I'll tell you one thing about Brussels: it ain't Paris. And it's not Rome. And it's certainly not Frankfurt. It's...Brussels. Having spent time there on business on more than one occasion, I can tell you that the word that comes to mind quickest when I think of Brussels is "quaint". Brussels is definitely quaint. Quaint is not such a bad thing when you're in you're forty-something. I've come to admire the quiet surroundings, the overall lack of graffiti on the buildings, and the...how can I say it..."partly-to-mostly cloudy skies" that seem to be ever-present. I don't think I've ever stepped off the plain and thought to myself, "I'm in Brussels! Time to Parrrttyyy!"
What I have enjoyed, and what I do look forward to, are the parks of Brussels. I'm an avid runner/walker and the temperate climate and seemingly endless greenery in Brussels is perfect for a daily jog. The place I frequent the most is Brussels's largest public park, called the Bois de la Cambre (you can get there by car or by taking tram 23, 90, 93, or 94). Bois de la Cambre has been referred to as the Central Park of Brussels. A bit arrogant of a description I suppose, but good enough. Bois de la Cambre starts near the top of Louise Avenue in the southern section of Brussels. Bois de la Cambre is a park in every sense of the word. Here you can find people jogging (like myself), biking, snuggling off in a corner and even playing pick-up games of rugby and soccer.
In the middle of Bois de la Cambre sits a small lake with an island in its center that visitors can reach by taking a small pontoon boat. On those few weekends when the sun actually comes out and stays put for awhile, you better believe the park gets crowded fast. The only negative comment I could regarding the park is that a few intersecting roads means you have to keep an eye on the kids.
Sequestered off on a few acres it can call its own is the Tennis Bois de la Cambre, better known as the Park Tennis Club. Very popular throughout the year (regardless of the weather) the Tennis Bois de la Cambre is one of the more trendy sports clubs in the area. The Tennis Club has six courts and a restaurant. The average price per hour is about 12 euro. The club operates seven days a weeks and players need to register in advance as the courts fill up quickly.
Getting back to the park itself, Bois de la Cambre has a kind of "pre-park" on the Louis Avenue entrance. Visitors will enjoy snapping a picture or two of the tranquil grounds of the Abbaye de la Cambre (Abbey of la Cambre). The Abbey was founded in 1201, but any religious underpinnings have long since vanished. The buildings now house a geographical institute. Interesting all the same.
Moving on (or jogging on, in my case) to the South of Bois de la Cambre, sits the Forêt de Soignes. Not a park in the "playground" sense, but a sprawling forest that stretches almost to Waterloo. A great place to go for a walk or run. And a perfect location to get away from the traffic and congestion of the inner city.
Finally, the Parc du Cinquantenaire - constructed in honor of Belgium's independence in 1830 - actually saw its evolution begin in the late 1870's and wasn't officially completed until well in the 20th century. But it truly is a sight to behold. Full of opulent gardens and flanked by several fine museums, this really is a great place to spend the day or at least do a little jogging.
There are other parks within Brussels. These are the best to my knowledge. The rest are for you to find out!