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Brussels Travel Information

Rich in history, Brussels is a sophisticated city with a lively, cosmopolitan atmosphere.

You could start with a stroll around the magnificent Grand Place which is one of the most beautiful squares in Europe. Deservedly regarded as one of the world's gastronomic capitals, discover for yourself Brussels' first class cuisine in the restaurants of 'I'llot Sacre' or stop at one of the many pavement cafes around the bustling squares to sample the famous beers and chocolates.

The Atomium, Brussels

Dynamic trend setter at the heart of what is happening in Modern Europe, Brussels is a city with a rich historical past.

At the very heart of the city you with find the Grand Place, which is arguable the most beautiful square in Northern Europe, with its wonderfully ornate 17th century guild houses, relaxing pavement cafes and colourful flower stalls in the summer months.

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Brussels Travel and Flight Information

Brussels is home to the headquarters of the European Union and NATO and is surprisingly far removed from its image as a bland city. Brussels is in fact appealing, lively and cultured and since being selected as a European Capital of Culture in 2000, the city has been sprung in to life.

t its centre is the impressive Grand Place, a baroque masterpiece rebuilt after the city was destroyed by Louis XIV's troops in 1695, but still retaining whispers of its medieval origins. The surrounding narrow cobbled streets are a delight to wander in. A few blocks to the south is the famous bronze statue, Manneken Pis, whose name says it all.

Most of the best sights are within walking distance: the Stock Market building (La Bourse), Palace of Congress, Parliament building and the formal gardens of Warande Park. Then there's the Cathedral, Palace of Justice, museums and art galleries – works by Rubens, Van Eyck and Breughel are particularly worth seeing.

The commercial hub of the city is 1.6km (1 mile) to the east, among broad avenues and green parks. Farther out (to the north) is the Atomium (a huge stainless-steel landmark), Royal Palace of Laeken, the Chinese Pavilion and lacquered Japanese Tower.

It has 1.1 million inhabitants that  live in 19 districts, or "communes", each with its own distinct personality. There are some amazing French restaurants, thousands of bars and cafes, the atmospheric ethnic markets of Boulevard d'Ypres and exquisite Art Nouveau houses. The core of the city, measuring around 3.2km (2 miles) from north to south and enclosed by wide boulevards, is where most of tourist interest is found.

Brussels lies among the gentle undulations which interrupt the overall flatness of Flanders. At the centre of a rail system connecting with the rest of Europe; an efficient motorway network radiates outwards like spokes of a wheel.

At the centre of Belgium, 113km (70 miles) east of the coast. 37km (23 miles) south of Antwerp. National airport 11.3km (7 miles) northeast of city centre.

Where to Stay
Mainly 3 to 5 star hotels with the most interesting selection (from dodgy to brilliant) found in the old centre. Reduced rates are often available at weekends and holidays, when business customers aren't so abundant. Hostels, guesthouses and a few apartments are also available.

Things to do
Daytime: sightseeing, museums and art galleries; walking tours (leaflets available from tourist office); open-top sightseeing bus; cafe society.

Nightlife: centres on Boulevard Adolphe Max, with the bars on Grand Place also worth visiting; plenty of nightclubs, theatres and opera.

Must See
The stunning Grand Place and the surrounding cobbled streets, where you will find the famous Mannekin Pis statue. Visit St Michael's Cathedral, the Royal Palace and the beautiful Parc de Bruxelles. Just outside the city centre and well worth a visit is the intriguing Atomium.

Mannekin Pis, Brussels

Must Do
Don't miss the Museum of Fine Arts, where the collection spans from Old Masters including Rubens and Van Dyke to the modern surrealism of Magritte. Other highlights include the Cartoon Museum, Erasmus' House and Gardens and the Costume and Lace Museum.

Belgian food quality matches that of France and comprises a wide variety of dishes with perhaps a bias towards fish and seafood. The best hotels have some good although expensive restaurants and the area around the Grand Place is full of eateries of practically every category. For something different, Matonge, which is a predominantly African district near Porte de Namur is full of places serving high-quality, interesting African food. The wine is good, but the beer is not to be missed.

The Grand Place is home to restaurants and cafes but is also a great place for souvenirs as there are shops selling chocolate and lace. There is a weekend antique market on pretty Grand Sablon and Place Jourdan has a market on Sundays.

Half day tour: Mechelen, a medieval town; Waterloo, site of Napoleon's defeat; university town of Louvain.

Full day tour: Namur, Dinant and the Ardennes for hilly scenery and interesting towns.

Getting Around
Brussels has an efficient metro system covering the city centre. The city is also well serviced by a network of trams and buses.

The modern Metro system covers the central area and also reaches out to the suburbs to the north and west. Many Metro stations have bus and tram connections. Tickets must be validated and are valid for an hour or unlimited day travel cards are available, valid for all 3 networks. The services run from about 6am to midnight and then a nightbus service runs until 3am. The Brussels city pass is available covering museums and transport.

Who is it for?
Appeals to a broad spectrum of people, particularly those who enjoy culture, as it offers streets full of history and atmosphere and a wide choice of restaurants, bars and cafes. A large and ever-increasing number of business visitors, as Brussels continues its development as the centre of European affairs. As a rule, business customers predominate during the week whilst tourists take over at weekends and holidays.

Getting There
Direct flights from the UK to Brussels airport are available at discount rates from your local airport. The flight time to Brussels airport is approx 1 hour.

Belgium's main international airline

To Relax
Visit the daily flower market at the Grand Place and the weekend antiques market at Place du Sablon. For designer clothes and jewellery head for Avenue Louise. For nightlife try the many theatres, cinemas, concerts, jazz clubs and discos.

The Grand Place, Brussels

Brussels boasts over 1800 places to eat, from exclusive gourmet restaurants to small bistros serving the delicious local speciality of 'Moules-Frites' - mussels and chips! Belgium is also the land of beer with a bewildering choice of strengths and flavours to try - visit the Gueuze Brewery Museum.

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Brussels by Hessle Travel

Brussels Highlights

> The Grand Place - Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque in one splendid square

> The city houses the European Community and its multi - national technocrats

> Around the Grand Place are tiny streets lined with restored Renaissance or Belle Epoque houses

> Home to the famous Brussels sprout

Love them or hate them...the Brussels sprout

> Food buffs say its cuisine equals, if not betters, Paris

> Famous for its chocolate, Brussels is no city for slimmers

> Explore peaceful Sablon for antiques housed in elegant centuries' old buildings

> The Belgium beer carries a hefty kick

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