Those looking for an August getaway without paying the high hotel costs associated with visiting Europe at the height of tourist season might want to consider booking a stay in Brussels. After business-people frequenting the capital of Belgium and the European Union vacate the city, you can find a range of hotels that offer weekend rates during the weekdays.
Using Brussels as a base, you can then take short day trips via car, boat or train to other cities and regions in Belgium including Antwerp, Liege, Bruges, Ghent, and Namur. Also, consider touring nearby countries since Brussels is only an hour from Paris and Luxemburg and 2 to 2 ½ hours from Amsterdam, Frankfurt, and London.
During your stay be sure though to spend some time in Brussels, a major city that retains the intimate feeling of a historic town. Within a day, you’ll be surprised at how easily you can navigate the cobblestones that wind their way through museums, shops, parks and cafes.
While in Brussels be sure to savor their unique culinary delights. Brusselicious 2012, a year-long festival commemorating food and drink, affords a gourmet touch to cultural events while offering a range of unique demos, workshops, dinners in the sky and on a tram, and other singular delights that feature Belgium cuisine. Chocolate connoisseurs can sample chocolates from a range of world class chocolatiers including Pierre Macolini, Wittamer, Laurent Gerbaud, Mary and Neuhaus.
If possible, try to stick around till the end of August for the 14th Belgian Beer Festival. From August 31 to September 2nd, The Belgian Brewers’ association and the “Mashstaff of the Knights” join forces with the City of Brussels to present the opportunity to taste an expansive range of Belgian beers including many regional varieties that can be only be sampled in Belgium.
This festival takes place on the Grand-Place, a UNESCO World Heritage site that dates back to the 15th century when it was a site of commerce replete with market halls and a gild. After the French bombarded this site in 1695, the buildings rose up again, leading a hodgepodge of Gothic, neogothic, baroque and neoclassical styles juxtaposed throughout the square.
Also the Grand-Place will be covered with flowers when the Brussels Flower Carpet rolls out on August 14, 2012 at 10pm and continues until August 19th. This floral extravaganza which takes place every other year transforms the Grand Place into a floral display of begonias and dahlias.
To top off the August celebrations, the Brussels Summer Festival rolls out on August 10, 2012. For the next ten days, soak in a plethora of musicians from Belgium and around the world. A one or ten day Brussels Summer Festival Pass offer access to the music acts, as well as free admission to museum exhibits including all the permanent collections of the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Bozar, Musée des Instruments de Musique (MIM), Coudenberg and BELvue. Also, pass holders can have access to around 60 of CINEMATEK’s planned screenings in the auditorium depending on seat availability. Giant screens will be set up along the festival route and on the main concert stages to show animated films, old advertisements and shorts.
In between festivals and flowers, stroll around the city’s cobblestone streets. Go window shopping along the glass covered Galeries Saint-Hubert. Walk up the Mont des Arts and take in the many museums especially the Museum of Ancient Art, home to the Flemish masters. Venture into the Romanesque crypt located inside the Cathedral of Saints Michael and Gudula. Snack on some Belgium frittes while ambling through the Park of Brussels. Be sure to stop and snap a panoramic view of the city from the Palais de Justice. Finally, no trip to Brussels can be complete without an iconic photograph of Manneken Pis, a 17th century bronze statuette situated at the Grand Place that serves as a folkloric symbol of Brussels’ irreverent spirit. In the spirit of equality, a female statuette Jeanneke Pis erected in 1987 sits on the east side of Impasse de la Fidélité / Getrouwheidsgang (Fidelity Alley).
Pick up the Brussels Card and any additional tourist information from any of the local tourist information centers. This card comes in 24, 48 or 72 hour increments and provides free entry to over 30 museums, unlimited travel on public transportations, discounts on other tourist attractions and organized tours, discounts in shops, restaurants and bars, and a free city map.
For additional information to on your August getaway, check out the websites for Flanders.