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Your guide to Brussels
All About Brussels
As Belgium’s capital city and the birthplace of Art Nouveau, Brussels has an air of European sophistication that embraces artistic expression. The city is home to numerous fountains, museums dedicated to musical instruments, a theme park with miniature replicas of famous monuments, and a center that celebrates comics and graphic novels. Although the architecture, art, and shopping are world class, the city’s diverse history and magic are best captured in its food. As you stroll down the cobblestone streets in Brussels’ historic districts, you’ll pass chocolate shops displaying handmade bonbons, smell sugary stroopwafels in the air, and spot street vendors selling cones of crispy frites.
The central square, or Grand Palace, in the medieval central district is a great place to start exploring. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site surrounded by ornate buildings from the 17th century. You can also take in the gardens, monuments, and museums of Cinquantenaire Park and the upscale mansions and gothic churches of Sablong. In the hip neighborhood of Marolles, working-class residents sip coffee in unfussy cafes. Along the way you can snag a mitraillette, a Belgian sandwich with meat and fries, a perfect snack to enjoy on the lawn of Duden Park.
The best time to stay in a vacation rental in Brussels
Weather in Brussels is relatively mild aside from its chilly winters. With around nine days of rain each month, it's always a good idea to pack warm layers and an umbrella. If you’re staying during April or May, visit the rare plants and flowers in full bloom at the Royal Greenhouses of Laeken, a 19th-century Art Nouveau complex that spans 270,000 square feet. Locals fill up the city’s squares and beer gardens in the summer months, but you’ll be far from the only one exploring the narrow streets. Between September and November, mussels are in season, but you’ll need warmer layers and sturdy footwear to keep your balance on the city’s wet cobbles.
The cold weather and dark evenings in the winter months do not stop events and celebrations. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, the city is transformed for the Winter Wonders Festival with light shows in Grand Place, a Christmas market with outposts all over the city, an ice rink, a fairground, and stalls selling mulled wine and Belgian beer.
Top things to do in Brussels
Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium
In Brussels’ Royal District, you’ll find six stately art museums with more than 20,000 works on display. You’ll be able to view masterpieces from 15th-century Flemish painters, a museum dedicated to the works of Belgium’s most famous surrealist, and influential fin-de-siècle exhibits.
Marché du Midi
There’s a wealth of open-air markets throughout Brussels throughout the week, and you’ll likely stumble upon one if you spend any time exploring the city. One of the largest markets in Europe is Marché du Midi next to the central train station, where you’ll find stalls selling fresh produce, spices, prepared foods, and baked goods. For vintage trinkets, clothes, housewares, and books, check out the Jeu de Balle Flea Market, which takes place daily in the Marolles neighborhood.
Originally built for the World’s Fair in 1958, this eye-catching metal structure in Heysel Park has become an iconic Brussels landmark. Head up the elevator and inside through tunneled walkways that look like a science-fiction set and learn about the building’s history via a permanent exhibition before admiring panoramic views of the Brussels skyline through four of its nine sphere-shaped points.