Belgium’s capital and the de facto home of the European Union is a city with plenty of surprises up its stuffy sleeve.
Here you’ll find breathtaking architecture—surely the Grand Place is one of the most beautiful squares in the world—and some of the ugliest buildings in Europe (there are entire blogs dedicated to the city’s ugly architecture).
Brussels is the EU’s administrative capital, yet one of its most famous landmarks is the Manneken-Pis, a statue of a naked boy peeing into a fountain—a symbol not just of the city’s contempt for authority but also of the locals’ enduring deadpan humor. The city may have a reputation for being boring, but it has a vibrant, multi-ethnic population, ranking #7 for foreign-born residents globally and boasting under-the-radar, vibrant neighborhoods such as the hip Congolese Matonge quarter, and making them worthy of exploration for their flea markets and street art alone. The Jean Nouvel-designed Art and Design Atomic Museum (ADAM for short) opened in 2015 and houses the permanent collection of 2,000 pieces that pay tribute to a bygone era of design—1960s appliances, candy-colored plastic furniture, pop art and interiors. Next door is the Atomium, a kitschy but cool shiny structure with a retro-modern cafe at its summit.
Some of the best beer in the world comes from Belgium, and at Brussels Beer Project you can sample a crisp and floral Delta IPA or a Baby Lone, the first beer brewed with recycled bread (you read that right). The bar scene heats up at La Pharmacie Anglaise (the English Pharmacy), where the bartenders ‘prescribe’ boozy remedies concocted to cure whatever ails you. Do like the locals and order the Sunny G&T, made with Hendrick’s hibiscus-susumber cordial, and tonic—it’ll go a long way to help you combat the dreary winter blues.
It’s also wonderfully accessible—the city ranks in the Top 10 globally for its airport connectivity.