Brussels Travel Guide
Beer / Beer Travel / Belgium / Belgium Travel / Brussels / Brussels Travel / Alcohol / Bars / Cafes / Drinking / Europe / Europe Travel / → All Tags
In honor of North Carolina declaring April "Beer Month" you should know about this itsy-bitsy authentic beer parlour that we found in the capital of beer -- Brussels.
Even if you’re not a huge fan of the brewskie, it would pretty much be sacrilege not to go to a beer tavern in Brussels, the place of pilgrimage for many a beer-lover. There are beer halls, taverns and cafés aplenty, but if you want to go to a quirky original populated by locals rather than tourists, La Fleur en Papier Doré is the place.
This small tavern and café, dating from the middle of the 1700s, was once a convent and we suspect that the good nuns who lived there took a nip or two of the stuff in their time. Later it became a haunt of the Surrealist artistes –- René Magritte’s crowd. This artistic group, and the other writers and artists who followed, apparently liked to indulge in more drink than they could afford. All you need to do when you’re at La Fleur en Papier Doré is look up at the drawings and paintings crowding the jam-packed walls to see how cash-strapped artists paid their overdue bills in kind. As a shout-out to its past, the tavern still hosts exhibitions and writer’s evenings.
We headed there on a sweltering hot August summer day to find a cool cave fronted by a super-friendly barmaid. We picked a table in the back and settled in for what was to be a lesson in the history of Belgian beers. (Pics of this little gem follow below!)
If you're looking to make a tour of European capitals, or just have business that takes you from London to Brussels, what is the typical route you'd take between the two capitals? Thanks to the English Channel Tunnel, the answer is easy: the Eurostar from London's St. Pancras Station straight to Brussels Midi Station. There are also ferries that get the job done, but rest assured that the Eurostar is the fastest and most convenient way.
If this is the case, then why are American Airlines and United joining a bevy of other low-cost carriers and European airlines in flying between London and Brussels? The new routes, which at 218 miles are slightly shorter than a hop between Chicago and Toledo, are obviously for the convenience of American and United passengers making a switch in London.
There's a new museum in Belgium with a name that sounds much sexier in French than English: it's the Musee du Slip or … Underpants Museum (see what we mean?).
This museum just opened up in Brussels and features a large collection of framed underwear, which has been worn at least once by a celebrity and even comes with a certificate of authenticity. Many of the celebrities are Belgian ones who may not be quite so well known to the rest of ussee the blue and white striped boxer shorts the Belgian finance minister donated to the museum but there are plans to internationalize things a bit.
For example, the artist in charge, Jan Bucquoy, is trying to get the underwear of supermodel and French First Lady Carla Bruni. And the meaning of a museum full of underwear? Apparently they're fulfilling our "utopian longing for an equal society". Right, we feel things are much more equal now.
The 105-foot-deep Nemo 33 has a tropical feel with the water kept at 33 degrees Celsius (91 F). You can learn to SCUBA there or just enjoy your own dive while your non-diving friends sit in the restaurant and watch you descend into the human aquarium.
A safety warning: We recommend diving in Nemo 33 first, before consuming the required ton of Belgian chocolate. Eating the sweets first could lead to serious sinking problems.
Anniversary Travel / World's Fair Travel / Attractions / Tourist Attractions / Big Things / → All Tags
Fifty years ago, Brussels invited the world over for the first World's Fair after the death and destruction of World War II. Expo 2008 will be held later this year in Zaragoza, Spain, but Brussels is celebrating anyway with exhibitions like "Expo '58: Between Utopia and Reality," in conjunction with the renovation of the fair's most durable remnant, the Atomium.
Built in the shape of a crystallized molecule of iron, the Atomium, like the Eiffel Tower, was intended to be a temporary monument but ended up redefining the city where it was constructed. After the jump, another startling view of the Atomium and some more history.
Le Tavernier is a trendy bar near the University of Brussels. It is trendy, but by no means over the top. There is an outside area with picnic table type seating and an inside area where a DJ spins chill tunes.
Since it is so close to the Uni, you are bound to run into U of B students having a drink, but don't worry, it isn't the same as running into a bunch of American college kids having a drink. We heard no chanting, hooting, or other frat like noises from the tables filled with students.
The bar also features live jazz periodically, check their web site for detes.
· Belgium Field Trip [Jaunted]
Want to know where the hipsters hang in Brussels? Try Ixelles, a small bohemian area just south of the touristy Grand Place--full of cafes, lively pubs, and plenty of Art Nouveau buildings. Ixelles has a bit of a history--Karl Marx and Alexandre Dumas both lived here for a time and the place still has that struggling artist feel. For those of you familiar with San Francisco, if Ixelles was an SF neighborhood, it would be Cole Valley. Or to put it in geek--if Craig Newmark lived in Brussels he would live in Ixelles.
