Brussels

Brussels is a fabulous gateway to the charm and sophistication of European culture. There are a tremendous number of great activities to engage in and so many glorious sights and sounds that your senses will be inundated with beauty and wonder. When you eat out in Brussels, you are in for a real treat. This region may be famous for its Belgian waffles and scrumptious chocolate, but there are many more delicacies that you are sure to enjoy. The museums are splendid, and the nightlife is sensational. The abundance of bars and nightclubs will impress even the most seasoned European traveler. The region exhibits a mixture of numerous cultures, and the citizens are open-minded and quite helpful when you approach them with questions about where should you go, what should you do, and where can you eat well while not spending the remainder of your pocket money.

The prosperity and popularity of Brussels has fluctuated over the decades, but ever since the Universal Exposition and World's Fair were held here in 1958, the city has seen a lot more tourism. In the mid-to-late 1800s, Brussels was an outrageously dynamic city, full of life and exploding with charm. As a result, the area was a tourist hub. But Brussels was tainted by the two World Wars. The Germans occupied the area twice and virtually ruined the import, export, and tourism of the city. The powerless Belgian government was forced to watch its most beloved city decline at a horrendous rate. Brussels has made a mighty comeback since 1958, and in the last forty-plus years, it has been a huge draw with world travelers. Tourism is at an all-time high, and everyone who visits is incredibly eager to come back soon. While it may be true that the city is somewhat difficult to navigate, you are certain to have a lot of fun trying to get around! The city is safe, and exploring it is a lovely experience.

Docking & Local Transportation

Since Brussels is inland, cruise ships dock at the Port of Zeebrugge (50/543-211) on the shores of the North Sea. Brussels is approximately 125km from the port, and there is ample bus transportation to take you to the town.

Brussels is served by an efficient public bus and metro system, and route maps are available free through the S.T.I.B (02/515-2000), the state public transport office. If you'd like to rent a car while in Brussels, you will have many rental agencies competing for your business. Budget (02/753-2170) as well as Europcar (02/345-9290) can provide you with reliable automobiles. Lastly, you can let someone else do the driving for you by taking a cab. Taxi service is prevalent in Brussels. If you cant flag one down, call Autolux (02/411-4142).

Local Interests

The Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, located on Rue de la Regence 3 (02/508-3211), is a remarkable museum featuring the works of Brueghel, Rubens, Van Gogh, and many more masters of European art. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday, and is a highlight of any sightseeing trip to Brussels.

The Grand Place is located in the center of town and is the meeting place and cultural heartbeat of Brussels. Everyone from children to the elderly gather here to socialize with friends and see the sights. There is never a dull moment at the Grand Place, and between the months of April and September, there are nightly music and light shows that are fantastic. The whole ambiance is dazzling, and every day you can stroll through the flower market and be overwhelmed by the glorious colors and wonderful aroma. In December, an ornate Christmas tree, decorated splendidly, stands tall on the steps of this town hall. Holiday displays and a manger with real grazing sheep add to the splendor and appeal of this center.

The Centre Belge de la Bande Dessinee (The Belgian Comic Strip Center), is located at Rue des Sables 20 (02/219-1980). Often disregarded by American adults as junk reading, comics have become very popular in Belgium, and particularly in Brussels. They have been embraced as an art form and as a teaching mechanism for children who have reading problems or an initial disinterest in reading. As a result, the best comic artists in Europe have made contributions to this wonderful establishment, and there are over 25,000 extraordinary cartoon works within the walls of the Comic Strip Center. Victor Horta designed the exquisite architecture of the building in 1906. An Art Nouveau brasserie and an enjoyable comic strip store can be seen here, as well

Activities

Dining

Recently, Brussels has experienced a restaurant resurgence of sorts. All of the sudden, there are numerous top-notch dining establishments to be found in the heart of the city. This is refreshing, and these great spots are being taken advantage of by locals and tourists alike. Villa Lorraine can be found at Chaussée de la Hulpe 28 (02/374-3163) and features outstanding cuisine that is devoured by countless American travelers who pass through Brussels. Some of the favorite items are quail, duckling, red mullet, and bread and meat combinations that are scrumptious. La Truffe Noire is located at Boulevard de la Cambre 12 (02/640-4422) and mixes extraordinary French and Italian cuisines perfectly. Accompanying the gorgeous restaurant is a fabulous garden. Two of the best dishes are the lamb covered with piecrust and a pigeon served with truffles.

Nightlife

Chez Moeder Lambic is located at Rue de Savoie 68 (02/539-1419) and is the premier bar for sampling Belgian beers. They claim to have 600 in stock at all times, as well as hundreds of other beers from around the world! Mirano Continental is located at Chaussée de Louvain 38 (02/227-3970) and is a flashy and stylish dance club that is quite popular.

Shopping

The shopping in Brussels is spectacular, and the best department store for Belgian style is Inno, located at Rue Neuve 111 (02/211-2111). Godiva (02/511-2537) can be found at Grand Place 22 and is the queen of fine chocolate. It seems no matter how many gift chocolate packages you buy for your friends back home, you will end up eating them all! So use discipline, but allow yourself a least a few fine morsels.