Sights: A good (if a little hilly) city to walk around with lots of architecture around Grand Place and up towards the square of Grand Sablon.
However, we preferred the area around Place Ste Catherine where there were lots of nice roads and squares off it, each with bars and restaurants. The Christmas market is based here and is a classier affair with cava as common as Gluhwein and a slightly higher level of Christmas tat – and a big wheel. In December 2015 there was a good son-et-lumiere on Ste Catherine’s church (though some of the others around town were a bit naf).
I loved the Parlamentarium (the European Parliament Visitors’ Centre) which is free and offers a good insight to the EU.
The Atomium is a bit of a way out but has good views and is just as intriguing on the inside as it is on the outside.
Travel: We flew to Brussels and then used the local train to travel to the centre (30 mins). The metro is useful to cover the long distance out to the European Quarter but most of the historic centre is walkable.
Accommodation: Meininger Hotel Brüssel City Center (Quai du Hainaut 33, 1080): a hotel/hostel hybrid; large room with TV and ensuite shower but a little quiet. It’s by a pleasant canal and a few minutes walk to Place Ste Catherine and the bars around there. http://www.booking.com/hotel/be/meininger-bra1-4ssel-city-center.html?aid=1222377&no_rooms=1&group_adults=1
Food & Drink: There are plenty of good bars around Place Ste Catherine and on Rue Ste. Catherine. Our favourite was Bar des Amis (Rue Sainte-Catherine 30) which had plenty of Belgium beers on but there are plenty of others (e.g. Café Merlo – Quai aux Briques 80; Monk – Rue Sainte-Catherine
42; Chicago Café – Rue de Flandre 45; Café Walvis – Rue Antoine Dansaert 209)
We had a good meal standing outside La Mer du Nord/De Nordzee (Rue Sainte-Catherine 45, 1000 Bruxelles) with fresh fish dishes & cava (they have a sit-down Café next door – Café Claude).
There are also some good bars around the Halles de Saint-Géry, a couple of blocks from Place Ste Catherine. There are some nice (if top end) cafes around Grand Sablon.
Further Reading & Listening:
Guide books: There was sufficient detail in my Lonely Planet – Europe on a Shoestring for this trip when accompanied by an up to date local map. I love politics but it is worth knowing a little about the European Union whose institutions can be found throughout the city.
Podcasts: For news about Europe and its institutions I find DW’s Inside Europe an easy introduction: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/inside-europe/id80106806?mt=2
Social Media: For excellent, accessible articles on EU politics and European news more widely by leading specialists, LSE’s Europp blog is excellent: http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/europpblog/