Binge in Brussels
Belgium's capital, Brussels offers beautiful architecture, fantastic food and beer to make any weekend filling and memorable.
Wedged between France, the Netherlands, and Germany, Belgium seamlessly combines the cultures and languages around them while maintaining their own identity. Known around the world for their chocolates and waffles, Belgium offers so much more in terms of cuisine, including their fantastic fries and beer. So yes, if you're going, go on an empty stomach and "fully experience Belgium culture." As the capital city of Belgium, is the center stage for not only Belgium culture but also their history which is filled with gothic architecture and art.
WHEN TO GO:
In case you can't tell from the pictures, it was rainy and overcast most of the time I was in Brussels. When I looked into this, I found that it is typically rainy and overcast.
January-March- Going in the winter it will be around 30-50 degrees F, so if you go bundle up.
April-May- They claim that these are the least rainy months in Brussels so you might catch a sunny, clear day.
June-July- Although it gets warmer, you are still looking at rain. These pictures are taken from July, apparently Brussels' most rainy month. HOWEVER, in early July they have the Ommegang festival where they celebrate Charles the V with jousting and medieval activities, so keep your eyes peeled for that as its supposed to be a lot of fun.
August- If you are able to catch the Flower carpet (held every two years, 2016 is one of them!), then you are in for a treat. Famous around the world, this stunning carpet pays homage to Brussels tapestry roots and their flower industry. Only available for 4 days, this carpet is still on my to see list, but from the pictures it is absolutely stunning. Also, the Royal Palace is open free of charge (except Mondays) and weather is nice and warm for walking around.
September-October-Nice crisp, fall weather, but still rainy and overcast.
November-December- The center square fills up with wonderful Christmas markets with mulled wine, treats, and small trinkets, definitely a magical time to go (cold, but magical).
Attractions: Atomium, Mini-Europe, Grand-Place, Manneken Pis
Cuisine: Belgium Beer, Chocolate, Fries, and Liège Waffles.
Brussels is one of the most easily accessible cities. Located 2 hours away by train from London (St. Pancras), and an hour and a half from Paris, it's perfect for a weekend trip. A cobblestone city that is easily walkable (although not in heels), we found things we didn't plan on seeing and discovered some really interesting street art through wandering around (Brussels is full of it).
If however you don't want to walk everywhere, Brussels has a great subway/metro. The metro is a really quick and easy way to get from point a to point b. The city also has a bus line, however in our experience it was never on time (especially on the weekends), and gave up using it after waiting over an hour and a half for a bus to come.
The city is full of fun touristy things to do. While I was only there for 2 days I enjoyed exploring these attractions and have added the ones I wish I still got to do.
Mini Europe- Like a golf course for all the capital cities in the EU (except Luxembourg, poor Luxembourg), Mini Europe is a fun place to go and take obnoxious pictures. You can easily spend over an hour there walking around singing, "it's a small world after all."
+note: although I was SO tempted to step into these little kitschy things and take more obnoxious pictures, I watched as this hilarous Russian family climbed in started straddling the buildings and was promptly yelled at by the mini country security staff, soooo I'd avoid that.
The Atomium- Created for the world's fair, the Atomium is a neat building full of interesting exhibits and history on the Atomium. I however liked the escalators into the different rooms because I felt like I was in going into hyperdrive in Starwars. The views are nice, but if you want to go into the restaurant for the views prepare yourself for the rudest, most condescending women you will ever meet in your life. There is a sidebar in the restaurant that you can avoid them, but it's tiny and seats like 6 people. Waiting in line for the attraction almost took as long as it did to go through the attraction, so you are looking at 2 1/2 hours all in.
Manneken Pis- This statue supposedly commemorates a boy who was lost, and then was found peeing.... so yeah in honor of this they made a statue of him, and they have a bunch of outfits that they dress him up in. This statue is really tiny, and if I didn't see the crowds around it I would have missed it. Also, they apparently have a museum full of all his outfits, so if you really want something to you could go see that in the Museum of Brussels.
St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral - A beautiful and large Cathedral, definitely take a moment to appreciate the stunning architecture and stained glass.
Notre Dame du Sablon- A smaller church than St. Michael, Notre Dame is a beautiful church that inspires and awes. Also right behind church is a great little market that is open on the weekends full old metal chocolate molds and antiques, and in front of the church is the beautiful Jardin Petit Sablon .
Grand Place- The most recognizable sight in Brussels, the Grand Place is a beautiful square that radiates out to all the important side streets in the area. Its home to the Hotel de Ville, the Museum of Brussels, and other important buildings.
