Brussels, Belgium

Guide for the rail traveller

Information

CurrencyEuro
Local languageFlemish, French and German
Country Belgium

Introduction

Brussels, bordered by The Netherlands, Germany Luxembourg and France, is the capital city of Belgium and home to the European Parliament. Despite its inhabitants numbering less than 1 million, its position at the very heart of Europe makes it a multi-cultural and multi-lingual city. Only 200 miles from Paris and less than 150 miles from Amsterdam the city’s three official languages are French, German and Flemish. In Belgium the Nordic and Latin cultures meet to create a unique atmosphere.

Apart from housing the European Parliament, the NATO headquarters are also situated here. Despite these forward-looking organizations having found a home here, Brussels’ history dates back over 1000 years. Art Nouveau has flourished and there are endless winding alleys, cobbled streets and picturesque squares to explore as well as the Bois de la Cambre, a forest as large as Brussels itself! The city has a surprising amount of things to do and places to visit from the Grand Place, said to be Europe’s most beautiful square to the rather odd Manneken-Pis statue. With just a 40 minute train ride away from Antwerp and an hour’s journey from the picturesque Bruges, there’s absolutely no chance of getting bored!

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Things to do

Grand’Place, the economic and social heart of Brussels, consists of an array of Gothic Buildings including the Town Hall, Maison du Roi and Maison de l’Arbre d’Or. Various events and markets are held in this square, and it is also a good place to buy souvenirs such as some of the world famous Belgian chocolates. Leading from Grand’Place the Rue de l’Etuve takes you to the Manneken Pis a bronze fountain statuette of a pissing boy!! The Palace Royale opposite the centrally located Parc de Bruxelles houses amongst other things the Musee de la Dynastie. Furthermore there are the Belgian Royal Museums of Fine Arts, said to be Belgium’s most important museums. The relatively new Museum of Musical Instruments also at Palace Royale comes highly recommended. More unusual subjects for museums include ones dedicated to beer and chocolate making!

As is apparent there is no lack of museums, in fact there are about seventy, however Brussels also has much more to offer. As it is such a compact city the best advice is to explore it by foot, soaking up the atmosphere, taking in some real gastronomic treats and not forgetting the famous Belgian beer, with some establishments offering over one hundred different brews!

Local transport

The integrated bus, tram and metro transport system is efficient and extremely clean. Tickets can be bought at metro stations and most newsagents but remember that they need to be stamped at the ticket barrier. Note that trams and buses stop on request only! There are a variety of ticket options available including five or ten journey tickets and a two-person weekend ticket. The Tourist Passport includes cut-price admissions to selected attractions and 2 one-day travel cards.

Day Trips

When in Brussels you can easily make day trips to nearby cities. In fact in the whole of Belgium the furthest two points are less than 200 miles apart! Bruges is just an hour’s train ride away, and remains one of the most beautiful, medieval cities in Europe and Belgium’s top tourist attraction. You can wander along the streets viewing the museums, charming restaurants and cafes. Meanwhile Antwerp even closer by is located on a bend on the River Schelde. It boasts twenty museums and the largest Gothic Church in Belgium, as well as being known as ‘the Diamond City’ - certainly a worthwhile destination for a day trip.

Recommended places and events to visit in Brussels

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