east (Louise, Porte de Hal and Hôtel des Monnaies, metro 2 and 6). Flea market daily from 6am to 2pm (to 3pm on weekends).

Mont des Arts.

Mont des Arts.

The Marollen.

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TINTIN & COMPANY: FIVE SANCTUARIES FOR COMIC BOOK LOVERS As the hometown of paper heroes like Tintin, The Smurfs and Lucky Luke, Brussels sure is Europe’s comic book capital. In every corner of the city, you’ll find references to the city’s fictitious legends. To fully immerse yourself in the comic book craze, these are the places to visit.



Comic Strip Centre.

Situated in a stunning building by Victor Horta, the Belgian Comic Strip Centre is steeped in Brussels’ craftmanship. The family museum introduces you and your rug rats to Belgium’s long comic book history in a fun and interactive manner. End your visit in the reading room for an adventure with your heroes. Belgian Comic Strip Centre, Rue des Sables 20 (Botanique, metro 2 and 6; Parc, metro 1 and 5). €10 (discounts available). Open daily from 10am to 6pm.

AMIDST THE HEROES Adjoining the Central Station is Moof (or, the Museum of Original Figurines). Spread over 1,300 square metres, all your heroes await you in their three-dimensional shape. Every six months, part of the collection changes. The museum’s entrance is hard to miss, given that a fivemetre-tall Smurf welcomes you at the door.


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Moof, Rue Marché aux Herbes 116 (Horta Gallery) (Gare Central, metro 1 and 5). €12 (discounts available). Open daily from 10am to 6pm (closed on Monday from September to June).

A weekend in Brussels


WINDOW SHOPPING What better souvenir to take home than a Belgian comic book? Brussels counts many highly specialised comic book shops, where you can purchase your favourite books as well as other merchandise such as pens, figurines, bags and posters. Don’t do all your shopping in the first shop you pass, though; save some of the budget for the rest of your holiday. Every part of Brussels presents comic book-related shops that will make your wallet itch. The best comic book shops can be found on Boulevard Anspach (abeam La Bourse) and the nearby Rue du Midi, and between the Central Station and Mont des Arts, you’ll find more. Most of them open Monday to Saturday from around 10am to about 6pm.



Brussels streetscapes are packed with comic book images. Today, the city has around 60 comic book walls – and counting. Most famous are those from Tintin (Rue de l’Etuve), Astérix & Obélix (Rue de la Buanderie) and Gaston Lagaffe (Rue de l’Ecuyer). In the tourist office (and on their website), you’ll find a handy map and overview to help you find them all. Comic book route, spread throughout Brussels city and Laeken.

Comic wall.

THE WORLD OF TINTIN Brussels counts many drawn heroes, but none even compare to Tintin and Snowy, Brussels’ cleverest reporter and his loyal canine. In 2009, Musée Hergé, a cultural temple dedicated to the legendary illustrator and his celebrated characters, opened its doors. As the museum lies a one-hour train ride away from the city, it can be hard to get to if you’ve only got a weekend.


Musée Hergé, Rue du Labrador 26 (OtigniesLouvain-la-Neuve). €12 (discounts available). Open Tuesday to Friday from 10.30am to 5.30pm and on weekends from 10.30am to 6pm. Comic wall.

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CULINARY BRUSSELS What is Brussels if not a culinary destination? A popular saying suggests that Belgian cuisine combines the quality of the French kitchen with the quantities of the German one. Expect plenty of tasty dishes that leave you satisfied for days. So, don’t leave any treat unsampled or dish unfinished this weekend. There is no better souvenir to take home from Brussels than a few extra kilogrammes.

CARBONADE FL AMANDE Unlike what its name suggests, Carbonade flamande (or, Flemish stew) is enjoyed in all corners of Belgium. It is a slow-cooked beef stew with dark beer, bay leaves and thyme. During the cooking process, you add a slice of bread with mustard or a slice of gingerbread to the mixture as well. Enjoy with a side of fries and mayonnaise. You can try this dish in a sit-down restaurant as well as in most ‘friteries’.

MOULES-FRITES No marriage is as tasty as that between mussels and fries. The two seem made for each other and form a wildly popular dish in Belgian restaurants and taverns. Every year, between 25 and 30 tonnes are eaten in Belgium alone. The mussels are served from July until April, come in a typical, black mussel pot, and are traditionally cooked in a broth of celery and other vegetables. Many restaurants also serve varieties with white wine sauce, garlic, or ‘à la crème’.

STEAK-FRITES Sure, you can eat steak with chips anywhere you go. Yet, most Belgians will tell you that this is the most Belgian dish of them all. Crispy fries, quality mayonnaise and béarnaise sauce (a sauce of egg yolks, butter, vinegar and herbs) form a perfect harmony on this plate. Béarnaise is in fact French but is considered by the Belgians to be their very own. Note that, in Belgium, they express the desired doneness of the meat by the French names: bleu (rare), saignant (medium-rare), à point (medium) and bien cuit (well done).



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This velvety chicken-meatball-mushroom stew is a popular dish that many Belgians prepare themselves. It is usually served in a little puff pastry cup with – you guessed it – fries! While the dish is usually referred to as ‘vol-au-vent’, this is actually just the name of the pastry. The ragout inside is called ‘vidée’ or ‘fricassee’. This dish also goes great with potato croquettes – just in case you are tired of fries already.


BRUSSELS SPROUTS To some, they are a delicacy, and to others the devil in disguise. Few vegetables are as polarising as these little green cabbages. In Belgium, however, people have been eating them ever since the 13th century, 600 years before the country was even founded. To date, they remain a strong symbol of the city. If you spot sprout stickers on buildings, mailboxes or benches in Brussels, they are likely from Sprout to be Brussels, a positive citizens’ initiative that was founded shortly after the terrorist attacks in Brussels in 2016.

STOEMP Chicon au gratin.

Potatoes, vegetables and a bit of cream, all mashed together – that’s how simple a Belgian classic can be! Usually, this dish is prepared with carrots, but it can also be done with broccoli, cabbage, leeks or other vegetables. Belgians typically complement it with a sausage and a spoon of Belgian pickle sauce or mustard.



GAUFRES Even on the other side of the world, waffles are referred to with the ‘Belgian’ prefix. And that’s despite the fact that Belgium counts numerous different kinds of waffles. The traditional ‘gaufre de Bruxelles’ is very big and light and usually served in tea rooms and restaurants with a scoop of ice cream. The waffle you might pick up at a stand in the city centre is likely a ‘gaufre de Liège’. This is heavier, sweeter and far more popular. If you’re up for a sugar rush, add some fruit, cream, Nutella, chocolate or other sweets to it.

As white chicory is almost exclusively produced in Belgium and the Netherlands, both countries harvest them in high quantities and export them to all corners of the world. In Belgium, it is wrapped in ham, covered in a bechamel sauce, topped with grated cheese and baked in the oven. The subtle flavours of the sauce and the ham go great with the bitter, sharp taste of the vegetable, making it a simply amazing meal.

PRALINES Belgian chocolates might be a tad pricy, but they are worth every penny once you discover their sweet fillings. As Forrest Gump used to say: “Life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re gonna to get.” So, when at the chocolaterie, dare to make a selection of the chocolates that appeal most to you, without asking the salesman what’s inside. This way, eating them will prove to be a real adventure.

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This century-old pub, the beloved watering hole of René Magritte and other artists, is as authentic as they come. It’s the perfect place for a Belgian beer. Stalingrad Rue des Alexiens 55 lafleurenpapierdore.be


A cute, curious, informal bar with a decent selection of beers and cocktails. If there is space, sit upstairs on one of the old sofas while gazing at the crowd downstairs. Bourse Rue du Midi 15


This theatre bar opens its rooftop in summer and for special occasions, giving you a nice view over Brussels. They often also throw some live music, dance or theatre into the mix as well. Sainte-Catherine & Saint-Géry Rue Auguste Orts 20/28 beursschouwburg.be


Our favourite place for a coffee, right across BOZAR (see page 44). They serve a great cup of joe and even better pastries and quiches. Museum Quarter Rue Ravenstein 20 mugcoffee.be

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L’ A R C H I D U C € €

A hidden jazz bar in the centre of town. On weekend nights, talented musicians often take to the stage. Check the online calendar. Sainte-Catherine & Saint-Géry Rue Antoine Dansaert 6 archiduc.net


A hip cocktail bar that attracts students as well as young professionals and, during the day, even senior citizens. Its name means Bar Concrete, describing its industrial interior. Sainte-Catherine & Saint-Géry Rue Antoine Dansaert 114 barbeton.be





A tourist’s staple. This huge bar, an outlet of the eponymous beer brand, can be quite packed, but that only makes it cosier. Order the Delirium Tremens beer, but be careful: it has an ABV of 8.5 per cent. Îlot Sacré Impasse de la Fidélité 4 deliriumvillage.com

Brussels Beer Project is creating wildly popular, experimental microbrews. In its taproom, you can taste them all, poured to perfection. It also has taprooms in Paris and Tokyo. Sainte-Catherine & Saint-Géry Rue Antoine Dansaert 188 beerproject.be

Café Mort Subite was the birthplace of the Mort Subite beer, the most famous Gueuze beer, a typical bruxellois variety. Try this bitter brew here in this traditional tavern. Îlot Sacré Rue Montagne aux Herbes Potagères 7 alamortsubite.com

This cocktail bar is like a giant cabinet of curiosities. The walls are packed with weird (sometimes scary) things and they know how to shake a great cocktail. Museum Quarter Coudenberg 66 lapharmacieanglaise.com

Dining MONK €

At the back of this student bar, you’ll find an elegant, Wes Anderson-esque diner where you get to choose between four different pasta dishes, and nothing more. It feels a bit like a hidden, clandestine speakeasy. Sainte-Catherine & Saint-Géry Rue Sainte-Catherine 42 monk.be


By far the greatest ice-cream bar in Brussels. Every scoop is tasty, sometimes even fascinating. Make sure to try the Chocolate from São Tomé, the most intense chocolate ice cream we have ever eaten. Sainte-Catherine & Saint-Géry Quai aux Briques 86 glaciergaston.be


