Brussels Travel Tips
Keep in Mind...
- Brussels is a melting pot Flemish, French and English are all spoken in the city where third of residents aren't even originally Belgian.
- Check your body language Firm handshakes are common greetings, even with children. Don't snap your fingers for any reason, and make sure you respect others' personal space.
- Blend in Belgian dress is pretty conservative, so if you want to avoid being labeled as a tourist, leave the shorts and bright colors at home.
Brussels has been the de facto capital of the European Community (and now European Union) for 50 years, and for good reason. The city’s gothic- and baroque-style squares, set between medieval streets, are the playgrounds of international politicians and adventurous tourists alike. Authentic Belgian fare offers full three-course meals, and daily doses of chocolate and beer are worth every cent. Still, visitors eyeing more glamorous neighbors often overlook this city. The fact is, Brussels is cosmopolitan in ways other cities are not -- it's truly multilingual (French and Flemish) and almost a third of its residents aren't Belgian. The multicultural influences have led to an explosion of museums, marketplaces, restaurants and boutiques that make it far more than just a sleepy alternative.
How To Save Money in Brussels
- Buy a Brussels Card Available in 24-, 48- and 72-hour versions, this card will get you free public transit, free entry to more than 30 museums and even a handful of discounts at shops, restaurants and boutiques.
- Stay the weekend in Brussels Brussels is a big international business hub, so hotel prices skyrocket during the week. Plan a weekend, holiday or summer trip instead.
- Order from the Prix Fixe Three-course Belgian dining can get expensive, so stick to the fixed price menus instead. Your wallet and stomach will thank you.
Brussels Culture & Customs
The official currency in Brussels is the euro (EUR). Since the euro to U.S. dollar exchange rate fluctuates often, be sure tocheck what the current exchange rate is before you go. Major credit cards are accepted at most restaurants and shops.
When dining out in Brussels, it's considered polite to keep both hands (not elbows) above the table while eating. It is also polite to finish all the food on your plate; if you find yourself too full to finish, indicate that you have finished eating by placing both your knife and fork on your plate with the handles facing outward. Unless you are eating Belgium's beloved dish, moules-frites (steamed mussels with fries), it's not proper to eat with your hands. Gratuity is normally included in the bill, but you should feel free to round up the total or leave a few extra euros for exceptional service.
Brussels offers an abundance of Michelin-rated restaurants, serving meals inspired by both French and Dutch cuisine. And a trip to Brussels is not complete without steamed mussels and a side of fries (moules-frites). If you're not hungry enough for a full meal, grab yourself a snack (such as a paper cone of extra-crispy frites served with a mayonnaise-based dipping sauce) from one of the city's many street-side snack shops. Brussels is also famous for its mouth-watering chocolates and hearty beers.
Restaurants can be found in clusters around tourist areas like Grand-Place and Schuman. Unfortunately, meal prices are generally high. To save money, we recommend ordering off the prix-fixe menus, which offer choices for two or three courses for a set price.