After cavorting with hash and hookers in Amsterdam, most students see Brussels as a dull hub of Eurocrats, a place to go hole up and detox just long enough to meet up with the parents. That’s a mistake. Scratch the city’s surface and you’ll uncover an endearing mix of irreverent local culture and an increasingly relevant sociopolitical scene. It’s not every city in Europe that is collectively enamored with not one, not two, but three centrally located statues that involve urinary expulsions (we’re obsessed with you too, Manneken Pis). It’s also not every city in Europe that is widely known as the home to the world’s best beer, chocolate, waffles, and fries. And not every city in Europe can be the continent’s capital—there can only be one, and it’s Brussels.
Brussels is a small city, and many visitors only spend a few days exploring its cobbled streets and quirky museums. You should certainly visit the “classics”—the Manneken Pis and the Grand Place—but you should also venture farther afield. Get lost in the eclectic Marolles flea market and take a trip into the Upper Town to find some Surrealist art. If you dig deep enough, you’ll find a local culture that’s both spirited and wonderfully weird.