When in Brussels, don’t miss out on some Belgian fries. Where those in the city centre can be of inferior quality, Maison Antoine still fries them the traditional, delicious way. Etterbeek Place Jourdan 1 maisonantoine.be

R U E D E L’ E T U V E €

Around Manneken Pis, you can enjoy awesome waffles. For just a euro or two, you get a hot, fresh one. Most of the waffle shops here serve great-quality stuff, so take your pick. Îlot Sacré Around Rue de l’Etuve 57


As Brussels is wildly multicultural, you’ll also find plenty of international restaurants. Au Bon Bol might not look spectacular from the outside but serves the best homemade noodles in the city. Bourse Rue Paul Delvaux 9 bonbol.be

FA L S TA F F € €

This recently renovated restaurant is one of Brussels’ greatest examples of Art Nouveau. Every square centimetre of the place is worth your attention. Head in for a sitdown meal or an afternoon drink. Bourse Rue Henri Maus 19 lefalstaff.be


A perfect place to sample classic Belgian dishes such as ‘carbonade flamande’ and ‘vol-auvent’ amidst the Bruxellois. Not too fancy. Just very tasty. Sainte-Catherine & Saint-Géry Rue des Chartreux 9


Le Pain Quotidien might have spread around the world by now, but the first one was here in Rue Antoine Dansaert. It is known for its rustic sandwiches, salads, pastries and quiches. Sainte-Catherine & Saint-Géry Rue Antoine Dansaert 16 lepainquotidien.com


Brussels’ most famous twoMichelin-star restaurant. Here, they master the art of French cuisine to the dot and know how to create a lush-yet-jovial atmosphere.. Stalingrad Place Rouppe 23 commechezsoi.be

BON-BON € € €

According to Gault Millau, it is one of the best restaurants in Belgium (19.5/20). It is warm and authentic, but also luxurious and elegant. This might be one of the best dining experiences in Belgium. Woluwe-Saint-Pierre Avenue de Tervueren 453 restaurant-bon-bon.be

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A weekend in Brussels

Grand Place.


A weekend in Brussels



A weekend in Brussels

THE ENCHANTING DOWNTOWN Like in most of the Belgian cultural cities, Brussels’ gems can be found inside its historic centre. Between Mont des Arts (see page 19) at one end and Boulevard Anspach at the other, you can get lost in a most-atmospheric maze of narrow alleys and cobbled boulevards. Many of the buildings here have survived centuries already, and are now drenched in yesteryear’s elegance. The historic centre is very walkable, so put away your metro ticket and stroll from one incredible spot to the next.


Grand Place.

Grand Place.

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It might be a tad pompous to call your own square the most beautiful one in the world, but the Bruxellois have a good reason to do so. In 1837, legendary French writer Victor Hugo arrived in the city for the first time GRAND PLACE and called the square “a miracle”. The belfry of the Town Hall, he described as “a dazzling fantasy dreamed up by a poet and realised by an architect”. Still today, the square features in many listings of the most beautiful squares in the world. Nearly all of the buildings are neo-Gothic, which means that they are far younger than they appear; they were all rebuilt after 1695, after the French Sun King Louis XIV bombed the city. Almost all of the buildings are decorated with gold, and each has a name and a story of its own. When facing the town hall, the buildings on your right are among the lushest around. On the far left, you’ll see ‘In den Vos’, a building that was intended to represent the honesty of the city’s tradesmen. The blindfolded statue in the centre illustrates justice, while the other four statues show the four continents that were known back then. The building next to it (Den Hoorn)

A weekend in Brussels

Grand Place.

was the headquarters of the city's sailors. Most of its decorations have a maritime theme; others point in the four directions the wind blows. Like these, every building has its own story. On the left-hand side of the town hall, you’ll see the gold-covered house of the Dukes of Brabant, which was the home of six guilds. The bas-reliefs still show which six trades they represented. The 18 serious statues above the second row of windows are the Dukes of Brabant, who gave their name to the building.

The queen of the square is the town hall and its belfry. This building was the only one to partially survive the bombing. The decorations you see today are neo-Gothic, but the structure dates back to the Gothic HÔTEL DE VILLE era. While the building looks symmetrical at first, you will soon notice that the belfry doesn’t stand centrally in the building and that the door does not sit straight underneath the peak. The legend states that the architect only noticed this when the building was finished, and that it infuriated him so much that he climbed to the top and jumped off it. In reality, the errors are simply the consequence of a long building history with many redesigns, and the architect in fact died at home of old age.

Strolling through the historic centre Start your stroll at Gare Central and leave through the Galleries Horta to Place du Marché aux Herbes. Enter the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert and head to the left along Rue des Bouchers. Then follow Petite Rue des Bouchers until you arrive at Grand Place. Take Rue de l’Etuve all the way to Manneken Pis, and then head down Rue des Grands Carmes. Head right at Rue du Midi and follow it until you arrive at Place de la Monnaie.

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A weekend in Brussels

Everard 't Serclaes.

Facing the town hall is the Maison du Roi. Unlike what its name suggests, no king has ever slept in it. It was originally the residence of the Dukes of Brabant. After that, it was used as the office of the tax MAISON DU ROI collector, a court, and even a jail. Today, this neo-Gothic building houses the Brussels City Museum. Here, you can discover the history of the city and get close and personal with the original Manneken Pis (for the replica, see page 34).

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12pm: Lunchtime Surrounding La Bourse, and in the nearby Rue du Midi, you’ll find plenty of nice and affordable spots for lunch. For the full tourist experience, opt for one of the many Belgian restaurants in Rue des Bouchers instead.

A weekend in Brussels

This statue can be found on the corner on the left side of the town hall and shows a dying Everard ‘t Serclaes. After the Dukes of Flanders conquered the city from the Dukes of Brabant in 1356, EVERARD ‘T SERCLAES Brussels became a place of suppression. After four months, ‘t Serclaes sneaked his way into the town hall, climbed the building, and rose the flag of Brabant again. This ignited the fighting spirit in the citizens and, after a fierce battle, they reclaimed the city. ‘t Serclaes became a hero, but 20 years later, during the next battle (this time against the Dutch ruler William I), the old man was ambushed on the road. His tongue was cut out and he died five days later. The anger of the citizens over the murder ignited the fight once more and finally led to their victory. Rumour has it that if you rub the arm of this statue, you will return to Brussels once more. That is why the arm of ‘t Serclaes is still as shiny as ever. Grand Place (Gare Central, metro 1 and 5; Bourse, tram 3 and 4). Brussels City Museum. €8 (discounts available). Open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 5pm.

G A S T R O N O M Y AV E N U E Rue des Bouchers is the beating heart of the Îlot Sacré (see page 17). Its ancient façades envelop plenty of warm, Belgian restaurants. The street, therefore, indulges all your senses. Gaze at its colRUE DES BOUCHERS ourful lights and atmospheric busyness at nightfall and explore Belgian gastronomy by scent and taste, but beware that some restaurants here can be a tad overpriced for the quality they offer. Mere metres from Rue des Bouchers, you’ll enter the Delirium Café, Brussels’ most popular beer temple and a popular hang-out for tourists and locals alike. Rue des Bouchers (Gare Central, metro 1 and 5). Restaurants tend to open at 12pm for lunch and at 5pm or 6pm for dinner.

THE KING, QUEEN AND PRINCE The gallery complex of Saint-Hubert is simply breathtaking. It consists of three stunning corridors: the King’s Gallery, the Queen’s Gallery and the Prince’s Gallery. It’s hard to imagine that GALERIES ROYALES SAINT-HUBERT this feat of engineering has been around for nearly two centuries already. In total, the gallery is 230 metres long and eight metres high. Its awe-inspiring glass roof floods the galleries with natural light. Alongside the corridor, you’ll find some of the finest boutiques in Brussels. Besides chocolate and jewellery shops, it also counts design boutiques, bars, bookshops and an art-house cinema. In 1896, the gallery was the setting of the first movie screening in Belgium – overseen by the inventors of cinema, the brothers Lumière themselves. And by the way, the location of the galleries couldn’t be better: the Prince’s Gallery ends in the atmospheric Îlot Sacré (see page 17). Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert.

Entrance at Place du Marché aux Herbes. Free admission. Open 24/7.

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A weekend in Brussels


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A weekend in Brussels

The opera building today known as La Monnaie is not the first to carry this name. Since 1700, a total of three eponymous opera houses have stood in this exact spot. The current building is a mid-19th-century reLA MONNAIE construction of the building from 1819. On 25 August 1830, a performance of the opera La Muette de Portici ignited the patriotism of the spectators and led to the Belgian Revolution, which was fought in front of the Belgian Royal Palace (see page 42). A little under one year later (on 21 July 1931), the Belgian declaration of independence was signed.

La Monnaie.

Place de la Monnaie (De Brouckere, metro 1 and 5; tram 3 and 4). Ticket prices and opening times vary.


E C O N O M Y A N D C U LT U R E This monumental building, which used to house the stock exchange and was the beating heart of the Belgian economy, is now a huge events space and cultural temple that only welcomes the most important exhibitions. BOURSE The lion’s share of the year, the building isn’t open to the public. Yet, every so often, it hosts high-profile art exhibitions. In front of the building – on the Place de la Bourse – you’ll find street artists and people chatting. In the aftermath of the 2016 bombings of Brussels’ metro and airport, the stairs of the building and square have become an impromptu memorial. Boulevard Anspach, the road that runs on both sides of Place de la Bourse, is often regarded as the border between the old town and the touristy area. On the other side, you’ll walk the streets of the hip Sainte-Catherine and Saint-Géry neighbourhoods (see page 36).


Place de la Bourse (Bourse, tram 3 and 5; De Brouckere, metro 1 and 5). Admission fees and opening times vary.

T H E F O R G OT T E N C AT H E D R A L While in most cities, the cathedral marks the historic heart and centre for tourists, the Cathédrale Saints-Michel-et-Gudule is located at the edge of the old town. Few tourists pass CATHÉDRALE SAINTS-MICHEL-ET-GUDULE here, almost turning it into a hidden gem. A Baroque cathedral with two towers adorning the nave, it looks like a slender copy of the Notre Damme in Paris. Over the course of the last 700 years, the cathedral has been the setting of many an official event: royal marriages, baptisms and funerals; Te Deums… the works. Since 2004, the tower is also the home of a couple of peregrine falcons. Through their cameras, biologists and bird spotters follow their every move.


