Hello, everyone! I think that the capital of Belgium is worth the separate post, especially because very often it is neglected by travellers.The others say that the city is not safe. While I’ve never had any issues there, if it is possible – try to avoid the areas of the train stations (in particular – Gare du Midi, Central station and Gare du Nord) in order not to ruin your first impression of the city. I would say that you have to know the city in order to fall in love with it. Many parks, museums, cafes and landmarks are hidden from the tourists who decide to spend there several days.
Brussels is home for different nationalities and this mix of nationalities is impressive. At the same time it is so usual to meet people from all over the world there, that you can rarely meet indigenous Brussels people;-). I suppose that only about 25% of all Brussels residents actually are Belgians, who originally come from Brussels. I’ve worked in Brussels for 6 months and I can’t easily remember even 1 person who was originally from Brussels ;-).
For tourists the usual programme includes the visit of the Old city with the Grand place at the first place and the Manneken Pis at the second. Belgium cuisine specialties degustation are also taking place in the Old city – frites, mussels and endless sorts of beer with the Belgium chocolate for the dessert. However local never eat in the Old city, particularly because it is crowded with tourists and do not represent the real sense of the city. So, if you would like to discover the real Brussels, you’ll be surprised how different this city is and how many secrets it keep!
The city is very green, there are many parks – big ones and small ones. Belgians love to spend their weekends in parks, playing with children, reading, exercising, having a picnic or simply chilling. My absolute favorite for all these activities is small Parc Georges Henri in Woluwe-Saint-Lambert.
1. Taste Brussels!
Belgium is known all around the world for its chocolates, that is absolutely amazing. Although in Brussels you can buy a great Belgium chocolate from a mass-market brand in every supermarket, if you are a gourmet, I suggest you to go to the Place du Grand Sablon. Here you’ll find almost all luxury producers of Belgium chocolate and sweets in one place. Take your time – try a dessert in one of the cafes (or even in the shops) with a cup of a great coffee. Then go for chocolates tour in another shop and, finally, don’t forget to buy a small box of the freshly made macarons to enjoy it in the evening or to take it with you as a present. If the day is sunny and hot – try the Godiva ice cream – it is worth every cent it costs!
My 3 favorite chocolatiers:
Pierre Marcolini – I am in love with their macarons! The store on Sablon is the combination of art, beauty and fantastic taste. Definitely worth visiting!
NEUHAUS – if you are interested in better price, you may go their factory store in Brussels (Address: Postweg 2, Vlezenbeek 1602). This store is not very glamorous, but offers great deals. The most important thing – the taste of this chocolate is amazing and absolutely the same in the boutique and in the factory store!
Godiva is one of the most famous chocolate company in the world and they make the most tasteful ice-cream in the world! It both tastes and looks amazing! I also like Godiva’s milk chocolate, it has so wonderful taste! I was lucky to attend Godiva workshop once, where the chefs explained how the chocolate is made and showed how to make some amazing desserts from the chocolate.
Another thing that you probably know about the Belgium is the Waffles. With Nutella, creme fraiche and strawberries or even without anything on the top. It is very delicious! The most traditional way is to buy waffles from the minibus, that you’ll see almost everywhere in the city centre. Also during the academic year, you may see those minibusses next to the schools – the price will be lower than in touristic place, but the taste will be even better 🙂
Le pain quortidien – this is my favorite place for eating out! This is the chain, so you’ll definitely see one of their cafes while being in Brussels. It is a great place for brunch, lunch or morning coffee!
2. Explore Art & Culture!
The are many different museums that are located almost in every part (!) of the city.
Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium is a must-see. It is like a Louvre in Paris, you have to visit it at least once! The museum is big (although not as big as Louvre), therefore plan to spend there at least 2 hours.
Musical instruments museum – building, workshops, small concerts presenting how the rare instruments from all around the world are played. On the top floor there is a restaurants offering lunch with a wonderful city view.
Mini-Europe – since the Brussels is the capital of Europe – the visit of the mini Europe will compliment well your Brussels trip. The famous Atomium located nearby and you may take a great pictures from the Mini-Europe with the Atomium on the background.
European Parliament – the interactive visit is possible and is absolutely free! If you are interested in political issues or in the history of EU formation, you will enjoy it for sure.
Horta museum – My favorite! It is the house-studio of the greatest Belgian architect Victor Horta nowadays is the museum, where you could discover the architecture and interiors of the beginning of the last century. It is the typical Art Nouveau building with mainly originally retained interior decoration. I like this place for it’s cozy atmosphere!
Comic Art Museum – Belgians are known for their Comic Strips. The museum located in the building designed by Victor Horta and is the other exceptional creation of Art Nouveau style of this architect. The most famous characters are Tintin and his white wire Fox terrier Snowy, created by Hergé, the Belgian cartoonist. If you are loving these cute characters, I also suggest you to visit the Hergé Museum outside of Brussels in Louvain-la-Neuve.
3. Read as Belgians do it!
Not only Comic Strips are very popular here, Belgians actually love reading and read a lot! For book lovers I have 2 absolutely amazing addresses in Brussels! You’ll find there books in French and English, but even if you are not going to buy anything you could come here for the nice “librarie feeling”.
Filigranes bookstore – order hot chocolate and enjoy reading! You are not obliged to buy anything 😉 But you’ll definitely will, if you love books!
Cook & Book – the place to enjoy not only reading, but also great lunch or dinner! Cook & Book is the bookstore with several cafes and restaurants inside. I love to have a dinner in between the books about travelling, depending on the table you choose you’ll get this wonderful feeling of travelling around the world!!!
Come to visit Belgium! Cheers from Brussels and my daughter who loves it very, very much 😉