How to Experience the Best of Brussels
How to get there: Pan Am and Sabena, the Belgian airline, are among the carriers serving Brussels from the United States.
Brussels is about 200 miles north of Paris and 150 miles south of Amsterdam. The city is linked to all of Europe with excellent train service. Frequent transportation from London, 150 miles west, is provided by train and high-speed jetfoil or a slower ferry.
Where to stay: We chose the 200-room Hotel Amigo because it is one block off the Grand Place, heart of old Brussels. The hotel is a friendly place, a bit old-fashioned in decor but full of old European charm. One of the city’s best. A room for two, with private bath and continental breakfast, is $180 U.S. per night. Call (800) 223-5695.
The Hotel Arcade, part of an expanding European chain designed for budget travelers, charges about $80 a night for two. Rooms are very small (shelves serve as drawer space), and bathrooms are closet-size.
The hotel, however, is new, excellently maintained and decently located at Place Sainte-Catherine near Boulevard Anspachlan, a major shopping street. The hotel is about a 15-minute walk north from Grand Place.
The Belgian National Tourist Office has a list of hotels that offer a room for two with bath at rates from about $30 a day.
Where to eat: As in Paris, it is hard to find a restaurant where the food isn’t well prepared. Many of the restaurants on the Petite Rue des Bouchers, a street of restaurants north of the Grand Place, have fixed-price lunch and dinner menus. Menus are posted at entrances. Expect to pay $15, $20 or $25 per person for a complete dinner, beverage and tip.
Brussels has many very fine and very expensive restaurants. To get their names you may want to buy “Gourmet,” a guide to the restaurants of Brussels, for 90 cents at the city tourism office in the Town Hall at the Grand Place. A committee of city food critics periodically awards restaurants from one to five irises (prices tend to increase with each iris).
Lots of small food shops, catering to lunch-time office workers, serve reasonably priced meals that border on gourmet quality.
By chance we stopped at Le Moulin a Poivre, a combination restaurant and grocery on a side street one block off the busy intersection of Avenue Louise and Boulevard de Waterloo Laan, a fashionable shopping area. A large salad topped with sliced apples and bacon slices and served with bread, beer and tea cost about $10 for one person.
For more information: Belgium National Tourist Office, 745 Fifth Ave., Suite 714, New York 10151, (212) 758-8130.