A weekend in…


- Arne Adri­aenssens Au­thor Antwerp · Ghent · Bruges

Grow­ing up in a vil­lage in the far north of Flan­ders, I hardly ever vis­ited Brus­sels as a child. Like most Flem­ish peo­ple, we did our shop­ping, din­ing and strolling in Flem­ish ci­ties like An­twerp, Ghent and Bruges, so there was never any real rea­son for me to head to the cap­i­tal. It was only when I was 21 years old and de­cided to study cin­ema that I had no choice but to rent a room in the scary, big metropole.

On my very first day at col­lege, the head­mistress said: “Brus­sels is not a city that will try its best to be loved. You have to learn to love it your­self.” I don’t think I fully un­der­stood what those words meant back then, but hav­ing lived in the city for two years – both in the stun­ning Rue de Flan­dre (see page 38) and in the run-down red-light dis­trict – I now feel there is no bet­ter way to de­scribe the city.

Be­hind the cor­ners of the charm­ing, cob­bled al­leys and the im­pres­sive, neo-Gothic palaces awaits a pure and in­ter­est­ing city that can be a bit rough around the edges, but that never fails to amaze. It is a city of bizarre con­tra­dic­tions, of un­con­ven­tional beauty and mul­ti­cul­tural unity. Its long and rich history has shaped the city, for bet­ter and for worse. But now that I’m a Brux­el­lois my­self, I prob­a­bly love the spots that seem un­sightly at first, most of all.

And that is why A week­end in Brus­sels is such an im­por­tant book to me. It first rushes you past the ob­vi­ous hotspots and then helps you to es­cape the herd of photo-crav­ing tourists. In a lit­tle over 70 pages, I share with you two years’ worth of lo­cal finds. The book takes you to dis­tant metro stops, far be­yond the hop-on-hop-off bus ter­ri­tory, and brings you eye to eye with the lo­cals. Be­cause the real beauty of Brus­sels has lit­tle to do with golden façades, pee­ing boys or iron spheres.

Bon voy­age!

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