TRAVEL REVIEW: Enjoy a weekend break to brussels

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For a weekend city break that has it all, travellers need look no further than the bustling cosmopolitan city of Brussels.

With bmi regional offering short flights from Newcastle International Airport to the Belgian capital, you can be sitting in the Grand Place quaffing one of the country’s famous beers in less than an hour and a half.

With master chocolatiers, first-rate art collections and unique beers, this capital really does have everything you could want in a short break destination.

While this is a city famous for being the home of the European Parliament, there is much more to it than drab politics.

Belgium is a country that’s famous for it’s beers, and on a trip to Cantillon brewery’s living museum you can find out about the different forms of life, not only the Van Roy-Cantillon family, but also the living micro-organisms which cause the spontaneous fermentation of the lambic.

Even for non-drinkers, the tour is well worth a visit, as it offers a chance to see one of the last traditional breweries in action, where nearly nothing has changed during the last century.

And what better way to end a tour than with a taste of a couple of the brewery’s unique flavoured beers.

The heart of this city is the stunning Grand Place, which is an architectural fan’s dream.

Guild Houses line the square, and the buildings are an eclectic mixture of neo-gothic and baroque.

The stunning view makes it the perfect place to sip on a nice cool Belgian beer (with your new-found knowledge) in one of the cafes that line the square, allowing you to soak up the sights and sounds of the city.

This is my favourite area of Brussels, with the truly incredible buildings and the surrounding back streets that offer something for everyone.

Off one of these streets, lives Brussels’ most famous fountain, the Manneken-Pis. The statue of a young boy has become one of Belgium’s most famous inhabitants, as according to legend the young boy extinguished a bomb fuse by urinating on it, and was rewarded with a fountain in his honour.

While not particularly impressive, the statue is still a must-see for anyone visiting Brussels, and is usually most easily found thanks to the crowd of tourists gathered around it.

With a little more effort you can find the lesser-known female counterpoint to the Manneken-Pis in the form of Jeanneke Pis.

Eagle-eyed tourists will also be able to hunt down Zinneke Pis – as no family is complete without a dog.

After all that walking, we stopped off for a bite to eat at the world famous Chez Leon restaurant, which is a true diamond in the rough.

If you can negotiate past the hoards of people wanting to get your custom, you will find Chez Leon, whose reputation speaks for itself.

A firm favourite with fish fans, there was a vast array of moules frites dishes to whet your appetite, as well as scallops, sea bass and meat dishes.

It may be slow service - it is Belgium after all - but the food could not be faulted, and should feature on any visitors’ itinerary.

Brussels was the city of Magritte, Art Nouveau inventor Victor Horta, and Tintin creator Hergé, and an exhibition of Magritte’s work is on show at the Museum of Fine Art.

It’s well worth an hour’s wander around the three floors of art that gives you a glimpse into the mind of a surrealist painter.

Although sadly missing the ‘This is not a pipe’ painting, this is a selection of art that is sure to get you talking.

After a busy day sightseeing, we got our heads down at Aloft Brussels Schuman, a contemporary hotel that looks like it walked right out of the pages of an Ikea catalogue.

Vibrant colours and unique room layouts make for a thoroughly modern, comfortable and spacious hotel that was excellently located.

Brussels has many of the delights the more popular city break destinations have to offer - and more besides.

Put your preconceptions about this being a drab, grey city to one side, and enjoy the cosmopolitan capital for all it has to offer. Be it a break with friends or a romantic weekend away, it’s certainly somewhere I’ll be returning to.

FACT FILE:

Bmi regional operates twice-daily flights, Monday to Friday and on a Sunday afternoon from Newcastle International Airport to Brussels in just 75 minutes, with one-way fares starting from £80pp including taxes, 20kg hold luggage, full in-flight bar service and snacks.

With nearly 100 hotels open and coming soon in 14 countries around the world, Starwood’s Aloft brand delivers a fresh approach to the traditional staid hotel landscape. For the ‘always on’ next generation of traveller, the Aloft brand offers a tech-forward, vibrant experience and a modern style that is different by design.

•For further information about flights, visit www.bmiregional.com

•For more information about Brussels, visit www.visitflanders.co.uk

•For hotel details, visit www.alofthotels.com

•For details about Newcastle International Airport, visit www.newcastleairport.com