What You Need To Know
Brussels is Belgium’s capital and home to the headquarters of the European Union. The ornate Grand-Place at the heart of the city has shops and cafes inside 17th-century guildhouses, and the intricate Gothic Hôtel de Ville (town hall) with its distinctive bell tower. The 19th-century Maison du Roi houses the Musée de la Ville de Bruxelles history museum, including costumes for the city’s Manneken-Pis statue.
Area: 161.4 km²
Local name: Bruxelles (French)/ Brussels (Dutch)
Population: 177,307 (2011)
- Euro notes are issued in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 euros. Coins come in denominations of 1 & 2 Euro, and 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 cent pieces.
- Many foreign exchange offices open on Sundays. There are numerous foreign exchange offices around the Grand Place in Brussels.
- Brussels has a temperate climate with four seasons spanning the whole year. Temperatures are relatively mild during the whole year with the average low at 1°C in winter and only 23°C in summer. Winds tend to be slightly stronger in winter but the most constant weather pattern would be rainfall. Snow is possible but doesn’t occur very often.
- The best season to go for walks and cycle around the city and enjoy sunny blue skies without rain is mid-spring April-May. The weather is warm during the day but colder in the evenings.
Brussels is a bi-lingual city there are three officially recognized languages: French and Dutch are the main languages; German is spoken by a small segment of the population and English is widely spoken.
Belgium has thousands of festivals covering food and drink, all styles of music, centuries-old cultural events, and the downright quirky. Brussels makes a great base for festival-hopping around the country but is also home to some of its own. Winter Wonders is Brussels’ festive Christmas Market and includes food, rides, a nightly light show, international pavilions, and musical guests. The Brussels Summer Festival and Bruxelles les Bains (the city beach) keep the summer months hot, with international bands and plenty of umbrella drinks. Foodies shouldn’t miss EAT! Brussels in early September, the Megavino wine festival in mid-October, or Belgian Beer Weekend in September. Movie buffs can enjoy a week of international films in June at the Brussels Film Festival.
Getting around Brussels
All taxis need to be taken from marked taxi stands in the city or you can wave them from the street if you are more than 100 meters from a taxi stand. Note down telephone numbers of taxi companies and what taxis should look like in general to ensure you are taking a taxi.
Brussels Train Stations
There are three main railway train stations in Brussels. All of them have trains that depart to other cities in Belgium and to other cities in Europe. Note that in Brussels everything is bilingual (French and Flemish) so you have to know both versions of the stations before you search for information, look at maps or book tickets online.
- A US driver’s license is accepted if staying less than 90 days in the country.
- Driving is done on the right-hand side of the road.
- Speed limits: 50 km/h (31mph) in the city, 90 km/h (56mph) outside the city, and 120 km/h (75mph) on 4-lane highways.
- There are no tolls on Belgian highways.
- Front and rear seat belts must be worn at all times. Children under 12 years of age are prohibited from sitting in the front seat.
- Maximum blood alcohol level = 0.5g/l (1 glass of wine).
- Don’t leave the credit cards at home
- Don’t waste money; buy a Brussels Card : Available for periods of 24, 48 and 72 hours, the Brussels Card allows unlimited travel on public transport – trams, bus and metro – free access to more than 30 of the city’s museums and discounts at many other tourist attractions as well as certain stores, restaurants and bars.
- Don’t eat in any restaurant that has pictures of the dishes on the menu.
- Don’t forget to carry small change when on the metro: Ticket machines in metro stations don’t accept foreign bankcards or any Euro notes.