The Best of Autumn in Brussels

Autumn is busy in Brussels, with school and work beginning after the lazy summer holidays. New expats and students descend on the city, and the streets have a renewed bustle. Festivals and events mark the ramp-up to Christmas (think beer, wine, and food), and a walk in Parc Royale or Tervuren is a great way to see the changing leaves.

Keizerinnendreef, Keizerinnedreef, 3080 Tervuren, Belgium
Head outside the city centre, to the commune of Tervuren, for one of the most beautiful parks near Brussels. Just behind the Royal Museum for Central Africa (pictured here) is a large garden. Joggers and walkers frequent the network of paths through the forest and lakes are populated with fishermen on weekends. The park is home to Flanders largest Giant Redwood tree and there is a good deal of wildlife inhabiting the lake and trees. It is particularly lovely in autumn, as the leaves are changing colour, and in early spring, as the sunshine filters through the newly sprouted leaves.
Place de Belgique 1, 1020 Bruxelles, Belgium
Every October, wine-lovers in Brussels rejoice because they know the MegaVino expo is coming. For one full weekend, the Brussels expo centre plays host to over 300 exhibitors presenting wines from around the world. Exhibitors are organised by region and at the 2012 edition, wines from 32 different countries were available to taste and purchase. For the cost of your 10-euro admission, you receive a tasting glass and a catalogue of available wines (so you can be sure to track your favourites). It’s the perfect environment to discover new wine regions and new domains from your old favourite regions. And, being Belgium, of course there is great food available, so you can enjoy a meal between tastings.
Brussels, Belgium
This is a weekend dedicated to Belgian beers. Small and big breweries present their beer on the Grand-Place. The entrance is free, the tastings have to be paid. And if you are not a beer fan, go for the amazing, fresh oysters sold by different vendors. My favorite place for oysters is at the restaurant Le Roy d’Espagne, in the corner, to the right of the Town Hall.
Avenue de Marathon 135, 1020 Bruxelles, Belgium
One of my favorite places in Brussels, mainly becuase I love soccer, is the King Baudouin Stadium. Although I have taken in several Belgian national team soccer games here (not to mention a Mexico vs. Italy game), the stadium is also used for rugby and also athletics. The stadium was formerly named the Heysel but was renamed back in 1985 after it was refurbished mainly due to a tragic incident where several Italian soccer fans died. The stadium lies int he shadow of the Atomium in the northern part of the city.
Sentier de l'Embarcadère 1, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
There are dozens of foodie festivals in Belgium throughout the year, but my favourite, by far, is the EAT! Brussels restaurant festival, in early autumn. Located in the vast Bois de la Cambre Park, you can sample your way around the Brussels restaurant scene, in one easy location. 25 Brussels restaurants have booths at the festival, where they offer a few small dishes (normally 3-5) in exchange for tokens. Each token = 1€ and can be bought individually or in packages, on-site or in advance on-line. Buying a package will give you a reduced rate and includes extra goodies like tickets for champagne, coffee, and ice cream. In addition to the restaurants, there are several bars, sponsor tents, and eight world regions, also offering food and drink tastings and sometimes products for sale. It’s the best way to discover new restaurants in the city, or sample some of the top offerings without a huge financial commitment. (Michelin-starred La Truffe Noir was on-site this year.) For More Information:
Grote Markt 34, 8900 Ieper, Belgium
Once the general summer tourist season finishes, a different and more sombre sort of tourism begins in Belgium. Autumn is a time of remembrance and there is no more poignant place to remember the Great War than the Flemish city of Ypres. Ypres (or Ieper, in Dutch) is home to the Menin Gate. The enormous marble walls of this monument contain the names of 54,896 Commonwealth soldiers who have no known grave. Every evening at 8pm, buglers close the road leading to the gate and perform the Last Post. Each year, on Remembrance Day (November 11), thousands of poppy petals are dropped through the ceiling of the Menin Gate and flutter to the ground below. Also well worth visiting is the In Flanders Fields Museum, which tells the story of the soldiers and local residents who lived during the war, through interactive displays. Mixed in with the photographs, the history, the artefacts, and displays, there are quotes from soldiers, wives and parents, politicians, and writers. Several short films also illustrate the impact of the war on the area, the people, and the soldiers. Ypres is an easy day-trip from Brussels, by car or train, and is an un-missable destination, particularly during the autumn, Remembrance Day season. For More Information:
Rue de la Loi 3, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium
Brussels’ parks are all beautiful in the autumn (when it’s not raining, that is), but I have a particular affinity for Park Royale or Brussels Park (also called Parc de Bruxelles in French and Warandepark in Dutch). Nothing signals autumn in Brussels like crunching through the leaves and kicking fallen chestnuts in Brussels Park. This small park sits between the Royal Palace and the Belgian Parliament buildings and is a favourite of office workers at lunchtime. Joggers circle the park’s perimeter and dog-walkers stroll the shady pathways. The park was built in the late 1700s, where the gardens of the former Palace of Coudenberg once stood. Dotted around the park are various statues and fountains and a beautiful cast iron bandstand. Park Royale is also home to concerts and art installations throughout the year.
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