All roads in Brussels’ medieval city centre lead to the mighty Grand’Place, recalling centuries past with its step-gabled guild houses and ornate Town Hall. Lanes fanning out from the square hide shops, restaurants, cafés and the much-photographed Mannekin Pis statue. Further east is Brussels Central, a major railway and metro station, and the Gothic Cathedral of St Michel and St Gudule. Edge north-west for great-value seafood restaurants on buzzy Place Saint Catherine and Belgian fashion on boutique-lined Rue Antoine Dansaert. Or head south for the weekend antiques market on elegant Place du Grand Sablon and world-class collections at the Royal Museums of Fine Arts.
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Ixelles and Saint-Gilles
South of the city centre, fashionable Ixelles is the shopper’s choice of where to stay in Brussels. The main artery, Avenue Louise, is a catwalk to big-name designers. By night the vibe is upbeat in the district’s slick lounge bars, gourmet restaurants and live music venues. Follow Avenue Louise south to Bois de la Cambre’s serene forests, lakes and Cistercian abbey. West of Ixelles, the arty Saint-Gilles neighbourhood is punctuated by graceful townhouses and is home to the Art Nouveau Horta Museum.
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Glass and steel skyscrapers crowd the horizon in the 21st- century European Quarter, where the city’s policymakers convene behind the gleaming façades of the European Union Commission and EU Council. Trône and Schuman metro stations serve the neighbourhood, which lies east of the city centre and is home to some of Brussels’ smartest hotels. The Brussels Park, overshadowed by the stately Royal Palace, lies to the west. Bordering the district to the east is Cinquantenaire Park, where a triumphal arch looms above flower-strewn lawns. Here you’ll find the Royal Military Museum and the motor-mad AutoWorld Museum.
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