Notes on Brussels
We stood in La Grand-Place in the center of Brussels, surrounded by some of the most stunning, gold-gilded buildings I have ever seen, when all of a sudden we heard the theme from Star Wars echoing through the southern end of the square. Suddenly, Darth Vader appeared, accompanied by 2 elderly, well dressed women, several storm troopers and an entire brass band in straw hats and red bow-ties. We have no idea why this occurred, but safe to say, our love for Brussels was solidified before Vader got halfway across the square.
Brussels is overlooked and undersold. We actually had no intention of visiting but our friends Stephan & Katie had just returned from a week in Brussels and had so many good things to say that we decided to give the city a try. We were so glad we did. Here’s a couple notes on the city to get you started:
–> Language(s): Flemish, Dutch & French are all spoken within Belgium, but don’t worry- in Brussels, you’re safe with just French.
–> Currency: Euro
–> What about traffic and busy public transportation? Keep in mind that this is the seat of the European Union and where NATO’s headquarters are located so you’re going to see alot of increased traffic during certain times of the day (especially in the European District) so prepare accordingly.
–>How long should you stay? Dedicate at least an overnight trip with two full days to the city. You want to be able to take your time.
–>Emergency Help: Dial 112
–>Cash or Credit? It’s really good to have cash on hand- a lot of places don’t accept card.
–>Tipping at restaurants? Yes. 10%-ish.
–>Don’t be loud. This is a city where it’s really not appreciated.
–> Where NOT to stay? Two places- Bruparck and the European District. Is Bruparck cool if you have kids and want to visit Océade water park or the Mini-Europe theme park? Sure. Should you stay there? No. It’s WAYYY outside of the city and the subway system takes about 30 minutes to get you there from La Grand-Place. The European District becomes extremely busy and crowded due to all the journalists and various representatives of the EU and NATO centered in the district and much of the historic charm is lost here, and as you might imagine, prices can be higher for hotels (unless it’s the weekend).
–>Where to stay? The Lower Town, although pricey, places you right in the action and near La Grand-Place. The Upper Town/Marolles are also good options.
–>Where not to eat? Restaurant Row. It’s alot of overpriced seafood. Oddly, eating near the Grand Place is not necessarily a bad idea, although you will pay a little more.
–>Thing(s) we regret most? It’s two-fold. First- a wasted subway trip all the way to Bruparck in June (no air conditioning in the subway that day + dehydration = near syncopal episode) and NOT SPENDING ENOUGH TIME BRUSHING UP ON FRENCH. We definitely missed out because of that.
–>When should you visit to save a bit on the budget? Weirdly, the weekend is almost always cheaper. Delegates and officials go home on the weekends, so hoteliers will often fill the rooms at a lower price.
–>What not to miss? THE ART HERE IS INCREDIBLE. It’s covered in detail here.