Belgium is a fusion of old and new, where different cultures blend effortlessly to create a melting pot of modernity, whilst never forgetting its roots. As the bilingual capital of Belgium, it is common to hear both French and Dutch spoken on the streets whilst street names are always given in both languages.
More than 1000 years old, this fascinating mix extends to Brussels’ architectural styles. The result is gothic cathedrals sitting contently alongside classical façades and Art Deco houses. As well as being the capital of Belgium, Brussels is also home to the European Union, the European Parliament, and NATO.
Brussels Airport is situated 12km north east of Brussels, offering flights to over 180 destinations worldwide. Flight time from London is 55 minutes; New York 7.5 hours.
The quickest way to get from the airport to the city centre is via the Airport City Express train, which takes 15 minutes, stopping at all three of Brussels' main stations – Gare Centrale, Gare du Nord and Gare du Midi. Alternatively, there are regular bus services between the airport and Brussels city centre.
Brussels' second and smaller airport is located 55km south of Brussels, in Charleroi - a one-hour drive from Lille in northern France. Bus number 68 runs from Charleroi Airport to the nearby Charleroi train station. From there, a frequent train service connects to Brussels' main stations in 45 minutes.
Brussels is easily accessible by train. Domestic trains run through three the main train stations in Brussels, and will take you to all the major cities in Belgium. For international travel there are high-speed trains operated by Eurostar and Thalys that depart from the TGV platform at Bruxelles-Midi station to a variety of destinations across Europe including Paris (1 hour 30 minutes) and London (1 hour 50 minutes).
Early summer and early autumn are perhaps the best time to visit, when the weather is warm and mild. Summer months can be very warm, although as with the rest of northern Europe, uncomfortably hot days are rare.
The strangest aspect of Brussels in summer time is how quiet it can seem. The reason is that many of the Eurocrats, based in Brussel’s EU headquarters, head home for the months of July and August.
Wintertime can be grey and overcast although the museums and sights are much less crowded at this time of year and there are still plenty of indoor attractions.
Most of Brussel’s sights and monuments are contained within the centre making them easy to visit over a few days.
The "Petite Rue des Bouchers" (street of the butchers) in the medieval centre of Brussels is famous for the fact that every house in the street is a restaurant. The street is pedestrianised, allowing the restaurants to exhibit some of their products in spectacular fashion in front of passers-by.
Just a few minutes away is Brussel’s centrepiece attraction – the Grand Place. The central market square of Brussels and UNESCO World Heritage site is truly magnificent, and is dominated by the grandiose 15th century Town Hall.
Situated in Heysel Park, north west of the centre is the Bruparck amusement park. Directly accessible by metro, the park houses an impressive Mini-Europe, a permanent outdoor exhibition of small-scale replicas of Europe's most famous architectural sights. Also in Heysel Park is The Atomium, an enormous steel construction representing an iron atom with 9 spheres connected by corridors.
The "European quarter" around the Schumann metro station is also worth strolling through. It is possible to visit some of the buildings in this area, which house the European Parliament, Council of Ministers, European Commission (the "government" of the European Union) and its administration.
Brussels is also home to numerous museums, including the Royal Museum of Ancient and Modern Art, the Museum of Natural History, and the Museum of Art and History. Meanwhile the beautiful Art-Nouveau Warehouses are definitely worth a visit. This stunning space houses Autoworld, which boasts the largest collection of old and new cars in the world. The Museum of Comic Strips is also located here.
A popular place for tourists in the evening is the Grand Place, where you can sit and people watch from the many cafes. Other busy areas are the Place Saint-Géry and the Rue du Marché au Charbon where there are a variety of drinking and eating venues.
Brussels has a number of renowned annual events and it is worth checking out what’s on, and when, before you plan your visit.
With over 700 varieties of the stuff, Belgium is a beer-lover’s paradise, and the country’s dedication to the amber nectar is celebrated in early September each year with Beer Weekend. A lower-key version of Munich’s Beer Festival, the occasion still draws big crowds, with drinkers beating a path to Grand Place for this cultural, boozy weekend. Over 50 breweries are represented each year.
The Brussels Jazz Marathon is held in late May with events taking place in virtually every corner of the city. Artists from Belgium and around the world converge to play a massive 3 day concert. Outdoor stages are set up at the Grand Place, the Sablon and Place St Catherine.