As any person planning to move to Brussels, you probably have no clue what you’re getting into. Well fear no more, Brussels sure is a very special place. With more than 160 different nationalities represented, you could even say that Belgium’s capital city is its own little planet. But what should you know before joining the Brussels expats gang?
1. It’s a small big city
Yes, this isn’t a typo, Brussels is a small big city. This means that, although Brussels is quite tiny geographically speaking, it has all the advantages of the capital city that it is. With its 161 km2 surface, it’s far behind other European capital cities such as Madrid (608 km2) or Berlin (891 km2).
On one hand, this means that you can basically discover Brussels by foot, just walking around the city. But on the other hand, the culture, nightlife and art scene are always buzzing, leaving you with no choice but to get out there, but without having to take 2 trams, a bus and maybe rent a pony.
2. Brussels is a foodie city
The city’s culinary offering is pretty insane. Just to give you an idea, Brussels is in the top ten of the most Michelin-starred cities in the world, with 31 stars in total. Its also the third most-starred European capital city, just behind Paris and London.
On top of that, and thanks to the cosmopolitan character of the city, Belgiums capital city boasts an incredibly varied offer of world food restaurants. Whether you’re in the mood for fine Italian cuisine or craving on-the-go Peruvian specialties, you’ll always find a match. Another perk of this variety in the food offer is that the Brussels expats never feel homesick.
Here are a few insider hotspots:
- Bia Mara: this place offers the best (only?) fish & chips of the city. Dont expect fine cuisine here, but youll walk out full and happy as a clam. (Rue du Marché Aux Poulets 41, 1000 Brussels)
- Bao Bang Bang: as the name suggests, the restaurant specializes in baos, those little soft and steamed buns stuffed with pork and typically sold on the streets in Asia. Bao Bang Bang also offers alternatives to the classic bao: chicken, fish, veggie, youll find what you need! (Rue de l’Aqueduc 155, 1050 Ixelles)
- Certo: one of the newest and best Italian places in Brussels. The menu is short and changes with the seasons, everythings fresh and homemade and theres a large choice of wines It really smells like Italy. (Rue Longue Vie 48, 1050 Ixelles)
- Ergon: Greek food, Greek food everywhere! But not your usual mezze. Here, youll find classic Greek cuisine in a modern atmosphere. The best part: their tiny deli with all the best Greek ingredients. (Rue du Parnasse 1, 1050, Ixelles)
3. You can map Brussels by its squares
Brussels can really be defined by its neighborhoods, and each neighborhood can be defined by its main square. Each neighborhood has its own dynamics and specificities, giving them personality and soul.
For example, the European neighborhood evolves around Place du Luxembourg, where the Brussels expats and locals gather to have afterwork drinks on Thursdays.
Place Brugmann has the biggest French population and some of the finest shops and restaurants, Place Flagey is always crowded with young professionals working, having brunch, dinner or drinks (you can do all four of these in one place, the Brussels institution called Café Belga), Place Saint-Boniface is in the African neighborhood and has the best terraces, Place du Châtelain attracts a bobo (bourgeois-bohemian) population for its alternative shops (Mellow, Cheep, Pax, Chouke…), Wednesday market and cool cafés… And we could keep going like this for a looong time.
4. Myth busting… Not
What you’ve heard about Belgian chocolate and beer is true. It’s all true. Once you’ll have been living in Belgium for a while, you’ll slowly develop high standards for those two specialties without even noticing, making it really hard to go home (that is, if you ever want to go home).
You can also eat -F-r-e-n-c-h- Belgian fries everywhere, anytime and on the go. Our personal favorites are FritFlagey and Maison Antoine, you cant go wrong with those two. Important note: if you eat your fries with anything else than mayonnaise sauce, you might get weird glances from the locals.
Finally, the city mascot is the Manneken Pis, which is a little bronze sculpture of a boy peeing in a fountain basin. This little guy has a bigger wardrobe than you and is dressed in different costumes several times a week.
Welcome to Brussels!