Fan guide: Brussels

The Europa League has given us the chance to come with Zenit to three incredible cities, two of which – Athens and Brussels – are capitals. Zenit’s away matches in the Europa League will give fans of the blue-white-light blues the opportunity to get to know the fan movements of Anderlecht, AEK, and Hajduk. These teams’ supporters are known to be some of the most fanatical in Europe. So those who don’t like to sit at home during Zenit away matches are really lucky with this draw. All that’s left to do is to pack your bags and come support our team at foreign stadiums!

Zenit fans will make their first voyage to the very heart of the European Union – Brussels. This is where the European Parliament meets, as well as numerous committees attached to it. NATO’s headquarters are also located in Brussels. Don’t forget that Belgium became head of the European Union this summer.

Brussels is a city with a very complex fate. The city was held under foreign rule for much of its history. The French, Spanish, and Dutch came one after another to rule the country… And each nation left its own traces in the architecture and culture of today’s Belgian capital. More than once the city has fallen into decline only to rise up again. Today we can say that Brussels, which is more than 1,000 years old (the city was established in 996), is once again on the rise. Brussels is one of the three richest cities in Europe, which is obvious from one of the main shopping streets, which is completely full of stores of the world’s leading fashion houses.

The Brussels capital district is the only official bilingual region in the country. All signs in the city must be written in both French and Dutch, so as not to offend anybody. The city is considered the capital of Europe by rights – you need just simple English to be able to communicate with the city inhabitants.

The city has been a favorite destination of immigrants from African and Arab countries throughout the 20th century. The city policy of the past century has caused the native population to gradually move to the suburbs, while the center of Brussels now boasts some very unusual areas. Don’t be surprised if you find streets covered with Arab bars, where you can’t find anyone who speaks English. These city districts can be dangerous for walks in the evening and at night. It’s especially important to be careful in the district around the Gare du Midi.

This is exactly the train station that you’re likely to arrive at if you come to Charleroi Airport. It’s about a 40-minute train ride from the airport to the Gare du Midi. If you go by bus it will cost about 13–15 euros. You can start your walk around the city right from here – the European Parliament building is located right nearby. A little farther on, two metro stations away, is the central city square, which is one of the most beautiful in Europe. One can see several different architectural styles here. City Hall is definitely the crown jewel of the square. Overall, the whole old center of Brussels is magnificent. The city gained its current perfect look while preparing to be the Cultural Capital of Europe in 2000.

Here, on the central city square, you’ll feel the atmosphere created by the tourist cult of Belgian beer! Belgium is incorrectly named “the country of 1,000 types of beer.” In fact there seem to be many more than that here. You can taste part of this magnificence in Bier Tempel, a huge beer store on a small street neighboring the central square. But any Belgian will tell you that you should try only beer poured into a mug with the beer’s own label on it, in a good establishment.

There are plenty of good bars to be had here. After all, the restaurant business is one of the main sources of income in Belgium. Choose any restaurant in the city center and don’t be surprised by the prices in the menu; they are some of the highest in Europe. That said here you can try the most famous types of beer: Lambic, Gueuze, and, of course, Trappist (brewed by monks). Be careful, because usually it’s the strong Belgian beer (7–11 percent) which ends tourists’ cultural program (which sometimes had just started) in Brussels!

But there’s lot to see here. Besides the famous Mannequin Piss (by the way, it's worth looking for the “Peeing Girl” monument nearby), it’s definitely worth walking to the Stock Exchange building. Before that go to the Brussels City museum, which is located right across from City Hall.

The interesting “Car World” exhibition, located a little farther, is another must. This exhibition has more than 400 cars from the Second World War. It’s then worth going to the Atomium – a giant building that looks like a molecule, built for the World’s Fair (just like the Eiffel Tower). There’s a beautiful view towards the northern districts of Brussels from the top. It costs about 10 euros to get to the top.

That said, the most important thing is to go to the Constant Vanden Stock Stadium, located at Theo Verbeecklaan, 2 (San-Guido metro station). This is where Anderlecht plays. The team was named in honor of one of the city districts. The club’s history is full of victories. Anderlecht is undoubtedly one of the best Belgian clubs. The fan movement behind the purple-whites is also one of the strongest and greatly-numbered in this part of Europe. Almost all other Belgian fans detest the club for its constant hegemony in the Belgian league – Anderlecht has no friends in its own country.

In any case Zenit fans should be polite and careful not to provoke Belgian fans in the districts around the stadium. The Belgian police are well-known for their severe disposition, and if you are drunk on the street and seen by the police then you are likely to miss the match. Remember that you represent St. Petersburg, and support our team from the first to the last minute!