Of all Europe's capitals, Brussels is perhaps one of the more workaday. Sure, there is the beautiful Grand Place at its heart and the imposing, neoclassical Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts nearby, yet, by and large, it's a place as memorable for its concrete, modern, functional buidlings as for anything more whimsical. In this there is something of an irony, because both design and whimsy are very much part of Belgium's cultural heritage; how else can you explain surrealism, the ongoing popularity of the Gilles of Binche, Mannekin Pis, or, for that matter, the world-beating wonder that is Belgium's burgeoning comic-book industry? There is,of course, an impressive Art Nouveau & Art Deco glory to the capital's Ixelles district, but, again, this is an island of loveliness, in a more austere, grey (and, frequently, closed-early-for-the-evening) capital city. This may sound somewhat harsh- I personally like Brussels- it has a no-nonsense business functionality to it; it has a certain sombre elegance and I like its people. I like all of those things, but ...well...let's just note that Brussels is never going to compete on elegance with-say-Budapest, Prague, London or even its tiny neighbour (the unexpectedly dramatic) Luxembourg City to the South East. So, yes, it may be harsh to say the city is not unduly blessed with looks, but it is also true. Frankly, if this were not so, there is no way The Atomium would be the major tourist destination it is. That said, there is always beauty and visual inspiration in any large city for those who know where to look.
Above: Dark grey painted metal and heavy rivets give "Gare Midi" station (also known
as "Brussels Zuid") a distinctive Steampunk-ish aesthetic.
Below: Even the latest chocolate designs on sale fit in with the theme. (Chocolate "tools" on sale in the central concourse of "Bruxelles Midi"/ Brussel Zuid station.
Below: Assorted chocolate "tools", heavy industrial components and steampunkery.