Brussels, the Belgian capital and the administrative heart of the European Union, has a reserved grandeur that grows on every visitor. As a bilingual capital, it keeps the balance between the country’s French and Flemish regions and shows a good example of how different languages can mix and flourish. Brussels is also a melting pot of many nations and races, making for an ideal place for balancing diplomatic relations. Truly, it won’t be easy to classify the capital’s neighborhoods, whether classical or modern, commercial or residential, since it has learned to adapt to its exceptional role under the spotlight.
Consider the remarkable atmosphere within Brussels’ historic city center: a bunch of splendid seventeenth century facades as well as a smattering of medieval monuments, with interesting history of great battles and impressive recovery thanks to the powerful city guilds. When you visit the city, make sure to walk around this area and you’ll see the sophisticated and polished square that deserves the UNESCO World Heritage distinction. Check out other parts of the city to see charming old neighborhoods that sit side by side with contemporary and rather impersonal commercial buildings.
Locals go about their own stuff and, treat visitors like anybody else. After all, they are used to foreigners; many of them are foreigners in fact. About 25% of all people in Brussels (more than 2 million) are foreigners, and more than 25,000 are EU officials. What’s great about this is that very few places in the city are tourist traps.
So when you eat out, it is very likely that you’ll be dining out where locals usually hang out, enabling you to have a genuine taste of the Belgian capital’s gems—its food, especially beer and chocolates. And by beer and chocolates, we mean numerous shades and varieties of flavor—bottled, kegged, tapped, bars, pralines, sweet, or dark.
Open yourself up to Brussels and you’ll realize how complex its culture and people are. Beneath the subdued exterior is a passion and quirkiness for the otherworldly and fantastic. In fact, the city’s most popular iconic attraction is the Manneken Pis, that strange but extremely cute little boy pissing into a pool. Another icon is Tintin, that cartoon character with a very funny haircut, who always saves the day, with companion Captain Haddock and dog Snowy.
Nowhere is the awareness of individuality, art noveau (for example, mixed media, comics, etc.), and the unpredictable celebrated with such unassuming enthusiasm as in Brussels. So include this Belgian wonder in your tour. Its exquisite cuisine alone is worth your visit.