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Hotel MetropoleThe glamorous Art-Deco Hotel Metropole is located in downtown Brussels just a 10-minute walk from the Grand Place and Brussels Central Train Station. Marble staircases in the lobby lead up to the rooms, which include a modem wall connection and a TV with internet access as well as 24-hour room service. Aside from the breakfast room and bar, there is a chic cafe with a heated terrace. You can also enjoy French cuisine in the Baroque setting of the award-winning Restaurant L’Alban Chambon. The Metropole also offers valet parking and a gym. The De Brouckère metro station is a 5-minute walk away and offers direct access to the European Commission. Brussels Airport is 7.5 miles away. Your stay at Hotel Metropole includes 6 free minibar drinks.

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Brussels, officially the Brussels Region or Brussels-Capital Region, is the de facto capital city of the European Union (EU) and the largest urban area in Belgium. It comprises 19 municipalities, including the City of Brussels proper, which is the constitutional capital of Belgium, the French Community of Belgium, as well as Flanders and the Flemish Community. Brussels has grown from a 10th-century fortress town founded by a descendant of Charlemagne into a metropolis of more than one million inhabitants. The metropolitan area has a population of over 1.8 million, making it the largest in Belgium.

Since the end of the Second World War, Brussels has been a main centre for international politics. Its hosting of principal EU institutions as well as the headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has made the city a polyglot home of numerous international organisations, politicians, diplomats and civil servants. Although historically Dutch-speaking, Brussels became increasingly French-speaking over the 19th and 20th centuries. Today a majority of inhabitants are native French-speakers, although both languages have official status. Linguistic tensions remain, and the language laws of the municipalities surrounding Brussels are an issue of much controversy in Belgium.

Brussels serves as capital of the European Union, hosting the major political institutions of the Union.[9] The EU has not declared a capital formally, though the Treaty of Amsterdam formally gives Brussels the seat of the European Commission (the executive/government branch) and the Council of the European Union - a legislative institution made up from leaders of member states. It locates the formal seat of European Parliament in the French city of Strasbourg, where votes take place with the Council on the proposals made by the Commission. However meetings of political groups and committee groups are formally given to Brussels along with a set number of plenary sessions. Three quarters of Parliament now takes place at its Brussels hemicycle. Between 2002 and 2004, the European Council also fixed its seat in the city.

The architecture in Brussels is diverse, and spans from the mediaeval constructions on the Grand Place to the postmodern buildings of the EU institutions. Main attractions include the Grand Place, since 1988 a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with the Gothic town hall in the old centre, the St. Michael and Gudula Cathedral and the Laken Castle with its large greenhouses. Another famous landmark is the Royal Palace. The Atomium is a symbolic 103 meter or 338 foot tall structure that was built for the 1958 World’s Fair. It consists of nine steel spheres connected by tubes, and forms a model of an iron crystal. The architect A. Waterkeyn devoted the building to science. Next to the Atomium is the Mini-Europe park with 1:25 scale maquettes of famous buildings from across Europe. The Manneken Pis, a bronze fountain of a small peeing boy is a famous tourist attraction and symbol of the city. Other landmarks include the Cinquantenaire park with its triumphal arch and nearby museums, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Brussels Stock Exchange, the Palace of Justice and the buildings of EU institutions in the European Quarter.

Brussels is served by Brussels Airport, located in the nearby Flemish municipality of Zaventem, and by the smaller Brussels South Charleroi Airport, located near Charleroi, some 50 kilometers or 30 miles south of Brussels. Brussels is also served by direct high-speed rail links: to London by the Eurostar train via the Channel Tunnel (1hr 51 min); to Amsterdam, Paris (1hr 25 min) and Cologne by the Thalys; and to Cologne and Frankfurt by the German ICE. Brussels also has its own port on the Brussels-Scheldt Maritime Canal located in the northwest of the city. The Brussels-Charleroi Canal connects Brussels with the industrial areas of Wallonia.

The Brussels Metro dates back to 1976, but underground lines known as premetro have been serviced by tramways since 1968. A comprehensive bus and tram network also covers the city. An interticketing system means that a STIB ticket holder can use the train or long-distance buses inside the city. The commuter services operated by De Lijn, TEC and SNCB will in the next few years be augmented by a metropolitan RER rail network around Brussels. Since 2003 Brussels has had a car-sharing service operated by the Bremen Company Cambio in partnership with STIB and local ridesharing company taxi stop. In 2006 shared bicycles were also introduced.

From www.wikitravel.org

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