Don’t fool yourselves: Brussels is a grey city for different reasons. First of all, yes, the weather: it does rain most of the time, or at least it’s cloudier than you can possibly imagine. More so, it is humid, which is never a good thing, whether it’s cold or hot, humid weather is just the worst. But remember, this is coming from an Italian who is a bit spoilt from that perspective. Brussels is also grey because of its architecture. The most colour you see is brick red and there are very few parks. Just consider that people from Brussels call ‘Parc Royal’ ‘a bunch of benches on a traffic island in front of the Cathedral’*.
That said, Brussels is a very exciting city. Of course it is the heart of all (or almost all) the European institutions – give happy hour (Apéro) a try in Place du Luxembourg (Place Lux if you’re a regular) to get an idea of the hustle and bustle around EU institutions. The city is a very multi-ethnic and multicultural environment with all pros and cons that go with that. All the different communities seem to share a tendency to meet with their fellow countrymen to recreate the atmosphere and costumes of their homeland. Have a walk in the Matonge area, between rue du Trône and avenue Louise, or in rue de Brabant, near Gare de Bruxelles-Nord, to feel like you’re in some exotic country.
More importantly, at least for me and I’m sure I’m not the only one, Brussels is a very dynamic city culturally speaking. Every day there are so many things going on that the only risk is to find yourself so busy you wish you had 48 hours in a day to fit everything in. Ah, yes, here’s another teeny-tiny little problem: life in Brussels takes place during the earlier hours of the day so, for example, shows and concerts start between 7 and 8pm, shops close at 6:30, dinner is around 7 as well, and the metro runs til midnight at the latest. Get used to it!
This does not mean you can’t party in Brussels, but I wouldn’t say that’s the main reason to visit. If partying is your goal then go to Ibiza or Amsterdam, but don’t go to Brussels. Do come to Brussels if you love the arts, be it music, theatre, comics, dance, photography or cinema.
The arrival of spring time in Brussels has made me reconsider, at least in part, what I previously wrote about Brussels parks. They’re still not my favourite type of parks: too many hard dirt paths and small green fields. But I have to admit that now that green leaves have grown on the trees and the gardeners planted some colourful flowers such as tulips, everything looks a lot less grey. Even parks I found pretty ugly, like the Cinquantenaire, are now more appealing.