To read my full Brussels city guide click here.
The capital of Belgium is a land where tiny things are made huge, and huge things become tiny. It's the beating heart of Europe, and home of the EU, NATO, WTO, and OECD, just to name a few acronyms. The city is a complex mix of the old and the new with beautiful historic squares, and huge modern skyscrapers. There's museums, and churches as well as more street art than you'll find anywhere else. It's the home of Tintin, The Smurfs, and a whole lot of statues involving piss. On top of all this there's also world famous Belgium beer, much of which will knock your socks off it's so strong. This is a lively, culturally diverse city which really knows how to burn the candle at both ends, and a must visit for any traveller.
The Atomium and Mini Europe
It's fair to say that in Brussels size matters. The Atomium is in the shape of an iron atom magnified 165 billion times. It's a wonderful piece of engineering and technical brilliance designed to show off the best science had to offer at the 1958 world fair. Inside there's an exhibition centre and viewing platform which allows you to see for miles around, while the spheres are all linked by tunnels which look like they should be in a science fiction movie. Everything has a science theme, but if that doesn't do it for you just go to appreciate the views and have a beer inside the biggest atom on the planet.
Meanwhile Mini Europe does exactly what it says on the tin. Here you'll find all the biggest and best landmarks from the continent shrank down 25 times. It's a fantastic bit of fun to walk around, and a great photo opportunity. The Acropolis of Athens is there, along with The Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, The Leaning Tower of Pisa, there's even an erupting Mount Vesuvius, and so much more. Just think how much it'd cost you to go see all these sites one at a time!! You do have to resist the urge to pretend to be a giant beast from a bad disaster movie though. Size is a funny thing in Brussels, and there's something enjoyable about seeing the very small tower magnificently over the very large.
At the last count there were over 800 different Belgium beers, so it'd be difficult to say you don't like any of them, and also pretty tough to try them all, especially given that most of them are well over the 8% proof mark. There's every imaginable style from IPA's and lagers through to stouts and porters, but beyond any doubt you come to Belgium for the Trappist beers which taste almost as much like a sweet dessert as an alcoholic beverage. Each beer comes in its own special glass designed to enhance its personal flavour, La Corne comes in a drinking horn, Kwak comes in weird test tube type thing, and so on. The Delirium pub has over 2000 different beers on offer, while Skull Bar is a wonderfully macabre experience as you sit drinking beer from skulls, whilr using coffins as tables. Beer is just what Belgium does best.
Street Art and Pis
I'm not going to try to explain the excessive amounts of statues dedicated to urination in Brussels, I'm just going to tell you that there's at least three of them. There's Jeanneke Pis, which is basically a young girl squatting, there's Het Zinneke, which is a dog shall we say marking its territory, and then there's the massively famous Manneken Pis. In amongst the urinating statues you'll also find a huge array of street art, including some of Belgium's most famous sons The Smurfs and Tintin. I don't think I've ever seen so much artwork dotted around streets, airports and train stations as I discovered in Brussels, and a lot of it is amazing.
Museums and Galleries
There's no lack of culture in Brussels. The Art and History Museum is one of the largest, and best in Europe spanning pre-history right through to the 20th century. The museum is split into four sections covering National Archaeology, Classical Antiquity, European Art, and Non-European Civilisations. Keep a special eye out for the massive totem pole in the Americas section it's a bit special. If you prefer something a little more modern The Parlamentarium is a futuristic looking tribute to everything democratic. It'll explain all the workings of the EU, and who exactly works there. It's not bad for a freebie. However if cars are more your thing don't miss Autoworld, it's fascinating to see the whole evolution of the automobile under one roof, and gain an insight into the technical evolution's that made each upgrade possible. Plus you get to sit in a racing car.
Explore Bruges and Ghent
When you visit Brussels you'll be less than an hour away from the world famous beautiful town of Bruges, and even closer to the picturesque city of Ghent so make sure you don't miss either. The whole city centre of Bruges is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with long winding canals, glorious parks and medieval architecture all over the place. The less famous Ghent is a beautiful city with a stunning cathedral whose black and white interior is among the most striking I've ever seen.
Brussels is beyond any doubt one of the great European cities, and it really is at the centre of all its most prestigious organisations. It's a wonderful city to visit with a diversity almost unmatched. The city streets are winding, and so easy to get lost in, but you wont mind, as that just means you'll discover something new.
For my full city guide to Brussels click here.