Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Best Gardens in Brussels to Get Married in

Aside from traditional church weddings, garden weddings could also be unique wedding options you might look into. Many couples have chosen to get married in the heart of a stunning garden where flowers and plants are all in bloom instead of marrying in a large church.

If you and your fiancee are “hippies” deep down, a garden wedding just might be perfect for your big day.

Castles and chateaus are scattered all across Belgium; after all, it was once a monarchy. Although most of these castles are no longer used as official residences of royals, they are still used for grand events like parties and weddings.

For your garden wedding, you may opt to use the greenery that surrounds the castles below or you could hold your wedding within the building, as well.

Chateau de Grand-Bigard
Isidoor Van Beverenstraat 5
1702 Groot-Bijgaarden

Chateau de Grand-Bigard can hold up to 60 to 300 guests and would do well for small- and medium-sized weddings. The Chateau may also double as a reception hall and even as a romantic getaway after the wedding. You can get married within the chateau halls or outside, in the sunny and wide garden that surrounds the building.

Chateau de la Fougeraie

Built in the 17th century, Chateau de la Fougeraie has all the features of a stunning castle; however, today, it is no longer home to royals but it has become the location for many grand, elegant, and almost royal-like weddings. The grounds of Chateau de la Fougeraie are as stunning as the chateau itself. When you decide to marry here, you have to choose between the gardens or the chateau.

Chateau de la Haupe
La Hulpe, 1310, BE

Many weddings have occurred here and although it is common to marry in a chateau in Brussels, Chateau de la Haupe is not a popular option due to its location. Still, if you find the surroundings serene, romantic, and perfect for your wedding, you may want to consider this landmark located in La Hulpe.

Château de Rivieren

Château de Rivieren has seen its share of grand parties and anniversaries, but weddings are also common events held here. Unlike other chateaus, Château de Rivieren has actually gained quite a reputation for being every non-traditional couple’s wedding destination. The best part about marrying in Château de Rivieren is that, you can book for wedding with the chateau owners directly.

Monday, April 23, 2012

What to Expect When Staying at a Brussels Apartment for the First Time

First time experiences can be scary and nerve-wrecking but that doesn’t mean you have to make mistakes on your first tries in order to learn a lesson. In fact, when renting an apartment on an overseas for the first time, you should try your best NOT to make mistakes at all. Before finalizing any rental or paying for an apartment, you must understand the risks, responsibilities of a tenant and a landlord, and simply put, know what you’re getting into.

If you are booking a Brussels apartment for the first time, you have to know how much you are willing to spend, know where the best neighborhoods are to stay in, plan your arrival and departure flights, and know the kind of apartment you would want to stay in. There are different kinds of Brussels apartments located in different parts of Brussels and if you stay at the wrong apartment in the wrong side of town, your entire trip may be affected.

The first few things which you must consider before choosing an apartment are your budget, the location, the number of people in your group, the “season”, and the ideal number of bedrooms you want in your apartment.

If you are looking for a high-end apartment, naturally, the rates may be higher; however, rest assured, you will get what you pay for. If you are looking for a basic apartment, you can find these as well but they are often located in the less-favorable parts of Brussels. If you want the best trip and more bang for your buck, it would be best to rent an apartment that comes complete with the amenities to make your stay comfortable.

The best apartments in Brussels are often those located uptown. Uptown, parking is easier, you are closer to the high-end boutiques, stores of Brussels, and closer to the best landmarks, and you are also nearer to commercial districts. The best neighborhood uptown would probably be Avenue Louise and its nearby districts. Downtown, parking with be a challenge and it is often crowded and noisy especially when you are near the city center or Grand Place.

If there are four (4) people in your group, a one-bedroom apartment would already suffice since the living room can be transformed into a bedroom at night. Also, most one-bedroom apartments in Brussels have queen sized beds in the main bedroom and a queen sized sofa bed for the living room. If you want the members of your family to feel comfortable throughout the entire trip, then you may try booking rooms with 2 or more bedrooms.

The dates of your trip may also affect the pricing of the apartment. During high season, or seasons wherein there is an influx of tourists and vacationers in Brussels, the rates of apartments may rise, as well. If you want to save a few Euros on rental, rent during the low season. Low season may be anywhere from the second week of January to the first week of May. Things get busy by the last few weeks of May and on the first week of June.

Finally, once you have already selected an apartment, you may need to secure a few things to confirm your booking with the apartment rentals company. Most companies will require you to purchase insurance for your apartment which covers you from liability and damages, or might require you to send a security deposit and pay 50% of the total rate of the apartment upfront. The second half of the rates may be paid before or on the date of your arrival.

When you are a first-time renter, things can get a bit confusing at first, but feel free to converse with your agent freely. Don’t be nervous and allow them to explain the booking process with you slowly and carefully so you can get the best accommodations while in Brussels.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Beautiful Guild Houses in Brussels

One of Belgium's most beautiful attractions include the guild houses built during the middle ages. These tall buildings show the stunning architecture which Belgians of yore were already capable of creating. The guild houses are found all over Brussels, giving tourists and younger Belgians a peek into the past.