Rue du Bois Sauvage 15 (Gare Centrale, metro 1 and 5; most NMBS-SNCB trains). Free admission. Open from 7am to 6pm on weekdays, from 8am to 5pm on Saturday and from 1pm to 6pm on Sunday. Also open during mass.

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Manneken Pis.

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MANNEKEN PIS: TO GO OR NOT TO GO? There are two sorts of tourists: those who consider a stroll past Manneken Pis the highlight of their trip, and those who want to avoid the little peeing boy at all cost. Which type are you? We list the pros and cons of Brussels’ bronze icon so that you can figure out whether to pass by or not.

What we like about Manneken Pis

What we dislike about Manneken Pis

Like Paris’ Mona Lisa and Copenhagen’s Little Mermaid, Manneken Pis (Dutch for ‘little peeing boy’) is infamous for its humble size. No matter how much you prepare yourself for it, you will likely be shocked by how small the statue is. This fact alone makes hanging around by the iconic corner to look at all the surprised faces amusing indeed. Furthermore, Manneken Pis has a great story – or, stories! One heroic tale states that Brussels was about to be blown up by its enemy but that a little boy managed to pee on the fuse and prevent the catastrophe. More likely, however, the statue was a salute to the city’s tanners, who used the urine of small children to make their leather soft. But the funniest thing about Manneken Pis is that he is dressed up for every special occasion. Whether it’s the national holiday of a faraway country or a local folklore festival, Manneken Pis always wears a fitting ensemble. His outfit schedule can be found at the gate in front of the statue. In total, Manneken Pis has more than 1,000 outfits, 133 of which you can discover at GardeRobe MannekenPis, a museum just around the corner.

As fun as watching the disappointed grins on the faces of tourists can be, the disappointment of arriving at Manneken Pis yourself is sobering to say the least. With its 58 centimetres, there is not much to look at; you might have seen enough of it after just a few seconds. Another disadvantage of the spot is that it is often packed with tourists. Brussels usually isn’t a very touristy city, but at the corner of Manneken Pis, there are always picture-taking visitors aplenty. This fact is even more surprising, and indeed sobering, if you know that it isn’t even the real Manneken Pis you are staring it. Over the years, the statue has been stolen many times, sometimes by students just for a few hours, and other times by burglars and political enemies. In 1965, it was decided that the original would be replaced by a replica, and the number of thefts has diminished ever since. To see the original statue, visit Maison du Roi (see page 30). Here, you can still spot the original little guy. On the corner of Rue de l’Etuve and Rue du Chêne (Bourse, trams 3, 4 and 32).

What to do instead? What many tourists don’t realise is that Brussels is the home of an entire Pis dynasty. Besides Manneken Pis, you can also visit his girlfriend, Jeanneke Pis, and his loyal canine Zinneke. The former is a fountain as well and hidden in the heart of Îlot Sacré (see page 17). The latter can be spotted near Saint-Géry, at the crossing of Rue du Vieux Marché aux Grains and Rue des Chartreux. Zinneke isn’t a fountain, but simply a bronze statue of a dog peeing against a traffic bollard. Rumour has it that it embodies the Bruxellois’ ‘I don’t care’ attitude.

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A weekend in Brussels

THE AUTHENTIC SAINTE-CATHERINE AND SAINT-GÉRY Separated from the historic centre by Boulevard Anspach, the districts of Sainte-Catherine and Saint-Géry are hotbeds of innovation and cosiness. Unlike its historic counterpart, it isn’t packed with spectacular sights and legendary hotspots, but it’s a great destination for those who want to discover the real Brussels. What it might lack in bombastic sights, it compensates for in cosy restaurants, bars and alleys. Sainte-Catherine and Saint-Géry are for strolling, tasting and relaxing. And what could make a better holiday than that?

Marché au Poisson.

THE SECOND CENTRE If the Bruxellois say they’re about to stroll through the city, there’s a big chance that they are referring to Sainte-Catherine rather than the actual centre. At and around the Place Sainte-Catherine, there PLACE SAINTE-CATHERINE are shops, terraces and picture-perfect alleyways aplenty. On the square itself, the Église Sainte-Catherine will grab your attention. In the weeks before Christmas, its façade makes the canvas for a spectacular light show. If you walk to the back of the church, you’ll find the ancient Tour Noire (Black Tower). As it dates back to the 13th century, this old city gate could not be torn down when Novotel wanted to build a hotel on that same spot, which is why the chain built its hotel around it with this odd view as a result. In fact, playing fast and loose with the protection of historical monuments is referred to as ‘brusselsification’, as absurd installations like these are all but rare in the city. Tour Noire.

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Place Sainte-Catherine (Sainte-Catherine, metro 1 and 5).

A weekend in Brussels

WA L K I N G O N WAT E R It’s hard to imagine today, but the Sainte-Catherine district was once a fisherman’s neighbourhood. Little canals of the Senne river ran up to the church and attracted fishing and sailing aficionados THE OLD DOCKS alike. In the early 20th century, the docks were filled in and became stretched-out city squares, which is what you’ll still find here today. Start your walk at the Quai aux Briques (the biggest of the docks) and continue through the rest. Some are parks, others more like beautiful walking boulevards. The Quai aux Briques even has some water features. If you feel like heading for the water afterwards, follow the Quai du Commerce until the end. From here, you are mere metres away from today’s canal. Quai aux Briques, Quai aux Barques, Quai au Foin, Quai du Commerce (Sainte-Catherine, metro 1 and 5).

3pm: Snack time If you are in the mood for a mid-afternoon snack when in Sainte-Catherine, there is no better place to go than Gaston, an ice cream bar on Quai aux Briques that sells the best gelato in the city. If you don’t feel like ice cream, there are also a few chocolateries to discover in the same square. Sainte-Catherine.

The Old Docks.

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A weekend in Brussels

DESIGN FINDS Rue Antoine Dansaert connects the city centre with the canal and presents two entirely different worlds. The part near the Bourse is packed with boutiques of hip designer brands and up-andRUE ANTOINE DANSAERT coming labels. A bit closer to the water, the street becomes less polished and rougher around the edges. Rue Antoine Dansaert is a good example of how rich and poor live side by side in Brussels. Many people live next door to someone from a wildly different demographic. Rue Antoine Dansaert (Bourse, tram 3 and 4; De Brouckere, metro 1 and 5). Shops are usually open from 10am to 6pm.


A stroll through SainteCatherine and Saint-Géry Start at the Bourse and take Rue Antoine Dansaert to the Vieux Marché aux Grains. Circle the Église Sainte-Catherine and follow Quai aux Briques to the water feature. Take Rue du Rouleau to the end and head back to the docks through Rue de l’Infirmerie and Rue du Grand Hospice. Spend some time exploring the other docks, or immediately cross the square and take Rue du Pays de Liège to Rue de Flandre. Walk down this street, Rue SainteCatherine and Rue Paul Devaux all the way to the Bourse.



After sunset, head to Saint-Géry to end your day with a tipple. Surrounding the old market hall, and even inside it, you’ll find many bars with charming fairy lights and colourful bunting. This is a local spot, PLACE SAINT-GÉRY so don’t hesitate to mingle with the Bruxellois. But Place Saint-Géry is so much more than just a bar-packed square. It is, in fact, the place where Brussels was founded in 979. The area was nothing but a swamp back then, but on an island, Duke Charles of Lower Lorraine built a chapel. Soon, more and more buildings were added, and the rest is history. Centrally in the market hall stands a tower-high fountain. This is believed to be the exact spot of Brussels’ founding. Place Saint-Géry (Bourse, tram 3 and 4). Free entrance to the hall. Hall is opened daily from 10am and until the bars close. Most bars work to similar schedules.

AMONG THE LOCALS Rue de Flandre is one of the cosiest streets in the city. It houses nice restaurants to suit all budgets, cute boutiques for the avid browser and exciting secrets around every corner. If you cross Place RUE DE FLANDRE Sainte-Catherine, the street becomes Rue SainteCatherine, an equally cosy street with great gastronomy and countless Asian shops and taverns. Sainte-Catherine.

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Rue de Flandre (Sainte-Catherine, metro 1 and 5).

A weekend in Brussels

Maison de la Bellone.

A FORGOTTEN CORNER Many cities in Belgium have béguinages – convents of small houses where poor, widowed and retired devotees lived. In Brussels, the old béguinage is long gone, but the sacred quietness and serenity of yore still BÉGUINAGE linger through the streets. Start your walk at the central Église du Béguinage and continue down the streets. On your left, you’ll find the Hospice Pachéco, a gigantic building that used to serve as a retirement home. Don’t expect too much from this neck of the woods, but keep it in mind for whenever you’re in the mood for a few minutes of tranquillity. Place du Béguinage and surroundings (Sainte-Catherine, metro 1 and 5).

Place de Brouckère.


M I N I AT U R E T I M E S S Q UA R E During the 1960s, Place de Brouckère was the metropolitan heart of the city. The billboards on the roofs and modern kiosk in the middle gave it the nickname ‘Times Square of Brussels’. Today, howevPLACE DE BROUCKÈRE er, little of that grandeur is left, and the same goes for the billboards. Only the iconic Coca Cola advertisement and a humongous screen at the adjoining skyscraper hint at what it must have been like. Over the last few years, Brussels has invested a lot in this part of the city and turned the square and the adjoining Boulevard Anspach into a pedestrian zone. As a bad-weather plan, head to the UGC cinema on the square and buy a ticket for whatever film is playing in room seven. This is the Art Nouveau hall, called Salle du Grand Eldorado – an authentic, gold-covered screening room with exotic reliefs on the walls. Place de Brouckère (De Brouckere, metro 1 and 5, tram 3 and 4).

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FIVE ART NOUVEAU BUILDINGS NOT TO MISS If you haven’t heard about Art Nouveau, you might have heard instead about Jugendstil, Stile Liberty or Modernismo Catalán. All these names refer to the same art movement, which took the world by surprise during the so-called ‘fin de siècle’. The seeds for this ground-breaking artistic tendency were planted in Brussels by Victor Horta. He used steel and glass to create a new, modern and accessible form of beauty, a world away from the elitist architecture that dominated the rest of the 19th century.


