Many cosmopolitan European cities exude an air of snobbishness. Not Brussels. After all, when the symbol of your city is a peeing boy--popularly known as the Manneken Pis--then you most definitely have a sense of humor. The city's more than 80 museums do not only house history and culture, they give them a twist by making them fun. If you think that's not possible, check out the Belgian Comic Strip Center and the Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate. But as much as the various sites of interest, it's the warm and friendly residents who truly make this city great. Welcome to big-city Europe (minus the attitude).
Brussels is a fairly easy destination to navigate by foot. Your first stops should be the historic Grand Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the Royal Palace, where the king resides. Enjoy a guided stroll through the gothic Town Hall. Or hop an escalator to the top of the Atomium and enjoy stunning views of Bruparck Brussels 100 meters below. Take a guided excursion of the Brouwerij Belle Vue to sample world-famous Belgian beer at its finest or go stargazing at the Brussels Planetarium. If you're vacationing with the family, the kids will surely enjoy the Bruparck (next door to the Atomium), which is home to four great attractions: the Mini Europe scale models of well-known European monuments; the immense Oceadium swimming pool; the Kinepolis cinema complex; and Le Village, an expansive area of restaurants and bars. You're also guaranteed to get a good laugh at the Belgian Comic Strip Center.
There are nearly 2,000 restaurants in this city, so there's no excuse to miss the ever popular Belgian waffles and cherry beer, which is locally known as kriek. You can also sample fine chocolates and French fries (with mayonnaise!) in almost any of the cafes lining the city streets. For lunch or dinner, check out Les Brassins at Ixelles, La Maison du Cygne or Des Trois Couleurs. Truffle-based dishes can be had at La Truffe Noire, while Aux Armes de Bruxelles serves the finest mussels.
Shopping is a central feature of life in Brussels. A popular destination for locals is Upper Town, which boasts wide avenues and stately thoroughfares. A taste of historic shopping can be had at the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, Europe's oldest mall. Rue Neuve is where to head if you're looking for something more modern. And you can't leave Brussels without one last box of chocolates, so head to Planete Chocolat on the Rue du Lombard to take home a sample of the good food and the good life you enjoyed in Brussels.