Brussels is not only the capital of Belgium, but also the capital city of the European Union – a rather important and highly regarded profile for a rather small country. Due to this political influence, Brussels has become a central focus in economic development, with many global companies now choosing to operate out of the city. Along with a population of around 1.8 million people, Brussels is a central hub for economic, social and cultural activity for the rest of the country and the continent as a whole – including that of meetings and conferences. In fact, the city hosts over 50,000 registered meetings, congresses and exhibitions each year.
Brussels is geographically positioned in the heart of Europe and boasts several points of access. As such, business associates can leave London and find themselves in a board meeting in the city within just a few hours. Only 25 minutes from downtown, Brussels Airport is a frequent choice for business travelers, welcoming over 18 million passengers each year. Five major train stations also serve the capital region, providing smooth and easy access to and from other European cities such as Paris and Amsterdam.
The city itself is fairly compact, making it easy to explore by foot. A cost-effective public transportation system of metro trains, buses and trams also makes it easy for meeting guests to reach key destinations, such as the Brussels Expo. With over 115,000 square meters of flexible exhibition space, this leading event facility can accommodate up to 2,000 people. Every year, about 60 exhibitions and 90 events are held in one of Brussels Expo's venues, which range from a 1,860-seat auditorium to 13 state-of-the-art conference rooms.
Along with the Expo, Brussels is teeming special event venues. There are over 60 unique locations to hold events of 10 to 10,000 people, whether they be state-of-the-art auditoriums or 19th century masterpieces. Book the Atomium, the self-proclaimed "most astonishing building in the world," for banquets, galas and more. Designed to resemble an aluminum atom, this landmark structure is made up of tubes and steel-clad aluminum spheres, one of which can be booked for special events both during the day and at night.
Museums, concert halls, sports centers, even historic castles aren't off limits when it comes to event planning in Brussels. From Chateau Sainte-Anne to the Royal Museums of Fine Arts, the city has a setting for any style and size of gathering. Throw a grand reception of up to 1,500 people at the ground floor of Autoworld, where attendees can mingle and drink among and impressive collection of historic automobiles. Add whimsy to formal banquets by hosting them at the Belgian Comic Strip Center, one of the most stunning creations of architect Victor Horta.
Brussels' economy is largely led by the service industry. Financial services provider ING, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Siemens and SONY are among the global names conducting business from Brussels. Over 60 banks have also set up home in Brussels, securing the city's position as the 7th biggest financial market in the world. The city is also home to many well-regarded institutes of higher learning, including the Université Libre de Bruxelles and the Vrije Universiteit Brussel.
With its role as administrative center for the European Union and focal point for the country's economy aside, Brussels is a picturesque and popular tourist destination. This former 10th century fortress town became an independent country in 1830, uniting the Latin and Germanic sides of Europe. Presently, the city's over 1.8 million residents encompass a unique blend of Dutch speakers, French speakers and German speakers, which together welcome guests from around the globe with open and accepting arms.
Though today's Brussels is rather compact, it packs a punch when it comes to attractions. A great place for any visitor to start is Grand-Place, the city's central square. Here, smaller residential structures give way to towering, elegant Guildhalls, telling the tale of the city's economic growth. As one of the city's most popular tourist destinations and undoubtedly one of its most memorable, Grand-Place is full of charming retail vendors, first-class restaurants and attractions including the stately Brussels Town Hall.
The city is also home to over 25 different types of museums, offering a chance to learn something about the country's culture at every turn. For a complete history of the city and its people, stop by the Maison du Roi, where artifacts range from historic city plans to an extensive collection of suits made to adorn the city's iconic Manneken-Pis fountain. Visitors can also enjoy a more light-hearted – and delicious – work of Belgian art at the Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate, which features demonstrations by a master chocolatier on how to make authentic pralines. Or, take a piece of Belgian culture home at the Galeries Saint-Hubert, where discerning visitors can find traditional collectables from local designers and artists.
Belgian cuisine is another surefire way of immersing oneself in the culture. During a day of sightseeing, grab a snack at the "friteries," or chip stalls, or enjoy a salty treat from the "caricole" sellers, who offer snails cooked in salty water or peppery bouillon. For a longer meal, guests find mussels, venison, boar and duck to be staples of local restaurant menus. Wine is almost as essential as the food itself, though beer is a popular alternative at cafes and bars. Try the fashionable Bonsoir Clara, masterful Comme Chez Soi or posh Maison du Gygne, all of which guarantee a memorable meal.