SYMPHONIC ARCHITECTURE It’s hard to miss the Old England building when reaching the top of Mont des Arts. This extravagant concoction of glass and steel has its name written on it in gigantic letters. Today, the building houses the Musical Instruments Museum (MIM) and a restaurant on top offering panoramic views. In its early days, it was the Belgian flagship store for the British department store Old England, which was located here from 1899 until 1972. If you just want to grab a bite without visiting the museum, you can get a free ticket straight to the top at the entrance. Musical Instruments Museum, Montagne de la Cour 2 (Parc, metro 1 and 5). €10 (discounts available). Open Tuesday to Friday from 9.30am to 5pm, and on weekends from 10am to 5pm.

THE MASTER’S WORKSHOP No man mastered the Art Nouveau techniques like its founding father, Victor Horta. His most famous piece of work is his private residence and the adjoining workshop, which have now been transformed into the Horta Museum. The permanent exhibition inside is fascinating, but it is mainly the building itself that will leave you breathless. The UNESCO-listed house stands out with its stunning staircase, abundance of natural light and intriguing interior.


Horta Museum, Rue Américaine 25 (Saint-Gilles) (Place Janson, tram 81, 92 and 97). €10 (discounts available). Open Tuesday to Friday from 2pm to 5.30pm, and on weekends from 11am to 5.30pm.

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The Old England building.

A R T I S T S ’ TAV E R N In the city centre, in the shadow of the Bourse (see page 33), you can enjoy a beer or a meal in a regal finde-siècle setting. Mirrors, stained-glass windows and chandeliers turn this tavern into an Art Nouveau Walhalla, and the beer menu will entertain even the greatest architecture laymen. The restaurant was recently restored but thankfully lost none of its authentic charm.


Le Falstaff, Rue Henri Maus 19 (Bourse, tram 3 and 4). Free entrance for café guests. Open daily from 10am to midnight.

A weekend in Brussels


N A R R O W, N A R R O W E R , NARROWEST For proof that Art Nouveau wasn’t just a movement for the happy few and their gigantic mansions, look to Maison Saint-Cyr, a four-metre-wide house with a dazzling façade. Most impressive is the round balcony on the third floor, which fits the estate like a crown. It will hardly come as a surprise that the architect of this building, Gustave Strauven, was one of Horta’s apprentices. Today, the house is private property and can therefore not be visited. Yet, if you put yourself on a bench at the green Square Ambiorix, you can gaze away while enjoying the quiet park. Maison Saint-Cyr, Square Ambiorix 11 (Schuman, metro 1 and 5). Not open to the public.

Maison Saint-Cyr.

The great Art Nouveau iconoclasm When walking through Brussels, you won’t spot lush Art Nouveau buildings wherever you look. And there’s a reason for that! By the time the World Fair was about to be held in Brussels in 1968, Art Nouveau was already considered old-fashioned. As a result, the city of Brussels decided to strip many of these masterpieces of their lush ornaments and leave nothing but their minimalist, concrete structures behind. That is why today’s Brussels is no longer the Art Nouveau capital it once was. Yet, if you know where to go, you can still spot world-class examples of this glorious architectural style.

THE VERY FIRST ONE Art historians agree: Hôtel Tassel was the very first Art Nouveau building. This townhouse in the charming Ixelles neighbourhood was designed by Victor Horta for Emile Tassel, a rich scientist. The design stood out because of its ground-breaking floor plan, its interesting mix of materials and its revolutionary views on decorating. Looking at the façade today, it might not look like textbook Art Nouveau, as the glasswork and whiplash lines are scarcer than on later designs. Nevertheless, this is a must-see for architecture aficionados as it is a UNESCO-classified building that changed history forever. Hôtel Tassel.


Hôtel Tassel, Rue Paul-Emile Janson 6 (Ixelles) (Defacqz, tram 8 and 93). Not open to the public.

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A weekend in Brussels

THE SOPHISTICATED UPTOWN In Brussels, the residences of the upper class towered high above those of the average Joe. As there is a steep altitude difference in the middle of the city, which splits Brussels into two parts, the working class used to reside down the bottom of the hill, while the king, the aristocrats and the nouveau riche built their estates and mansions on higher grounds. That is why this part of town still feels quite a bit lusher and posher than the rest of the city. To date, the real estate prices in this part of town are still quite a bit higher than anywhere else in the city centre.


Palais Royale.

Palais Royale.

The Royal Palace in Brussels city centre is the office of the king and his entourage. It is just one of two Belgian Royal Palaces – the other one is situated just outside of the centre, in the district of Laeken, and is PALAIS ROYALE the residence of King Filip, Queen Mathilde and their four children. The palace was initially built for William I of the Netherlands, when he became the first (and last) king of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands – the combined territories of Belgium and the Netherlands – in 1815. When the Belgian Revolution commenced at La Monnaie (see page 33) in 1830, the square in front of the palace soon became the battlefield on which the Belgians eventually claimed victory. Back then, the Palace was quite a bit smaller than it is today, as only the central part was built. The auxiliary buildings that extend the palace on both sides were commissioned by the various Belgian kings, and so were the adjoining galleries. In 2002, former queen Paola asked esteemed Belgian artist Jan Fabre to redesign the Mirror Room of the palace. He covered its elegant, classicistic ceiling with the shields of 1.5 million jewel beetles. While some call the work barbaric, others can’t stop gazing at its mesmerising glow. Rue Brederode 16 (Parc, metro 1 and 5; Trône, metro 2 and 6). Free entrance. Open daily from late July until late August from 10.30am to 5pm.

THE HUNTING GROUNDS The city park of Brussels acts as a green buffer between the world of politics and the monarchy. The Royal Palace sits on one side of it, and the Federal Parliament of Belgium adjoins the other. When the PARC DE BRUXELLES prime minister has a request for the king, he traditionally crosses this park by foot through the central avenue. Underneath the park lies a bunker, which was built in the 1930s to protect the parliamentarians and royal family from harm in case of an emergency. A tunnel also connects the palace with the parliament. In times of peace, the park is simply a place

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A weekend in Brussels

Parc de Bruxelles.

for the Bruxellois to relax, picnic, stroll or play Pokémon Go (rumour has it that the city’s best Pokémons are hiding around here). The park is of historical significance as well, as it used to be the private hunting ground of the Dukes of Brabant and was the setting of the Dutch army base during the Belgian Revolution. Parc de Bruxelles (Parc, metro 1 and 5). Open 24/7.

Parc de Bruxelles.

THE POSH SAND MINES The Sablon area used to be little more than a piece of wasteland on which a specific type of white sand (or, sablon) was mined for. With the construction of the Church of Our Blessed Lady of the Sablon in 1304, GRAND SABLON the area attracted more and more people who wished to settle around the church. By the 16th century, the neighbourhood had grown into a posh area where all the industrial leaders and aristocratic dynasties built their mansions. Today, the Grand Sablon square tells the tale of these days of wealth and luxury – with stunning façades, monumental statues and hints of greenery. The square attracts shoppers and foodies alike, as it counts numerous design stores, restaurants and chocolate boutiques. Grand Sablon.

Place du Grand Sablon (Louise, metro 2 and 6; Petit Sablon, tram 92 and 93).

Petit Sablon.

Separated from the Grand Sablon by Rue de la Régence is the peaceful park that is the Petit Sablon. Besides perfectly maintained hedges and elegant lawns, the garden impresses with 60 statues. Centrally in PETIT SABLON the park, you’ll find the Dukes of Egmont and Horne as they are about to be executed. This statue was erected in memory of the gruesome acts that the Spanish Duke of Alva committed in this neck of the woods. Surrounding it, you’ll find ten statues of the men who gave shape to the 16th-century Netherlands: military leaders, powerful intellectuals and legendary artists. Finally, adorning the fence of the garden, you’ll see 48 bronze men, representing the 48 trades for which Brussels was known. Place du Petit Sablon (Louise, metro 2 and 6; Petit Sablon, tram 92 and 93). Free entry. Open daily from 8am to 5.40pm.

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A weekend in Brussels

THE CREAM CAKE Palais de Justice is a building with a juicy history. While it has a ground surface of 26,000 square metres (in comparison, Rome’s Saint-Petes Basilica only covers 22,000 square metres), it was PALAIS DE JUSTICE never meant to become as bombastic as it is today. The palace was commissioned by King Leopold II and designed by Joseph Poelaert, two men who liked things big and over the top. While the government put aside four million Belgian Francs for the project, the decadent king and ambitious architect managed to spend over 50 million Francs instead. How the duo could do this without being stopped by the powers remains to be a mystery. The palace is textbook eclecticism and the general public didn’t like it at the time. They referred to the building (in fact, they still do) as ‘the cream cake’. Someone who did like the building was Adolf Hitler. In fact, the design of many Nazi monuments was inspired by the Palais de Justice. The roof of the building has been under renovation for decades, so the scaffolding will partially block your view.

Palais de Justice.

Place Poelaert 1 (Louise, metro 2 and 6; Poelaert, tram 92 and 93). €170 per group visit.

T H E O T H E R PA N O R A M A The square in front of Palais de Justice was named after its architect, Joseph Poelaert, and is popular for its views over the city. You can see the Église Notre-Dame-de-la-Chapelle, the tower of the City Hall PLACE POELAERT (see page 30), the skyscrapers of the Manhattan Area (see page 67) and – on clear days – even the Atomium (see page 56). The free elevator takes you down to the Marollen district (see page 19). Palais de Justice.

Place Poelaert (Louise, metro 2 and 6; Poelaert, tram 92 and 93).

ART AND ARCHITECTURE BOZAR (a wordplay on ‘Beaux Arts’, French for ‘fine arts’) is Brussels’ most important museums. Today, it is settled in an Art Deco building from Victor Horta, but soon the institution will move to the brand-new BOZAR building at the other side of the street. BOZAR presents art in the broadest sense of the word. It organises prestigious exhibitions, hosts film festivals and boasts one of Belgium’s most beautiful concert halls. In fact, the Queen Elisabeth Competition, a world-famous classical music concours, is held in this very auditorium. In the basement of the building, you’ll find Cinematek (see page 66). Rue Ravenstein 23 (Parc, metro 1 and 5). Ticket fees vary between exhibitions and performances. Expos accessible from Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 6pm (to 9pm on Thursday). Timetable of performances varies.

