Once a stopover, now a destination, the European Union headquarters has grown into its own, a melting pot of diplomacy.
Brussels’ tourism has long benefitted from its reputation for delicious moules et frites served every which way. Plus, brilliant beer, yummy chocolate, the prettiest medieval square in Europe, a tiny Manneken Pis statue and the good-natured inhabitants. The weather? Not so much…Still, Brussels is one of Europe’s most underrated big cities according to many, including travel pro Rick Steves.
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Diplomatically-Speaking: Brussels is Buzzing
Headquarters of the European Union, Brussels has been transformed into a political hotspot with 400 embassies, lobbyists, corporate legal teams, translators, journalists. About half of the residents are expats. One used to wonder whether to open a conversation in French or in Flemish. These days, some muse about the EU’s 23 languages coming together at the European Parliament: How long will it be before English is the first language of Brussels?
WIth the objective of getting past the clichéd Americanism of the European Grand Tour, “If it’s Tuesday, this must be Belgium,” is an objective well-deserved. The hoteliers of Brussels want you to stay awhile. And the restauranteurs are providing plenty of incentive for visitors to do just that. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with heading for the traditional mainstay spots to enjoy your mussels at Au Vieux Bruxelles and Restaurant François, just like your parents would have done. But, there’s more food to explore.
Now in its fifth generation, Comme Chez Soi is “comme toujours”, boasting its two-star rating after an incredible 27 years as a three-star winner. Although the name means “like at home,” it must refer to the warm greeting, for the meals are hardly reminiscent of most family kitchens. To find out how they do it, find ten friends and book in for a group cooking demonstration with dinner held every Wednesday by appointment. Rounding out the starry line up are two additional two-star celebrities: Le Chalet de la Fôret and Sea Grill. We’re watching Va Doux Vent, the newest one-starred Michelin and Villa Lorraine, a rising star.
Rest your head at Rocco Forte’s Hotel Amigo where time-worn cobblestones leading to the front door have been trod by the most well-heeled of visitors. For something different, Hotel Welcome. What sounds like a boxy budget business property is actually a collection of 17 individualized guest rooms, each decorated by artifacts found over the years by the globetrotting owners, Sophie and Michel. Want Michel to pick you up at the airport? Just ask. They like to call it “crazy” — we call it fun.