Lay of the Land
Central Brussels is divided into Lower Town and Upper Town. The dividing marker is the Grand Sablon square, where you'll find a weekend antiques market, upscale shops, and cafés. Its little sibling, Petit Sablon, is directly to the north. The Upper Town's principal landmark is the city courthouse, the 1833 neoclassical Palais de Justice (bigger than St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, it's pretty hard to miss). Wide boulevards, grand buildings, and high-end shopping are characteristic of the Upper Town, in contrast to the maze of streets around Baroque Grand Place known collectively as the Lower Town. The city center, home to most of Brussels's visitor attractions, is called the "small ring," but venture further south and you'll find interesting neighborhoods such as Saint-Gilles and Ixelles, lined with many Art Nouveaux gems. Further south, on the edge of the city, is the Bois de la Cambre, a huge urban park.
WHEN TO GO
Anytime is fine. Brussels has a temperate climate, averaging 54 to 72° F in summer and 32 to 43° F in winter.
HOW TO GET THERE
Brussels Airport lies eight miles northeast of the city center (www.brusselsairport.be/en/). American Airlines offers daily nonstops from both Chicago and JFK. Continental operates a daily nonstop from Newark, and Delta flies direct every day from Atlanta and JFK. A taxi to the city center costs about €30 ($177). A shuttle train departs about every 20 minutes from the lower level of the airport to North, South, and Central Stations. First train: 5:30 a.m., last: 12:20 a.m.
Walking around central Brussels is easily done, but for foot-weary visitors, there is an efficient metro as well as a comprehensive bus and tram system, which all run from 6 a.m. until midnight (www.stib.be). The three central train stations are Bruxelles Midi/Brussel Zuid, to the south of the city center; Bruxelles Central/Brussel Centraal; and Noordstation, to the north. It's not possible to wave down a taxi on the street, but there are plenty of taxi stands dotted around the city (try Taxis Verts, www.taxisverts.be/en/en_about.html, or Taxis Bleus, www.taxisbleus.be/page06Anglaise.htm). Other drivers are pretty unforgiving here; we'd urge you not to get behind the wheel.View Belgium Factsheet