A Brussels trip will have the first-time traveler come face to face with a city suffering from a case of double identity. It is both French and Flemish at the same time, both historic and hip, both exciting and boring as well.
The capital of Belgium is a city of contrasts but also of variety, with a multicultural population, and the politics of the European Union being debated here on a daily basis, it offers a particular a unique experience each time you visit.
Visiting Brussels once can expect several things of it, great food, a very wide spread and strong cafe culture, plenty of Art Nouveau architecture and a general surreal vibe – possibly due to the contradictions that seem to be part of the city’s foundations.
The locals exude a laissez-faire attitude and they more than welcome visitors to join them on a terrace or pub, to take in the casual atmosphere of the city.
The city is made up of various boroughs, each of them with their own particularities, for instance you can buy dried caterpillars in Matonge – the African quarter – or head towards the Saint-Gilles area which is the capital’s bohemian epicentre. This place is where you can come into contact with a wide array of communities, talking an equally wide range of languages, there’s French, Portuguese, Spanish, Polish and Maghrebi.
The city is also the place where some of the most lasting images of surrealist art were created, and they were created in a rather nondescript suburb known as Jette.
As far as the architecture goes, the only constant is its variety, ranging from monumental buildings like the Grand Place to organic Art Nouveau facades, as well as modern monoliths of glass and steel.
It should be noted that it wasn’t always like it is today, for the longest period the city didn’t try to impress, however thanks to it being the Cultural Capital of Europe in 2000, the place got a bit of a dusting and a polish and this brought with it renewed interest. Today the shopping opportunities are aplenty, the eating is wonderful, great pubs abound and the chocolate shops offer sublime treats.