1. L'Archiduc is one of Europe's great bars
Original 1930s interior, live jazz, three-dozen whiskeys on the menu, Belgium's best pisco-sours. Need we say more?
2. Just a tram ride away to the leafy, boho neighborhood of Boitsfort
Explore parks, lakes, forests, rows of flower-covered cottages built for the poor as social housing 1920s. The Sunday morning market has locals quaffing Riesling with oysters after stocking up on organic goat cheese, farmers' bread or spit-roast chicken. The area is peppered with good restaurants — most atmospheric is the shabby-chic Miladou.
3. It's hosted top runners in the Memorial Van Damme
Usain Bolt tearing down the 100 track, East African Olympians driven on to world records by the throbbing beat of massed Burundian drummers, the roar of 50,000 fans, post-meet entertainment that's included Sean Paul, Gloria Gaynor or local punk legend Plastic Bertrand. This is Europe's greatest track annual athletics event.
4. Nobody's quite a foreigner
(Christopher Jensen/Flickr Commons)
Nobody is a foreigner here because everybody is a foreigner, said writer Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt who swapped Paris for the Brussels. Migrants from around the world make up over a third of inhabitants. You can breakfast on croissants and cafe-au-lait in Uccle's "little Paris," browse for bargains in Molenbeek's Moroccan souks and party to Congolese rumba in Matonge.
5. The Van Buuren Museum houses masterpieces by Van Gogh (and many others)
(Archeo-Net Vlaanderen/Flickr Commons)
Works from Bruegel, Ensor and others are compiled in a collection by a Dutch banker and tucked away in an amazing Art Deco townhouse.
6. A place of pilgrimage for praline addicts
(Matt @ PEK/Flickr Commons)
Ok, we all know Belgium does great chocolate. But for praline treats, visit Pierre Marcolini's shop. One particular treat has fresh thyme and orange zest trapped in a dark and bitter cube of temptation.
7. Summer evenings in the quartier Chatelain
(William Murphy/Flickr Commons)
Brussels is notorious for drizzle, but on those rare balmy evenings the pavement cafes and restaurant terraces of this cool art nouveau neighborhood are THE place to while away the hours.
8. Beer, duh
(Giulio Bernardi/Flickr Commons)
This is Belgium. Beer is a religious experience. In fact some of the country's 200 breweries are run by monks. In St. Gilles the Moeder Lambic bar is hallowed ground for ale lovers, while the downtown Delirium Cafe offers 2,400 varieties. The Beermania store has 400 Belgian brews to go.
9. It goes "medieval" twice a year
(Natali Antonovich/Flickr Commons)
For two nights every July, Brussels goes back in time when 1,500 performers resplendent in 16th Century garb re-enact the entry of Emperor Charles V into the city. Sound dull? Actually, Ommegang is a dramatic spectacle of dragon-fighting, flag juggling and stilt jousting set against the magnificent backdrop of the Grand Place.
10. Cook and "book" at the same time
(Courtesy Cook and Book)
Want to grab Kaoru Mori's latest manga, the new French literary sensation or a plate of meatballs and fries washed down with sour cherry-infused beer? This sprawling combination of bookshop and restaurant is the place.
11. The plethora of internal organ dining options
(Renee Suen/Flickr Commons)
Many of the city's old tripe shops have closed and it's hard to find a restaurant serving the testicle-based favorite choesels, but restaurants like Viva M'boma and Restobieres still serve up tongue, brain, udder and other animal unmentionables. Do-it-yourself offal-lovers can buy raw at the Anderlecht slaughterhouse market.
12. Place Flagey, the plaza where it's all happening
Bach or bossa nova in a concert hall built like an ocean liner. The uber-cool Cafe Belga. Alternative cinema. A multi-ethnic Saturday morning market. And some of Brussels' best fries.
13. Odd statues
The little peeing boy, Manneken Pis is well known, his female and canine counterparts less so. There are also statue of a giant monkey in a space suit, a cat on a bike and poignant memorials to clowns and pigeons who gave their lives in World War I.
14. The French language's greatest songwriter, Jacques Brel, is from here
(Anne and Tim/Flickr Commons)
While sadly no longer alive and well, drink a glass of gueuze in Brel's memory at his old table in the A la Mort Subite.
15. Avenue Franklin Roosevelt
(Europa Nostra/Flickr Commons)
This mile-and-a-half embassy row is packed with great architecture. The weird and wonderful Maison Delune was where jazz was first played in Belgium. The majestic Villa Empain is now a museum of East-West cultural exchange.
16. Its approximately 10,000 rose-ringed parakeets
(Frank Vassen/Flickr Commons)
These budgies make a noisy and colorful addition to Brussels' birdlife, descendants of a few dozen released from an amusement park in the 1970s. NATO headquarters is a favorite haunt.
17. Frites (don't say French fries!)
(Brendan Gates/Flickr Commons)
Belgium claims to be birthplace of the deep-fried potato. Best eaten in the street with mayonnaise or spicy samurai sauce. Or to accompany moules — the real mussels from Brussels.
18. Rue des Chartreux, the coolest street in Brussels
(Ingvar Sverrisson/Flickr Commons)
Great bars, kooky design stores, vintage boutiques, and strange art.
19. Red Devils
(Dave Luetger/Flickr Commons)
Suddenly Belgium's soccer team is the most exciting in Europe. With stars like Eden Hazard, Vince "the Prince" Kompany and Manchester United's new signing Marouane Fellaini, the Red Devils are on course to set next year's World Cup alight.
20. Foret de Soignes provides a temporary escape
(Frans de Wit/Flickr Commons)
Cycle, walk or skip through this 10,000-acre swathe of greenery curled around the city's southeastern fringe.
21. There are UNESCO World Heritage sites like the Stoclet House
(Diego Terna/Flickr Commons)
A gleaming masterpiece of Vienna Jugendstil built in Brussels. Designed by Josef Hoffmann decorated by Gustav Klimt. It's a national shame that a family squabble keeps the UNESCO World Heritage site off limits to the public.
22. And restaurants like the La Canne en Ville
(Osamu Furusawa/Flickr Commons)
From the escalope de foie gras to the creme brulee. All you can ask for from a neighborhood restaurant.
23. Tintin started here
The heart of working class Brussels. Bruegel lived here and Tintin fans will find the bustling daily flea market familiar. Join the weekend flow from antique store to venerable pubs overflowing onto the sidewalks.
24. Maison Dandoy's biscuits
(Taiwai Yun/Flickr Commons)
Making the world's greatest cookies since 1829.
25. It houses one of Europe's most bizarre buildings
(Niels Mickers/Flickr Commons)
Eat your heart out Eiffel Tower, the Atomium is Europe's oddest giant metallic construction with no real purpose other than just being there. Offering a panoramic view of the city, CNN called it one of Europe's most bizarre buildings.
26. It has malls that look like palaces
(Antonio Ponte/Flickr Commons)
The Galeries Saint-Hubert is the world's oldest shopping mall. Is any built since more beautiful?
27. Art Nouveau-style buildings
(Mark Hogan/Flickr Commons)
Four of Victor Horta's houses are World Heritage sites, but there are dozens of other art nouveau gems sprinkled around Brussels despite the demolition spree that disfigured the city in the 1960s and '70s.
28. In-your-face contemporary art
(Lux & Jourik/Flickr Commons)
Hidden in a gritty inner city neighborhood is the Vanhaerents Art Collection, a treasure trove of outrageous and disturbing contemporary art.