The de-facto capital of the European Union, and the capital of Belgium is a city that goes by the name of Brussels (French: Bruxelles, [bʁysɛl]; Dutch: Brussel, [ˈbrʏsəl]). Before traveling here, one hears of garbage and an un-kept, rundown city.
This may be what one immediately notices with piles of garbage and graffiti everywhere, but this is not all that the city has.
Yes, it does have a thriving red light district, but there are also castles and museums and men playing cello sitting in the plaza.
The city has a way of giving you the feeling that you’re about to open doors, or peer around a corner, and a whole new world will open up. It’s a mysterious city, one that feels like it’s had it’s fair share of madness roaming the streets. For some of us, this is a bit of excitement; for others, this is not the safe haven of our familiar places.
Brussels was founded in the 10th century by a descendent of Charlemagne as a fortress, and today has a population of just over one million people.
Within the city, there are three major languages: French (mostly), Dutch, and English, but like most countries (especially with French speaking countries) if you don’t try and speak their language, you will find some cold shoulders. But, like all cities, this just depends on the area of the city you find yourself.
The culture in Brussels is very creative. There are various clubs to have fun in [I found myself one night at a lindy hop club, and a pub that boasts the largest selection of beers in the world the next], and the city streets crawl with creativity. There are painted “crashed” cars/art projects distributed around the city, there is a pissing dog statues and also a pissing boy statue, park benches that have slanted backs, a sculpture park, and a museum of musical instruments. The feeling is a really gothic/creative feeling that spews forth from this city.
The core of the city is all located within a relatively small area that it’s very easy to become extremely familiar with it. If you start walking with nowhere in particular to head, you find yourself walking in a circle. It seems that all roads just take you back to the center of the city, or so my path seemed to always lead.
If you’re heading to Brussels [or Bruges, Antwerp, Gent, Leuven, Mechelen] for the first time, I suggest checking out a really interesting organization called Use It. As I was heading into Brussels I met an interesting traveler who had just finished working for them, and when I arrived at the office, it was exactly what I was looking for: a map with all the cool spots to check out, friendly people behind the counter wanting to help me, free internet service, and free tea!
Have you ever been?