Among the historic monuments, museums and dining establishments, visitors to Brussels are happy to find a rather green city. In fact, it's home to 24 city parks and 300 square kilometers of forest. Located at the doorstep of the Royal Palace, the Parc de Bruxelles, with its restored 18th century statues and manicured lawns, remains a fashionable place to take a stroll. The sizable urban park Bois de la Cambre is one of the best in Brussels. Meanwhile, the Forêt De Soignes is a lush getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city.
All average costs based on U.S. Government Per Diem rates as published by the U.S. General Services Administration.
Brussels has a temperate and maritime climate. From May to September, the weather in Brussels is at its best and, as a result, these late spring through early fall months are popular with visitors. The winter months see more rainfall than snow. January is noted as the coldest of the winter months with daytime lows of 5°C, dropping to 1°C at night. The winter weather is prone to early morning frost, washed away midday by sleet and rain.
Spring comes to Brussels quite noticeably, with a sudden increased shift in sunlight and high daytime temperatures of 15°C. Summer temperatures can be anywhere between 22°C and 25°C, with intermittent showers. The annual precipitation in Brussels is 798 millimeters.
Brussels Exhibition Centre
Brussels Expo is Belgium's largest exhibition center, offering over 115,000 square meters of flexible exhibit space. Every year, about 60 exhibitions and 90 events are held in one of its several meeting rooms and auditoriums. In addition to large global conferences and small private functions, Brussels Expo is a popular venue for music concerts and performances.
The Brussels Expo building itself is an impressive result of the 1935 World Exposition. Since then, it has undergone many renovations and expansions, and today it encompasses 12 exhibition halls, two auditoriums and several meeting rooms. The impressive exhibit halls range in size from 4,330 square meters to 13,040 square meters, while the additional Patio area offers 2,370 square meters of space. Meeting rooms and auditoriums can accommodate anywhere from 50 to 2,000 guests.
The professional, multi-lingual events team at Brussels Expo will ensure that every detail is successfully handled. The team can assist in venue selection and sourcing of all the necessary amenities, such as translator cabins, wireless Internet access, laptops and the latest audio-visual technology and the latest audio-visual technology. Catering, from light snacks to five-course meals, can also be arranged.
Located downtown, Brussels Expo is easily reached by metro, taxi, car and bus. A secure on-site car park offers 12,000 parking spaces within easy walking distance to the various halls.
Located minutes from Brussels Airport, the Diamant Brussels Conference & Business Centre caters to an international group of business travelers every day. Its ease of use, extensive facilities and convenient location make it a first choice when holding a meeting or event in Brussels.
Diamant Brussels Conference & Business Centre is comprised of two function areas: a commercial office space and a fully-equipped conference section. The Conference Centre features 25 meeting rooms and versatile room set-up options; overall, it can host functions and events of up to 350 people. In addition to a stylish yet practical dcor, each meeting room is equipped with wireless Internet access, audio-visual presentation equipment and clerical support. For events of all kinds, the in-house catering team can supply a range of menu options. Diamant Brussels also features private dining rooms for receptions and lunches and two in-house restaurants.
Connected via enclosed walkway to the Brussels Airport, Diamant Brussels is just a short drive from downtown and offers underground parking. Parking rates are 2.40 per hour, but special rates can be arranged during meetings.
The International Auditorium
Located in the heart of Brussels, the International Auditorium boasts a 200-seat auditorium, five meeting rooms and a spacious lobby and restaurant. Perfect for presentations, the auditorium itself features 44 built-in translation booths and an LCD projector. Meanwhile, the facility's meeting rooms range in capacity from 10 to 72 guests, with the largest offering six built-in translation booths, a ceiling-mounted projector, microphones and wireless Internet access. The lobby can accommodate up to 250 people.
The International Auditorium is within walking distance of both the Place Rogier metro station and Gare du Noord railway station. Parking is available in the Manhattan and Rogier car parks. Other services at the venue include taping of conferences in certain rooms, catering, technical assistance and hotel reservations.
Brussels Airport (BRU)
Approximate taxi fare: 38 EUR
Located about 25 minutes from the city center in the region of Zaventem, Brussels Airport was named Best Airport in Europe by Airports Council International/International Air Transport Association in 2005. The 109-gate airport is the main source for flights in Belgium, seeing over 18 million passengers and over 200,000 passenger flights in 2008. The airport serves a number of international flights, with top destinations including New York City, Tel Aviv, Washington, DC, and Mumbai.
Brussels Airport is home to 260 companies, most of which are commercial businesses. Gift shops, newsstands, cafes and restaurants are available on both sides of the barrier, so at any point passengers can pick up a last-minute souvenir or snack. The airport boasts an on-site hotel, the Sheraton Brussels Airport, and several meeting and reception rooms for groups as large as 600 people.
