Belgium’s capital offers business and political connections with the rest of Europe, as well as being a destination for fans of beer, comics and cartoons.
Brussels is a distinctly international city, with 35 per cent of its residents coming from outside Belgium. Home to many of the key EU institutions, including the bloc’s commission and, shared with Strasbourg, its parliament, Brussels also hosts the headquarters of Nato.
In the corporate world, multinationals such as IBM, Toyota and Microsoft have set up offices in the city, drawing in thousands of expats.
Brussels has been attracting UK businesses that want to stay connected to continental Europe after the UK leaves the EU. A total of 111 UK companies have created a new legal entity in the Belgian capital since 1 July 2016, the week after the UK’s referendum on leaving the EU, according to hub.brussels, a government agency.
Uncertainty over Brexit has also boosted Brussels’ start-up scene: 3,500 technology jobs had moved from London to Brussels by the end of 2018, according to the non-profit Microsoft Innovation Center Brussels.
Brussels is a global destination for comic book fans. The Belgian Comic Strip Center, housed in an Art Nouveau building by Belgian architect Victor Horta, celebrates the likes of Tintin and The Smurfs, as well as their creators, Hergé and Peyo, through exhibitions and workshops.
The city also brings together film and animation professionals and fans for annual festivals such as the Brussels Short Film Festival, the Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival for horror, thrillers and science fiction and Off-screen, which showcases bizarre and cult cinema. Anima: the Brussels International Animation Film Festival champions animated films and cartoons.
Beer is a Belgian institution — the country’s beer culture is on Unesco’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list — with more than 1,000 brands brewed across the country.
Delirium Café, tucked away in an alleyway near the Grand Place, holds the world record for the largest number of beers offered, at 2,004. L’Ermitage Nanobrasserie, a microbrewery a short walk from Bruxelles Midi station, is open on Fridays and Saturdays; its Théorème de L’Empereur pale ale has notes of green tea and jasmine.
Brussels boasts of having 27 square metres of greenery for each of its inhabitants. Inner-city parks include the Parc du Cinquantenaire, the Parc de Bruxelles and the Place du Petit Sablon.
Further afield, the Jardin botanique de Meise, 12km north of the city centre, is a historic 92-hectare expanse with more than 18,000 varieties of plant and flower.
The suburban Parc Tournay-Solvay in the south of the city, offers peace and quiet amid the ruins of a neo-Renaissance château. It stands on the edge of the Sonian Forest, a weekend favourite with families, half an hour’s drive from the centre of Brussels.
Photographs: Getty Images/iStockphoto; Gints Ivuskans; Dreamstime