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Musée Magritte.

C E C I N ’ E S T PA S U N E P I P E Alongside Salvador Dalí and Pablo Picasso, René Magritte was one of the most influential surrealist painters of his time. His paintings are full of apples, clouds and bowler hats, often in mind-bending comMUSÉE MAGRITTE positions. On top of Mont des Arts, you can visit the museum that is dedicated to his collection. While his most legendary pieces (like Ceci n’est pas une pipe) are spread around the world, the museum does possess a nice collection of intriguing canvases. Place Royale 1 (Gare Central, metro 1 and 5 and all NMBS/SNCB trains). €10 (discounts available). Open Monday to Friday from 10am to 5pm, and on weekends from 11am to 6pm.

Palais de Justice.

BRUSSELS IN A NUTSHELL If you want to know all about Brussels’ past, present and future but lack the time to see the entire city, Experience.Brussels can provide you with a crash course. This free, interactive learning EXPERIENCE.BRUSSELS centre explains all you need to know about the heart of Europe. Feel free to bring your entire family, as this museum caters to all generations. Rue Royale 4 (Parc, metro 1 and 5). Free entry. Open Monday to Friday from 9.30am to 5.30pm, and on weekends from 10am to 6pm.

THE KING’S NEIGHBOUR Musée BELvue is the place to be for belgophiles, as it lays out the entirety of Belgian history and has managed to distil the essence of its culture. It talks about art, politics, people, languages and so much more. MUSÉE BELVUE Belgium is a complex concoction in a myriad of ways, but after a visit to Musée BELvue, you will understand it all. From the museum’s hall, you can also enter the Coudenberg catacombs (see page 65).

Musée BELvue.

Place des Palais 7 (Parc, metro 1 and 5). €7 (discounts available). Open Tuesday to Friday from 9.30am to 5pm, and on weekends from 10am to 6pm. Mondays are reserved for group visits only.

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BELGIAN BEER FOR BEGINNERS Belgium is a country renowned for its tasty and distinctive beers. Almost 1,500 types are produced within Belgium, while the number of breweries, as well as the country’s beer export figures are constantly rising. Here are five styles of beer that you will simply have to try on your weekend in Brussels.




Golden in colour and clear in appearance, this beer impresses with its light, hoppy taste. As it is rather easy to drink, you might have found it in bars abroad already.

This beer type is not for everybody and describes a blend of beers that goes through secondary fermentation. ‘Oude geuze’ is an unsweetened version with distinctive complexities that are very interesting but sweetened ‘geuze’ is a more accessible variety.

We suggest trying: Leffe Blonde (6.6%).



‘Witbier’ describes a tasty type of Belgian wheat beer which is characterized by its pale, cloudy look. The taste can be described as fruity as coriander tends to be added during the brewing process. Best served with a slice of lemon on a hot summer's evening. One to drink: Hoegaarden (4.9%).



This weekend, drink: Mort Subite Geuze (4.5%).


If you prefer more fruity brews, try this lambic beer that is made with cherries. You can expect a fruity aroma, as well as a deep red colour. If you’re lucky, your chosen bar for the evening might even sell the brew’s raspberry or peach and apricot varieties. Opt for: Schaarbekse Oude Kriek (7.8%).



Did you know... ...that UNESCO added Belgian beer culture to its Intangible Cultural Heritage list in 2016?

Finish your evening with a tangy, traditional brew, such as a lambic beer. The addition of brown sugar to this beer often softens the acidity. An impressive one: Lindemans Faro (4.2%).

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A weekend in Brussels



A weekend in Brussels


A weekend in Brussels

European Parliament.


If the European Union is what brings you to Brussels, you cannot miss visiting the glass forest that is the Leopold Quarter and the Squares District. Together, they form the so-called European District. Here, all the legendary European administration buildings that you usually only see on the news are just a short walk away from each other. As we visit the neighbourhood on a Sunday, it is quieter than usual, but there is still plenty to see.

E U R O P E ’ S M O S T I M P O R TA N T H E M I C Y C L E The European Parliament in Brussels is one of two European Parliaments, as the other one can be found in Strasbourg, France. The Brussels seat is intended for parliamentarian commissions, EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT whereas Strasbourg is the setting of the monthly plenary meetings. To understand what the European Parliament does for you, you can pay a visit to the Parlamentarium – the enormous visitor centre of the parliament. This interactive museum can be explored in all 24 official European languages and speaks to all ages and demographics. Rue Wiertz 60 (Trône, metro 2 and 6). Free admission to Parlamentarium. Open from 9am to 6pm on weekdays (except Mondays, when it opens at 1pm) and from 10am to 6pm on weekends.

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Berlaymont Building.

A weekend in Brussels

3,750 WINDOWS The Europa Building is the newest giant in the European quarter. It has been in use since 2016 and houses the European Council and the Council of Europe. Its façade is constructed with 3,750 antique EUROPA BUILDING oak windows from all 28 member states of the Union. Inside, you’ll find a giant, egg-shaped construction, which lights up at night, shining its light through the many windows. More than anything, this building reflects the transparency of the administration and the enlightenment of the European values. Rue de la Loi 147 (Shuman, metro 1 and 5). Free admission to visitor centre as well as the weekly tours. The visitor centre is open on weekdays from 10.30am to 4pm (or until 1pm throughout August). Free tours are available every Friday at 8am (online registration required). Free, private tours can be booked for groups of 20 people or more if requested at least three months in advance. Europa Building.

Strolling through the European Quarter Start your trip at the Schuman metro and train station (metro lines 1 and 5 and multiple train lines). Circle the square and then follow Rue de la Loi to Parc Cinquantenaire. Leave the park through the exit near the corner of the Avenue des Nerviens and the Avenue de la Joyeuse Entrée (close to where you entered). Follow the Rue Belliard down to Parc Leopold. Leave the park through either Rue Wiertz or Rue Vautier to go to the European Parliament or the Museum of Natural Sciences.

EUROPE’S EPICENTRE The Berlaymont Building is the king of the European district, in terms of both size and importance. It is the home of the European Commision; the organ that makes the most important deBERLAYMONT BUILDING cisions. Yet, it is its 240,000 square metres of floor space, spread over 18 gigantic floors, that make it stand out from the crowd. Besides offices for 3,000 ‘eurocrats’ and conference rooms aplenty, the building houses a television studio, a garage for 1,100 cars, a cafeteria that seats 900, a Nordic sauna, and more coffee corners than modern calculus accounts for. Rue de la Loi 200 (Shuman, metro 1 and 5). Free private tours available for groups of between 15 and 150 people, if booked at least ten weeks in advance.

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A weekend in Brussels

House of European History.

12pm: Lunchtime The European Quarter is not the most gastronomical area of the city, but for those who enjoy international cuisine, it does have some nice options. Unsurprisingly, it is a good region for Italian, Spanish, French and other European specialities. As it is mainly a business district, you’ll also find many decent lunch bars.

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AN INTERACTIVE TRIP THROUGH TIME The history of Europe of course goes back way longer than that of the Union alone. In the fantastic House of European History, you can explore it all in a wildly interactive exhibition. HOUSE OF EUROPEAN HISTORY Armed with a tablet, you can relive the last 2,000 years in one of the city’s state-of-the-art cultural temples, which is not on most tourist maps. History freaks better go early, because, when done right, a visit to this fascinating house can keep you occupied for half a day and more. Rue Belliard 135 (Trône, metro 2 and 6). Free admission. Open from 1pm to 9pm on Monday, from 9am to 6pm on other weekdays, and from 10am to 6pm on weekends.

A weekend in Brussels

WALKING WITH DINOSAURS The Museum for Natural Sciences is a must-see for families with kids. A walk through its halls brings you eye to eye with numerous distinct animals and our ancestors. Yet, the crown MUSEUM FOR NATURAL SCIENCES jewels of the museum are the dinosaur skeletons. The mighty Tyrannosaurus Rex in particular will transport you straight to Jurassic Park. The recently-revealed Allosaurus Arkhane is also worth your while, as it is the only skeleton of its kind in the world.

Museum for Natural Sciences.

Rue Vautier 29 (Trône, metro 2 and 6). €7 (discounts available). Open from 9.30am to 5pm from Tuesday to Friday and from 10am to 6pm on weekends.

THE GREEN LUNG Amidst the sea of glass, Parc Cinquantenaire adds a welcome touch of greenery to the European District. The park was built as a prestige project of King Leopold II, the infamous monarch who PARC CINQUANTENAIRE adorned the country with precious art and architecture that he financed through slavery in his personal colony: Congo (see page 59). Most prominent in the park is the big archway from which the Belgian ‘tricolour’ waves. In its gigantic auxiliary buildings on the side, you’ll find the Art & History Museum, the Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and Military History and Autoworld (see page 60). But more than a cultural centre, Parc Cinquantenaire is the ideal spot for ‘eurocrats’ and business people to picnic, relax or sunbathe between world-changing meetings. Entrance near Rue de la Loi 240 and Avenue de Tervuren 1 (Shuman, metro 1 and 5). The park is open 24/7. Art & History Museum: €10 (discounts available); open from 9.30am to 5pm from Tuesday to Sunday (from 10am on weekends). Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and Military History: €10 (discounts available, card payments only); open from 9am to 5pm from Tuesday to Sunday. Autoworld: €14 (discounts available); open daily from 10am to 6 pm (to 5pm on weekdays from October to March).

Museum for Natural Sciences.

Parc Cinquantenaire.

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BRUSSELS, CITY OF POLITICIANS We all know Brussels as the capital of Europe, but it is so much more than that. In fact, it is fair to call Brussels the capital among capitals, as the city’s political importance can’t be overstated. As such, it is hardly surprising that Brussels is also packed with politicians and diplomats, with parliaments and ministries. Allow us to let you in on one of the most complex and politician-heavy political systems around.

Grand Place.

Flemish Parliament.

