Relaxing in the Bois de la Cambre
Facade on the Chaussee de Waterloo
Brussels, the capital of Belgium and of Europe, is a city of around 2 million people. Perhaps surprisingly, Brussels provides plenty of variety for those who like to explore cities on foot. Whether walking around the city centre, taking a tram to one of the parks, or walking in the suburbs, there are plenty of attractive locations to choose from. This is not tough hiking - it's easy walking - but you might still have some stories to tell afterwards.
The city has beautifully preserved medieval buildings around the famous Grand-Place in the centre, not far from the futuristic cityscape stretching north from Rogier, near the Gare du Nord. Further north, the unmistakable silhouette of the Atomium rises above the Heysel area with its exhibition centre, stadium and tourist attractions. (See the Google map of the city).
To the south-east of the city centre is the Royal Palace, and beyond it the Parc du Cinquantenaire, one of several public works recalling King Leopold II and his private colonial exploits (see the commentary in Wikipedia). Nearby are the modern edifices of the European Union - the distinctive Berlaymont Building, the Council of Ministers building next door, and the arched roof of the recently completed European Parliament building on the other side of the Rue Beillard.
Contrasting with these metropolitan monuments are the smaller-scale splendours to be seen on many streets in the south of the city. Junctions are often dominated by fine buildings, and the suburban streets seem to combine diverse designs within an overall sense of cohesion. Local parks provide tranquility and relaxation, and there are many excellent restaurants to discover. If all this sounds more mundane, it nevertheless provides an enjoyable location to spend a few days taking it easy.
Most striking of all perhaps, for walkers, is the Foret de Soignes - a former hunting forest that extends for many kilometres across the southern boundaries of the city, from the edge of Uccle, through Watermael-Boitsfort to Tervuren. It must be one of the most magnificent areas of mature beech trees to be seen anywhere in the world, through which runs a network of horse rides and footpaths. If you visit Brussels, make sure not to miss it!
One of the best things about Brussels is the ease of getting around by public transport. The metro, trams and buses are clean and efficient, and cheap. It's well worth checking into this beforehand, and getting the appropriate ticket when you arrive at one of the main stations, such as the Gare du Midi. Some local shops also sell the tickets covering 10 trips, but not the group tickets. The official public transport site now has an English version with timetables and maps, or you can look at the unofficial Planitram site in English.
The efficient trains also enable visitors to take day-trips to towns such as Brugge and Gent, Antwerp, those along the Flemish coast, or those in the Ardennes to the south.
(To order the stories by name, date, country or type click on the appropriate heading)
|ForÍt de Soignes, Brussels||Belgium||Countryside and easy hill walks||10/11/2008|
|Brussels - Uccle District||Belgium||Town and City walks||10/08/2007|