Belgium is often referred to as the meeting place of Europe, and Brussels is one of the most prosperous (per capita) economies in Western Europe. As the headquarters of many EU institutions, as well as NATO, it's not surprising business is big in Brussels. It's a multilingual city but language is a sensitive subject. French speakers do not like to be addressed in Dutch or vice versa. Belgian business culture, along with attire, is formal. Meetings are structured and punctuality is valued.
Brussels’ trendy new Pullman hotel (pullmanhotels.com) is conveniently located right by the city’s Midi station at which Eurostar, TGV and Thalys train services arrive from across Europe. Rooms are smartly furnished, there’s free wifi, a fitness room, Vinoteca wine bar and the Victor bar and restaurant serving Franco-Italian dishes. The budget hotel group Motel One has recently opened its first hotel in Brussels (motel-one.com/Brussels), a 490-room property located in the city centre on Rue Royale 120. It has all the usual designer elements of the Motel One brand – Arne Jacobsen ‘egg chairs’ and striking turquoise upholstery – plus local influences such as a bar menu featuring a wide selection of Belgian beers.
The Belgian national dish ‘moules et frites’ can be sampled at most restaurants, but for Michelin-star dining check out Comme Chez Soi (commechezsoi.be) which has a number of private dining rooms. For seafood, head to chef Yves Mattagne’s highly acclaimed Sea Grill restaurant at the Radisson Blu hotel (radissonblu.com/Brussels).
Belgium is a beer-lover’s paradise, so consider a visit to traditional bars such as A l'Imaige Nostre- Dame for a particularly lively night out, Moeder Lambic Fontainas for one of the country’s widest selection of beers, or Au Bon Vieux Temps (‘the good old days’) with its wooden beams and stained glass windows.
Activities with a group
The best way to discover Brussels with a group is to plunge into activities that celebrate the local specialties and traditions. Sterkmans Events offers a wide range of incentive programmess for groups: team-building activities, city games, guided walks about history and gastronomy of Brussels – incorporating chocolate, waffle and beers-tasting – as well as many other exclusive programmes such as crossbow shooting with an ancient guild, an introduction to the EU district, and other special activities.
Eurostar links London St. Pancras and Brussels in just under two hours with up to ten departures a day. British Airways and Brussels Airlines fly from London Heathrow to Brussels, and easyJet flies there from Gatwick. Brussels Airlines also operates services from Manchester and Edinburgh, and Bmi Regional flies from East Midlands and Newcastle to Brussels. Ryanair flies to Brussels Charleroi Airport (some 30 miles south of Brussels) from Manchester, Edinburgh and Dublin.
Brussels Airport is located in Zaventem, 12km from the city. The airport train station has four trains an hour to Brussels North, Central and Midi, taking around 15 minutes to the city centre. Metered taxis carrying a blue and yellow emblem are found in front of the arrivals hall. The fare to the city centre is around 45 euros. Eurostar services arrive at Brussels Midi station, close to the city centre.
Brussels is one hour ahead of the UK and has a similarly changeable weather pattern. Just a twohour train journey with Eurostar from London and well connected to the rest of Europe, it's no less hassle than a trip to Manchester. For more information see: visitbrussels.be
Visitors will find a city full of contrasts, from the Michelin-star restaurants to the smoky beer halls and the elaborate baroque facade of the Grand Place to the business-like buildings that house the EU offices and headquarters of multinationals. The striking Atomium is the city's most popular attraction.
“The first meeting is mainly for building a working relationship. Small talk is used to establish trust, but don’t over-emphasise your achievements, as self-importance is generally disliked”
UK Trade & Investment