Travel: 4 Hours In … Brussels

Forget any ideas of this city as the dour capital of the European Union or a kitsch stopover on the tourist trail. It has a character as diverse as its beers and as rich as its chocolate.

EAT as much heavy Belgian cuisine as you dare at the Brasserie de la Roue d'Or, an authentic survivor of the Belle Epoque, close to the central Grand Place. Moules, always a Belgian favorite, figure large on the menu (Rue des Chapeliers 26).

SHOP in the Place du Grand Sablon, the sloping cobbled square that's home not only to the city's grandest art dealers but also to a cluster of Belgium's finest chocolatiers.

VISIT the engaging Comic Strip Museum, which celebrates, among others, native son Hergé, creator of "Tintin" (Rue de Sables 20).

STROLL through the St-Gilles and Ixelles districts, admiring the many fine examples of art nouveau façades. The exuberant works of Belgian architect Victor Horta rank together as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

DRINK in Brasserie Leopold, one of the modish venues in the newly restored Place du Luxembourg, once the forecourt of a railway terminus and now the gathering place for affluent young policymakers from all 27 EU nations.

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