Guild houses were built in Brussels to serve as the headquarters of corporations or groups of merchants, royals and rich men who played a role, some significant and some minor, in the development of Brussels. Whenever the members of these many corporations would meet in Brussels, they would stay in their respective guild houses. Although guild houses back then would accommodate a number of people from time to time, some of them were actually privately owned and could be rented by another member of the corporation, exclusively.

Aside from being used as the residence of some corporations or guilds, these guild houses were also used as a way to promote the guild and showcase their wealth. The very reason why many guild houses look more elegant than the King's House is because a great deal of time, attention, and money were poured into the construction and design of these guild houses.

Today, these guild houses are rented by other businessmen while the rest are now hotels. The guild houses we see in Modern Brussels were actually rebuilt from the late 1690's, right after Brussels came under fire with the French. Some of the features of these guild houses are no longer authentic, except for the statues that would adorn the highest point of the roof to indicate who owned or stayed in a particular guild house.

Although visible naming techniques were not used by the guild house members back in the day, one could tell which house was which by simply looking at the ornaments at the roof of a building. The surviving guild houses today include the following:

The Mountain of Thabor, the Rose, the Golden Tree, the Swan and the Star can be found on the leftmost side of the Town Hall. The Swan is now a restaurant, but before that, it was an inn counting Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels as its customers.

Beside this group of guild houses is another street lined with more, similar buildings. Located on the right side of the Town Hall is where you can find the Fox, which served as the House of the Traders of Brussels and has St. Nicolas on the roof, the Horn which was the House of Sailors and has the rear end of a ship as its roof ornament, followed by the She-Wolfe, the Sack, and the Wheelbarrow.

Another group of guild houses located in this area include the King of Spain which was the House of bakers, the Mule, Saint Barbara, the Samaritan, the Oak, the Peacock, the Helmet which is also known as the King's House, the Merchant of Gold, the Pigeon, the Golden Sloop, the Angel, Joseph and Anna, and finally, the Deer.

Nearby, you will find the largest group of guild houses belonging the the House of the Dukes of Brabant. This group comprises of 7 guild houses owned by one company.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Sights and Sounds Around Place Rogier

Place Rogier is not exactly one of Brussels’ most romantic or most memorable streets; however, there are tourist attractions located here which command thousands, even millions of visitors per month. Place Rogier is a very unusual location to spend your vacations at; however, once you know the treasures located nearby, you too would agree that Place Rogier should be more popular than it is today.

Some of the tourist landmarks found within Place Rogier include Jardin Botanique and Rue Neuve. Jardin Botanique, as you probably know, is one of Brussels’ most popular parks and gardens. Located in a sprawling property near Bouchout Castle, Jardin Botanique or the National Botanic Garden of Belgium is where you can find hundreds, if not, thousands of species of plants and flowers from all over Belgium and the world. This greenhouse, museum, and park in one boasts some of the finest collections of flora and fauna in the world.

If you plan to see the garden for yourself, you may need to join a tour or a group. If you are willing to go on the trip alone, take note that you will have to prepare around 5 Euros for admission and you must schedule your trips between 9:30 AM until 4:30 PM.

Another location which is worth checking out when you get to Brussels is Rue Neuve. It’s unusual to consider an entire street a tourist landmark but Rue Neuve has gained the reputation as one of Brussels’ best shopping districts. Luxurious and bargain items are literally sold side by side on this side of Brussels. You can find luxury shops and stores on one end and thrift shops on another. It is a special meeting point in Brussels for shopaholics and thrifty spenders.

If you want to find unusual souvenir items, Rue Nueve might just be the best place to shop at. Everything there is so varied and different, you almost won’t find a duplicate outside Brussels.

Sablon Antiques Market and Rue Neuve may be considered as the best shopping destinations; however, if you are looking for a little more variety and a little more class, Rue Neuve is indeed the best place to go to.

Rue Neuve is a very safe place to shop at; since it is a pedestrian street, cars are virtually not allowed to enter or drive through the area. This means, you don’t want to worry about vehicle traffic when you approach this side of Place Rogiers; however, you do have to worry about the crowds though, especially when it is shopping season, like a few days before and after Christmas.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

How to Spend 3 Nights in Brussels

Frankly speaking, three (3) days is never enough to tour Brussels with. There’s just so many sights and scenes going on around at the same time, a mere three days is not enough to capture them all; however, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to see the best of Brussels in three days.

This short guide will help you make the most out of your three-day trip in Brussels so when you leave the city, you’ll have enough memories to last you a lifetime.

Day One

Head down to the Central Station to see the heart of Brussels. From here, you will find the Grand Place and Manneken Pis. The Grand Place is Brussels’ most popular area and where most city-wide events take place. The Manneken Pis, on the other hand, is one of Brussels’ most popular statues. It is open for all to see so make sure to grab a picture of it for souvenir-keeping purposes.

From here, you can also find the Chocolate Museum, Beer Museum, Waffle Factory, and the Fish Market.

