Brussels

Lodging:

  • Stay in Leuven: it is much cheaper and is only 20 minutes away by train.

Dining:

  • For inexpensive meals try the area one block south of the Grand Place [Rue de Chapeliers or Rue Marche aux Fromages], where there are numerous inexpensive pita joints. The Brussels police frequent Yasmina at 7-9 Rue Marche aux Fromages.
  • For a feast that will satisfy all of your senses, go to any restaurant around the Rue Marche aux Herbes and the Rue des Bouchers, which are located east of the Grand Place,behind the City Museum. These restaurants are a bit touristy and overpriced, but the ambiance is worth it. If you want to try mussels go to Chez Léon [17-22 Rue des Bouchers], which is known for its mussels and other seafood.
  • If you must eat in the grand Place try 't Kelderke (Grand Place 15), which offers traditional Belgian fare (carbonnades à la flammande, rabbit, mussels, blood sausage) at fairly reasonable prices in its 17th century cellar.

Bars:

  • Le Cercueil [Rue des Harengs / off the Grand Place / open only at night] has a nice graveyard theme. See it to believe it!

Sites:

  • Soak in the atmosphere around the Grand Place, which Victor Hugo claimed was the most beautiful square in the world. One of the nicest ways to appreciate the beauty of this square is to have a coffee and a crepe (or waffle) in one of the many cafés in the Grand Place.
  • If you have time, you can visit the Hotel de Ville or the City Museum, which has a display of costumes for the Manneken Pis. Both of these buildings are located in the Grand Place.
  • The Mannekin Pis himself is located on the Rue de L'etude (about three blocks behind the Hotel de Ville).
  • Even if you are not planning to eat, you should definitely take a look at the Rue des Bouchers, located off the Grand Place. Also worth walking through are the charming Galleries St. Hubert.
  • If you are in the area around the royal palace, don't forget to stop in to Notre Dame du Sablon. Behind the Church is Place Grand Sablon, which is loaded with antique stores and reasonably priced cafés for lunch. On Sundays there is also a pricey antique market that is held in this square.
  • The Royal Palace itself is open free to the public from July 22 until September 1, and is definitely worth a visit.

Arts and Museums:

  • The Museums of Ancient and Modern Art are located one block north of the Royal Palace and are connected by a tunnel. The admission price is good for both museums.

Chocolate:

  • The students and faculty of the 2002 Summer Program in Belgium universally agree that the chocolates at Pierre Marcolini [Place Grand Sablon] are the best that they have ever tasted. The chocolates here were recently acclaimed as the best in the world, though they are fairly expensive.

Train Travel:

  • Brussels has three main stations: Brussels North (Nord), Central (Centraal) and South (Zuid/Midi). Trains to Paris (The Thayls Trains are the fastest, getting you there in one hour and 20 min) and London (via Eurostar and the chunnel) depart from Brussels South and arriving in three hours; regular trains to Amsterdam depart from Brussels North and arrive in about 2 1/2 hours (nb: the Thalys trains are only 20 minutes faster than regular trains).

Festivals:

  • Brussels Ommegang is held on the first Tuesday and Thursday in July and centers around the Grand Place. July 21 is Belgium's National Day and is a good time to see Brussels at its most patriotic. There is a fair in the Parc de Bruxelles and a parade which passes along the Rue Royale