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Friday, 11 December 2015


By: Cindy-Lou DaleThe secret of Belgium's capital city, Brussels, is to go with the flow and allow yourself to become part of its charming everyday life.
Having previously been ruled by Spain, the Netherlands and France, Belgium is one of those countries that finds it easier to describe itself by what it is not: it's not French, nor is it Dutch, nor German. Belgium is a country with an identity crisis, in the most positive sense of the word, as its population speaks French, Dutch, German, Arabic, and even English, due to a large segment of expat foreigners. With all the variety, Brussels takes the mix in stride and pulls everything together into an offbeat, almost bizarre sense of place.
With this cultural diversity it's no wonder that Brussels has seized the new century with a fresh vigor, leaving other European cities wondering who stole their tourists. One source of the tourism influx is Belgium's fashion market, while other European cities rested on their laurels, Belgium became a might in style, surpassing France, while the buzzing sidewalk café scene has outmatched that of Paris.
Eating in Brussels
The capital's restaurants rival those of Paris and London - both in value and excellence. While it's not an inexpensive city for dining, it has high standards, and restaurants that fall short of the mark simply close.
Mussels and chips is the classic dish and can be found in nearly all Belgian restaurants. However, certain districts of Brussels specialize in specific food: Ixelles has excellent Thai, African and Italian bistros, mainly around St-Boniface church. Place du Grand Sablon has an abundance of these restaurants, although they are a little more pricy.
Drinking in Brussels is a national pastime. The Grand' Place is lined with terrace bars, full of life in the summer. Le Roi d'Espagne has the most ambiance, and Place St-Géry has designer bar terraces with oodles of mood, and the timeless art deco bar of L'Archiduc, which is claimed to remain open until dawn.
Shopping in BrusselsThe main pedestrian drag, rue Neuve, is full of soulless chain stores selling clothes and shoes. Inno is a big department store, and the City 2 shopping mall has a number of shops, the highlight of which is the impressive Fnac music and bookshop on the top level.
Escape the shopping malls and try something more idiosyncratic, like the shabby area between Boulevard Lemonnier and the Grand' Place, where you'll find second-hand book shops and music and clothing stores. Off the Grand' Place is the Galeries St-Hubert, filled with designer boutiques and quirky sidewalk cafés.
Sightseeing in Brussels
The lower city is centered around the superbly ornate Grand' Place, considered by many as the most beautiful medieval square in all of Europe, with its elegant 17th century guild houses and narrow, atmospheric lanes leading off. In the summer, it hosts daily flower markets, often accompanied by concerts. Nearby, St-Géry flourishes with stylish bars contained in an old, covered market on Place St-Géry. The cafés, restaurants and nightspots buzz in the summer months, as does St-Catherine, a canopied terrace lined with seafood restaurants. Immediately south of Grand' Place, amid the grimy old stores in rue de l'Etuve, is the symbol of Brussels, the little statue of the urinating rascal â?? Mannekin-Pis.
Further south in the earthy Marolles quarter, rue Haute hosts the daily flea market at Place du Jeu de Balle. Throughout the lower town are murals of Belgium's comic-strip heroes like Tintin.
The upper town boasts dramatic architecture and parks, with a string of grand names along its Boulevard. The Royal Quarter overshadows everything else with the palace and the fountained Parc de Bruxelles leading through to the Belgian Parliament. The Fine Arts Museum boasts old masters like Bruegel, Rubens, Magritte, Delvaux and Monet.
A short tram ride from Brussels Montgomery to Tervuren takes you through several parks and the beautiful Ambassadorial district. Tervuren is home to the African Art Museum and Léopold II's spectacular monuments and parks.

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