When you first arrive in Brussels, you may be confused to find that the streets have multiple names: one in Dutch and the other in French.
Even the city itself has two different names to its residents (Brussel and Bruxelles). This lingual and cultural mélange speaks to the city’s character as a true melting pot. Brusseleirs tend to be laid-back and welcoming, especially since Brussels isn’t as much of a tourist madhouse as many other major cities. Outside the city center, it has an authentic feel that finds its roots in cafés where little old ladies sip from giant goblets of beer and in the many parks frequented by couples making out and joggers working off the delicious, so-worth-the-calories fries. Even the parts that feel like tourist traps turn out to be satisfying; popping into a chocolate shop or buying a waffle from a cart is actually something that a lot of locals do. Public murals and the ever-present comic book stores frequented even by adults are reminders of the city’s artistic passions. Brussels is full of wonderful restaurants, old breweries, and lively squares. You’ll find yourself wondering how everyone seems to have so much time for just hanging out and drinking beer. Relax, you’re in Brussels.
The Brussels city center is where you’ll find the photo ops. The Grand Place dominates the tourist attractions while small streets and tall, narrow buildings give it a characteristic Belgian feel. The two Sablon churches (Grand and Petit) are the centerpieces of the historic Salon neighborhood just southeast of the center. Further southeast is Ixelles, bordered by the upscale Avenue Louise, which leads down to the forest of Bois de la Cambre. Attractive townhouses, European institutions, and the lovely Parc du Cinquantenaire define Etterbeek to the east. Schaerbeek to the north features wide avenues, lovely architecture, and a vibrant mix of international residents. Even with buses, trams, and metro lines connecting the various neighborhoods it’s easy to get around on foot to explore Brussels’ various neighborhoods.
Brussels Airport lies northeast of the city center. The easiest way to get into the city is by bus, using the bus station a level below the arrivals. The bus costs €4 at the station, but €6 if you buy it on the bus. Brussels also has a number of train stations throughout the city, making it easy to arrive by train fairly close to where you need to go.
Bus, tram, and metro lines run across the city and are fairly easy to use. It’s possible to use the same type of ticket for all three. Tickets cost €2.10 and are valid for one hour. The Villo! public bike service is free for the first half hour and has stations throughout the city. The basic rate for a day is €1.60.
Tourist Offices: Flanders and Brussels Information Office (Rue du Marché aux Herbes 61; 02 504 03 00; open M-F 8am-6pm, Sa-Su 10am-5pm).
Banks/ATMs/Currency Exchange: Bank of Baroda (Rue de la Loi 28; 2 285 00 40).
Post Offices: 5, Bd. Anspach 1; 02 201 23 45; open M-F 8:30am-6pm, Sa 10am-4pm.
Internet: The city of Brussels offers free public Wi-Fi in many points around the city. It will prompt you to register with your name and email.
BGLTQ+ Resources: Rainbowhouse (Rue du Marché au Charbon 42; 02 503 59 90).
Emergency Number: 112
Police: Brussels Police Station (Rue du Marché au Charbon 30; 02 279 79 79).
U.S. Embassy: There is a US Embassy in Brussels (Bd. du Régent 27; 02 811 40 00; open M-F 7:30am-5:30pm).
Rape Crisis Center: US State Department Rape and Incest National Network; 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).
Hospitals: Institut Jules Bordet (Bd. de Waterloo 121; 02 541 31 11).
Pharmacies: De Brouckere (02 218 05 75).