BILINGUAL CAPITAL REGION/CITY
Located between its Flemish Dutch-speaking North and Walloon French-speaking South, Brussels is the multi-faceted, multicultural international capital of Belgium.
Pentagonal tree-lined boulevards surround historic central Brussels where walls stood until the early 19th century. Historically, the natural topography created a division between the riverside merchant district and the elite area to the east. The commercial “lower town” contains the medieval marketplace (French: Grand Place; Flemish: Grote Markt). At its core stands the soaring tower of City Hall (Hôtel de Ville/Stadhuis) on the south end.
Facing the hall on the north end is the King’s House (Maison du Roi/Broodhuis), now Brussels City Museum. The square is surrounded by ornate 17th-century guildhalls, many of which now house restaurants. Nearby are the 19th-century Stock Exchange and two 18th-century squares, the Place du Nouveau Marché aux Grains (Nieuwe Graanmarkt) and the Place des Martyrs (Martelaarsplein).
On the east of the train station, Gare Centrale, the governmental “upper town” houses the Royal Palace and Palace of the Nation. Today, the European Economic Community (EEC) headquarters, an institution of the European Union (EU), is in Brussels.
Language: French and Flemish Dutch
Currency: Euro €
When to go: Ideal May or September;
Summer – generally mild, some rain, can be hot & humid;
Winter – chilly and gray, but also cozy, Christmastime lights
Airport: Brussels Airport
Train station: Bruxelles-Central (Brussel-Centraal) for main sights + Bruxelles-Midi (Brussel-Zuid) for high-speed Eurostar or Thalys—direct routes to London, Paris, and Amsterdam—both stations are connected to Metro
Metro + RER: Local rail system makes Paris very accessible (more below), as well as connecting the greater Île-de-France region.
River: Batobus of Paris hop-on, hop-off river cruises on the Seine are a relaxing and scenic way to see the heart of the city
Arrondissements: 20 districts into which Paris is divided
- Eurostar — the high-speed train connects Brussels to London in around 3 hrs
- Thalys — another high-speed train option, takes under 1 1/2 hours to travel between Brussels and Paris
- Rail Europe is a great source for making necessary train reservations—find more travel information at Northwestern Europe
- Our Eurail passes covered our train travel between cities and villages within our selected countries on the continent
- For local travel in Brussels, we purchased metro tickets from the ticket booth in the station
- Metro maps were stored on our phones for quick reference, such as this one for Brussels:
Discovering a City—Beyond Just a Hub in Belgium It wasn’t love-at-first-sight when we first arrived in Belgium, and particularly not with Brussels. But ultimately our affection for…