From Grand Place, ride a bus to the Cinquantenaire Park where you can find the Royal Military Museum and the Triumph Arch. Within proximity is the Royal Museum of Art and History. If you are fond of vintage cars, head down to the AutoWorld which holds a varied collection of different vintage cars.

The best place to get your meals on the first day would be at the Grand Place. Shops and restaurants line the arcade in this area.

Day Two

On the second day of your stay, proceed to Place Royal where you can find the following museums: Royal Palace Dynasty Museum, Royal Museum of Fine Arts, and Museum of Musical Instruments.

If you’re not fond of museum explorations, simply proceed to the Royal Park Theatre or see the Belgian Federal Parliament. Place Royal is a fairly large place and you might spend a good 3 hours to go through the area.

From Place Royal, take a bus down to see one of Brussels’ most popular structures, the Atomium. You can also find the Brussels Planetarium in this area which is a very interesting place for kids.

End your second day trip by going through the Gardens of Laekken. The Gardens of Laekken is where you can find hundreds, even thousands, of different species of flowers and plants.

Day Three

Perhaps the best way to spend your third and last day in Brussels would be through a little shopping spree. If you are looking for discounts and random items, go to the Antiques Market in Sablon or in Marche aux Puces. Rue Neuve is also a good shopping district in Brussels; however, you will need to walk to or take bus to Rue Neuve. If your budget permits it, you may want to do a little luxury shopping at the Louise Square where you can find the boutiques of Channel and Cartier, among others.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

How to Choose a Brussels Apartment Rental

These eight (8) brief pointers will help you located a fairly comfortable Brussels apartment in Belgium. If you are still choosing from different Brussels apartment rental accommodations, you might land a better deal if the apartment meets any of the qualities below:

1. Not all Brussels apartments have air conditioning units, but even if you end up with an apartment without air conditioning, the weather in Brussels is often favorable and air conditioning might not be necessary. Furthermore, most apartments are equipped with good ventilation systems and fans, in case the cool natural breeze is not enough.

2. It is best to choose an apartment located uptown than it is downtown. Most commercial shops and office establishments are located uptown and it is easier to find parking spaces there than downtown.

3. If you want an apartment that’s quiet and calm and located near residential and partly-commercial areas, choose an apartment located uptown. If you want to be near the ground, or near Grand Place, go for an apartment located downtown or anywhere near the city center. You might need to spend more a downtown apartment though, than an uptown apartment.

4. Your chances of finding a 3-bedroom, 4-bedroom and even a 5-bedroom apartment is higher when you set your sights on the uptown areas of Brussels. Larger apartments located uptown are cheaper, as well.

5. It would be best to book early than to book a few days before your arrival. Apartment rentals in Brussels are highly in-demand because they are cheaper than staying at a hotel where the rates are per person, and not per night.

6. It would be ideal to find an apartment located near the metro so you can easily go to the city center or to other areas around Brussels.

7. If you are already located in Brussels or staying at a hotel with a desire to move out and transfer to an apartment, try to ask the apartment owner if you can see the property personally. It would be best to see the apartment for yourself before moving in so you can see if it is perfect for you and your family.

8. Always consider the amenities offered by the apartment owner. If the amenities are complete and if you find the rates fair, then there’s no doubt about it, you’ve found the right apartment for your stay.

For the best Brussels apartment accommodations, head down to today!

Friday, April 13, 2012

How to Give Your Home a Belgian Makeover

Since Brussels is home to two cultures such as Dutch and French, your Belgian makeover will include a mixture of French and Dutch themes. Dutch homes tend to be very colorful while French homes tend to be very elegant. Putting them altogether will be challenging but once you learn how to make two different styles work together, you’ll come out with a masterpiece.

Put bright and dark colors together, in one room.

Most Belgian homes are often adorned with two or more different shades. If you want to apply the same technique, try to mix warm colors with the right blend of cool colors or perhaps, refer to a database of color combinations online to get the right mix. Be inspired by the things you see in magazines and on the internet for ideas.

Mix industrial designs with elegant furnishings.

Belgium is, after all, a country populated by two cultural groups, the French (Walloons) and the Dutch (Flanders). Almost anything in this country is inspired by French and Dutch cultures, including home designs. To recreate that Belgian vibe in your home, experiment with polarizing styles like industrial decor mixed with vintage furniture or perhaps, brightly colored furniture with wooden textures. The challenge here is making two or more different designs compliment each other successfully.

Be more utilitarian with your designs.

Unlike in French homes, Belgian homes utilize designs which contribute to the overall design of a home and can be used at the same time. For example, you might see a lot of intricately designed ash trays in Belgian homes-- these double as table decor and as pretty ashtrays, at the same time.

Where to Find Vintage and Industrial Fixtures

You need not spend much to recreate that Belgian design. You could always create your own or repaint and improve the existing furniture and decals you have now; however, if you do have a bit of money to spare, head down to second-hand stores and look for cute vintage and industrial decals to use. You might also want to try websites like Etsy, Amazon, and eBay.