For some, Brussels on the surface doesn’t appear to offer all that much to admire – not just politically, but as a place to visit, with a bit of a reputation for being grey, boring, bureaucratic, even soulless. Like most stereotypes, blown way out of proportion. What really defines the capital of Belgium and all of Europe, site of the continent’s parliament and various of its institutions, is its status as a crossroads. After the work days are over, people from all corners of Europe and beyond hit the cafés, restaurants, and clubs to create a delightful, cosmopolitan mix that welcomes the stranger. And then, too, there are plenty of historic spots and experiences to fascinate the eye and the mind.
Ground zero for that sort of thing, of course, is the eponymous Grand-Place (Grote Markt in Flemish, Belgium’s other language), of which the Bruxellois are rather proud, and so is UNESCO, having declared it a World Heritage Site. You’ll understand why when you get there – it’s a particularly photogenic collection of Gothic and Baroque buildings, foremost of which is, unsurprisingly, the city hall, its central tower standing 96 metres (315 feet) tall, surrounded by the halls and manses of wealthy merchants and guilds (including the brewers’ guild at No. 10, housing the Brewery Museum). Bring your appetite, so you can have a seat at a sidewalk table along the nearby streets and tuck into hearty local dishes like moules frites (mussels and french fries) or waterzooi (chicken or seafood stew), followed by a visit to a patisserie or chocolatier for a cup of world-famous Belgian chocolate.
Read more in our post Brussels Sprouts Plenty of Appeal.