What they think about Brussels
From all around the world, they share their opinions and experiences about Brussels.
So the one thing I haven't said here is that we all absolutely LOVE Brussels!! It came as a complete surprise to us. We had no real expectations, but Christie had been told and read that Brussels wasn't worth spending more than a day...how wrong could that have been! We all hope to be able to return some day and spend more time, as we have loved what we've seen, found the people to be extremely friendly, and we think the shopping, the night life and the historic district is awesome! So fun to discover these gems as we do our wandering!! As I read back over this I realize that we really did a lot today....so fun!! I hope I remember how fun it all was when I have to get up in a few short hours!
Hello from Tulsa!
I am so glad that you enjoyed Brussels so much. What a nice suprise.
I wanted to check in and say that all is well back at your homefront. I am enjoying the home and my own bathroom and bed. So nice! The kitty is doing well, I have grown quite fond of her. Becky has picked up your bills and paid them. She paid some last week and then the rest came in on Monday. I hope that you guys are having the time of your life. Rest assured I am taking good care of your home. Thank you again for trusting me.
Also, I am willing to stay until you and John return from Europe if that is still okay.
Thanks Debbie, be safe!
Yorkshire Evening Post
IT’S clear, flying over the flatlands around Brussels, why they call this under-estimated part of Europe the Low Countries.
This is good news for tourists; it means that Brussels, with all those lobbyists to feed and water, is packed with excellent cafes, bars and restaurants – and it’s not just frites and beer; it was in Brussels that I ate the most perfectly-cooked Brussels sprouts I’ve ever encountered.
And all those well-dressed lobbyists on their best behaviour, combined with the naturally polite and friendly natives, make Brussels a very civilised place to be.
Another plus-point for Brussels is its astonishing range of museums, covering, for example, bookbinding, pharmaceuticals, trams, police, medicines, musical instruments, toys, costumes, lace, industry and labour, the Resistance, beer (of course), ‘fantastic’ art and, new on the scene, a museum of old technologies...the list, including a ‘clockarium’, is as long as any curious person could want.
It’s near-impossible to walk around Brussels without noticing the giant, beautifully-executed murals based on comic-strip characters, which decorate gable walls and other prominent sites.
It’s worth glancing around every corner you come to in the city centre, just to make sure you don’t miss one of them.
The Belgian Comic Strip Centre in Rue des Sables/Zandstaat is a gem of a building – a 1906 Art Nouveau former textile warehouse which is flooded in natural light, making it an ideal showcase for Belgium’s huge range of comic book artists, including Peyo, who was responsible for (I was tempted to write ‘guilty of’) The Smurfs.
Brussels is, in any case, a marvellous place for a short break (made shorter by the fact that it’s only a little over an hour away from Leeds-Bradford airport on conveniently-timed BMI flights).
There are grand squares to rival anything in Europe and, as a bonus, a street that smells entirely of chocolate.
Even if you had no clue what Chez Leon, a Brussels culinary institution for more than a century, serves up, it wouldn't be too hard to work it out once you step through the door.Then the heart-warming aroma of steaming shellfish hits you and it's pretty obvious -- Chez Leon serves mussels, cooked not just one way but 15 different ways, with Belgian frites on the side, and has been selling the succulent little molluscs almost uninterruptedly for 110 years, closing for only 16 days during World War I and two months in World War II.In that time, it has become a virtual pilgrimage site for anyone who has ever enjoyed tucking in to a bowl of bivalves.
One great thing about Transport for tourists in Brussels is that regardless of your destination, you will easily be able to travel around Brussels, and indeed the rest of Belgium with little difficulty. The transport itself is reliable, well organized and convenient. You will find it to be very tourist-friendly and even locals living in the Brussels holiday apartments use the public transport systems.
Between 6 AM and 11 PM, the public transport system runs regularly. You will be able to catch frequently timetabled buses, trains and metro lines very easily between these times of the day. At night time however, you will find that many of the lines close for business, apart from maybe a few train line services and some bus routes. They will not run often, and you may find that you need to wait up to an hour between transport departures.
Traveling by bus within Brussels itself is pretty simple. The most popular bus route in Brussels is a double deck route called the line 71. This will take you through the busy city centre and travels by the university buildings too so you can see why it is so important for the locals. If you need to get to the train station from your hotel, you may be able to catch the line 71 bus if there is a stop nearby and this will take you directly to the central train station. The route will also take you past the museum of fine arts and also the Instruments Museum too, so if you want to visit any of the museums, then you should use this route. There are also several bars on this route, as well as the Ixelles ponds, which is an idyllic spot for an afternoon picnic if the weather is nice.
