Things to Do in Brussels & in Bruges
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Brussels and Bruges are two of the most popular travel destinations in Belgium. The cities are linked by a reliable rail network, which makes it easy for backpackers and gap year travelers in Europe to explore the sights of both on a single trip.
History and Politics in Brussels
Known as the 'Capital of Europe', Brussels is the administrative center of the European Union and home to the headquarters of NATO. But despite this significant role in modern politics and international relations, the city has managed to preserve much of its cultural heritage.
The city's rich history is celebrated in no less than 80 museums. As well as a number of excellent art galleries, highlights include a beer museum and several buildings designed by celebrated architect Victor Horta. Travelers might also enjoy the Bellevue Arts Museum, which is the official museum of the Belgian Royal Family. The building is an attraction in itself having once been used as a royal residence.
The Jewish Museum, which traces 1,000 years of the religion's history, is also an interesting visit. It has been open for 20 years and explores the presence of Judaism in Brussels and Belgium as a whole.
In addition to its great cultural attractions, Brussels also boasts a fun, vibrant nightlife scene and there are more than 400 different kinds of beer offered in the city's many bars! A popular hangout after dark is the central square, Place Saint-Gery, which is home to a number of fashionable cafes and luckily accessible from most Brussels hostels so travelers can find their way back after a long night sampling the local brews.
At the heart of the region of Flanders, Bruges is packed with medieval charm and often called the 'Venice of the North' and the 'City of Romance' because of its attractive setting on the canals. The city center is a World Heritage Site and closed to cars so travelers can explore via a boat trip or the more budget-friendly option on foot.
One of the major sights of the city is the 83-meter-high Belfry tower, built in 13th century, in which energetic travelers can climb 366 steps for picturesque views of Bruges and the surrounding countryside.
The bars in Bruges tend to stay open until midnight, although some are open until the early hours, particularly in the trendy district of Langestraat. Located in the eastern part of the city, Langestraat is home to the city's student population and a number of Bruges hostels.