Brussels is the capital city of Belgium and of Brussels Capital Region. It is entirely surrounded by Dutch-speaking Flanders and its constituent Flemish Brabant province. As headquarters of many European institutions, Brussels might also be considered something of a capital for the European Union. Being at the crossroads of cultures (the Germanic in the North and the Romance in the South) and playing an important role in Europe, Brussels fits the definition of the archetypal “melting pot”, but still retains its own unique character. The population of the city of Brussels is 1 million and the population of Brussels metropolitan area is just over 2 million.
|Capital||City of Brussels|
|• Minister-President||Rudi Vervoort (PS)|
|• Region/City||162.4 km2 (62.7 sq mi)|
|Elevation||13 m (43 ft)|
|• Density||7,400/km2 (19,000/sq mi)|
|Demonym(s)||fr Bruxellois(e), nl Brusselaar/Brusselse|
|Time zone||UTC+1 (CET)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC+2 (CEST)|
A Brussels Card is available for discounts at many attractions. Available in 24 hr (€24), 48 hr (€36) and 72 hr (€43) versions, it offers a free guidebook, free entry to many museums, free use of public transit, and discounts at various shops, restaurants and attractions. May not be worth it to those who already receive discounts (children, students, etc). The card can be purchased on-line in advance for a discount, or at the tourist offices at: Grand-Place, Midi/Zui station, BIP. Some museums also sell the card.
- Grand Place-Grote Markt. Surrounded by the city tower and a range of beautiful 300 year old buildings. In the evening, surrounded by bright illumination, it is simply ravishing. Some evenings a music and light show is provided with the buildings serving as a canvas.
- Manneken Pis,Just a short walk from the Grand Place-Grote Markt, in the Stalingrad District, is the Manneken Pis, a small bronze statue thought to represent the “irreverent spirit” of Brussels. This is a statue of a child urinating into a pool. Belgians have created hundreds of outfits for this statue.
- Jeanneke Pis, Impasse de la Fidélité / Getrouwheidsgang, Brussels, Belgium. Jeanneke Pis is a modern fountain and statue in Brussels, which forms a counterpoint in gender terms to the city’s trademark Manneken Pis at the Grand Place (Grote Markt).
- Parc du Cinquantenaire-Jubelpark – Definitely check out the Arc de Triomphe-Triomfboog on the east side of town. It’s in the Parc du Cinquantenaire-Jubelpark. It is possible to go up to the terrasse above the arch, from where you’ll have a good view of the city.
- Atomium, Square de l’Atomium/Atomiumplein
- Palais de Justice/Justitiepaleis (Law Courts of Brussels), Place Poelaert/Poelaert Plein,
- Basiliek van het Heilig Hart / Basilique du Sacré Coeur
- Palais Royale/Koninklijk Paleis (Royal Palace), Place des Palais/Paleizenplein,
- The Bourse. Former stock market building. Locals like to sit on the steps, sometimes with fries. A local restaurant owner has proposed turning the unused building into a beer hall.
- Statue of Europe
- Red Light District. Just like Antwerp and Amsterdam, Brussels also has its own Red Light District. It is located mainly in Rue d’Aerschot/ Aarschotstraat, behind the North Train Station.
Museums and Galleries
- Musées Royaux d’Art et d’Histoire (MRAH) – Koninklijke Musea voor Kunst en Geschiedenis (KMKG),
- Musées Royaux des Beaux Arts de Belgique – Koninklijke Musea voor Schone Kunsten van België.
- Musées d’Extrême-Orient – Musea van het Verre Oosten, Avenue Van Praetlaan
- Musée BELvue – BELvue Museum,
- Natural Sciences Museum of Belgium,
- Horta Museum,
- Royal Museum for Central Africa (RMCA),
- Belgian Comic Strip Center
- Musée du Cinéma-Filmmuseum,
- Musée Royal de l’Armée – Koninklijk Museum van het Leger en van de Militaire Geschiedenis
- Musical Instruments Museum
- Musée Magritte Museum,
- Musée Juif de Belgique – Joods Museum van België
Brussels is considered to be the de facto capital of the European Union, having a long history of hosting the institutions of the European Union within its European Quarter. The EU has no official capital, and no plans to declare one, but Brussels hosts the official seats of the European Commission, Council of the European Union, European Council, as well as a second seat of the European Parliament.
- European Parliament,
- European Commission,
- European Council,
- Cantillon Brewery
Cultural events and festivals
Many events are organised or hosted in Brussels throughout the year. In addition, many festivals animate the Brussels scene.
The Iris Festival is the official festival of the Brussels-Capital Region and is held annually in spring. The International Fantastic Film Festival of Brussels (BIFFF) is organised during the Easter holidays and the Magritte Awards in February. The Festival of Europe, an open day and activities in and around the institutions of the European Union, is held on 9 May. On Belgian National Day, on 21 July, a military parade and celebrations take place on the Place des Palais/Paleizenplein and in Brussels’ Park, ending with a display of fireworks in the evening.
Some summer festivities include Couleur Café Festival, a festival of world and urban music, around the end of June or early July, the Brussels Summer Festival (BSF), a music festival in August, the Brussels Fair, the most important yearly fair in Brussels, lasting more than a month, in July and August, and Brussels Beach, when the banks of the canal are turned into a temporary urban beach. Other biennial events are the Zinneke Parade, a colourful, multicultural parade through the city, which has been held since 2000 in May, as well as the popular Flower Carpet at the Grand Place in August. Heritage Days are organised on the third weekend of September (sometimes coinciding with the car-free day) and are a good opportunity to discover the wealth of buildings, institutions and real estate in Brussels.
Brussels is known for its local waffle, its chocolate, its French fries and its numerous types of beers. The Brussels sprout, which has long been popular in Brussels, and may have originated there, is also named after the city.
The gastronomic offer includes approximately 1,800 restaurants (including three 2-starred and ten 1-starred Michelin restaurants), and a number of bars. In addition to the traditional restaurants, there are many cafés, bistros and the usual range of international fast food chains. The cafés are similar to bars, and offer beer and light dishes; coffee houses are called salons de thé. Also widespread are brasseries, which usually offer a variety of beers and typical national dishes.
Belgian cuisine is known among connoisseurs as one of the best in Europe. It is characterised by the combination of French cuisine with the more hearty Flemish fare. Notable specialities include Brussels waffles (gaufres) and mussels (usually as moules-frites, served with fries). The city is a stronghold of chocolate and pralines manufacturers with renowned companies like Côte d’Or, Neuhaus, Leonidas and Godiva. Pralines were first introduced in 1912, by Jean Neuhaus II, a Belgian chocolatier of Swiss origin, in the Royal Saint-Hubert Galleries. Numerous friteries are spread throughout the city, and in tourist areas, fresh hot waffles are also sold on the street.
As well as other Belgian beers, the spontaneously fermented lambic style, brewed in and around Brussels, is widely available there and in the nearby Senne valley where the wild yeasts which ferment it have their origin. Kriek, a cherry lambic, is available in almost every bar or restaurant in Brussels.