Brussels fits the definition of the archetypal “melting pot”, but still retains its own unique character. The city is an enclave in the Dutch-speaking Flanders region. Is also considered the capital of the European Union.
Brussels operates as a bilingual city where both French (80%) and Dutch (Flemish) (20%) are official languages. Thus all the streets have two names, which can sound totally different. For example, the Main Square is called both la Grand Place and de Grote Markt.
English has become a common spoken language because of the international institutions based in Brussels, such as the European Commission, the European Parliament and NATO.
Brussels deservedly has a poor reputation for its weather. Weather in Brussels is very damp with a high and fairly evenly distributed annual average rainfall of 820 mm (32 in) and on average approximately 200 days of rainfall per year, both which are more than that of London and Paris. The dampness makes the weather feel much colder than it is.
In the summer, average daily maximum temperatures rarely exceed 22ºC (72ºF). The summer visitor should always be prepared for rain in Brussels. Warm and sunny weather is not constant during that season or even to be expected.
After October, temperatures drop off quite rapidly and winter months are damp and chilly. Snowfall is rare, and starts to melts fairly quickly, becoming slush on the ground. The winter visitor should be prepared for wet ground.
– First eat then drink. Local beers here can be quite tough, therefore your stomach and body should be prepared to a ‘Brussels night’
– Eat frites (french fries). The city is full of places where you can enjoy this specialty. Try different sauces and then decide what is your favorite one. Of the selection of bizarre sauces that go with ‘frites’ the most popular with the locals is probably “andalouse”
– What’s going on? Pick up a copy of local free city newspapers Zone 02 and Agenda (together with dutch Brussel Deze Week), distributed in cafés and bars around the city
– Fancy a movie? Musée du Cinema/Filmmuseum features a carefully chosen selection of contemporary and classic movies. Entrance fee is cheap.
– Due to infamous weather Brussels has many wet and rainy days, water-resistant shoes are recommended.
– Use-it (Central Office), Steenkoolkaai 9B Quai à la Houille, Mon-Sat: 10h-13h, 14h-18h is the best source of tourist information provided by young locals, and this central office has nice facilities, coffee and free wifi.
– Meet a local greeter! A Greeter welcomes you for a meeting and offers to help you discover Brussels through his/her eyes. As an inhabitant, (s)he will give you his own vision of the city and share with you his/her soft spots. A Greeter is not a professional guide but a volunteering ambassador of his/her city.
– Best way to discover the city is to join a free walking tour
– Use supermarkets. They sell same products tourist love (beer, chocolate…) for cheaper price.
– 10 ride ticket can be used by more than one person, when you enter the bus, or metro or tram, you validate the ticket accordingly to the number of people traveling together.
– Get around Brussels by bicycle, “Villo” is a short-term rental system at 180 locations near the central city. The system only accepts Smart cards (the ones with an electronic chip and activated by a PIN code), it does not accept the regular magnetic stripe cards. The first half hour is free, the next costs €0.50. Registration costs €1.50 for a day and €7 for a week.
– Cantillon Brewery has a beer tour, which includes two small glasses of lambic and gueuze. A ‘must to do’ for beer lovers! Tour with tasting € 6, tasting alone € 2
– Avoid tourist traps like restaurant in the centre, despite the attractive menu price they might rip-off you. Cheap Dining is available at small family-run restaurants, Kebap houses, snack bar and pizzerias.
(outside Brussels) Rock Werchter Festival Werchter, Belgium – 4/7/2013 – 7/7/2013
– Leuven is a real “student city”, as during the academic year most citizens in its centre are students. Leuven has one of the liveliest bar scenes in Belgium. It boasts the “longest bar” in Europe, the Old Market, and dozens of bars and cafés crammed into a central square in Leuven.
– Bruges Very nice medieval town. Often called “Venice of the North”, because of the many canals that flow through and under it. Well worth an overnight stay, since it is most romantic at night
– Ghent A medieval town a bit like Bruges, with more emphasis on cathedrals and other big buildings. Great center of medieval paintings exhibited in and around the cathedral of Sint-Baafs
– Antwerp major destination in the region of Flanders. Known as the ‘diamond city” as more than 70% of all diamonds are traded in Antwerp
– Waterloo – About 15 km South of Brussels. Visit where Wellington and Bluecher faced Napoleon for an ultimate battle that changed Europe’s face forever. Further South, don’t miss the Abbey of Villers-la-Ville.
