Some European capitals, like London, Paris and Rome, automatically make every traveler’s bucket list. Others, however, might be a less obvious choice for tourists. To most people, Brussels is best known for being home to the European Parliament. That might not sound as compelling an attraction as the Eiffel Tower or the Colosseum, but don’t be fooled into thinking the city is all about politics and bureaucracy. There’s far more to Brussels than most people realize. Here are five reasons to visit the tiny nation of Belgium and its highly under-rated capital city.
The Breathtaking Grand Place
This feature in the center of the city was voted the most beautiful city square in the world in 2010, beating the likes of Red Square in Moscow. Serving as the focal point of the city, it is worth a visit at any time, but is at its most spectacular every second summer. This is when it is transformed by a carpet of more than a million flowers, designed to represent a specific subject. In 2018, the theme was Mexico – visit Brussels this August to find out what the 2020 flower carpet will depict.
One of Europe’s largest casinos
What do you suppose Brussels and Las Vegas have in common? Stroll a couple of blocks north from the Grand Place to Boulevard Anspach and you will find out. If you enjoy playing roulette, poker or perhaps online casino slots, the Grand Viage will make your mouth water. The imposing casino can rival anything the Vegas Strip has to offer, and is spread across seven floors. Even if you are not a gambler, it is worth a visit for the choice of bars, restaurants and live entertainment.
Chocolate and more
If Brussels is famed for the European Parliament, the rest of Belgium is associated in most people’s minds with chocolate. The reputation is a deserved one, and you’ll find no shortage of chocolatiers in Brussels. But don’t assume that’s all there is worth eating here! Food connoisseur and travel writer Antony Mason has even gone so far as to suggest that you will find better food in Brussels than in Paris. Pro tip: Try the croquettes!
A rich history
Waterloo is a small village just a 10-minute drive from the middle of Brussels. This was the scene of Napoleon’s final defeat in 1815, and there are regular interactive exhibitions and events close to the monument. The city itself also has a wealth of museums. The most impressive of them all is the Musées Royaux d’Art et d’Histoire at Parc Cinquantenaire.
A shrine to beer
Belgians take their beer very seriously. There are dozens of small breweries in and around Brussels, each creating its own unique craft brews. Many of these are still operated by Trappist monks, and some offer tours. To sample a full range of brews, pay a visit to the world-famous Delirium right in the center of the city. At any one time they have more than 2000 bottled beers on offer. Just follow the pink elephant, you can’t miss it.