Brussels may not be on every student’s radar when thinking of European cities to visit. The hedonistic set may prefer the nightclubs of Berlin or Amsterdam, the hopeless romantics with, let’s face it, a big budget will head to Paris, the fashionistas will head to London, and the backpackers will deviate off track as far as Barcelona. Brussels however may be a worthwhile destination for all of these groups.
I had the good fortune to spend a day in Brussels recently, and I was even luckier to have a friend who lives there on whose couch I could crash. The trip would be a quick 24 hours, but I hoped to fit in as much as I could and get a firm grasp of what life is like in Belgium’s capital.
The city itself is modern and cosmopolitan. The buildings are vast and immense, and is teeming with diplomats who sip coffee and chat in three languages as they walk past. Their workplaces are beautiful to look at and I found myself staring down the wide roads to appreciate them together. Not noted for its skyline, Brussels is deceptively pretty. The further one goes from the European Union buildings, the more quaint the city becomes. There are traditional French signs on the buildings, and people relax outside coffee shops and restaurants while sipping on beer.
There is a considerable Irish presence in Brussels and anyone new is welcomed. Conversation is interesting for those passionate about politics: people talk about their day’s work openly, and even the most mundane of subject matter becomes engrossing. There’s a considerable lobby faction in Brussels, and people take any opportunity to talk about whatever industry or sector they are tasked to promote.
I happened to visit Brussels on a Thursday night, which is fortunately the busiest social night of the week. Many of the city’s workers travel short distances home to France, Germany and the Netherlands for the weekend, and so on Thursdays the bars are packed, the courtyards full and the atmosphere friendly.
Place de Luxe is the busiest part of the city on a Thursday night. A square of bars and cafés, the patrons pour onto the courtyard and relax, drink in hand. People of all nationalities mix together and chat in what is a uniquely European situation. Seen at night, the city is a sight to behold. The Royal Palace, when fully lit at night-time, is amazing, and the streets narrow to twist and turn throughout the city.
For a traditional tourist, Brussels is a must-visit, steeped in history and culture. Those more interested in a good nightlife will not be disappointed, with live bands and strong Belgian beer on every corner. (Bars don’t close until 6am at weekends). Brussels would be a different, more affordable alternative for a couple’s getaway and a worthy location for a group of friends looking for a relatively cheap city break.
What’s more, there are numerous career opportunities available to young graduates in Brussels. Those interested in an international career should do some research. Brussels is an exciting city to live and work in for a young professional.