One of Atlanta’s official Sister Cities, Brussels has much to offer, including one of the most beautiful town squares in all of Europe and an outdoor comic art walking tour to justify all the Belgian beer, chocolate, and frites.
The Grand Place is the main town square in Brussels, and even the most jaded traveler will have to admit that it lives up to the moniker. Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998, the Grand Place maintained its original function as a marketplace until 1959. The square slopes downward to the steps of the town hall, giving a cinematic perspective to the buildings, with their fairytale, gingerbread house delicacy. Take note: every other year in August, a carpet of flowers is rolled out to fill the square, and the next flower carpet should unfurl in August, 2012.
Right off of the square, on Rue Harengs, a different sort of drinking experience awaits you at Le Cerceuil. Enjoy a dark, tasty Belgian beer out of a mug in the shape of a skull in this tiny little goth bar, whose name literally translates as “the casket.” Don’t let the dark surroundings intimidate you; the staff couldn’t be friendlier.
Comics in Belgium are a serious business — there are several comic museums, and around every other corner in Brussels you will find large-scale comic paintings on the city’s buildings. The tourist office in the Grand Place can provide you with a map showing the locations of the major works and offering a suggested path for your walk. The tour is a great way to get to know the city, as it naturally takes you past main points of interest such as the whimsical Manneken Pis statue and the city’s many fountains.
Once you’ve finished your walk, reward yourself with the local treat of frites dipped in mayonnaise. Belgians contest the French claim to this creation, but no matter who is responsible for it, it’s an experience not to be missed. And thus ends the perfect introduction to Atlanta’s sister city, Brussels!