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Brussels is the capital city of Belgium and of Brussels Capital Region. It is entirely surrounded by Dutch-speaking Flanders and its constituent Flemish Brabant province.
As headquarters of many European institutions, Brussels might also be considered something of a capital for the European unnion. Being at the crossroads of cultures and playing an important role in Europe, Brussels fits the definition of the archetypal "melting pot", but still retains its own unique character.
Brussels operates as a bilingual city where both French (85%) and Dutch (Flemish) (15%) are official languages. Thus all the streets have two names, which can sound totally different.
English has become a common spoken language because of the international institutions based in Brussels, such as the European Commission, the European Parliament and NATO.
Brussels' main airport is Brussels Airport, (locally still commonly referred to as Brussels National or Zaventem) (BRU). Several major carriers operate out of the airport, including the local Brussels Airlines, which is owned by Lufthansa.
To travel between the airport and the city:
Belgian Rail operates trains every 15 min from the airport to Brussels' three main stations, with most trains continuing to other parts of Belgium. The journey to the Central Station takes 15-20 minutes.
Brussels South Charleroi Airport (CRL) is located 60km south of the central train station. Several budget airlines, including Ryanair and Wizzair operate service from this airport to cities such as Barcelona, Belgrade, Budapest, Dublin, Edinburgh, Manchester, Rome, Sofia, Vilnius, Warsaw and Riga planned.
Brussels has three main train stations: Midi-Zuid, to the south of the city core, Central-Centraal, which is right next to the city center, and Nord-Noord, to the north of the city center (at Place Rogier).
By public transport
The metro in Brussels is quite clean and safe compared to most metro systems. Metro entrances are marked by big M signs in blue and white, with the station name underneath. All announcements are made in Dutch, French and English.
Brussels Bike Tours will take you on an easy (no hills) ride that lets you discover the city in just 4 hours.
Villo runs a bike sharing network that has over 2,500 bicycles available at over 200 bike stations throughout the city. Users can take a bike from any station and return it to a different station.
What to see
Grand Place-Grote Markt. Surrounded by the city tower and a range of beautiful 300 year old buildings. In the evening, surrounded by bright illumination, it is simply ravishing. Some evenings a music and light show is provided with the buildings serving as a canvas.
Manneken Pis. Just a short walk from the Grand Place-Grote Markt is the Manneken Pis, a small bronze statue thought to represent the irreverent spirit of Brussels. This is a statue of a child urinating into a pool.
Atomium, Square de l'Atomium/Atomiumplein. Unavoidable icon of Brussels and Belgium, important place for international tourism, unique creation in the history of architecture and emblematic vestige of the World Fair in Brussels (Expo 58) the Atomium continues to embody its ideas of the future and universality, half a century later.
Palais de Justice/Justitiepaleis (Law Courts of Brussels), Place Poelaert/Poelaert Plein. 08:00-17:00 Mon-Fri. Larger than St. Peter's basilica in Rome, it cost 45 million Belgian Francs to construct in 1866.
Sandeman's Brussels Free Tours, meeting point right outside the City Hall at the Grand Place. Informative 3 hour tour.
Brussels Bike Tours, meeting point right outside the Visit Brussels office at the Grand Place.
Brussels Chocolate Tours, meeting point right outside the Visit Flanders office.
Brussels Beer Tours, meeting point right outside the De Beertempel shop at 2 PM.
Brussels City Tours, Grasmarkt-Rue du Marché aux Herbes 82. Brussels City Tours is the main bus-tour company.
Horse-drawn carriages, Rue Charles Bulsstraat. Horse-drawn carriages do circuits of the Lower Town starting from Rue Charles Bulsstraat, near Grand Place.
Brussels Waffle Workshop, meeting point right outside the City Hall at the Grand Place.
Brussels has a good selection of year round events, many suitable for English speaking visitors. The following sites are are useful to check out what's on.
Classictic Concerts a site selling classical tickets, but has an excellent rundown of all the upcoming classical concerts.
Wallonie Tourism is brought to you by the French Speaking Tourist board.
Ancienne Belgique for popular concerts, where the stadium bands stop in.
Brussels Events Listings is a roundup of events for an English speaking audience, this is good for some of the the smaller and expat focused venues.
Planète Chocolat, 24, Rue du Lombard - 1000 Brussels. One of the few artisan chocolateries in the heart of Brussels. The shop offers not only delicious chocolate and a awesome praline selection, you can also participate in a workshop or demonstration.
Neuhaus. A bit more expensive than Leonidas and a bit higher quality. Very popular with the locals as well. It is also possible to get good discounts by buying directly at the shop outlet outside of the factory which is just on the outer limits of Brussels, just a short walk away from the Erasme/ Erasmus metro station.
Marcolini, 39 Place du Grand Sablon-Grote Zavel Plein. Arguably the best Belgian chocolates and priced accordingly. The country-specific products are difficult to find and quite worth the price.
Chocopolis, 81 Rue du Marché aux Herbes-Grasmarkt. Pick and choose your favorite type of chocolates, all at reasonable prices.