The Fast and the Furious wasn't filmed in Brussels, but it could have been - 'Belgian road sense' is on a par with 'Zimbabwean political transparency'. Traffic laws are lax and confusing, pedestrian crossings are primarily street art, and - in any case - the city's compact and navigable by foot and public transport. You can, however, rent cars at the airport from Hertz (www.hertz.com), Avis (www.avis.com) and Europcar (www.europcar.com).
Brussels Airport carries flights from a wide variety of airports in the UK and US, and is 25 minutes by train from the city centre. Charleroi (where a lot of budget carriers, such as Ryanair, touch down) is south of the city centre, about an hour's coach ride away from Brussels Midi station. Antwerp's airport can be handy too.
Eurostar services link Brussels Midi station to London, Paris and Lille. Tickets to Brussels include travel to any other Belgian station. You can also hop on high-speed intercity services to Amsterdam, Cologne and Frankfurt.
Country code for Belgium: +32; Brussels: (0)2.
Charlotte Bronte's experiences in Brussels inspired Lucy Snowe's adventures in Villette. Tracy Chevalier's The Lady and the Unicorn jumps between Paris and Brussels in its bittersweet tale of a historic tapestry artist. Also looking back to the city's past, Dorothy Dunnett's lush and labyrinthine Niccoló Rising is a richly detailed and addictive read.
Do go / Don't Go
Brussels' climate is mild and maritime, meaning that while the summers are warm and the winters are gentle, rain can come tumbling down at any time. It's hardly monsoon weather, though, and the city can make a rewarding visit at any time of year.
By and large, Belgian food is simple, hearty and, quite often, deep-fried. Belgium has a strong but unproven claim to having invented the chip, and it's hard to avoid a trip to Brussels without dining on moules frites at least once, or picking up a cone of mayonnaise-enhanced fries from a street-side frituur. In addition to potato-based goodies, beer, chocolate and waffles make up the country's contribution to global cuisine - and Brussels is replete with opportunities to try all of them. Look out also for steak tartare - or filet américain - the finely seasoned raw beef delight, often enjoyed with -surprise - French fries.
You can flag down taxis in the street - if you can find them - and ranks are rare too. Book a cab at your hotel, or try Taxi Verts on +32 (0)2 349 4949; it also runs a limo service.
Service charges are included in almost all bills, from taxis to trattoria, and you're not expected to leave any extra. If you feel compelled to leak change, round the bill up to the nearest €5.
An appetite, first of all: quality is second to quantity in the majority of Belgian eateries. Look in any Belgian handbag and you'll find an umbrella - an essential item in this notoriously moist climate. Leave some space in your case: you can't visit Belgian without loading up on beer and chocolate.
Belgium is a country of collectors and Brussels has museums tailored to the most obscure tastes (plastic, freemasonry, puppetry, ceramic clocks, Jewish Moroccan Art, etc). Chief among the more mainstream options is the Centre for Fine Arts, aka Bozar (www.bozar.be), Victor Horta's vast multimedia gallery space that hosts an ever-changing calendar of events. The Place du Grand Sablon is rife with intriguing little art galleries, but if you want to admire the heroes of 'the ninth art' then make a beeline for the Belgian Centre for Comic Strip Art (www.comiccenter.net) on Rue des Sables.
Brussels was the birthplace of Art Nouveau architecture - most of it's been destroyed by the ravages of civil engineering, but the Horta Museum (www.hortamuseum.be) still drops a few jaws.
In terms of haute couture, Antwerp knocks Brussels right of the catwalk. However, the city does have its own retail specialities. Antique stores and flea markets are abundant in the Sablon area; rue des Fripiers and rue du Marché aux Herbes both have a smattering of high-end boutiques, and, of course, there are plenty of outlets selling myriad makes of Belgian beer - try Beer Mania on Chausse de Wavre (+32 (0)2 512 1788) for a mind-boggling, brain-fogging selection.
Turning a respectable 50 in 2008, the Atomium (the architectural representation of an atom that wowed the crowd at the 1958 World Expo) has a restaurant in its topmost sphere, which offers terrific views of the city (www.atomium.be).
Take a tour of the European Parliament (www.europarl.europa.eu). Audio guides are available at 10am and 3pm every day (except Fridays, when it's just 10am). It's free to spectate when Parliament's in session too.
April One of Europe's largest art fairs, Art Brussels (www.artexis.com/artbrussels) brings hundred of galleries under one roof, and attracts thousands of collectors and connoisseurs from around the globe, May Three days of near-non stop live music courtesy of the Jazz Marathon, which fills bars, cafés and restaurants with musicians, and is completely free to listen to. August Every even-numbered year sees a carpet of flowers descend on the Grand Place. August-September Beginning with a celebration of St Arnold - patron saint of brewers - in the Magdalena Church, the Beer Weekend (www.weekenddelabiere.be) brings beers and beer-fans to the Grand Place (by the barrel- and bus-load, respectively) for three days of selling and sampling. September Design September (www.designseptember.be), a citywide festival of creative industry fills venues and galleries with stylish exhibits.