The capital of Belgium — and political center of the European Union — has one foot in the old world and the other in all things shiny and new. Sleek modern buildings are scattered around the city, while most of the visitor-favorite sights are in Brussels’ historic district. The area is marked by a grand square and other architectural gems dating back 600 years. Just don't blink or you may miss one of the top landmarks — a cherubic little fountain.
What We Love
Grand Place: The charming square is the heart of Old Town and emblematic of Brussels’ mercantile past. Home to elaborate 17th-century guild houses, the towering 15th-century Hotel de Ville, and neo-gothic Maison du Roi, Grand Place is lined with pubs, cafes, and a flower market. Bonus: It's close to the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, a striking shopping arcade built in 1846.
Royal Museums of Fine Arts: Ensconced in an 1887 Beaux-Arts building, the museum is chock-a-block with more than 20,000 works. Among them are pieces by masters Rubens, Bruegel, Rodin, Gauguin, and Magritte.
Best Known For
Street Treats: Chocolates, waffles, and frites, oh my! Pack the elastic pants — Belgians are masters of all things chocolate, they savor their waffles topped with the equivalent of an ice cream sundae, and peddle French fries on virtually every corner.
Manneken Pis: He may be tiny (just 24 inches tall), but he's a huge emblem. You'll find him in guidebooks, on dozens of postcards, and all over Instagram. The (in)famous bronze statue of “the peeing boy” was created in 1618 as a public water fountain and is located not far from Grand Place.
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Who It's Best For
Beer Lovers: Belgian brews are some of the tastiest — and strongest — on the planet, and the city’s pubs have plenty on tap. Beer festivals crank the revelry up a notch.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Some of the City Is a Snoozefest: Outside of its historic center, Brussels is pretty much a collection of glass and steel office buildings that would be mainly of interest to modern architecture fans.
Donna Heiderstadt is a New York-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Coastal Living and Islands.