Top critical review
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Far better guide books out there
on 14 May 2013
In contrast to other Lonely Planet guide books I've used, this is pretty rubbish. I only used the Brussels section, but found it lacking in useful or interesting information, disjointed (the same 'attraction' covered in numerous different places without adequate cross-referencing) and only too happy to advise that you attend rip-off tourist traps! To give some examples....
1. If you're interested in Art Nouveau, you'll probably want to follow the suggested walk to look at the beautuful buildings. This would be a whole lot easier if the guide book included the addresses, rather than a map lacking in road names with only vague, often incorrect, directions (e.g. turn left down such-and-such street, when in fact this is two streets away!) and a blob indicating the location somewhere between up to four streets. The main information about Horta's house (probably the main art nouveau attraction in Brussels) was covered elsewhere in the guidebook (only mentioned vaguely in the Art Nouveau walk and no address given), as was the suggested day out to La Marolles, even though this IS the region where many Art Nouveau buildings are located.
2. The Grand Place is surrounded by beautiful buildings, many of which are guildhouses. The book neglects to tell you which guild was housed where, so you're left playing a guessing game based on the architecture.
3. The Museum of Chocolate and Cocoa is listed as a main attraction. This is possibly the biggest rip-off it's ever been my misfortune to fall foul of. Four floors on which they will repeat four facts about chocolate production ad nauseam with a few crummy displays. The 'chocolate making demonstration' is actually some fella stirring a vat of chocolate then pouring it into a mould. I suspect there is more to making a praline.
4. Many of the large touristy bars/restaurants are recommended. These are only a stones-throw from smaller, much nicer and more reasonable estabishments. Don't, for example, bother with Falstaff unless you're a fan of Wetherspoons/Harvesters and the like.
5. You are provided with a pull-out map, which has street names but no detail on the location of sights, and small maps in the book with information on sights but very few road names. Basically to find anywhere you have to use a combination of the two. Brussels is often wet and windy and pretty light on plaques with street names so a decent map is essential. The large map doesn't cover all of Brussels.
Fortunately my friend took the Berlitz pocket guide, which is much better than this one and had a lot more historical information! We also picked up an excellent map in the hotel, which I'd recommend doing.