TRAVEL || EUROPE > Benelux > BELGIUM > BRUSSELS

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.

Central Brussels

Tree-lined boulevards surround the historic, pentagonal-shaped central Brussels where walls once 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.

BASICS:

Language: Bi-lingual 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: Brussels Metro connects to the train stations and local rail lines.
Waterway: Paved over in the 19th and 20th centuries, recent efforts are underway to uncover and revitalize the Senne River and return it to nature for residents to enjoy.
Arrondissements: 19 communes divide Brussels-Capital Region, including Bruxelles-Ville/Brussel-stad

Rail

  • Eurostar — high-speed train connects Brussels to London in around 3 hrs; reservations are required
  • Thalys — high-speed train option, takes under 1-1/2 hours to travel between Brussels and Paris; reservations are required
  • TGV — high-speed train with connection to Paris and other French cities; reservations are required
  • EuroCity — cross-border train to Luxembourg, Strasbourg (France), and Basel (Switzerland)
  • InterCity Express (ICE) trains operate between Brussels and major German cities; reservations are not required, but recommended when busy
  • Relatively fast InterCity (IC) trains link larger Belgian cities—some continue on to the Netherlands and Germany—while slower CityRail trains operate around Brussels; reservations are not required, but recommended when busy
  • 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:
Brussels Metro Map

Brussels Explored

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Finding Belgium on the Map Belgium is located in Northwestern Europe between the Netherlands and France along the North Sea. This small country is divided into 3 regions: Dutch-speaking (Flemish) Flanders to the North, French-speaking (Walloon) Wallonia to the South, and the centrally-located, bilingual Brussels-Capital Region. Flanders and Wallonia are then each divided into 5…

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