Get in Bruxelles
Visit wikitravel’s page
Visit wikitravel’s page
What to do
You can see what’s going on in Brussels by picking up a copy of local free city newspaper Zone 02. Another good free listings paper is Agenda, which is distributed together with the Dutch-language weekly Brussel Deze Week and has the notable advantage of being published in three languages (English, Dutch, French). Both of these are distributed in cafés and bars around the city. If you’re looking for a good party, online listing Net Events (French and Dutch) and Ready2Move, are a good place to start.
Brussels Agenda is the official cultural and entertainment agenda of the City of Brussels and the francophone Médiatheque has a website featuring the upcoming concerts in Brussels and the rest of Belgium. However, their listings page only features concerts Médiatheque staff are interested in.
Brussels has a fair number of cinemas, if limited compared to most European capitals. French films are subtitled in Dutch, and vice versa, all other films are shown in the original version subtitled in French and Dutch (on cinema listings look for ‘OV’).
- Actors Studio and Styx, run by the cooperative nouveau cinema. Both cinemas screen interesting films in their original version with French and Dutch subtitles. Actor’s studio, Petite Rue des Bouchers – Kleine Beenhouwersstraat, Brussels 1000, tel: 025121696 or Cinéma Styx, Rue de l’Arbre Bénit – Gewijde Boomstraat 72, Ixelles-Elsene.
- Cinema Nova  is an independent-to-the-bone cinema showcasing the more esoteric side of cinema – films which would not be shown elsewhere are generally shown here. A Korean Ultraman rip-off, a Pakistani documentary or a bleak Chilean cinema vérité flick? Only at Nova. Nova Cinema, 3 rue Arenberg-Arenbergstraat.
- Arenberg  is a good arthouse cinema with a well-programmed selection of films. Especially good for the newer arthouse flicks. Cinéma Arenberg, 26 Galerie de la Reine – Koninginnegalerij.
- Musée du Cinema/Filmmuseum  is part of the Centre for Fine Arts and features a carefully chosen selection of contemporary and classic arthouse films. The best thing about this isn’t just the building (due to be restored soon) but also the fact that the entrance fee is cheap. So if you can’t live without your dose of Werner Herzog or Jan Svankmajer fret not – this place won’t cost you an arm and a leg. Royal Film Museum, 9 Rue Baron Horta – Baron Hortastraat.
- Vendome, 18 Chaussée de Wavre-Waversesteenweg, Ixelles-Elsene. Another arthouse cinema. It’s located near the Porte de Namur (Naamsepoort) and acts as the metaphysical gateway to a lively african neighbourhood known locally as Matongé.
- Flagey  is the old broadcasting headquarters and now houses the regional TV station TVBrussel . It labels itself ‘the sound and images factory’. Quite an apt description – arthouse films, theatre pieces or world-renowned musicians are all featured here. Flagey, Place Sainte-Croix – Heilig-kruisplein, Ixelles-Elsene.
- BIFFF  is Brussels’ international fantasy film festival (film fantastique in French). This two-weeks festival is scheduled yearly in March and is a must see for tourist and locals alike.
- Offscreen is a showcase for unusual, independent and unreleased films, cult classics, extraordinary documentaries and offbeat genres from around the world. Takes place during the month of February and/or March in co-production with Cinema Nova and in collaboration with the Film Museum of the Royal Belgian Film Archive
Visit wikitravel’s page
Belgium is to beer what France is to wine, it is home to one of the greatest beer traditions in the world, and Brussels is a great place to sample some of the vast variety on offer. Typical beers of Brussels are gueuze (rather sour) and kriek (rather sweet, cherry based).
A special drink only found in Brussels is the “half-en-half” (“half and half”). It’s a mixture of white wine and champagne.
A good number of hostels are in the city. Hotel rates in Brussels can vary widely (especially at the upper end) depending on how many EU bigwigs happen to be in town. Good deals are often available on weekends and during the summer when the bureaucrats flee on vacation.
Main source of info: wikitravel
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