For a city break that surprises there is no place quite as unexpected as the Belgian capital of Brussels. Architecture that dates back to the fortress days of the 10th century sets the tone for this most beautiful of cities; merchant guild houses with their ornate façades nestle amongst the elegance of the boulevards in this city of culture.
There is much more to Brussels than impressive architecture though, the city has a culture of diversity and a population that embraces difference, the cosmopolitan feel of this historic city may surprise but it will never disappoint.
Hotel Amigo on Rue de l’Amigo could not have a better location, close to the historic Grand Place this hotel is in the perfect spot for sightseeing, hugely popular amongst the elite that visit the city this hotel has understated luxury with an unsurpassed attention to detail. This hotel is consistently voted best in the city and with good reason, for those with the budget there really can be no other choice.
If you want to experience the charm of a traditional Flemish home then the Rembrandt hotel is perfect, almost twee in its styling this small hotel is run efficiently but with a warmth that is sometimes lacking in the larger establishments, the location is slightly out of the way although it is within walking distance of the city centre and public transport links are good. Excellent value for money for those that are happy to compromise on location.
Traditional Flemish cuisine is most likely to be found around the Grand Place, this is a haven for traditional restaurants that serve hearty local specialities such as beef stew, rabbit in beer, sausages with apple sauce and of course the well known Mosselen-friet (steamed mussels served with fries), of course this all tastes even better when washed down with some of the local beers.
La Mer du Nord on Rue Sainte-Catherine is just one step up from street food with tables on the pavement that allow for standing only, but the food is sublime; freshly caught fish and seafood cooked simply and served with beer or wine – a casual yet first class dining experience.
Brussels has a great culture of food but as with all tourist hotspots does have overpriced restaurants offering inferior fare, the locals are very discerning so if in any doubt ask around and eat where the locals eat, that way you can’t go wrong.
The most impressive and ornate architecture of the city can be found around the Grand Place Square, this is where you will find the Merchants Guild Houses and the extravagant Town Hall, filled with bars, cafés and chocolatiers the square is the perfect place to while away the hours – after dark is particularly impressive with the spectacular evening light show.
The European Parliament might not appear to be the most exciting of tourist destinations but it is incredibly educational, the audio guided tour will teach you everything you ever wanted to know about the history of the institution (and probably a bit more besides).
The best way to see the city is to take the ‘Hop On Hop Off’ tour, the 12 stops throughout the tour are designed to appeal to the tourist and include Parliament buildings, theatres and museums, the ticket is valid for 24 hours and allows you to explore the city at leisure.
Brussels has an oceanic climate with pleasantly warm summers and mild winters, snowfall is rare but rain is expected for about 2/3rds of the year, summer temperatures average around 70F making it a pleasant city to stroll around.
The build up to Christmas is a beautiful time of year to visit Brussels with the festive Christmas markets and plethora of twinkling light, booking is advisable during this period though as the influx of visitors does reduce the number of rooms available.