Pentahotel Brussels City Centre, Chaussée De Charleroi, Brussels, Belgium
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Brussels, “Capital of Europe” – it sounds modern, thrusting and perhaps a little soulless. But Brussels is none of these things. Instead it is a city on a human and eminently manageable scale (virtually all you want to see and visit is within walking distance), in touch with its medieval origins, and tweaked by its own distinct, rough-edged character and bubbling conviviality.
Belgium's fascinating capital, and the administrative capital of the EU, Brussels is historic yet hip, bureaucratic yet bizarre, self confident yet unshowy, and multicultural to its roots. All this plays out in a cityscape that swings from majestic to quirky to rundown and back again. Organic art nouveau facades face off against 1960s concrete developments, and regal 19th-century mansions contrast with the brutal glass of the EU’s Gotham City. This whole maelstrom swirls out from Brussels’ medieval core, where the Grand Place is surely one of the world’s most beautiful squares.
One constant is the enviable quality of everyday life, with a café/bar scene that never gets old. But Brussels doesn’t go out of its way to impress. The citizens’ humorous, deadpan outlook on life is often just as surreal as the canvases of one-time resident Magritte.
Brussels is the bilingual capital that delights in contradiction. Its streets are signed in French and Dutch (to everyone’s confusion); its most iconic landmark is a tiny statue of a boy urinating (the Mannekin Pis), which symbolizes not just its people’s attitude to authority but their enduring deadpan humor; and it simultaneously boasts some of the grandest and ugliest architecture in Europe. This is the city that inspired one of the finest architects of the Art Nouveau movement, Victor Horta, as well as an endless series of "Brussels’s Ugliest Buildings" blogs. Dig a little deeper, though, and you’ll find not contradictions but context: a rich history that stretches back long before World War II devastated much of the capital, prompting rampant postwar redevelopment.
Brussels has a reputation for being "boring"—a rather tired cliché that stems from its being the main home of the European Union—but it's a vibrant, multiethnic metropolis. One-third of its population are non-Belgians, and its hip Congolese Matonge quarter and North African Marolles flea market are now as much a fixture on the city’s tourist trail as its iconic Grand’Place.
And then there's the nightlife. The beer-frazzled masses will find no complaint in Brussels's myriad city-center bars, while the cafés of the St-Gilles area have become a Mecca for local hipsters. It has soul, too. This is, after all, the birthplace of artists ranging from the Surrealist René Magritte to Tintin-creator Hergé, and in recent years a number of impressive art museums have opened, with more said to be on the way.
Brussels is unpredictable, but therein lies its appeal. The city’s mishmash of ideas and images can seem a little slapdash at first glance, but from it comes a sense of urgency. It's this mix of grand and quirky, old and new, rich and poor, together with some of the most beautiful buildings in Europe, that makes it perfect for just wandering. And in doing so, it’s hard not to fall in love.
A 202-room concept design, built over eight foors, pentahotel Brussels City Centre is right beside Avenue Louise, the famed fashion district, and a stroll from the Grand Palace and the seat of Europe’s political institutions. The sightseeing’s superb, but penta gives you something else. Being human, staying friendly and going further to be helpful, these aren’t from the instruction manual.
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Check out : 12:00 PM
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