Surrounded by 14th century city walls, Brussels’ center, the Petit Ring, is divided into three distinct districts. The western half is called Lower Town, catering to the lower and middle class families of Brussels, and the eastern half is called Upper Town, catering to Brussels’ upper class families. These two areas are separated by a boulevard that is studded with shopping venues, bars, restaurants, and cafes. This boulevard runs through The Grand Place, the city’s true center and a destination frequented by both locals and tourists alike. Outside of the Petit Ring’s eastern walls lies Parc Léopold, now home to three large museums. South of Brussels’ center lies St. Gilles, which has recently become the artsy and trendy Brussels district. Outside of the city’s western walls are Anderlecht and Koekelberg, big sites for soccer fans and great places for pubs. Finally, northern Brussels is the location of Laeken, the city residence of the Belgium royal family.
There are two premiere choices for shopping in Brussels. The first is Galeries Saint Hubert-Sint Hubertusgalerijen — the world’s first shopping mall. Here you’ll find typical department stores, bookstores, cafes and small diners, and even a cinema. The second is the Marché aux Puces-Vlooienmarkt flea market in Place du Jeu de Balle-Vossenplein. Here you’ll find an odd variety of just about everything at prices much lower than the malls can provide. As far as drinking establishments, Beer Mania is a local bar that claims to have a selection of more than 400 beers. Anderlecht is the prime destination for pub crawling, and the more trendy and upscale establishments can be found in both Grand Place and St. Gilles. Amazing cuisine can be found on every corner in Brussels. In fact, Brussels is frequently considered one of the top European cities for its culinary genius.
Brussels is an interesting blend of history and modernity where factories border the 14th century walls that surround the city’s center, and where Art Nouveau buildings create personality in the south while palaces and cathedrals litter the lands north of the center’s walls. All of this combined makes Brussels a sightseeing Mecca. However, there are a few things that shouldn’t be overlooked on your trip: Palais Royal, the Cathedral, the Musées Royaux des Beaux Arts, the Musées Royaux d’Art et d’Histoire, and the Atomium. However, above all, Brussels is known for its beer, and some of the breweries, pubs, and bars around the city could perhaps provide tourists with more of a true-Brussels experience than any national landmarks.