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CityTips Guide to Brussels

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This is Euroland! Headquarters of the European Union and a wealth of paraphernalia on sale to prove it. An impressive Flemish Grand Place and the famous Manneken Pis fountain. Cafe life abounds here where mussels, chips and beers are fortes.

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Local Overview

Brussels is a unique city composed of 19 districts and divided by two languages. Its hub is the Grand Place, which can be reached by tram or bus. This city square was once the focal point of Brussels' food markets. The surrounding streets, named after the foods for which they were famous, such as Rue Marche aux Herbes, are still home to many of the city's traditional restaurants and cafés. The markets are no longer held in this plaza, described by writer Victor Hugo as "Europe's most beautiful square," but there are 101 reasons to come here. The city has a number of interesting areas, all within easy reach by public transport or a brisk walk.

Sights such as the Cathédrale des Saints Michel et Gudule, Mont-des-Arts, and the city's main shopping complexes are also located here. The Place Sainte-Catherine used to be a fishing village, and today is known as the city's seafood district. This area is filled with great seafood restaurants. Brussels's city center is essentially pentagonal, and all roads lead to Grote Markt / Grand Place, the city's center.

An aerial view of Brussels would show a surprising amount of greenery and water, all not far from the heart of the city. South-eastern Brussels is called the upper city. The Palais Royal (Royal Palace) is the home of Belgium's kings, and exhibits 18th Century architecture and painting. The Palais de Justice was built for King Leopold II and exemplifies neo-Gothic architecture.

In the area between De Broukère and Place Rogier you'll find close to a dozen points of interest including Brussels' stock exchange, the Bourse, the fish market, Brussels' Red Light District and Parc de Bruxelles, the primary park in this district. Rue de Loi leads you to Jubel Park/Parc du Cinquantenaire, a 36.4-hectare (90-acre) park just outside of the bounds of the city center. Here is where you'll find the famous Manneken Pis, the symbol of Brussels, a small, sometimes clad, statue of a peeing boy. You'll also find Grote Markt / Grand Place here. It's considered the largest and most extensive market square in all of Europe. Spending a day exploring the unique shops and stalls here is definitely a must.

In Ixelles you'll find a serene and tranquil alcove in busy Brussels, the beautiful Bois de la Cambre forest, parks, ponds, and the Abbaye de la Cambre, which was founded in 1196 by the Sisters of the Cistercian Order. The building was rebuilt during the 17th and 18th Centuries after suffering extensive damage during the Wars of Religion. There is only one remaining section of the original church itself, which dates back to the 14th Century.

The Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium is the largest museum in the country, and has exhibitions of artwork acquired from the collection of King William the first as well as pieces dating all the way back to the 14th Century. The Place du Grand Sablon is a large square with many interesting shops. There is also a statue of Minerva and several churches, among them Our Lady Church, that house excellent examples of Belgian architecture.

Quartier Louise
Avenue Louise is Brussels' Rodeo Drive or Champs Elysées, the most prestigious shopping street and a real favorite with tourists and residents alike. If you continue walking along Avenue Louise you'll come to Bois de la Cambre, near Sonian Forest, one of Brussels' best parks.

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