Travel Postcard: 48 hours in Brussels

Fri Nov 27, 2009 6:31am EST
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By Ana-Maria Tolbaru

BRUSSELS (Reuters Life!) - Got 48 hours to explore the capital of Europe, with its unique combination of looks, architecture, culture, food and language?

Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help you get the most out of a two-day stay in the heart of the European Union, where EU institutions and the many new buildings built to accommodate the bustle of Europe's capital sit alongside elegant 17th century houses, alleys, cafes and restaurants.


12 p.m. - Take a walk in a park of one of Europe's greenest cities. From Gare Midi, you can take the metro (4.50 euros or for a one-day ticket) to Schuman and enjoy Cinquantenaire park. On your way from the metro to the park you'll see the European Commission, the European Council Julius Lipsius building with its E-shaped facade decoration (E for. Europe) and also the few English and Irish pubs loved by "Eurocrats" on Friday evenings.

1 p.m. - After a breath of fresh air, you are now ready to discover the Flemish capital. French is widely spoken in Brussels, but the city belongs to the Flemish part of Belgium. Jump back on the metro, but this time get off at Sainte-Catherine. This used to be a famous fish market, and at this time of the year the large market place becomes the venue for the Christmas markets, where you can stop for a quick "wurst" and "gluhwein," a sausage and mulled wine. But don't expect to find anything other than fish, mussels and fruits of the sea in the surrounding shops and restaurants. La Barcamole restaurant, built in a 17th century house does a lobster soup for 10 euros - just what you need to warm up.

3 p.m. - Sainte Catherine is surrounded by churches - the most impressive is the gothic Eglise Saint Jean Baptiste, from 1657 and Sainte Catherine Church, with its impressive baroque painted ceiling. Next to it is the Museum of Contemporary Arts, La Centrale Electrique. The building was the first electrical station of the city, and was built in 1901, but now serves as a meeting place for works of art of national and international contemporary artists.

4 p.m. - If you keep walking straight from place Sainte-Catherine you will come to Rue Dansaert, a famous shopping street garnished with French brasseries, bookshops and Belgian pubs. 'Passaporta' bookshop hosts cultural lunches with the public and famous writers. You can pop in for a literary brunch for free, or for usually just five euros. If you are lucky, the culinary treat will be on the house.

6 p.m. - For a really colorful choice, go on the parallel road to Rue Dansaert, Rue de Chartreux, which is crammed with everything from clock and candy shops or houses of chocolatiers, art galleries and vintage clothes stores. For a quick sugar fix pop in chocolatier Laurent Gerbaud's café- your senses will be melted and you will eventually give in. (   Continued...

<p>A general view shows the Brussels Royal Place, April 2, 2009. REUTERS/Sebastien Pirlet</p>