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Things to do in Brussels

Top 5 things to see in Brussels

1. Grote Markt

Known as the Grote Markt in Dutch, or la Grande Place in French, it is the main central square in the middle of Brussels. It is enclosed by some truly stunning architecture, with large edifices and a magnificent town hall at one end. It is easily the most visually-impactful and memorable sight in the whole of Brussels, and you could pass hours here just admiring the architecture or enjoying a fresh coffee and a good book under its protective gaze.

2. Hôtel de Ville

I don’t think it’s cheating to put the Town Hall (which is, of course, at Grand-Place) as an entry in itself. The building is staggering. Gigantic. Beautiful. It is a building quite literally from the middle ages, having been constructed some 600 years ago, with its central tower protruding a whopping 96 metres into the sky. It dominates the entire area with its size, and it ignites our curiosity and interest with the hundreds of sculptures and intricate engraving work which adorns its exterior.

Plus, if you climb the tower, you will be rewarded with the best view in the entire city.

3. Mini-Europe

Bruparck is a 25-hectare leisure park with a bunch of amusements and attractions, including an Imax, 27 other cinema screens, a water park and a planetarium. There are also tonnes of nice places to eat, which is essential for any attraction park!

4. Manneken-Pis

Known in French as le Petit Julien or, more crassly, the Pissing Boy in English, the Manneken-Pis is is a small bronze statue in the city centre, just a few hundred metres from the Town Hall. It was made in 1618 and features a small boy peeing into the fountain base. The boy is only 60cm tall but has become a symbol of sorts for the people of Brussels, much like the Little Mermaid of Copenhagen.

5. Royal Museums of Fine Arts

There are two Musées Royaux des Beaux Arts in Brussels, one of which was founded by Napoleon and displays many great works of Flanders and focuses on older artwork. Both offer a splendid, cultured way to spend an afternoon - or several - admiring the beautiful works of long-gone masters, including paintings, sculptures and drawings.

Top 5 events in Brussels

The Belgian Beer Weekend

At the tail-end of summer every year, in September, the famous Grand-Place in the centre of Brussels plays host to a delightful festival, celebrating all that is great about Belgian beer! Admission to the Belgian Beer Weekend is free, and then you pay for decent-sized samples of as many beers as you can handle once you’re inside! It’s a treat for the palate, and anyone who likes beer will earmark their calendar for this weekend.

Brussels Summer Festival

Got any interest in theatre, street animations and beautiful music? The Brussels Summer Festival makes up the last 10 days of August and takes place at the Place de Palais and Mont des Arts in the city. It is now considered the most important cultural event in Brussels for that time of year and is not one to be missed!

Flower Carpet

Every 2 years, the Grote Markt in the centre of Brussels is covered with a gorgeous carpet of flowers called begonias. By that I mean that these colorful flowers are used to transform the enormous 1,800m2 space before the Town Hall into one enormous, patterned "carpet". The Flower Carpet takes place on every even year, so the next one will be available in August of 2018. Remarkably, it only takes 4 hours to construct, with the help of 100 volunteers.

Winter Wonders

This is a single event which runs through December and features an enormous Christmas Market, a fairground and an ice rink. The Winter Wonders market can boast as many as 250 different vendors, each with their own, unique hand-crafted items or delicious foods. The market is free, but you’ll need to pay for the fairground rides and attractions, as well as the ice rink.

Ommegang Festival

In honour of King Charles V and his son Philip, the city of Brussels hosts the Ommegang Festival, a procession wherein over 1,400 participants will perform with crossbows, horses, flags and other medieval apparel and weaponry. It is one of many such medieval pageants hosted across the Netherlands, and will take place on both the 5th and 7th of July in 2017.

Top 5 bars in Brussels

La Bastoche

It’s an old-style tavern situated at the Cimetière d’Ixelles in town. It’s cheap and extremely cheerful, and you can grab a tasty bowl of pasta for a steal if you’ve gone too hard on the pints! Mostly a young crowd, there’s a simple, relaxed vibe and it’s a great place to nurse a number of fine Belgian beers.

Roska

Slightly removed from the quiet, introspective environment of some bars in Brussels, Roska rocks a great live music scene in the very middle of town! It usually gives the stage to local bands and DJs, so while you may not know any of the artists performing, you are guaranteed to have an artist who is doing their best to impress, and whose music will be original and enjoyable.

Bar du Matin

The Bar du Matin (whichs sounds much cooler than the English, Morning Bar) has everything. You can grab a lazy cup of caffeine early in the morning before a long slog of studying, making the most out of a sun-drenched terrace (sunny day not guaranteed) or head there in the evening for cocktails and a bite to eat. Then there’s a DJ even later on!

L'Athénée

Hidden away from both tourists and the wild nightlife, L’Athénée sits comfortably behind the Saint Boniface Church in Ixelles. It’s very laid-back, chilled and prone to the odd punter whose philosophical debates border on pretentiousness. However, across the piste, it’s a simple, enjoyable place to have a drink with your mates or meet some new people.

Le Pantin

Surrounded by trendy, new-age bars, Le Pantin has managed to stay open and stick to its old-school, traditional Belgian roots. You can play chess, converse with artists and do all sorts of the classy, cultured things for which the city is known. The drinks menu is extensive, so it’s also a great place to groom your knowledge of Belgian beers.

Top 5 places to eat in Brussels

Toukoul

You maybe weren’t expecting an Ethiopian restaurant as the first choice on this list, but if you ever go there, you’ll see why we picked it. The spicy sauces, aromatic spices and perfectly cooked meats are only half the reason to dine here! They also host incredibly talented blues and jazz musicians to fill the room with ambient, tasteful music. Also their Addis Flower cocktail is maybe the nicest (non-beer) drink in Brussels!

La Quincaillerie

One of the many modern, hipster-esque places to eat in Brussels, La Quincaillerie is actually located inside an old ironmonger’s. There’s an oyster bar, a menu filled with French-inspired dishes and ingredients sourced from the restaurant's own farm! It’s elegant, fairly pricey and quite delicious.

La Truffe Noire

This is your truly expensive option - a Michelin Starred restaurant in a stunning location overlooking les Jardins de l’Abbaye de la Cambre. La Truffe Noir is the complete dining experience, offering luxurious dishes, perfectly-matched drinks for each course and a level of service you will not experience outside a Michael-quality establishment. If you have a special occasion and want to do it justice, then give it a go.

Mer du Nord

If you’re not used to dining in Brussels, you probably won’t be expecting this: no chairs, pure seafood and a multitude of small, tapas-style plates. Called _Noordzee _in Dutch, the table are all set around a large bar, with a lovely view outside. Place an order, nurse your drink at your (standing) table and simply wait for your order to be called. If you like seafood, you’ll love the Mer du Nord.

Fin de Siècle

Quite contrary to Mer du Nord, with its subtle flavors and small plates, Fin de Siecle is all about heavy meats, potatoes and thick sauces. It’s traditional Belgian dining at its best. It’s a basic, simple restaurant and it delivers exactly what you want: great drinks which compliment hearty, tasty meals. You can’t book in advance, so try to avoid peak times if you don’t want to queue!


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