BRUSSELS - NEIGHBORHOODS
From Place Louise, Brussels` most fashionable thoroughfare, Avenue Louise, runs south all the way to a large wooded park called the Bois de la Cambre. On either side of Avenue Louise are the classy districts of Ixelles and Uccle; they`re both good areas for casual, inexpensive restaurants, bars, cafes, and shopping; and both border the wide green spaces of the Bois de la Cambre and the Forêt de Soignes. Avenue Louise is one of the most prestigious and expensive streets in Brussels. The Avenue Louise is one long catwalk of famous fashion brands, including big international names like Chanel, Vuitton, Hermes, Giorgio Armani, Gianni Versace and Christian Dior. The first section is one of the most attractive shopping districts in the city, with prestigious as well as more affordable shops clustered around the large department store Innovation. In the morning, Avenue Louise turns into the perfect hangout and rendezvous for most stylish events while in the evening, the street is transformed into a fashionable maze of gourmet restaurants and fashion stores.
Gare Midi and Haute de la Ville
Haute de la Ville is also contained within the Petite Ceinture, lying just east and uphill from the Grand-Place, along Rue Royale and Rue de la Régence and abutting the unpretentious, working class Marolles district. The former royal residence, Palais Royal, sits along the southern edge of the large Parc de Bruxelles, once a game park for the royal family that now features intricately designed gardens and plenty of paths for strolling. This area is also home to the city`s Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique and the Center for Fine Arts (BOZAR). Lying between the Palais de Justice and Gare du Midi, the Marolles has cozy cafes, drinking-man`s bars, and inexpensive restaurants. If you head southwest and cross the broad Boulevard de Waterloo, sitting southwest is the Place Louise, arguably the most fashionable part of the city with its exclusive designer shops and trendy boutiques littered along Avenue Louise.
East of the city center and North of Ixelles, the modern European Union district surrounds Place Schuman, where the European Commission, Parliament, and Council of Ministers buildings jostle for space in a maze of offices populated by civil servants, journalists, and lobbyists. This neighborhood caters mainly to business travelers, offering numerous top-notch hotels and some Michelin-rated restaurants. The district also features notable museums, including the Royal Museum of Army and Military History, which sits in the expansive Parc du Cinquantenaire, and the nearby Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences.
Grand Place and Bas de la Ville (Old Town)
At the center of the historic district is the Grand-Place, one of Europe`s most ornate and theatrical squares. Surrounding the square are numerous popular attractions. The Rue de l`Etuve, a street branching off of the southwest corner of the Grand-Place, leads directly to the Manneken Pis, the city`s most popular monument. Walk northeast of Grand-Place and you`ll discover St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral (Cathédrale St-Michel et Ste-Gudule), a beautiful gothic church that dates back to the 13th century.
Close by to St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral is Parc de Bruxelles, Brussels` largest public park. Less than a mile long, the park has plenty of paths for strolling or jogging and is home to gardens, statues, fountains, as well as a theater. The Palais Royal sits along the southern border of the park and is close to the city`s Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium and the Center for Fine Arts (BOZAR).
Every two years in August, an enormous 'flower carpet' is set up in the Grand Place for a few days. A million colorful begonias are set up in patterns, and the display covers a full 79 feet by 253 feet, for an area total of 19,000 sq ft.
If you are looking for a hotel near the Brussels Airport, you have multiple options in different price ranges. The airport area is a short drive away from Brussels city center or about a 20-minute journey by train. A direct bus line also links Brussels Airport to the EU headquarters area. Most of these hotels offer a free shuttle service, so you can easily get to and from the airport. Staying in the airport area eliminates the stress associated with early morning departures or late night arrivals. The airport hotels also can provide some cheaper option than staying in the city center.