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My Brussels: Europe's melting pot

Thanks to the European Parliament, the city is a melting pot of culture and cuisine

Published: Jan 14, 2015 06:07:13 AM IST
Updated: Jan 9, 2015 01:38:02 PM IST
My Brussels: Europe's melting pot
Image: Getty Images

In recent years, the Indian IT industry has developed close relations with the European Union. My visits to Brussels have been mainly for business to connect with industry partners and showcase our position to decision makers.

You will inevitably notice the scenic beauty of the place as soon as you arrive: You notice the perfect mixture of modern infrastructure with classical architecture.

Getting around
The best way to experience the city is by walking. This lets you avoid heavy traffic in the business district. In the EU district, I often take walks between meetings to take in the sights and sounds.

I stay at Le Méridien, close to the Gare Centrale train station. I like the warmth it offers, along with beautiful views of the city; it is well connected to the EU district, with a direct metro line to Schuman station; it is also close to the historic Grand Place. I would also recommend Sofitel at Place Jourdan. It is a very short walk from the European Parliament, and offers excellent food—sourced from the market located on the square right outside.

Brussels is known as one of the best places to eat in Europe, bringing together many different types of cuisines. A favourite is La Maison du Cygne, at the corner of Grand Place in the city centre. As a vegetarian, I find the international salads and soups a good option.

After hours
Aside from beer, Belgium’s other famous export is chocolates. In fact, Brussels Airport sells more chocolate annually than any other place in the world. I would recommend a visit to chocolatier Pierre Marcolini in the Sablon area of the city.

If you are on a slightly longer trip, you could take a short train ride to Bruges and visit its historic canals. The Flanders region (and particularly the area around Ypres) is also close enough for a day trip; here you can visit monuments from World War I.

Traffic is heavy, and if you have to cover a long distance, I would recommend a mix of public transport. Speak to locals and visit places that are off the beaten track.

I will always remember the amazing number of languages I hear on the street. Brussels is officially bilingual with Flemish and French being the main languages. But everybody also speaks English, combined with the 24 different EU languages I hear when I visit the European Parliament.

R Chandrashekhar, President, Nasscom

(Co-ordinated by Jasodhara Banerjee)

(This story appears in the 23 January, 2015 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)