Just another European city? No chance. Brussels is still a seriously underrated European getaway; a total gem, nestled in between three of the major front runners in the travel world – Germany, France and The Netherlands.
I hear it all the time; ‘Brussels is Boring‘, but i’m totally bored of hearing this! In my opinion, Belgium is often unfairly sidelined, so here’s why Brussels really should be firmly on your bucket list:
Yep, I’m going to start with this one. The beer is out of this world; it’s completely incomparable to any other beer, anywhere else, on the planet, period. And I challenge you to challenge that statement! This relatively tiny country is at the forefront of brewing and with a rich and interesting history it really has got it down to something of a fine art; Belgians know how to do it right. Each beer is perfectly crafted and served in it’s own unique glass, designed to enhance the flavour of the brew. And each and every one of them is pretty damn good.
So where can we drink this?
Start yourself off in three-floored brew palace Delirium, just off the Rue des Bouchers. This pub hit the world record back in 2004, for having the most commercially available beers in one place. That was for having 2,004 types of beer, and now they have more than 3,000! Intimidated? Don’t be. Grab a beer-bible of a menu and thumb your way through it. Still confused? Begin with a glass of Kwak, Duvel, Chimay, Delirum Tremens, Westmalle, or try a flavoured beer, any Kriek (cherry), a Floris (Honey, Chocolate, Mango…!) or a Mongozo Coconut… alright, that’s enough to get you going, just remember to drink slow and civilised – Belgian beer may be a few percent higher than you’re used to!
Other recommended pubs include: À la Mort Subite, Poechenellekelder, Moeder Lambic, Le Cercle des Voyageurs, Cantillon brewery, Taverne Manneken Pis and À la Bécasse.
Some people swoon over Italian food, go ga-ga over Greek cuisine… me? Totally bonkers over everything Belgian. There’s something fantastic about an over sized bowl of mussels plated up next to a side of frites. Go uber touristy and head to Rue des Bouchers, the most famous of the restaurants is Chez Leon, but I’ve eaten at at least three different restaurants down this alley and I can vouch that I’ve never had a poor meal yet.
If I fancy something a bit lighter, I’ll just go to Fritland, Café Georgette or another fast food shop for cone of Belgian Frites topped with tartar or mayonnaise. Chips though, er… that’s nothing to rave over? You’re so wrong. Belgian Fries (not French fries!) are unique in that they are twice-cooked. I’m no chef but trust me, this makes them twice as yummy.
Brussels also has it all wrapped up for those with a sweet tooth. Waffles are your ultimate indulgent street food treat. If your budget is hazy and happy to push the boat out a bit, seek out Maison Dandoy Tea rooms. If you’re keen to keep costs down like me, take your pick of the waffle vendors on the street connecting Grand Place and Manneken Pis. This is one of the cheapest places in the city to get your fix as waffles start at 1Euro (toppings are extra). If you want to ‘do it like a Belgian’, don’t be tempted to cram your waffle with cream, bananas and chocolate sprinkles, instead select a plain one and dust it with icing sugar. I’m rather fond of the Speculoos sauce though!
A favourite of everyone, right? Belgium rules when it comes to chocolate, and Brussels has some amazing chocolate shops to pick up a box or few! They might be a little more costly than your average chocolate bar, but you pay for quality not quantity and they make the perfect holiday gift to take home, or treat for yourself!
Quirky Street Art
Brussels has a crazy amount of murals and they are really fun to spot! It’s clear to see that Belgium is super proud of its comic book history; this country is home to Tin Tin and the Smurfs, and many others. Just from walking around you’re bound to spot a good handful, but if you want to know where they all are click here
Grab a good guide book and if you have a few hours, take a self-guided ‘Comic Strip’ tour around Brussels neighbourhoods.
Out of this World Architecture
The splendor of Grand Place will knock you for six. Brussels might just have the most good-looking square in Europe! It’s not just Grand Place though, a lot of the historical center of Brussels is pretty gorgeous with Dutch-like architecture and cute cobbled streets. Take a walk through Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert too; a fabulous glazed shopping arcade where you can shop in style! Visit Brussels in the summer and keep your fingers crossed for the fair weather so you can dine al-fresco and soak in the views.
…Then contrast all this with the bizarre modern silhouette of the Atomium – amazing!
You might not know that with no less than 100 museums,Brussels is a city where keen ‘culture vultures’ can also get their fix.
If you’re keen to visit a few, I’d recommend purchasing a Brussels Card* supplied by Visit.Brussels. You will receive a pack came with a handy pocket guide to all the sights and galleries, along with a few pages at the back with rip-out discounts for local shops and food places. With the Brussels Card you’ll receive free admission to 37 museums including Magritte Museums, Choco-Story, MIM (Musical Instruments Museum), MOOF (Museum of Original Figures), Autoworld, Brussels City Museum and more.
Go Day Tripping
This petite, but well-connected country makes it ideal to take a multitude of day trips. If you’re a savvy traveler and keen to keep on exploring more of Belgium look up Leuven for a student vibe at the Stella Artois brewery, Bruges for fairy tale canals, or Antwerp or Ghent for more gorgeous Belgian towns.
Further afield and out to Belgium’s neighbours, Brussels is a mere two hours train journey to Amsterdam and two hours to the German city of Cologne. Jump on the Eurostar at Brussels Midi and In a couple of hours you can also be in the fantastic city of London!
And finally… Take a Peek at the Peeing Statues!
Um, the people of Brussels seem a little obsessed with their peeing statues! You will have probably heard of the Manneken Pis; Brussels’ little peeing boy. Despite his tiny size, he’s a big tourist attraction around this town. Tourists will come and take selfies with this little dude as he continues to pee into his fountain. The city of Brussels has made a bit of spectacle out of him and enjoys dressing up this little guy in various costumes throughout the year, reflecting national or global holidays, or sometimes just for fun, it seems!
Well, yes, he’s a little bizarre, but it’s pretty fun for a city adopt this little boy as their national symbol! Often people assume Belgium is the ‘oh-so-serious center of the European Union’, so it’s nice to see this country’s fun side! He seems to work for the tourists too, because gift shops will sell Manneken Pis shaped anything!
It’s not widely known that the Manneken Pis also has a sister, (or girlfriend, maybe!) and a pet dog. The Jeanneke Pis is actually hidden down the same alley as the popular Delirium Pub, but is often overlooked (too many people making a beeline for the beer?), and the Zinneke Pis is tucked away, cocking his leg up a bollard in a quiet neighbourhood to the west of Grand Place, on the corner of Rue des Chartreux. 😉
So that’s a tiny bit of Brussels for you! Have you been? Do you live here? What do you love about this city? And if you haven’t been – have I convinced you to go!?
*Disclosure: We were generously provided with a pair of 72 hour Brussels Cards courtesy of Visit Brussels in return for an honest review. All opinions here and across my blog, are as always, totally honest and completely my own.