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To understand the story of Brussels, you must understand the story of Belgium. Since its founding in 1830, Belgium has been a monarchy of two separate cultures: the Flemish and the Walloon. Until 1970, the entire country was led by just one government and one parliament. Yet, more and more, the Flemish, Walloon and German-speaking people (who joined Belgium after the First World War) had different opinions on the country’s future. To deal with this issue, Belgium was transformed into a federal state, the regions of which receive autonomy on certain topics.

FEDERAL BELGIUM Determining how to divide the tiny nation was easier said than done. Where the Flemish politicians preferred a language-based division (a government for the Dutch speakers, one for the French speakers and one for the German speakers), the Walloon politicians advocated for a geographical division (a government for Flanders, one for Wallonia and one for Brussels). Unable to reach consensus, the Belgian government decided to divide the country twice: the language-based communities would be in charge of culture and education, while the geographically determined regions would handle fiscal concerns. And so, Belgium became a country with six governments and parliaments (not seven, as the Dutch Community and the Flemish Region have merged into one). Brussels itself is also governed by a city government – or, actually, governments. As the city is divided into 19 villages, 19 city administrations rule over each their very own part of Brussels. On top of that, the country also counts ten provinces, but let’s not open that can of worms, as

European Parliament.

Belgian Parliament.

it would only further complicate our already-complex story.

THE POLITICIAN PUZZLE Let’s do the maths: how many active politicians does Brussels count? The Belgian administration counts 225

heads (15 ministers and 210 parliamentarians), the Flemish one 133 (nine ministers and 124 parliamentarians), the French Community 99 (five ministers and 94 parliamentarians) and the Brussels Capital Region 97 (eight ministers and 89 parliamentarians). The organisation of the municipalities of Brussels requires no less than 873 people (19 mayors, 159 aldermen and 695 council members). The European Commission, the European Council and the Council of Europe account for another 81 people (27 commissioners, 27 heads of state and 27 ministers). As the European Parliament is also based in Brussels for the lion’s share of the month, we can add their 751 parliamentarians as well. Thus, altogether, Brussels is the office of 2,259 politicians. So, when you are standing at the heart of the city, know that there might just be a world leader right next to you.

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A weekend in Brussels

THE AWE-INSPIRING ATOMIUM If one building has put Brussels on the map, it must be the Atomium. This steel giant from the ‘50s is one of the most modern constructions in the city to date. It consists of nine interconnected spheres, which made it the crown jewel of the 1958 World Fair in Brussels. The building was supposed to be demolished after six months, as soon as the fair closed its doors. Yet, the love of the Bruxellois for their out-of-this-world monument meant that you can still visit the metal mammoth today.

EXPO ‘58 Like Paris, Brussels owes its most famous building to the lucky fact that the World Fair came to the city. Brussels had the honour hosting the first big fair since the Second World War. Its goal was to show the visitors the delights of the modern world: cars, escalators and state-of-the-art architecture. But not everything was as modern as you might imagine; as Congo was still a Belgian colony at the time, back in ‘58, the fair also hosted a human zoo, where African people were ‘exhibited’. Luckily, most pavilions were more tasteful than that. Countries like Japan, the United States, Canada, the Soviet Union and the Netherlands built a pavilion each to unveil their history and future to the world, and so did many multinationals, such as Coca Cola and Philips. The brightest star of the event, however, was the massive construction that is the Atomium.

SYMBOLISM The extraordinary shape of the Atomium is that of an iron molecule, but 165 billion times bigger. It was an ode to the iron industry, the sector that made Belgium great during the first half of the century. Ironically, the building itself

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wasn’t made from that same trustworthy Belgian iron, but from aluminium, a metal that had just gained popularity for its corrosion resistance. The nine spheres symbolised the nine Belgian provinces, but in 1995, the province of Brabant was split into three parts: Flemish Brabant, Walloon Brabant and the Brussels Capital Region. Since then, the political meaning of these nine balls has been somewhat lost.

ON THE OUTSIDE As the Atomium was not built to last, the years started showing on the shiny exterior. As a result, four decades after its erection, it received a much-needed facelift. Its aluminium surface was stripped off entirely and replaced by shiny, stainless steel. The 1,000 triangular panels needed for the restoration arrived as a big, modular building kit, ready to be assembled. As steel is much heavier than aluminium, the Atomium 2.0 weighs about 100 tonnes more than the original. Besides the

In the shadow of the Atomium Surrounding the Atomium, on the grounds where the World Fair was once held, is the Heysel site. 11 of the palaces built for the exhibition are host to a myriad of fairs. The 12th and last one is now a big concert arena, appropriately named Palace 12. In the shadow of the Atomium, you’ll also find the city’s biggest cinema, the Planetarium, the King Baudouin Stadium (home base of the national soccer team, the Red Devils) and Mini Europe (a park with miniature versions of Europe’s finest buildings and monuments). Nature aficionados can enter the woods next to the Atomium and walk to the Royal Palace of Laeken or the Chinese Pavilion and Japanese Tower, two exotic-looking buildings which King Leopold II had built.

A weekend in Brussels

At the ticket office Admission: €16 Seniors: €14 Teenagers, students and people with reduced mobility*: €8.50 Free admission for children under 1.15 metres. *As the spheres are interconnected by escalators, there is no wheelchair access to the Atomium.

change of materials, the renovation also came with a few architectonical tweaks. The ceiling of the elevator is now made of glass, so passengers can fully experience the speed with which it’s moving. At night, an elegant pattern of built-in LED lights gives the balls their beautiful glow, so the building can be seen from all over Brussels.

oramic views from 92 metres above the ground. In the top sphere, you can enjoy Belgian classics with a view. You can hop in for lunch or a drink at any time, or make a reservation for dinner.

ON THE INSIDE Today, five of the spheres are open to visitors. These contain a permanent exhibition, a temporary exhibition, a space dedicated purely to the stunning, panoramic views, and a restaurant making the most of the same. The other balls are technical spaces and event venues. The permanent exhibition stretches out across three spheres and tells the story of the building's construction, decline and renovation. The panorama sphere offers you dazzling, 360-degree pan-

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GREEN BRUSSELS FIVE URBAN OASES Brussels is more than just a maze of buildings and avenues. In places, it looks more like a maze of green – one of trees, grass and plants. If you know where to go, Brussels can be a great destination for a weekend combining nature and urban vibes, because the green lungs of Brussels are just mere metres away from the metropolitan hustle and bustle.


T H E G R E E N B E LT The green lung of Brussels lies just outside of the city centre and can be split up into three parts: the La Cambre Abbey, the Bois de la Cambre, and the Sonian Forest. The former is a historic monastery with a charming garden of greenery and water features. In summer, it is also the setting of many cultural and popular events. Less than a kilometre further out, the Bois de la Cambre offers the Bruxellois a sizable, charming woodland to walk the dog, read a book or have a picnic. Yet, to really disconnect, you should head to the Sonian Forest. With its 4,421 hectares, it easily lends itself to a day-long hike. As the forest covers parts of the regions of Brussels, Flanders and Wallonia, it allows you to explore Belgium in all its facets. The La Cambre Abbey, the Bois de la Cambre, and the Sonian Forest, all on the south-eastern side of the city (Legrand, tram 8 and 93). Free admission. Open 24/7.

Bois de la Cambre.

La Cambre Abbey.



Truth be told, Forest Park and Duden Park, the parks adjoining the Forest area, are not the most spectacular of urban green zones. With big lawns and domestic trees, they mostly act as little more than commons for locals. But what makes them worth a trip are the nice panoramic views. Grab a seat on the grass and have a snack while gazing at the mammoth Palais de Justice (for more info, see page 44). Forest Park and Duden Park. Forest (Albert, tram 3, 4 and 51). Free entrance. Open 24/7.

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PURPLE RAIN Since Instagram and Pinterest were released into the world, the Hallerbos has been worldfamous. Ironically, most Belgians hardly know it exists. This vast woodland looks mundane for most of the year but becomes an influencer playground once its bluebells start to bloom. When the thousands of small, purple-blue flowers cover its mossy grounds, the Hallerbos is the place to be for nature aficionados. When you visit, be respectful of this miracle of nature and make sure not to step on the flowers or pick them. This way, they can delight passers-by for centuries to come. Hallerbos. Hogebermweg (Halle). Free admission. Open 24/7. Blossoming season from late March until mid-April.



Royal Greenhouses of Laeken.

R O YA L A N D L U S H The estate of the Belgian royal family is gigantic, but most spectacular are its 19th-century greenhouses. Resembling glass palaces more than greenhouses, they form a harmonious marriage between culture and nature. Inside, the greenhouses look even more lush, with exotic plants and palm trees climbing towards the glass ceiling. Unfortunately, the Royal Greenhouses are the private property of the king and therefore closed to the public. Yet, if you are lucky enough to visit Brussels during the four weeks that the crystal garden opens its doors, you sure are up for a treat.


Belgium’s relationship with Africa is not one of which Belgians are particularly proud. During the reign of King Leopold II and long after that, Congo was a Belgian colony. In order not to forget this tragedy and to instead celebrate African culture, the Royal Museum for Central Africa was founded – one of Europe’s most important museums about Africa. After a long renovation, the monumental museum now looks better than ever. Alongside cultural richness, you’ll also find plenty of natural beauty. The Tervuren Park, in which the museum is situated, is a charming garden of greens and blues, just a stone’s throw away from the city centre.


Tervuren Park. Keizerinnedreef (Tervuren) (Tervuren Station, tram 44). Free admission. Open 24/7. Royal Museum for Central Africa. Leuvensesteenweg 13 (Tervuren). €12 (discounts available). Open from 11am to 5pm on weekdays and from 10am to 6pm on weekends. Royal Museum for Central Africa.

Royal Greenhouses of Laeken. Avenue du Parc Royal (Serres Royales, bus 53 and De Lijn-bus 230, 231 and 232). €2.50 (children under 18 go free). Open from 17 April 2020 until 8 May 2020, Tuesday to Sunday from 9.30am to 3.30pm and/or from 8pm to 9.30pm (check www.monarchie.be for exact timings).

