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Organisers Guide to Brussels - Gourmet chocolates, artisanal beers and art nouveau architecture make one of Europe’s best conference cities an unexpectedly beguiling choice.
Similar to London, with chilly, wet winters and warm, pleasant summers. Best time to visit is June to September.
Officially French and Flemish, but English is spoken widely.
Hop on the Eurostar and you’ll be in the middle of Brussels in under two hours, or you can fly in around 70-100 minutes from numerous UK airports. Most flights arrive at Brussels Airport, a 20-minute train ride to the centre (Bruxelles-Centrale, Bruxelles-Nord and Bruxelles-Midi), though some arrive at Charleroi – an hour by coach to Bruxelles-Midi.
Most of the historic centre is walkable, but beyond this the STIB (Société des Transports Intercommunaux de Bruxelles) public transport system is excellent, with buses, trams and underground lines. It’s not always easy to hail a taxi on the street, so if you need one look for a stand at train stations, big hotels and major junctions. They cost a bit less than London taxis.
Brussels was recently named Europe’s leading conference city by the Union of International Associations, so it’s well set up for meetings and events. The two major exhibition venues are the Square and Brussels Expo, but there are numerous smaller options. Most of the usual four- and five-star business hotels are in the city, especially near the historic centre and the European Parliament.
Organise a group tour of Cantillon Museum of Gueuze, one of the city’s last traditional breweries, to find out why beer in Belgium is treated with the same reverence as wine. See if you can track down who kidnapped the city’s famous statue, Manneken Pis, by searching for clues in Brussels’ bistros, bars and backstreets on a fun-filled experience day. For more adventures, explore the city’s Art Nouveau neighbourhoods, comic-strip connections and medieval Grand Place on scavenger hunts, role-play games and unusual tours.
For a bit of culture, book an opera, music or dance performance at the Bozar Centre for Fine Arts, the Kaaitheater or Les Halles. If you want to avoid overpriced beer and food in the company of tourists, walk right past the Grand Place and instead explore the restaurants, bars and cafés in and around Place Ste Catherine and Place St Gery.
Belgian beer varies from strong to lethal, so take extra care to avoid becoming more Pis(d) than the city’s famous(ly disappointing) Manneken.
Brussels Convention Bureau: 020 7531 0391
This feature first appeared in the Square Meal Venues & Events Guide 2011.