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Time Out: Brussels

Brussels Beach

Brussels Beach. Photo by Eric Danhier.

It’s easy to think that the city that hosts NATO headquarters and is considered the center of the European Union would be all business, but Brussels is much more than buttoned-up suits and international summits. This is a city that prides itself on its sense of humor: The iconic Manneken-Pis statue of a young boy has a wardrobe of more than 900 costumes to suit the seasons (many of which are on view at the new GardeRobe museum around the corner), and comedic murals pop out around historic buildings. Plus, the Smurfs and Tintin are Belgian exports. Have a laugh in Brussels and then discover more of what the city has to offer.

Last year, MIMA opened in Brussels’ Molenbeek district with a mission to present a current story through its exhibitions. The contemporary art museum closes entirely between temporary exhibits, essentially reinventing itself with each reopening. Across the city, ADAM Brussels Design Museum’s traveling and permanent exhibits feature 20th-century art and design.

Chocolate is a way of life in Brussels. This is, after all, the city in which Neuhaus began in 1857 and Godiva in 1926. Modern-day chocolatiers crafting their sweet legacies include Laurent Gerbaud, who playfully yet expertly blends dried fruits and exotic spices with chocolate, and Frederic Blondeel, who roasts his hand-selected cocoa beans in-house, transforming them into bars within three days.

Authentic Belgian cuisine can be spotted by the Brusselicious 2017 label, identifying the best of the city’s restaurants that embrace the country’s culinary heritage. Mussels have been de rigueur at Brasserie De La Roue D’or since 1882 and across the Grand-Place at Chez Léon since 1893 (save room for a Belgian waffle, too). Antoine Pinto’s latest concept, Belga Queen, features new Belgian cuisine, and La Guinguette en Ville puts a seasonal spin on traditional dishes in the Sainte-Catherine district.

There are festivals and activities aplenty during the summer. Catch some rays on Brussels Beach (Bruxelles les Bains), a short-term oasis installed along the banks of the Brussels Canal, or take in the scents of summer from August 11 to 15 when Flowertime transforms the Grand-Place and Brussels City Hall into a dreamlike garden with a flowers-and-fruit theme. At month’s end, the BXLBeerFest raises a glass to Belgian and international beers. Cheers!

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