Brussels: historical city, heart of Europe and food mecca.
Huddled amongst several other European countries, Belgium has a long and tangled history of occupation, language-divide and influence. You'll find a rich and diverse culture here with the French-speaking south of Belgium maintaining distinction from the Dutch-speaking north. Uniting these two conflicting halves is the diverse and
historic city of Brussels.
The capital's fascinating contradictions are played out in its architecture, culture and even language; the city is officially bilingual, with Dutch and French both common place on its winding streets.
Let Eurotunnel Le Shuttle guide you through the best of the Belgian capital.
Food glorious food
Brussels is certainly a city for foodies. Think chocolate, fruit beer and warm waffles. The city's thriving cafe culture means you'll always find a prime spot to rest your feet and sit and watch the world go by. You won't have to walk far to find waffles in Brussels. Stalls line the cobbled streets tempting passers-by with freshly baked waffles and paper cones filled with hot frites.
You will most likely find yourself at Brussels' main square and the Grand Palace during your visit. When you do, spare some time to visit the
Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate as this is a treat for all food lovers.
Follow the journey of cocoa to chocolate through the ages and grab the opportunity to watch a master chocolatier make praline the traditional way. Belgian chocolates are made with 100% cocoa butter and no vegetable oil, giving them that melt-in-your-mouth creamy texture.
You'll find chocolate shops dotted throughout Brussels so remember to stock up on boxes of handmade Belgian chocolates for your loved ones back home, or just indulge yourself!
Along with big names in the chocolate industry including Godiva, Leonidas and Wittamer, wander down the city's narrow side streets and you will find boutique chocolatiers who offer a unique experience. Look out for true innovation from the likes of Zaabär Factory Shop who merge Belgian chocolate with spices from around the world.
If you're here for the beer then before you hit the pubs, take a short drive into the Anderlecht suburb of Brussels to the
Cantillon Brewery. Witness how this family of master-brewers produce lambic beers following the same brewing process for more than 100 years. Lambic is spontaneously fermented using wild yeasts in the air and sit for years until drinkable.
Art Nouveau and Culture
Saint Gilles is the place to go to soak up creative life in the city. This is a multi-cultural area where artists, writers and musicians have put down their roots and regularly meet to exchange ideas. Saint Gilles is also Brussels' main Art Nouveau district and several of the houses are Unesco World Heritage-listed.
You can gaze at block after block of houses with wrought iron balconies and oriel windows and step inside to have a nose around one at the
Horta Museum and former home of Belgian architect Victor Horta.
The Brasserie Verschueren is a laid-back bar and favourite of locals where you're sure to overhear some creative conversations. Life culminates here near the Saint-Gilles church and square where you'll find an excellent weekend market for foodies.
Families looking for a fun day out should drive out to
Mini Europe Park. Enter a miniature world where the whole of Europe is condensed into the leafy park surrounds. Discover the canals of Venice, the Acropolis of Greece and Italy's leaning tower of Pisa without ever leaving Belgian soil. Around 350 monuments from European cities have been recreated down to the tiniest details. And, Mini-Europe is a just a small part of the larger amusement park complex of Bruparck.
For some fun in sub-tropical temperatures,
Oceade has eleven waterslides to whizz down and you can re-energise by picking up some food at The Village, a maze of streets filled with restaurants and cafes. If there's time left before bed you can catch a movie at one of the theatres at Kinepolis Brussels.
Back in the city centre, a short walk from the Grand Palace, you'll find some impressive puppetry at the
Royal Theatre of Toone. Eight generations of the Toone family have used the puppets to play out Belgium's history, adapt classic tales and preserve the Brussels dialect. In the puppet museum you'll see all the colourful characters who have retired from the puppet stage.
While you're still in fantasy land take a trip to the
Belgian Comic Strip Centre. This kingdom of comic strip art is filled with the likes of Tintin, the Smurfs and other famous Belgian cartoon characters. Now you can lose yourself in the reading room and hunt out your favourite comics in French, Dutch or English.
The museum's permanent exhibitions take you on a journey through comic strip history, exploring the works and careers of authors such as Hergé and Roba. To stretch your legs follow the comic strip walking trail which links a series of murals throughout the city and features your favourite comic strip characters.
Brussels has plenty to tempt visitors including quality food, rich history and impressive architecture. Whoever you're travelling with you're sure to be captivated by Belgium's capital.
Getting there and around
Brussels is a short 2-hour drive from the Eurotunnel Le Shuttle terminal at Calais following the A16 and E40.
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