Things I wish I did:
Hotel de Ville- Full of Belgian tapestries and paintings, the Hotel de Ville is one of the most prominent buildings in the Grand Place. Unfortunately, it is only accessible by tour and those tours are only available at certain days (Wednesday and Sunday for individuals) and times and tickets must be purchased the day of for individual tours from the VisitBrussels office in the Grand Place. More information can be found here.
Royal Palace- This attraction is only open during the end of July- the first week of September. It is free of charge, closed Mondays, but looks like it has some amazing spaces and I wish I got to see it.
Museum of Brussels - A Museum dedicated to the city's history (in addition to the peeing boy's outfit), I wish I learned more about the city while I was there.
ABOUT THE MUSEUMS:
Brussels lays claim to having 100 museums in the city.... I however went to none of them in the two days I was there ( I know, terrible but I was too busy eating). If you are interested in finding more about them, here is the website with all of the museums and more information about each.
TASTE A PART OF BELGIUM:
I can't begin to describe how much I loved eating in Belgium. Even thinking about it now, I am salivating over the memories of the liege waffles, the chocolate, and the best beer in the world (sorry, I'm not sorry Germany).
Things to Binge out on:
Belgium is famous for the following foods:
Beer- Belgian beer is made in so many different ways with so many flavors its so tempting to have them all... which is totally possible at one of my favorite bars: Delirium Cafe. Marked by a pink elephant, this bar has over 2000 types of beers, and serves them in as many was as you can think of (including boots, chalices, shots, and more!). I loved this bar so much I never wanted to leave. I absolutely loved the bar tender who reminded me of Charlie from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (for some reason he decided to dress up in a costume so that definitely added to the experience). The website isn't that great, but here is the thousands of people who reviewed it on Trip Advisor and loved it like I did.
Chocolate- Despite from originating in Belgian chocolate, Godiva is on the weaker scale when it comes to the caliber of chocolate that Brussels has to offer. My favorite place to pick up chocolate was easily La Belgique Gourmande. With a few locations (loved the one on Rue de la Colline), its like a chocoholics dream. I think I went back 3 times just picking up boxes I'd pack full of different pieces.
Fries- Belgian fries are so fluffy and savory they are perfect. They serve them in cones and offer over a dozen sauces. You must try them (maybe with the belgian beer), you're welcome.
Waffles/Gaufres- Called Gaufres in Brussels, Waffles apparently come in different kinds of styles. I did not realize this until I was given a choice, and being the professional I am, I tried two: the Liège (round and sweet) and the Brussels (rectangular). Don't even bother with any other waffle than the Liège because it is easily the best thing I have had in my life. You can find the Liège waffle anywhere, but the best ones I had were from little waffle trucks found around the city.
Brussels And Mussels?- Apparently this was a big thing that Brussels was known for, there is even a little tourist street full of mussels and fries that we found and tried.... I only had them once, and they were meh, so I can't say I'd go searching for them.
BE A BELGIAN:
Brussels really is a beautiful city full of beautiful, cobblestone streets, fantastic chocolate shops, and beautiful parks and architecture. Its a great place to spend a weekend and an AMAZING place to eat. Even though the food isn't necessarily healthy for you, if you don't try it you'll regret it, so treat yourself.
Most of the stores I saw were chocolate, beer, and tourist related, however there are more shopping areas around the city including the Galeries St Hubert are glass covered walkways are inbetween buildings and full of unique places to shop. Additionally Brussels has a few markets that sell food, antiques (Place du Grand Sablon on the weekends), and more! A guide to these markets can be found here.
Things to buy:
Belgian beer glasses (they have some of the coolest ones I've seen: I got the Tripel Karmeliet and La Guillotine glasses).
Antiques: check the market for odd antiques, they have all sorts of cool things and unique jewelry
Belgian parks are green, full of flowers, and statues of their illustrious citizens. The major ones I enjoyed are below.
Square du Petit Sabon: cute park right infront of the Notre Dame du Sablon, full of statues.
Jardin Mont des Artes: stunning garden with water jets, reliefs and a statue of King Albert I.
Parc de Brussels: Huge park that is great to walk around in.
The parks below are known for their monuments but I did not enjoy them personally:
Cinquantenaire Park: A green park with a beautiful monument, nice for lounging and jogging, a bit far from other things
Egmont Park: it has the Peter pan statue.
OVERALL, Brussels really is a beautiful city full of beautiful, cobblestone streets, fantastic chocolate shops, and beautiful parks and architecture. Its a great place to spend a weekend and an AMAZING place to eat. Even though the food isn't necessarily healthy for you, if you don't try it you'll regret it, so treat yourself.