You can spend a day visiting the dozens of museums in Brussels. On the Mont des Arts, try the BOZAR, the Magritte Museum and the Musical Instrument Museum. Be sure to take in the views from the MIM's 10th-floor restaurant. Belgian cartoon artists have immortalized many characters, including Smurfs and Tintin. Explore cartoon characters at the Belgian Centre of Comic Strip Art. Nicknamed "Brussel's Oldest Citizen," the Mannequin Pis bronze statue of a little boy and a fountain was designed by Jerome Duquesnoy in 1619 and has become a familiar (and irreverent) symbol of the city.
Caution: Many museums are closed on Mondays.
Hot Tips: Major museums offer free admission on the first Saturday of every month.
Where to Stay
Brussels hotels run the gamut from cutting edge boutiques to international and luxury chains. Travelers of all budgets can enjoy accommodations in the heart of the historical city near the Grand’Place, the cobblestoned medieval square. A few steps away, check into the 5-star Hotel Metropole with its French Renaissance décor. Perhaps you prefer the exclusive Hotel Amigo, a mere block from the medieval square. Built on the site of a 16th-century prison, this Rocco Forte Hotel’s lobby is laid with the granite stones once adorning the Grand’Place. Enjoy nearby restaurants, traditional breweries, nightlife and shopping.
Hot Tips: Room rates are best on the weekends after the business travelers have left the city.
Brussels restaurants are innovative thanks to Belgian chefs and local ingredients like mussels (moules), the national dish; rich chocolates, producing more than 170,000 tons per year; and classics like Belgian fries (pommes frites) with mayo. Of course, you can pair any of these dishes with more than 400 varieties of beer. Dine al fresco with a Belgian beer on terraces surrounding the Grand'Place. Brussels also boasts almost 100 Michelin-starred fine dining restaurants, including the city's famous French restaurant, Comme Chez Soi.
Caution: Many restaurants close mid-day, while many are closed entirely on Mondays and Sundays.
Hot Tips: Worth the short stroll from the bustle of the Grand-Place is the Grand-Sablon, with its dozens of petit bistros.
Be Sure to Sample: The cobblestoned streets are lined with vendors serving fresh Belgian waffles dipped in chocolate.
More than 500 different varieties of beer make brew in Belgium more than a drink; it’s a culture. Many Belgian beers even have personalized beer glasses, the shape designed to enhance the flavor of its specific beer. Belgian bars virtually appear on nearly every block. A few favorites continue to crop up in guidebooks such as A La Becasse, A la Mort Subite, Falstaff, and L’lmaige Nostre-Dame, all popular due to their historical or architectural significance. You’ll find more than 50 nightclubs throughout the city, but many will patronize the chic jazz club of L'Archiduc and dress-to-impress dance club, Mirano Continental.
Hot Tips: STIB/MIVB (local public transportation) offers a night-bus service (Noctis) for partygoers on Fridays and Saturdays from 12 am until 3 am, every 30 minutes.
Shopping in Brussels offers a blend of high-end designers, boutique shops, antique shops and local favorites. The Grand Place and its surrounding streets are a combination of souvenir stores and quality lace and chocolate shops. The nearby Les Galeries Saint Hubert features well-known designers, such as the royal family’s Oliver Strelli and Delvaux, the flagship handbag designer store. South of the Grand Place is Rue de Midi, the go-to shopping destination for artists, while the pricier Place du Grand Sablon and the junk-shop style Marolles neighborhoods specialize in antiques.
Take It or Leave It: If you dare, buy dried caterpillars in Matonge, the capitalÂ's African quarter.
Hot Tips: The tree-lined Avenue Louise is where youÂ'll get your international designer fix with Louis Vitton, Chanel, Christian Dior and the like.
Best Local Souvenir: Take Belgium Chocolate home. Lining the Grand Sablon are some of Belgium's finest chocolatier boutique shops, including Wittamer Caf?Â©.