Great things come in small packages when studying abroad in Brussels. Size doesn’t matter when visiting this impressive city. Enjoy a rich mixture of French and Dutch culture in one of Europe’s most important key players in global politics and business. It is often referred to as the Capital of Europe because of how many events it hosts such as NATO, the European Council, and the European Commission gatherings. The world meets among the quaint streets and 17th century buildings. So dive into the waffles, beer, and chocolate that make Brussels a wonderful choice for an international education program.
Geography & Demographics
Brussels has a population of over 1 million and is the largest city in Belgium. It is located in north-central Belgium which is bordered by The Netherlands, Germany, and France. The United Kingdom sits across the English Channel. The prime location and excellent transportation system allows for quick and easy day trips to Paris, London, Amsterdam, and Cologne. The temperate climate offers a mild weather year round with gentler winters and cool summers.
Food & Culture
As a birthplace to waffles and haven for chocolates, the entire city is a tour of culinary genius. Chocolate shops, some with sculptures over two feet tall, line the streets. The variety is truly endless and patrons can be found doing everything from nibbling a piece with coffee or even snorting it!
What is commonly known as a Belgium waffle in the United States is most similar to the Brussels waffle. The golden delight is still fluffy on the inside but more crispy on the outside. Another variety, the Liege waffle is actually more popular and is more dense and sweet. Enjoy breakfast all day long or treat them more like a dessert by adding whipped cream and fruit. Popular main dishes include the world renowned steamed mussels with fries and a side of freshly roasted chestnuts or tartine de plattekeis, a snack of sliced white cheese.
Brussels is located along what is known as the language frontier of Belgium. Three languages are spoken prevalently throughout the city so it is a great place to learn another language or maybe even two! Pick between Dutch or French all while knowing English is easily accessible. Dutch is more prevalent in the northern area of the country and French dominates the south and capital city.
Both the feel of the city and the people who live there are bright and inviting. Since Brussels is a cultural and political hub there is always something going on including lively nightlife and lots of live music.
Things to Do
The heart of Brussels is known as the Grand Place and grand it is. The area is filled with the city’s most impressive architecture including the town hall and buildings trimmed in gold. The multitude of medieval and Renaissance structures is one of the most impressive in all of Europe.
Some other well known architectural landmarks are the stained glass windows of the Cathedral of Saint Michael and Saint Gudule. The impressive cathedral took over 300 years to build. The detailing extends from the statues surrounding the entrance to the intricate pulpit. It is the oldest gothic style cathedral within the Benelux, a union of states comprised of Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxembourg.
There is also a great selection of museums and festivals that focus on everything from art to the military and waffles to music. The Royal Museums of Fine Art is actually four different museums that offer over 20,000 paintings, sculptures, and drawings. The Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and of Military History is built on the original training grounds of the Civil Guard and strives to provide an all encompassing view of the military and its place in society and history. So whether students want to spend a day learning about the development of the military or the evolution of the waffle, there is a museum for everyone.
The city also provides outdoor activities in sprawling parks and beautiful botanical gardens. Festivals are frequent and take place year round so if the upcoming one doesn’t interest you, have no fear, another will soon follow. Iris Day pays homage to the lovely flower which is used as the emblem of Belgium and the Belgian Beer Weekend is filled with thousands of brews from around the world. Others include the Brussels Film Festival, and the weekly Roller and Bike Parade. Expect to find plenty of concerts and food at all of them.
Studying in Brussels
The city has a longstanding and well established educational system offering students a wide variety of study abroad programs. As home to NATO and the headquarters of the European Union, it is a prime location for studying politics or international business. Both student housing and host situations are commonplace.
The BCA program offers students a smaller campus at Vesalius College, an American style institution which is partnered with Vrije University, one of Belgium’s most prominent universities. Choose from Art History, Business, Communications, European Studies, and Political Science. The program is very inclusive providing students with everything from meals to language training and orientations. The study abroad program is offered year round so students can spend a full year or just a summer abroad.