Brussels: from Christmas cribs to concrete
Brussels is a class above so many other European cities. While spots from Strasbourg to Stuttgart clutter their main squares with standard-issue Christmas markets, Brussels takes an altogether more sensible approach to Advent.
The magnificent Grand Place, the showpiece piazza in the heart of the Belgian capital, hosts a dramatic seasonal centerpiece: a life-size Christmas crib. Real sheep, more attuned perhaps to pastoral life in the meadows of Flanders, swap rural duties for the festive buzz in the Grand Place, sometimes upstaging the Holy Family as the crib’s star attraction.
All cribs give a local take on the story of the Nativity, and the Brussels variant has Mary and Joseph stopping off in pretty sybaritic accommodation – this stable veers strongly towards the upper end of the standard star rating for Eurostables.
Brussels does things differently
The Belgian capital has often impertinently defied prevailing tourist trends. Remember, this is a place with a surrealist agenda that boasts museums devoted to the history of plastic, sewers and street lighting. And the city always has a few temporary exhibitions on the most oddball topics, which invariably turn out to be marvelous.
There are quite a number of cities around the globe that are known for their rich cultural and historical heritage hence are leading tourist destinations. One of these destinations is Brussels which is also the capital of Belgium. Generally Belgium is categorized among the leading tourist destinations in Europe that promises an out of this world experience as you get to explore the various attractions and engage in different relaxing and rewarding activities. Brussels offers diverse architecture that spans from the medieval age, with the main attraction being the Grand place, a UNESCO world heritage site and the Royal palace. Also notable is the Manneken Pis that is a bronze sculpture cum fountain of a urinating youth. For lovers of chocolate, Brussels offers the best of chocolate with an estimated over two thousand chocolate shops and a production of over 172,000 tons of the same. Children who travel to Brussels as part of their holidays need not to worry about getting bored as there are a number of carnivals and festivals every year. These include the Zinneke parade and the Ommegang festival among others.
Brussels is also a great shopping destination for those people who love shopping. The Flea market is famous for not only crockery but also vintage clothes, household items and furniture. Antique lovers can also be sure to find some of the best antiques in Europe in places like Place du Grand Sablon.
A tour of Brussels will be incomplete without an experience of the Belgium cuisine. In fact, Belgians believe that their food is prepared using French Finesse and served with the German generosity. The Belgian cuisine is famous for not only known for frites and mussels but also endive and waffles. Of important mention is the fact that the seafood and fish are as important as beer that is as popular as the Belgium brewing tradition. Also included in the Belgian cuisine are game birds, meat and potatoes. One of the famous types is the chicory or the Belgian endive. Street foods are also common for instance French fries that are usually served on paper cones alongside mayonnaise and curry sauce. It is believed that besides other attractions, the Belgian cuisine is among the reasons tourists flock into Belgium
(Reuters) - Floating men in bowler hats don't dot the sky in Brussels, but the city is full of references to surrealist painters and poets such as Rene Magritte and Paul Delvaux, who lived and worked here.
The Belgian capital is full of galleries and museums with surrealist works and, heading off the tourist track, you can see surrealist art in the streets and visit bars where Magritte and his contemporaries drank.
6 p.m. - Whether you get a train from Brussels' Zaventem airport, a Eurostar from London, or a bus from the low-cost airport in Charleroi, south of Brussels, you'll probably arrive at Gare du Midi station. If you're lucky, you'll be able to reserve the Magritte room at Hotel Le Dixseptieme and spend the weekend surrounded by the artist's prints. The best way to get there is jump onto a northbound train and travel one stop to Gare Centrale.
6:10 p.m. - You're now in the heart of Brussels' former Latin Quarter, where Magritte and his clique had studios and galleries.Step out of the station onto road Cantersteen and head right until you come to a semi-circle-shaped pedestrianized area at the foot of Brussels' Mont des Arts -- a monumental staircase and park originally conceived by King Leopold II to improve the area for the city's 1910 hosting of the World Fair. Hotel Le Dixseptieme is one block down Rue de la Madeleine, one of the streets that radiates from the semi-circle.
7 p.m. - A fine place to have dinner on your first night is La Roue D'Or, a surrealist-themed restaurant just off Brussels' spectacular Grand Place. Bowler-hatted men peek at guests from behind the bar. From the hotel, head back up Rue de la Madeleine until you get to the junction with Rue Duquesnoy. Turn right, and then right again down Rue de Marche au Fromage. Carry on into the pedestrianized area and the restaurant is left, at 26 Rue des Chapeliers.
