Brussels: Tips from an insider

Living in Flanders has given me the perfect opportunity to discover Brussels. The city is not just the capital of Belgium, but also the unofficial ‘capital of Europe’ as it hosts many of the EU’s institutions as well as NATO’s headquarters, which are tucked away in a particularly nondescript part of the city.

Brussels is great in the respect that it is small enough to navigate on foot yet large enough to have many things to do. It is just as easy to see it on foot as it is to take the metro or tram. Neighbourhoods are diverse and Brussels truly is an international city. You meet people from all over the world here.

Brussels is also a mecca for newly qualified graduates hoping to land their dream job working for the EU, a think tank, lobby group or just about any of the other international organisations based here.

One of my favourite Brussels pastimes is a visit to the Sunday market at Gare du Midi train station. The market is huge and bustling, selling absolutely everything from flowers, fruit, veg, clothes, cheese and electrical goods. You name it, they’ve got it. There are bargains to be had and the atmosphere can be loud and exciting but make sure you’re prepared to fight the crowds.

Brussels is also home to a number of museums. One of the best is the Magritte Museum which opened in 2009. Situated in the heart of Brussels’ museum quarter in Sablon, it hosts a collection of Magritte’s best known works, including the painting of the man with an apple for a head (Son of Man) and the one with the old man’s smoking pipe that says “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” (The Treachery of Images). Even the gift shop is brilliant – so many cool postcards and prints for sale. The museum is extremely popular, so if you decide to visit at the weekend it’s probably worth reserving your tickets online in advance.

With the summer coming and it’s proximity to London, Paris and many other European cities, Brussels is extremely easy and convenient to get to and the summer is a pretty good time to go – the weather tends to be perfect for sitting outside a cafe with a pintje! Definitely worth a visit.


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