Saturday, June 6, 2009

Brussels, Belgium - European Holidays

Brussels is a city at the centre of Europe in more ways than one. Not only is it geographically fairly central within Europe, it is also a political centre, with many of the decisions of European parliament taking place in the city. However, don't let the political status of this place put you off, it is a great holiday destination to visit for a nice city break.

The city has excellent transport links to nearby European countries which is a big bonus - you can reach the city very easily on the Eurostar, just a couple of short hours away away from London Waterloo station. Book in advance to save a good amount on your ticket - I got a return from Brussels for about £80 but that was not particularly early notice. Once there, there's a whole host of cheap hostels and hotels to stay in, as well as the more pricey up-market places if you've just been given a Brucey bonus at work.

There's a range of things to do around te city and it's not particularly big so you can explore it on foot if the weathers nice. There are a lot of nice green park areas on the outskirts of the city which are nice to chill out in in the summer. The Grand Place is in the centre of the city and is a great place to take a few snaps. The architecture of the buildings is fantastic - the town hall in particular is a sight to behold, finished in 1455 - the rest of the Grand Place was subsequestly built around this magnificent building. Get a famous Belgian Waffle from one of the many stalls around the Grand Place while you have a wander. Choose from a range of toppings like chocolate sauce or ice cream, just to warn you they are very filling so not recommended before any strenuous activity.

The Town Hall in the Grand Place, Brussels

Another top sight is the Manakin Pis, a little statue of a boy, doing a wee into the fountain basin - one of the symbols of the city. The most famous legend of the statue is that the two year old Duke Godfrey III of Leuven. During a battle back in 1142, the troops of the Duke placed him in a hanging basket nearby as a form of motivation, where he proceeded to urinate on the heads of the opposition - the Berthouts. The Duke quickly gained legendary status from the affair.

Brussels is also a good place to visit for a good night out. There are a good number of bars and pubs around town - a popular pasttime is playing chess in one of the many chess cafes while sipping on a premium Belgian beer. The bar Delirium is famous for hosting the largest number of beers in the world at one time - there are usually over 2000 varieties of beer stocked here at any one time. Definitely worth a visit, and it is easy to end up hanging round in here until the early hours sampling the huge range thay have on offer.

Brussels is definitely one of the best holiday destinations to visit for a classy gastronomic experience as well. The main strip of restaurants offers pretty generic Belgian food, ie. the classic Steak Frites of Moules Frites - however many of these restaurants overcharge so don't be tempted by the special offers offered by the waiters. I would recommend exploring a little further out to get better quality, more authentic food at cheaper prices, although eating on the main strip is definitely an experience.

Overall Brussels is an excellent holiday destination for a pleasant city break - there's plenty on offer here. The nearby towns like Bruge offer a decent daytrip as well if you get bored of the city itself.

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