9:30 a.m. - The best place to start your journey is out in the down-at-heel northwest suburbs of the city, where Magritte's one-bedroom flat has been turned into the Musee Rene Magritte. It's not to be confused with the Musee Magritte, the Magritte museum, the new gallery that you will visit towards the end of your journey. The museum is a fair trek, so it's a good idea to head off early. The easiest route is to go back to Gare Centrale and get an overland train to Gare du Midi. From there, the 51 tram heading for Heysel will take you to the stop Woeste. Take Rue Leopold I, the road to the right just after the tram stop. The museum is second left on Rue Esseghem, but be careful, the modest terraced house, number 135, is easy to miss. Despite the glass-ceilinged studio in the garden, he painted most of his works in the small dining room so he could be close to his wife Georgette as he worked. Look carefully, and you'll recognize elements from his paintings - the staircase which leads nowhere in "La lecture defendue", the broken bowed-top window in "La clef de champs", and the mantelpiece which has a steam train coming out of it in "La duree poignardee".
11:30 a.m. - Jump back onto the number 51 tram and head back into the city.
12:10 p.m. - Get off at Porte de Ninove. It's a convenient place from which to make your way back into the city, and it will also take you past Luca Patella's Magritte Fountain. Look from a distance, and you should see Magritte's profile demarcated by the contours on the stem of the fountain.
12:30 p.m. - Head straight up Rue des Fabriques and follow it as it becomes Rue des Chartreux and you'll find the splendidly restored art nouveau brasserie Greenwich. Magritte would head down here every week with the surrealist crowd in Brussels to play chess. The hushed silence of the chess games has given way to a lively bistro nowadays, making this a great setting for lunch.
1:30 p.m. - Once you've eaten, turn left and then right down Rue Auguste Orts. Straight ahead of you is the Bourse underground station. Head down the escalator and above you is Belgian surrealist Pol Bury's 1976 stainless steel sculpture "Moving Ceiling". Look right and on the upper wall of the mezzanine is a 1978 painting of trams by Paul Delvaux, another surrealist painter.
2 p.m. - Return to street level and head down the side of Brussels bourse and turn left at the end of the street. Walk for a couple of minutes through the cobbled streets of Brussels' old center, much of which dates back to the 15th Century, to Rue Gretry and then turn right. Carry straight on until you get to the 19th century arcade Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert. The Museum of Letters and Manuscripts is on the left inside the gallery. Here you'll find a section on Magritte and the surrealists, including a letter from Magritte to his friend the Belgian poet Andre Bosmans where he describes director Alfred Hitchcock, who had released "Psycho" earlier that year, as "un imbecile de grand talent" (an idiot with a lot of talent). There's also a letter by Andre Breton, the French founder of the surrealist movement, in which he complains about France's Prince of Poets prize being awarded to rival Jean Cocteau. You can also see a manuscript by Spain's Salvador Dali.
3 p.m. - It's time for refreshments, and luckily one of the old surrealist drinking dens is just a few streets away. Head back down Rue des Bouchers and take the second right down Rue de la Fourche. When you get to the end, turn right on Rue de Marche aux Herbes, and hidden at the end of a small alleyway on the right is L'Imaige de Nostre Dame. You'll spot it from the sign screwed into the brickwork above the alley entrance. This was a watering hole owned by Geert Van Bruaene, a surrealist poet and art dealer, who went on to set up the main surrealist bar which you will visit later. You can order a coffee, or the bar sells Malheur (literally 'misfortune'), a beer similar to those the surrealists would once have drunk here. Beware, though, that like many of Belgian "sipping beers" this is 10 percent alcohol, so drinking more than two might jeopardize the rest of your tour. The owner might be willing to recount a few tales about the nights the surrealists spent there if you buy him a beer.
4 p.m. - It's a good idea to drop by the Magritte Gallery before it closes for the weekend. It's straight up Rue du Marche aux Herbes as it turns into Rue Infante Isabelle and then Mont des Arts. At the end, take a right and the gallery is on the left-hand side. It stocks lithographs of many of Magritte's signature works such as "La Traihison des Images" (the one with the pipe saying "this is not a pipe") and replicas of statues. They sell for 200 to 1,000 euros ($250-$1,300).
