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Destinations: Brussels, Belgium

Here's your essential guide to getting the best out of a holiday in Brussels.

Brussels parliament building
Brussels parliament building

Fast facts:

Location nickname: The European Village

Don't miss: Grand Place

Best avoid: Place Rogier at night

Don't miss: Frites (chips) and moules (mussels)

Best avoid: Tête pressée (brawn) - perhaps it's just me…

1 Atomium

In the hopeful spirit of the post-war years, the 1958 Brussels World's Fair celebrated the peaceful use of atomic energy through a still-remarkable structure.  102 metres high, formed from nine interconnected shining spheres, the Atomium represents a crystal of elemental iron magnified 165 thousand million times.

2 Avenue Louise

Described by some as Brussels' answer to the Champs-Elysées this opulent, Belle Époque thoroughfare populated by fancy designer boutiques, airline offices and embassies runs from Palais de Justice near Place Louise to the lake and green space of Boise de la Cambre.  Avoid late evenings when those plying a much older trade populate the street.

3 Beer

A brewing reputation accrued over generations of careful refinement, beer in Belgium is a serious business.  The city's Delirium Café is recorded in the Guinness Book of Records as selling 2004 different beers, from native Krieks, Leffes and Chimays to obscure big brown bottles imported from Central Africa.

4 Chocolate

Belgium makes 172,000 tons of chocolate every year, its origin a guarantee of quality, and Brussels has more producers than any other city.  Chocolate addicts will be familiar with Duty Free boxes of pralines from Godiva, Neuhaus and Leonidas, but these pale in comparison to the delights of chocolatier Pierre Marcolini's shop in downtown Brussels' Grand Sablon district.

5 European Parliament

Through multi-media presentations the Parlamentarium visitor centre describes the EU from its inception as a means to prevent war and promote stability with just six member states, to today's 28 member union comprising almost 500 million people. Free tours of the parliament's chamber are offered together with the chance to sit in on a debate.

6 Grand Place

An expansive cobbled space defined by 15th century Guild houses, Brussels' main square is an excellent way to lose a day.  Take a morning stroll, enjoy a coffee and a waffle or a beer at any one of a multitude of elegant cafes.  Enjoy the architecture and watch the world go by.

7 Hôtel de Ville 

On the city's Grand Place the town hall's masterpiece of Mediaeval architecture dates in its earliest parts from 1402.  If you're new in town an overview from the building's 96 metre Gothic tower is an excellent aid to orientation and the ascent justifies a fine Belgian beer back at ground level in the square.

8 Manneken-Pis

Legends surrounding the origin of the city's most-photographed 17th century statue range from the timely extinguishing of explosive fuses to putting a damper on enemy troops.  Whatever the truth, there's nowhere else that so celebrates public urination as art - see also Jeanneke-Pis (peeing girl) and Zinneke Pis (peeing dog).

9 Musée Hergé

The world's most famous Belgian?  Jean-Claude Van Damme? Hercule Poirot? Plastic Bertrand?  Nope…  All are eclipsed by a cartoon cub reporter with sticky-up hair and plusfours - Tintin.  Dedicated to Georges Remi, better known as Hergé, the museum displays original plates and photographs, the work of an exceptional artist, illustrator and story teller. Free shuttle buses from downtown hotels.

10 Musée Royal de l'Armée et d'Histoire Militaire

100 years since German forces met stiff resistance as they invaded Belgium at the start of WW1, this museum of militaria has extra significance.  Historic documents, uniforms, 1914-18 artillery pieces, armoured vehicles and over 130 aircraft combine in one of Europe's most important collections.

This article has been produced in association with www.talkholiday.com

Contextual targeting label: 
Food and drink

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