A guide to Brussels

Brussels, the capital city of Belgium and, for all intents and purposes, the capital of Europe is an intriguing and fascinating city. In the year 2000, it was named as the Cultural Capital of Europe, a title it took very seriously and thrived to live up to. The resulting renewed interest in the city sparked a flurry of sprucing, cleaning and inner city regeneration which has made Brussels the city it is today and arguably, the envy of Europe.

It is a city of real contrasts, from the ultra modern to the stately and historic; from the downright bizarre to the breathtaking and intense. It is a true melting pot of cultures but retains a unique style and character. In keeping with the sense of contrast and multiple identity, the city has two official languages, French and Dutch. Street names etc are given in both languages and can occasionally be quite confusing, for instance, the French Rue du Chêne bears no resemblance to its Dutch equivalent of Eikstraat.

Brussels is a gastronaut`s heaven, the national dish is Moules Frites or Mosselen-Friet, mussels and French Fries. Fries are very popular in Brussels and Friteries or Fritkots can be found all over the city all offering traditional Belgian Frites with an astounding array of sauces and dips. Of course, you can not go too far in Brussels, without encountering some Belgian chocolate. There are hundreds of chocolatiers throughout the city, some offering some of the finest chocolate in the world. The other well known speciality is of course the Belgian Waffle, known in French as a gauffre and in Dutch as a wafer. These are widely served throughout the city in cafes and by street vendors with a variety of toppings.

Brussels epitomises the real café culture and you will find some really hip café bars in the city. There is an all round sense of an exceptional quality of every day life which is reflected in the bars and restaurants as well as the shops and cafes. It is officially one of the best places in Europe to live, with spacious living accommodation and low rent compared to other inner cities; Brusselians have much to be satisfied with.

With many historically important buildings as well as some important new and modern structures, there is plenty to do and see in the city. There are the usual hop on, hop off bus tours that run regularly throughout the city as well as some horse drawn carriage rides that will take you round the sights. There are also a number of bike tours, some of which include a break for Belgian Beer and Fries!

One of the most famous icons of Brussels is the Manneken Pis, a bronze statue / fountain of a little boy urinating. It is situated at the junction of Rue de l`Étuve or Stoofstraat and Rue du Chêne or Eikstraat where it has stood since around 1618. There are many stories regarding its meaning, none of which can be confirmed but it is a real favourite with the locals. Occasionally it is attached to a keg of beer which is then offered to passers by. It can also often be found in any number of especially made outfits and costumes, including a Judo Kit and full Scuba Gear!

Another popular tourist destination is Grand Place, or Grote Markt, one of the most beautiful and historic areas of the city. It is popular in the evening when the area is illuminated. Sometimes there is a music and light show with the 300 year old buildings acting as the canvas. It is also arguably the best place in town for a gaufre de Liège / Luikse wafel, a type of Belgian Waffle with caramelised sugar.

For something a little more modern, take a trip to the Statue of Europe, also known as the Unity in Peace. Located in the garden of the Library of the European Commission and inaugurated in 2003, this modern statue symbolises cultural diversity and peace in Europe.

Brussels is an exciting city to visit with so much to see and do. You can really immerse yourself in European culture and history and enjoy the laissez faire atmosphere.



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