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A weekend in Brussels

THE CULTURE-RICH SUBURBS By now, it is probably clear to you that Brussels is so much more than just its city centre. As the metropolitan region stretches over 19 municipalities, its cultural life, too, blossoms all the way to the far edges of the city. So if you want to visit a museum, it might be wise to leave the tourist-packed city centre museums and head for the less-known, calmer institutions, where you can stroll among the locals.


THE ART OF TOMORROW Not to be confused with New York’s MOMA, MIMA is the Millenium Iconoclast Museum of Art. This Walhalla of contemporary art focusses on cultural prodigies who transcend artistic genres. The house exhibits MIMA a permanent collection of 21st-century art and hosts two temporary exhibitions a year. Located in Molenbeek-Saint-Jean – a region described by Donald Trump as ‘a hellhole’ – MIMA is a first step towards a warmer, more positive Molenbeek.


Quai du Hainaut 41 (Molenbeek-Saint-Jean) (Comte de Flandre, metro 1 and 5). €9.50 (discounts available). Open Wednesday to Friday from 10am to 6pm and on weekends from 11am to 7pm.

A C A R L O V E R S ’ PA R A D I S E Cars are more than just a means of transport. To many, they are art pieces worthy of their own museum. Enter Autoworld, a sizable mecca dedicated to our loyal quadricycles. Inside, you get close AUTOWORLD and personal with fantastic cars from throughout the ages and discover world history through the rear-view mirror. When at Autoworld, make sure to stroll through the surrounding Parc Cinquantenaire (see page 53) as well.


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Parc du Cinquantenaire 11 (Etterbeek) (Mérode, metro 1 and 5). €14 (discounts available). Open daily from 10am to 6pm (to 5pm on weekdays from October to March).

A weekend in Brussels


BRUSSELS’ OWN CENTRE POMPIDOU The brand-new museum KANAL is the Belgian branch of Paris’ legendary Centre Pompidou. It resides in a mammoth Art Deco building that used to house a Citroën garage. Its goal is to be an international crossroad KANAL of arts and culture in the heart of Europe. Through exhibitions and performances, it brings the world to Brussels. It doesn’t have a permanent collection but hosts multiple relevant exhibitions every year. Quai de Willebroeck 6 (Yser, metro 2 and 6). Rates and opening hours vary across the exhibitions.


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A weekend in Brussels

Train World.

AT T H E S TAT I O N Train World tells the story of how trains changed Belgium and the world. Stationed in the modern annexe of the Schaerbeek train station, it displays 22 locomotives, among which is the oldest one in conTRAIN WORLD tinental Europe, and over 1,200 other objects, including an original 19th-century railway bridge. Head to the museum by train to complete your train immersion.

Train World.

Place Prinsesse Elisabeth (Schaerbeek) (located in Schaerbeek’s train station). €12. Open Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 5pm.

C U LT U R E A S A W H O L E Though situated a bit outside of the city, Flagey is one of the beating hearts of Brussels’ cultural scene. Its Art Deco building used to house NIR, Belgium’s first radio (and later also television) broadcaster. Today, it FLAGEY is home to an arthouse cinema, a concert hall and a meeting point and sometimes functions as a festival location. Make sure to check out the schedule when in Brussels. It will likely contain multiple great options for a cultural night out.


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Place Sainte-Croix (Ixelles) (Flagey, tram 81 and bus 35, 59, 60 and 71). Rates and opening hours vary between activities.

A weekend in Brussels

U N D E R N E AT H T H E C I T Y The sewers don’t tend to be the first location that springs to mind when you plan a city trip. Yet, in Brussels, they sure are worth your while. Descend into the labyrinth of tunnels, totalling more SEWER MUSEUM than 1,900 kilometres, and discover how a metropolis like Brussels functions, why these sewers were paramount for the city, and how they were dug out. Don’t worry about the smell or getting your feet wet; the sewers that are open to the public are clean and dry, so you don’t need a special outfit to pay this unique museum a visit. Porte d’Anderlecht (Porte d’Anderlecht, tram 51 and 82). €8 (discounts available). Open Tuesday to Saturday from 10am to 5pm.

Train World.

C H O C O L A T E - D R E N C H E D C U LT U R E You can’t leave Brussels without having tasted its to-die-for chocolate. In the Belgian Chocolate Village, you can do so while learning all about the popular aphrodisiac. The big Art Deco building BELGIAN CHOCOLATE VILLAGE that houses the museum was once a chocolate factory itself: the Biscuiteries Chocolateries Victoria. Among other things, it was the birth place of the popular Big Nuts chocolate bar that is now sold by chocolate giant Côte d’Or. The faint smell of chocolate still lingers through its halls, but instead of machines, it now houses interactive screens, peculiar objects and even a greenhouse with cocoa-related plants. Don’t leave before you sample some chocolate in the Belle Epoque Salons and buy yourself a souvenir in the Boutique. Rue De Neck 20 (Koekelberg) (Simonis/Elisabeth, metro 2 and 6). €8 (discounts available). Open Tuesday to Friday from 9am to 6pm, and weekends from 10am to 6pm.

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A weekend in Brussels

Koekelberg Basilica.

STILL SOME TIME LEFT? Not everyone explores a city at the same pace. While some race from one hotspot to the next, others take their time to stroll slowly through the streets and alleys. If you are part of the former group, you might have some time left to kill before fastening your seatbelt for take-off, and it would be a shame to let it go to waste. To help you out, we’ve listed some bonus sightseeing destinations for the Homo Touristicus who just can’t get enough of the stunning city that is Brussels.

MONTMARTRE OF BRUSSELS The dream of King Leopold II (the megalomaniac monarch behind many a monumental building in Brussels) was to turn the hill of Koekelberg into a copy of Paris’ Montmartre district. In the cenKOEKELBERG BASILICA tre, he foresaw a grand, neo-Gothic basilica, similar to the Sacré-Coeur. As it took a century to complete the church, the plans changed drastically along the way and the elegant basilica became a modern Art Deco temple. As the basilica rises high above the city, a trip up its towers promises magnificent views over Brussels and its green surroundings. Elisabeth Park (Koekelberg) (Elisabeth/Simonis, metro 2 and 6). Free entrance to Basilica, €6 for panorama tower. Open daily from 8am to 6pm (to 5pm in winter). Panorama tower accessible daily from 9am to 5.30pm in summer and from 10am to 4pm in winter.

I N N OVAT I O N WA R E H O U S E It used to be a post office, a warehouse and a port building, but today it is Brussels’ main innovation hub. The restored industrial site of Tour & Taxis attracts start-ups, restaurants, bars, design boutiques and TOUR & TAXIS other contemporary delights. Around it, a wide piece of wasteland serves as an urban park for young people to hang, skate or train whatever sport takes their fancy. If you walk all the way to the metal bridge, a few hundred metres away from the building, you’ll stumble upon a greenhouse that transforms into an alternative bar in the summer.

Tour & Taxis.

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Avenue du Port 86c (Ribaucourt, metro 2 and 6). Free entrance. Park open 24/7; outlet schedules vary.

A weekend in Brussels

T H E C ATA C O M B S On the Coudenberg, one of Brussels’ nicest hills, once stood the elegant palace from where the Duchy of Brabant was ruled for nearly seven centuries. It was said to be one of the nicest palaces in Europe, until Maria-Elisabeth from Austria forgot to extinguish COUDENBERG the candles before going to bed, thus burning the place down. Today, the Royal Palace, the city park and Mont des Arts (for all three, see page 19) are built where the palace used to be. But those who want to can still visit its underground remains. The entrance of the Coudenberg Palace is in the BELvue Museum, a museum about Belgium, situated inside the Royal Palace. Place des Palais 7 (Parc, metro 1 and 5). €7; €12 in combination with BELvue (discounts available). Open Tuesday to Friday from 9.30am to 5pm. On weekends, in summer months and during public holidays, it is open from 10am to 6pm.


Koekelberg Basilica.

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C U LT U R E A N D N A T U R E The botanical garden of Brussels, usually referred to as ‘Botanique’, is a crossroads of nature and culture. The charming, lower-lying park sets itself apart with romantic alleys and marvellous water features. While BOTANIQUE on a bench enjoying the tranquillity, you simply can’t ignore the impressive Manhattan neighbourhood (see the next page), the skyscrapers of which tower above the trees and hedges. The park’s elegant, neoclassical orangery, on the other hand, is now one of the city’s most important cultural centres. It hosts a range of concerts, plays and shows, often by illustrious, international names. Check the calendar before you travel to Brussels, and experience the intimacy of Brussels’ most atmospheric venue. Boulevard Saint-Lazare (Saint-Josse-ten-Noode) (Rogier, metro 2 and 6 and tram 3, 4, 25, 32 and 55). Free entrance to park. Open daily. Prices and schedules of cultural centre vary.


BACK IN TIME What few people know is that the Royal Belgian Film Archive is one of the biggest cinema collections in the world. At Cinematek, you can watch a selection of these gems daily – from golden classics to obscure CINEMATEK masterpieces, from black and white to Technicolor. This is also the only film archive in the world that still schedules a silent movie with live piano every single day. If instead you crave more contemporary silver screen pleasure, opt for Cinema Palace, UGC, Kinepolis, Cinema Galleries or one of the many other exquisite film havens in the city. Rue Baron Horta 9 (Park, metro 2 and 6). €4 per film. Open from 4.30pm on Saturday, from 2.30pm on Thursday and Sunday, and from 5.30pm on all other weekdays. Cinematek closes 30 minutes after the last film ends.

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F LY A B O E I N G Where better to go in anticipation of your flight than to the airport itself? A stone’s throw from Brussels Airport, you can take a seat in the cockpit and fly a Boeing 737 yourself. Thanks to BRUSSELS FLIGHT SIMULATORS an incredibly realistic flight simulator – the same as that which pilots-to-be use during their training – you can feel what it’s like to steer a mammoth aircraft. Experience isn’t required, and even kids can take the wheel alongside a professional instructor. Put your friends and family in the seats behind you and get ready for take-off. Planet II – Leuvensesteenweg 542 Unit B.2 (Zaventem) (Sint-Martinusweg, bus 351, 358, 530; 616 and 652 (De Lijn)). From €59 for basic simulator; from €99 for Boeing 737. Open daily, timetables vary.

