Destination Inspiration:  Brussels, Belgium

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Brussels, the capital of Europe is known for its beers and waffles, but there is so much more.  It is underrated compared to its neighbors Paris, Amsterdam and London.  However, when you look deep into the city, with its art nouveau architecture, beautiful off the beaten path gardens, and cafes it’s definitely a must-see city.  Here are some of not-to-miss spots, from the touristy to the local favorites. (above photo by @saracrata)

1. Parc du Cinquantenaire: A favorite summer spot in Brussels with its iconic arch, blooming flowers in the summer, and locals playing soccer or trying their hand at tight roping.  The arch brings together the Belgian Military Academy, the Autoworld Museum, and the Military Museum.
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2. Hôtel de Ville: Nestled in the Grand Place, the City Hall of Brussels is a fully functioning government building.  You can catch tourists posing in front of the building as you can witness a wedding.  You can enter the City Hall for the best views of the Brussels Flower Carpet which takes place every other year. Next one will take place in August of 2016.
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3. Mont des Arts: You can take in fabulous views of the city at Mont des Arts.  The area has been revitalized in the last few years and has become a favorite of tourists and locals alike.
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4. Musical Instruments Museum: The exterior Art Nouveau façade is a favorite of architecture lovers.  The beauty is on the inside as well.  Insider’s tip: head to NIM on a clear day for brunch.  The view from its rooftop is epic!
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5. Atomium: The Atomium was originally built for the 1958 World Fair but decades later, it’s still a key landmark of the city.  You can tour the multiple “atoms” of the structure, which has rotating exhibitions, many focusing on environmentalism.  Tip: head to the top atom for a beautiful view of the city.
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6. Place du Châtelain: This square is lined with hip bars, international cuisine, and contemporary shops.  Every Wednesday afternoon the square comes to life with its afternoon market.  Rows of veggies, warm waffles, and international food stands makes it a popular meeting spot for locals. The stands close around 7pm but people stay for a glass (or two) of rose on a hot summer night.
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7. Belga Queen: A culinary establishment in Brussels, Belga Queen is a former post office and bank turned into fine restaurant.  From Belgian classics like cuisse de canard to towers of seafood, it’s the perfect balance of delicious food and a gorgeous setting.  Tip: head there for the business lunch, where you can try two courses for under 20 Euro.
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8. Bois de la Cambre: The largest urban park in the city is an oasis of nature in the busy city.  You can spot people horseback riding, running, or simply sunbathing on a hot summer day.  Locals set up picnics flowing with wine and Belgian beer.  Tip: you can take a small boat to Chalet Robinson and sit on their terrace on a lake in the middle of the park.
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9. Belgian Beers: On a sunny day in Brussels, terraces and patios come alive in the city.  The common denominator: glasses of Belgian beers.  Each brand has a specific class used for their beers and most brasseries and cafes adhere to the tradition.
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10. Frites and Gaufres: Brussels favorite street food are warm waffles and fries.  Although tourist traps offer waffles smothered in chocolate sauce and whipped cream, locals love them plain, warm, and eaten on the go.  For frites, head to Maison Antoine at Place Jourdan.  Don’t be discouraged by the long lines, the taste of the fries dipped in their many sauces is worth it!
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11. Chocolate: The best souvenir to bring from Brussels are chocolates.  Some of the best chocolates in the world are prepared in Belgium.  You can find a selection for every budget from the delicious Cote d’Or at supermarkets to the fine chocolates of master chocolatier Pierre Marcolini.
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This blog was written by guest blogger Jessica van Dop DeJesus. She is a travel and food blogger based in Washington, DC.  She lived in Brussels for six years and quickly fell in love with the city.  She loves to experience travel through food and capture her experiences on her blog, The Dining Traveler (www.diningtraveler.com) and on Instagram @diningtraveler.

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