Happiness, according to one famous quote, equals reality minus expectations. I wouldn't like to say for certain what my expectations of Brussels were, but I'm sure that somewhere within the description the word 'bland' would have appeared. However, I was a little shocked and pleasantly surprised to find a bustling hub of a city of some charm and character.
My expectations were also of a city less congested than London, but in that respect I was largely disappointed. That said, Brussels has a surprising appeal. I hesitate to use the word 'quaint' for the whole city, but there are certainly parts of it that fit that description.
Dispersed amongst modern buildings that could be found in any European city is elegant medieval architecture that you wouldn't instinctively associate with the name Brussels.
Brussels blends the ancient and modern remarkably well, and this goes a long way towards softening the urban harshness experinced in may cities of a similar size. The atmosphere is often more akin to that of a rural town than of a capital city, but that's not to say it doesn't have everything of which a capital city would normally boast.
Considering the climate isn't that dissimilar to Britain, they have a far greater liking for eating al fresco in Belgium. That's more significant than it might first appear, because it's indicative of the fact that many streets enjoy a pleasant enough environment in which to feel comfortable. It's also indicative of the fact that the atmosphere is essentially friendly.
It seems you can't move anywhere in the city without being tempted with exotic Belgian confectionary, so don't go there if you're worried about watching calories.
If you're situated as I was in or near the Hotel Royal Windsor, you're ideally situated for sauntering over the Grande Place or the Palais des Congres. As you walk around the city, you're struck by an abundance of art, from surrealism and avant-garde to modern pop art, and even in some of the architecture. The Belgians love their jazz, so you'll hear it emanating from many bars and restaurants throughout the city.
I had good company throughout my trip, which always puts a more pleasant gloss on any visit, but nonetheless it's undeniable that there is much in Brussels to enjoy, and is well worth a stay.