Brussels

From its breathtaking medieval centre to its 21st-century temple to Surrealism, the new Magritte Museum, Brussels offers the visitor a great deal more than just beer and chocolate.

Brussels's compact city centre is clustered with bars, restaurants and museums set along cobbled streets which open suddenly into the Grand-Place. With its ornate guild houses, impressive Town Hall and buzzing atmosphere, it would be difficult to find a more beautiful square in the whole of Europe.

Léopold II's Parisian-style boulevards (Belliard and La Loi) are lined with embassies, banks and grand apartment buildings, while Sainte Cathérine, the Art Nouveau district of St-Gilles and Ixelles draw an arty crowd with their cool shops and restaurants.

The Bruxellois take pride in their self-effacing, intellectual sense of humour, underpinned by a strong appreciation of the bizarre. The city has a long-running love affair with the Surrealist art movement, pioneered by René Magritte, and with classic comic strips, epitomised by Hergé's boy hero, Tintin. There's a telling irony in the fact that the city's best-known landmark is the Manneken-Pis, a tiny statuette of a urinating boy.



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