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Why Go To Brussels

Brussels has been the de facto capital of the European Community (and now European Union) for decades, and for a 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 hearty comfort food, and daily doses of chocolate and beer are worth every cent. Brussels is cosmopolitan in ways other cities are not – it's truly multilingual (French, German and Dutch). The multicultural influences have led to an explosion of museums, marketplaces, restaurants and boutiques that make it far more than just a sleepy alternative to some of its busier neighbors like Paris or Amsterdam.

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Best of Brussels

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Brussels Travel Tips

Best Months to Visit

The best time to visit Brussels is between March and May and September and October, the shoulder seasons; this is when room rates are cheaper and the weather is mild. This city experiences all four seasons and rain is a possibility year-round. Average lows range from the mid-30s in winter to the low 70s in summer.

No matter when you're in town, you can count on something going on at the Grand-Place, from street performances and flower shows to the nightly light shows in winter. But if you can, try to plan your trip around the Ommegang festivities (the first week in July). This Renaissance-style festival recreates the celebration held when Emperor Charles V first entered the city in the 16th century. Another festive time to visit is around Christmas when the entire square is illuminated by a massive Christmas tree.

Weather in Brussels

Switch to Celsius/MM
Average Temperature (°F)
42.1
33.3
43.5
33.1
49.8
37.2
55.6
40.6
63.9
48
68
52.7
72.3
56.5
72.5
56.1
65.7
51.4
57.9
45.7
48.4
38.7
43.7
35.4
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec
Average Precipitation (in)
2.8
2.09
2.87
2.12
2.74
3.06
2.72
2.51
2.48
2.68
3.13
3.11
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec
See details for When to Visit Brussels

Data sourced from the National Climatic Data Center

What You Need to Know

  • Brussels is a melting pot Dutch, French and English are all spoken in the city.
  • Take a look at the architecture Belgium is known for its architecture, especially Art Nouveau.
  • Plan a weekend daytrip Daytrips to Belgian locales like Bruges , Antwerp and Ghent are fast and easy thanks to the country's extensive train system. Plus, since Brussels is a business hub, it's cheaper to travel to nearby hot spots on the weekends than it is during the work week.

How to Save Money in Brussels

  • Buy a Brussels Card Available in 24-, 48- and 72-hour versions, this card gets you free entry to more than 40 museums, as well as discounts at shops, bars, restaurants, select tourist attractions and tours.
  • Rent a bike Instead of paying taxi fares or the cost of public transport, rent a bike and make your way around the city on the cheap.
  • Get the prix-fixe or "plat du jour" Belgian dining can get expensive, so stick to the fixed price menus or the “plate of the day” instead. Your wallet and stomach will thank you.

Culture & Customs

The official currency in Brussels is the euro. Since the euro to U.S. dollar exchange rate fluctuates often, be sure to check what the current exchange rate is before you go. Major credit cards may not be accepted at all restaurants, hotels and shops.

Belgium is also largely Catholic, celebrating many Catholic holidays. In Brussels, three languages are commonly spoken: French, Dutch and German. You'll also want to be sure to shake everyone's hand when you greet them and before leaving.

When dining 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. 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.

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What to Eat

Brussels offers an abundance of Michelin-starred 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 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 sidewalk food carts. Visitors to Cafe La Brocante, located about a mile south of the Grand-Place, enjoy its beer selection, baguettes and traditional dishes like stoemp, a potato dish with Brussels sprouts.

Brussels is also famous for its mouth-watering waffles, and visitors can find an abundance of waffle places around Grand-Place. Travelers love the waffles at Mokafe, which you can accompany with a cup of coffee, hot chocolate or tea.

Restaurants overall can be found in clusters around tourist areas like Grand-Place and Rue des Bouchers. Unfortunately, meal prices are generally high. To save money, order the prix-fixe menus, which offer choices for two or three courses for a set price. Or, venture beyond these tourist hot spots when it's time to eat and seek out eateries frequented by locals and travelers alike, such as La Quincaillerie (for a contemporary take on Belgian classics), Noordzee Mer du Nord (a popular seafood spot) and Comptoir des Galeries (for a splurge-worthy French meal).

If there are two things for which Belgium is known for, it's chocolate and beer. When you're craving a sweet treat, you can easily find Godiva. Though it's now a worldwide brand, Godiva had humble beginnings in Brussels where it was a family-run business beginning in 1926. You can visit the company's first shop, which opened in 1937, on the Grand-Place. If you're on the hunt for chocolate you wouldn't necessarily be able to source easily at home, consider shops like Mary or Elisabeth.

If you're not one to indulge your sweet tooth, succumb to your love of hops instead. Belgium is home to a dizzying array of beer types, most of which you can find at the city's many cafes and pubs. For those looking to grab some Belgian beer, or any beer really, head over to Delirium Cafe, which boasts more than 2,000 beers from around the world. Plus, Delirium Cafe sits less than a half-mile north of the Grand-Place, making it an easy stop for tourists.

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Safety

The U.S. Department of State warns visitors to Belgium of possible terrorist activities, especially in crowded areas or at high-profile events. You should also watch out for purse-snatchers and pickpockets. Oftentimes, these criminals work in groups in crowded tourist areas, as well as at train and metro stations. The Department of State advises drivers to park in garages and not on the street. Keep your bags with you when traveling by train, and don't wear expensive jewelry or watches. Only use bank ATMs and ask restaurants to swipe your card in front of you.

Getting Around Brussels

The best way to get around Brussels is on its extensive public transit system, the Brussels Intercommunal Transport Company (often referred to by its French acronym, STIB). Trains run every 15 minutes from Brussels Airport (BRU) to central Brussels. There are three major train stations: Brussels Central Station, located in the heart of the city; Brussels-South, which sits southwest of the city center; and Brussels-North, just north of the city center.

Biking is also popular in Belgium with bike rentals available across the city through companies like Villo! and Pro Velo. There are even waterbuses from May through October, which will take you between Brussels, Van Praet and Vilvoorde on the canal.

Learn about Neighborhoods in Brussels

Entry & Exit Requirements

A valid passport is required for United States citizens to travel to Belgium. U.S. citizens can stay for up to 90 days without obtaining a visa. At customs, you'll have to present a return airline ticket, as well as a passport that is valid for at least three months after the date of return. If you're planning to stay in Belgium for more than 90 days, you'll have to obtain the proper visa before leaving the U.S. For more information, visit the U.S. Department of State's website.

Photos

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Brussels is a beautiful city to explore both during the day and night.

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