Brussels Airport is extremely accessible by any means of transportation. In fact, even cyclists are welcome thanks to the airport's designated cycle lane and bike-parking zone. Also on-site are a bus station, train station, and over 10,000 parking spaces, which can be reserved in advance.
Airline carriers serving Brussels Airport
Brussels South Charleroi Airport (CRL)
Approximate taxi fare: 97 EUR
Though over an hour away from the city center, Brussels South Charleroi Airport remains the 2nd most popular airport serving Brussels. In 2008, almost three million passengers passed through Brussels South Charleroi with an expected four million passengers in 2009. The airport sees about 42 flights per day serving over 60 routes, with new destinations being launched regularly.
Between check-in and boarding, passengers can take advantage of the airport's many conveniences, including a newsstand, duty free shop, and several bars and restaurants. Other passenger amenities include wireless Internet access everywhere in the terminal, an on-site pharmacy and an ATM.
Guests find several parking options at Brussels South Charleroi, including low-cost parking. Local bus service also runs between the terminal and the railway station at Charleroi, which offers routes to Brussels. The airport has shuttle buses that run daily every 30 minutes from the airport to the main Brussels railway station. The one-hour journey to Brussels is €13.
Airline carriers serving Brussels South Charleroi Airport
Five main train stations serve the Brussels Capital Region, all of which are interlinked: Central Station, South Station, North Station, Luxembourg Station, and Schuman Station.
The Societe des Transports Intercommunaux de Bruxelles (STIB) operates the public transport network in Belgium, which includes the 19 districts of Brussels as well as 11 outlying suburban areas. Roughly 300 million passengers take advantage of the STIB every year, making it an essential and cost-effective option for visitors and locals alike.
Single fare on the STIB network is €1.60 with a MoBIB pass, a reusable card that stores ticket values on an electronic chip. Regular single fare is €1.70 when purchased outside the vehicle or €2 when purchased inside the vehicle. Tickets can also be purchased in five- or 10-journey packs, or as one-day or three-day passes. All tickets can be purchased at a number of outlets, including tourist information offices, retail outlets, station kiosks and online.
Operating across among 68 stations and about 41 kilometers of track, the Brussels Metro is the quickest and most efficient form of public transport in the city. The system consists of four conventional lines and two premetro lines, or underground tramway stations. Line 1 runs from Gare de L'Ouest to Stockel; Line 2 forms a loop starting and ending in Simonis; Line 3 runs from Churchill Square to Gare du Nord; Line 4 runs from Stalle to Esplanade; Line 5 runs from Erasme to Herrmann-Debroux; and Line 6 runs from Roi Baudouin to Simonis.
Brussels buses run on 50 lines. In addition to regular bus service, STIB runs Noctis, a network of 17 bus lines that run across the Brussels region Friday and Saturday from 1:15 to 3 AM.
When boarding a Brussels bus, visitors should keep in mind a few considerations. First, destinations for each bus are indicated on the front and sometimes on a digital display on the side of the vehicle. Additionally, guests should board buses at the front but always depart from the rear or side doors out of courtesy to other people onboard and to ease possible passenger congestion.
Brussels trams operate over 17 main routes. The fleet consists of six different tram series, with the two most recent offering the utmost of comfort, including leather seats, larger seating capacity, quieter vehicles and more.
Guests traveling to or from Brussels Airport can avoid the traffic with STIB's Airport Line. This express connection takes passengers between Brussels Airport and the European district in about 30 minutes.
The Airport Line is operated on Line 12 from Monday through Friday until 8 PM. It is operated on Line 21 Monday through Friday after 8 PM and Saturday and Sunday. Fare is €3 when purchased outside the vehicle and €4 when purchased inside the vehicle.
Rental car desks for Hertz, Avis, Europcar and Sixt can be found in the arrivals hall at Brussels Airport. Avis, Europcar, Hertz, Sixt and Budget rental car agencies serve Brussels South Charleroi Airport.
Taxis are can easily be found around the Brussels city center and at bus and train stations. They are considered an expense in Brussels, as the public transport service provides an efficient and affordable alternative. License plates and illuminated signs on their roof can identify taxis. The flag-down rate and charge for the first two kilometers is a maximum of €5; each additional kilometer costs around €2. Guests can choose to pay the charge based on the distanced traveled or agree on a price beforehand.
Taxis can be found at Brussels Airport in front of the arrivals hall. Taxi fare to downtown is about €35.
Taxis are found outside the passenger terminal at Brussels South Charleroi Airport. Average fare is about €85 to €90.
Photo Credit : Brussels International / M. Van Hulst
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