5:30 p.m. - It's time to go to Magritte and the surrealists' favorite bar and restaurant. Head down the sweeping Mont des Arts stairway back onto Cantersteen, and then turn left. Follow Cantersteen past the royal library until you get to Rue des Alexiens. Turn right and in a moment you will find yourself on Place de Dinant.
5:50 p.m. - Before you head in to La Fleur en Papier Doree, take a moment to look around the square. You'll find declarations written by Van Bruaene etched into the paving stones, such as "Le ciel au ciel et la terre a la terre" (the sky in the sky and the earth on the earth).
6:30 p.m. - The bar sits on the western corner of the square. Inside, almost every inch of the wall is decorated with photographs, paintings and declarations such as "Tout homme a droit a 24 heures de liberte par jour" (every man has the right to 24 hours of freedom per day). On the back wall, Magritte looks down at you from a blown-up photograph of the Belgian surrealists assembled outside the bar. This is a great place to have dinner, the bar sells traditional Brussels stoemp, a mashed potato-based meal, and bloempanch, a typical Brussels dish with sausage and a caramelized piece of apple. It's worth hanging around here for a beer or a glass of wine after your meal and you'll soon get talking to the Brussels-based writers and painters who still frequent the place.
10 a.m. - Magritte had to wait until his 50s for fame, and when he finally achieved international recognition, he moved with Georgette to the affluent and leafy suburbs of Schaerbeek, where he lived out the last 12 years of his life until his death in 1967. Head up to central station and the cemetery is a 40 minute ride on the 63 bus. You might want to stop off on the way to see Magritte's last house.
11 a.m. - Get off at Leopold III and walk along Boulevard General Wahis for 10 minutes. Turn right when you get to Rue des Pensees, and Rue des Mimosas is the first on the left. Magritte's house is the semi-detached one with the white fence on the left-hand side, number 97. The surrealists were fiercely anti-establishment and Magritte himself was at one time a member of the Belgian Communist party. The house remains unmarked, perhaps because it represents a final capitulation by Magritte to bourgeois values at odds with the myth of him as a revolutionary. While none of his major paintings feature any elements of the house, it may have helped inspire his L'Empire des lumieres series, in which he painted isolated country houses sitting in darkness underneath a contrasting bright sky.
11:30 a.m. - Head back to the bus stop and continue to the Brussels Cemetery stop. To get to Schaerbeek cemetery, head up Rue de Zaventem along the back of Brussels Cemetery, and then turn right onto Avenue Jules Bordet. The entrance to the cemetery is about 7 minutes away on the right-hand side. Magritte and Georgette are buried in plot 16-2, near the squat buildings of the adjoining NATO complex. The sound of low-flying passenger jets overhead on their approach to Brussels airport provides a fittingly incongruous resting place for the father of Belgian surrealism.
1 p.m. - It's time to head back into Brussels and visit the Magritte Museum. Get back onto the 63 bus at Brussels Cemetery and return to Gare Central.
1:45 p.m. - Walk up Mont des Arts and turn right onto Coudenburg. On the right-hand corner of Place Royale is the Magritte Museum, the world's biggest Magritte collection, which opened in 2009.
2 p.m. - You might as well carry on round the square to the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium to have lunch in the cafeteria there before heading up the three flights of stairs to the start of the exhibition.
3 p.m. - The museum has some 200 works by Magritte, primarily donated by Georgette and Irene Hamoir, a novelist and the only woman in the Belgian surrealist movement. Start at the top of the exhibition and work your way down in an anticlockwise spiral. Sadly La Trahison des Images, one of Magritte's most famous painting, is missing from the collection, and is on display instead in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. As you work your way round, look out for L'Homme du large, one of his first surrealist paintings, L'usage de la parole where he first began to disassociate objects from the words that denote them, and the enigmatic L'Empire des lumieres series.
5:30 p.m. - Wander back to Gare Centrale and walk down Rue de Loxum and onto Rue de L'Ecuyer until you reach Boulevard Anspach, a main street. Turn left and then turn left again just before the Bourse. Here you'll find Le Cirio, an art nouveau brasserie which used to be a favorite of the surrealists.It was here that Magritte first met poet Louis Scutenaire in 1926, Irene Hamoir's husband and a leading figure in the Belgian surrealist movement.To help you picture the scene, why not order the bar's specialty, a half and half - half champagne and half wine. You could stay on and order dinner here, and sit for a while among the ghosts of the surrealists. ($1 = 0.7889 euros)
(Reporting By Ben Deighton) reuters.com
By Andy Dundridge