A P I E C E O F N E W YO R K The Manhattan district is the lovechild of a pompous prime minister and a greedy project developer back in the 1960s. They decided that the authentic Nord Quarter had to make room for a forest of skyscrapers MANHATTAN and business towers. Over 50 hectares of buildings were expropriated and destroyed to make space for numerous glass giants. Yet, as way too few companies were interested in settling in these towers and hardly any people lived there anymore, the neighbourhood turned desolate as soon as the clock stroke 5pm. Today, stunning, modern company towers ignite a renaissance in this district of deteriorated 1960s skyscrapers, but the authentic atmosphere that this neighbourhood knew yesteryear is gone, never to return again. Manhattan Quarter (Schaerbeek) (Gare du Nord, tram 3, 4, 25, 32 and 55).



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A weekend in Brussels

Comic Festival.


A weekend in Brussels

VIVE BRUXELLES! A patchwork of cultures and peculiarities, Brussels hosts a wide array of events, from traditional, Medieval cavalcades to world music festivals and celebrations of light and fireworks. If you are lucky enough to arrive in Brussels when the city is preparing for one of these feasts, you are up for a treat. Take a close look at this overview of the most important events in the city to make sure you don’t miss out on anything. But beware – Brussels is a city of unexpected surprises, so keep your eyes peeled and you’ll most certainly end up celebrating with locals in a pub, a cultural centre or on the streets.

BRIGHT BRUSSELS Mid-February The cold of winter is not enough to keep the Bruxellois inside their houses. During Bright Brussels, an enchanting light art festival in the centre of Brussels, thousands of locals and tourists conquer the streets at night to let the glow of the installations and projections warm their hearts.

MUSEUM NIGHT FEVER Mid-March After sunset, museums become magical places. During the annual Museum Night Fever, the city’s greatest cultural temples stay open until 1am and delight the crowds with workshops, performances and many surprises.

O P E N I N G R O YA L GREENHOUSES 17 April - 8 May The Royal Greenhouses are among the most beautiful pieces of nature in Brussels (see page 59) but are private property. For three weeks of the year, however, the King and Queen open their doors to the public. Make sure not to miss out on a magical stroll through this glass palace

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20km of Brussels.

I R I S F E S T I VA L 1 - 5 May The iris is the symbol of Brussels and thus lends its name to the city’s official holiday. During the Iris Festival, you can witness bizarre shows, participate in exciting activities and celebrate alongside thousands of locals.

PRIDE BRUSSELS 23 May By the end of May, the Brussels LGBTQ+ community hits the streets for a dynamic festival of love and

acceptance. Parades, high-heel runs, and plenty of drag queens turn the city into the most cheerful place on earth.

20KM OF BRUSSELS 31 May Running the 20km of Brussels can be a nice change from sweating in the gym. Alongside many other recreational runners, you’ll jog past the most beautiful spots in the city. And it isn’t a race per se – the only thing that matters is that you make yourself proud.

A weekend in Brussels

Pride Brussels.

*All dates are for 2020 and might vary in other years.

COULEUR CAFÉ 26 - 28 June In the shadow of the Atomium, Couleur Café gathers the greatest ethnic music stars and their loyal fans. Driven by beats and melodies from all over the world, this jovial festival feels like one big family gathering.

Official holidays (a.k.a. bad days for shopping)

Laeken Fireworks.

1 January: New Year’s Day 13 April: Easter Monday 1 May: Labour Day 8 May: Iris Festival 21 May: Ascension Day

OMMEGANG 1 - 3 July The Ommegang has been bringing the Bruxellois back to the 16th century for over 90 years now. Initially, it was a religious procession; today, it is a historical re-enactment of the entry of Emperor Charles V in Brussels

1 June: Whit Monday 21 July: National Day 15 August: Assumption Day 1 November: All Saints’ Day 11 November: Armistice Day 25 December: Christmas

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in 1549. A total of 1,400 actors and extras give shape to the entourage of the emperor, both during the cavalcade and during the magnum opus at Grand Place.

L AEKEN FIREWORKS Mid-July to mid-August What better way to end a summer evening than with a sky full of fireworks? The district of Laeken – home to the royal family and Brussels’ rich and famous – lights up the sky above the Atomium on the five warmest Friday nights of the year. All have a different theme and promise a different experience.

M I D I FA I R 11 July - 16 August Bumper cars, merry-go-rounds, luna parks… The Midi Fair turns the area around the Midi Station into one giant amusement park. As the secondbiggest fun fair in Belgium, it offers

something for people of all ages, from newborns to centenarians.

N A T I O N A L D AY 21 July Fireworks, parades and an ‘actes de presence’ of the royal family: the Belgian National Day has it all. Downtown, things can remain quite calm on the 21st, but around the Royal Palace and Mont Des Arts, there is more to see than your eyes can handle. But don’t let that put you off. Join the crowds and celebrate the Belgian independence of 1830.

Brussels region. After four days, the organic artwork disappears again, not to return for another two years.

BELGIAN BEER WEEKEND 6 - 8 September What is more Belgian than beer? During the Belgian Beer Weekend, you can grab a cold one while enjoying the soothing Indian summer. The only thing you have to worry about is which ones to sample, as over 400 brews are on offer.



13 - 16 August Every two years, Grand Place gets taken over by the biggest flower carpet in the world. A floral canvas of 1,680 square metres then tickles eyes and noses aplenty. A total of 35 million bulbs are planted for the event, 80 per cent of which come from the

11 - 13 September Belgium’s biggest heroes are made from paper and pencil. For one weekend a year, they come to life in a spectacular balloon parade. Make sure to pass the comic book market as well, as it provides the perfect opportunity to complete your collection.

Iris Festival.


A weekend in Brussels


NUIT BLANCHE Early October Originally a French tradition, a Nuit Blanche (or white night) is a free festival of culture, light and entertainment that kicks off after sunset. From 7pm to 3am, visitors can walk through doors that usually remain locked and discover a different side of their beloved city.

*All dates are for 2020 and might vary in other years.

WINTER WONDERS 27 November 2020 - 3 January 2021 The best time to visit Brussels is around the holidays. A huge Christmas Fair takes over the entire city centre, filling it with the smells of mulled wine, cheese and chocolate. Moreover, you can ice skate in front of the Opera House or gaze at the city from above while enjoying a Ferris wheel ride. In Grand Place and at the Sainte-Catherine Church, you can enjoy two different, stunning light shows as well. On New Year’s Eve, fireworks, countdown clocks and intriguing art installations help you kick off the New Year in style!

Belgian Beer Weekend.

Cinema all year long Brussels is a cinephile’s paradise. Every so many weeks, you can attend a different film festival somewhere in the city. Allow us to steer you to the most important ones. - Brussels Independent Film Festival – Mid-February - Anima – 21 February to 1 March - Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival (BIFFF) – 7-19 April - Brussels Short Film Festival (BSFF) – 22 April to 2 May - Brussels International Film Festival (BRIFF) – 24 June to 4 July - Are You Series? – Mid-December


A weekend in Brussels

INDEX SIGHTSEEING Atomium Autoworld Béguinages Belgian Chocolate Village Belgian Comic Strip Centre Belgian Parliament Berlaymont Building Bois de la Cambre Botanique Bourse BOZAR Cantillon Cathédrale Saints-Michel-et-Gudule Cinematek Coudenberg Europa Building European Parliament European Quarter Everard ‘t Serclaes Experience.Brussels Flagey Forest Park and Duden Park Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert Grand Place Grand Sablon Hallerbos Horta Museum Hôtel de Ville Hôtel Tassel House of European History Îlot Sacré

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56 60 39 63 20 55 51 58 66 33 44 18 33 66 65 51 50 50 31 45 62 58 31 28/54 43 59 40 29 41 52 17

KANAL Koekelberg Basilica La Cambre Abbey La Monnaie Le Falstaff Maison du Roi Maison Saint-Cyr Manhattan Manneken Pis Marollen MIMA Mont des Arts Moof Musée BELvue Musée Hergé Musée Magritte Museum for Natural Sciences Musical Instruments Museum Palais Royale Parc Cinquantenaire Parc de Bruxelles Petit Sablon Place de Brouckère Palais de Justice Place Poelaert Place Saint-Géry Rue Antoine Dansaert Rue de Flandre Rue des Bouchers Rue Neuve Royal Greenhouses of Laeken

61 64 58 33 40 30 41 67 34 19 60 19 20 45 21 45 53 40 42 53/60 42 43 39 44 44 38 38 31 38 16 59

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CONTRIBUTORS Sainte-Catherine Saint-Géry Sewer Museum Sonian Forest Tervuren Park The Old Docks Tour & Taxis Train World

36 36 63 58 59 37 64 62


46 63 18 25 37 30 40 22 31 24

Cover Photo Unsplash Photography Visit Brussels Unsplash Milo Profi Pixabay

– A Scan Client Publishing book Published by Scan Client Publishing Directors Thomas Winther & Mads E. Petersen Author Arne Adriaenssens, Nane Steinhoff Executive Editor Linnea Dunne, Nane Steinhoff Copy-editor Nane Steinhoff Designer Mercedes Moulia

E AT I N G A N D D R I N K I N G Belgian Beer Belgian Chocolate Village Brewery Dining Gaston ice cream bar La Bourse Le Falstaff Local specialities Rue des Bouchers Wining

Scan Client Publishing 3rd floor, News Building 3 London Bridge Street London SE1 9SG, United Kingdom www.scanclientpublishing.com

MISELLANEOUS Airport transport Events French and Dutch dictionary Metro map Shopping

12 68 8 76 16

© All rights reserved. Material contained in this publication can not be reproduced, in whole or in part, without prior permission of Scan Client Publishing.

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Dikke Beuk Arbre Ballon

Bourse Beurs

Louise Louiza

Po r Ha te lle de po Ha Pa S or l rv int t is -G de illi Sa svo in or t-G pl ill ein es

Munthof Hôtel des Monnaies


Esplanade - Churchill Gare du Nord / Noordstation - Stalle P Heizel / Heysel - Vanderkindere Louise / Louiza - Roodebeek Dikke Beuk / Arbre Ballon - Simonis

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Š STIB-MIVB - 05/2019

A weekend in Brussels



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