Avenue Louise, where all the Brussels high end retail shops sit, divides Ixelles into two areas. We spent our time south of Louise, and walked through the tres Belgian streets and squares until we found our spot, on Ru Du Bailli. Here, just up the street from Parv de la Trinite, we found a bar on all four corners of a square, each with its own plusses and minuses. We split our time at two spots: Roxi (82 Rue du Bailli), a definite hipster hang, and the Irish Bank which was a full on sports pub, and, or so we were told, the only Irish pub in Brussels. The evening we were sipping Chimay, France was involved in some late night football action, and the crowd was decidely French, of course. Late night at Roxi we learned our first important lesson about drinking in Belgium--mixed drinks are overpriced and not always made right, so stick to beer.
Once the sun goes down on the rue (after 10pm in late June) the nearby Ste Trinite should light up the night sky for your viewing pleasure. Oh, and the bars are all within stumbling distance of most Avenue Louise hotels.
· More Ixelles Photos [Jaunted/Flickr]
· Belgium Field Trip [Jaunted]
The Rough Guide to Brussels was our weapon of choice, during our June 2006 jaunt through Belgium. Sometimes these guide books get it right, and sometimes they are off. In this feature, we will tell you what the guide pros said about a place and then give you our take.
Eating at Le Macaron in Ixelles:
Rough Guides Says:
Charming French-Italian tavern just off palce du Chatelain. The convivial ambience, homely surroundings and cheap fish, meat and pasta dishes-- main meals around 10--mean the place is often packed to the gunnels, even on weekdays. The spaghetti bolognese is superlative.
The spaghetti bolognese (Bolo on the menu) is really tasty. After a long flight, an inexpensive big plate of spaghetti really hit the spot. Do yourself a favor and get some extra cheese to mix in, if you have 3 Euro to spare. Inside this place is a bit cramped and full of smoke, (everyone still smokes inside Belgium restaurants) so do yourself a favor, sit outside and Belgian watch.
· Le Macarons [resto.be]
· Belgium Field Trip [Jaunted]
Brussels / Belgium / Design / → All Tags
Brussels may be most famous for being home to the beautiful Grand Place and the cute-yet-tiny Manikin Pis, but locals hold a special place in their hearts for the Atomium. A 334-foot structure first built for the 1958 World's Fair and shaped like a crystal molecule at 165 billion times magnification, the Atomium has just undergone a $28.3 million reconstruction.
The elevator--which was the world's fastest when the Atomium was built--now has a glass ceiling, just like Top of the Rock. Otherwise, the restoration stayed true to the original, which was futuristic enough, instead of going to Reichstag route and adding onto it.
In the American tradition, there's also a restaurant on top. Just what you'd expect from a structure described (on the Atomium web site) as "the most astonishing in the world".
[Image via zig/Flickr]
· Mighty Atomium [Wallpaper*]
Eurotrash / Travel Writing / Belgium / Brussels / → All Tags
Why, New York Times, oh why did you mention that Brussels is leading the way of the European party scene? It ruined a perfectly serviceable article about the bite-size Belgian burg.
Brussels is a fun little town. It's unpretentious, has fantastic food--both of the starred-Michelin and gooey-waffled variety--and allows the visitor come to appreciate the city's charms, rather than be all up in their grill about it.
But party capital? No no no no. This needs to stop right now. Describing a city in Europe as a "party capital" can be directly translated to mean "Here, there are discos playing the most annoying hits from five years ago. You will be forced to drink rum and coke and dance with strange-looking men in tight pants." Don't be fooled.
Go have dinner at La Quincaillerie instead.
[Image via Daniel S/Flickr]
· Going to: Brussels [NY Times]
· Tower Comes to Tiny Towns [Jaunted]
Prague's famous clock tower--called Orloj in Czech--has been replicated to 1/25 scale and will soon claim a spot in one of our favorite places to visit in Brussels, Mini-Europe. No, Mini-Europe is not what Euroskeptics call the EU, but a theme park in the Belgian capital that reproduces everything that the continent has to offer at a smaller scale. Smaller than Smart cars, even.
The replication of Prague's 15th Century clock tower is all the more impressive because legend has it that the original engineer was blinded so that he couldn't reproduce his work elsewhere. And he didn't get health insurance or overtime.
Mini-Europe has it all: Big Ben, the Eiffel Tower, an erupting model of Mount Vesuvius, and other stuff that Europeans think is famous but Americans have probably never heard of before. It is a convenient way to see everything in Europe quickly, though, and there are plentiful French fries available. What more can you ask for in a tourist attraction?
[Image via Amir & Malahat/Flickr]
· The Orloj Goes to Brussels [RadioCZ]