After a lovely couple of days in Bruges we made our way on the train to Brussels; we were sad to leave but excited to explore a new city. But the capital of Belgium didn’t give us the greatest of first impressions. Everything looked old, dirty and grey and before we’d even got to our accommodation we were both wishing we’d stayed in Bruges for a bit longer.
But, not one to judge a book by its cover, we dumped our bags and started exploring straight away, and soon realised that Brussels was not all it first seemed.
While the main attractions might be slightly odd, including a family of statues all taking a wee, this kind of sums up Brussels. It’s a quirky city and offers a little bit of everything, whether you want some architecture and history, museums and art, a weekend full of great food, or some lively entertainment and nightlife. Brussels has it all.
Grand Place, the main square where everyone seems to flock, really is grand with its old, tall and beautifully designed buildings looming over the square. Even the shops that surround Grand Place and hide in its corners are very quaint and old-fashioned looking.
It’s easy to get trapped in the centre as it has pretty much everything to keep you occupied, but we ventured further out and came across some great spots including Brussels Cathedral, the Palace and nearby Brussels Park which is a lovely retreat to relax in on a sunny day.
Wherever we went, we kept our eyes peeled for the fantastic street art and comic strip art that that you can find on almost every corner. Some we completely missed even when walking right by them, so we followed a trusty map, which meant we found some spots we wouldn’t have otherwise been to. You can see more of the street art we saw here.
But, what I know you all really want to hear about is the food, so onto the most important thing first…the chocolate!
Chocolate shops and confectioners lined every single street; it was impossible not to try it all (I honestly tried but the yumminess of the window displays kept luring me in!).
The speculoos (a spiced shortcrust biscuit) from Maison Dandoy were so good we bought a whole box home. The strawberries dipped in chocolate from Godiva were heaven in a cone and the shop assistant actually laughed at me as I kept returning to the shop so much!
Place du Sablon, aka chocolate shop heaven, is the place to go to satisfy your sweet cravings, bursting with more chocolate shops than you can name. Sitting in the sun outside Wittamer sipping a thick hot chocolate and enjoying the macaroons (and also a little bite (or two) of Alex’s cake) was blissful and we could have sat there all day. But don’t sit there for too long as you don’t want to miss any of the other chocolate shops out including Pierre Marcolini which has several floors of a building all to itself.
Rue de Bouchers, just off the Grand Place, is chock-a-block full of places to eat and people fill the street at night. The popular dishes are seafood, mainly mussels and frites of course, and it reminded me more of a Spanish town rather than somewhere in Belgium, with huge bowls of paella and fish filling up the tables.
The best place for Belgian beer is Delirium Cafe which was crammed full of people, spilling out onto the street, there for the lively atmosphere and to try a sample of the world record amount of 3,162 different beers they offer! We tried cherry beer (very sweet), peach beer (yummy), chocolate beer (seriously weird) and something else we have no idea what it was but it tasted gross!
Moeder Lambic was right outside our B&B where we sat in the rain drinking a blonde beer before the journey home.
Despite our first impressions, we ended up loving the quirky, hip and trendy Brussels with its beautiful architecture, random attractions, street art on every corner and a wonderfully lively but chilled atmosphere. It’s the only city I’ve been to in Europe that I could see myself living in – maybe because it reminded me a lot of London, just with friendlier people and much better food!
Two days was not enough to do this city justice so I will definitely be making a return visit. It’s only a short train ride away after all!